Friday, November 4, 2022

Interview with JJ Cook & AJ Cook, MD, authors of Percivious Escape

Today it gives the Speculative Fiction Showcase great pleasure to interview JJ Cook and AJ Cook, MD, whose novel Percivious Escape has its debut on November 8.

Percivious Escape is the third book in a trilogy that began with Percivious Insomnia. What does the word “Percivious” mean here? 

We coined the term Percivious and its meaning is as follows:

Percivious (per-siv-e-us) 


The ultimate in altruism. Self-sacrifice in order to benefit others with no regard to reward or reciprocity. 

Kirkus reviews describes the Percivious Trilogy as an “impressive SF medical thriller”. To what extent is the trilogy a medical thriller and what contemporary issues does it touch on?

The first novel, Percivious Insomnia, would fall under medical thriller, however the second novel is definitely speculative/science plausible fiction and the third is a blend of the two. Although, having said this, our trilogy has also been described as genre-defying as there are elements of sci-fi, mystery, thriller, action, horror, and romance throughout. We don’t live in one genre and we both feel strongly that our story should not be contained to one either. In terms of the issues the trilogy touches upon…well…there are many. Just this week we were discussing a new study that spans 25 years which has found that just five hours of sleep a night or less is associated with a higher likelihood of disease. Attach to this a related pandemic, environmental disaster, destructive technology and our tendency for domination and you have the backdrop for the Percivious Trilogy.

As the third book begins, humanity has learned that we are not alone in the universe. Tell us about the XYZ, who they are and how they relate to humans.

The XYZ of Percivious Origins were the dominant life form on earth 280 million years before the origin of homo sapiens. They are an advanced species that eliminated the need for violence and warfare on an evolutionary level. We drew inspiration from some surprising real-life sources to create their origin story. They are descendants of cetaceans, rather than primates, and we spent countless hours researching whales to develop how the species may have advanced on land.

The precipitating event of the first book, Percivious Insomnia, is a pandemic very different to the one we have recently experienced. What is the significance of the insomnia pandemic?

The Percivious Trilogy has been a decade in the making. While the timing of the pandemic made our trilogy very relevant, it was a complete coincidence, as the idea for the trilogy was conceived in 2012. The fragility of humanity, and the fragility of ecosystems is what inspired our pandemic. We are on the verge of a Holocene extinction, otherwise known as a sixth mass extinction due to human activity. The insomnia pandemic in the Percivious Trilogy is a version of what can go wrong when nature and humans fall out of balance.

Regular treatments are powerless against the wave of insomnia. What happens to the world?

Insomnia can be much more devastating than the typical symptoms experienced such as fatigue, irritability, memory loss. If left untreated it can become fatal. In our trilogy, specifically in the last installment, Percivious Escape, the world teeters on the brink of complete annihilation. Imagine all emergency services being disabled, looting, fires, general mayhem and global disasters which eventually must either be resolved or come to an end… for everything and everyone.

When the XYZ return to Earth, they too are facing a crisis. What has prompted their voyage across space?

The XYZ -- are forced to flee as a 500-km wide asteroid hurdles toward the Earth. In the beginning of Percivious Origins, the starship HELIX departs from Earth’s gravitational pull, while horrified passengers watch as the once aquamarine planet turns red with fire, burning beneath them. After a failed attempt to inhabit a new planet, the HELIX is damaged and energy reserves are running low, and there may be no choice but to come back into the orbit of their ancient ancestral home… setting into motion events for which there will be an unfathomable price to pay.

How do the two species, XYZ and humans, work together? Are they able to cooperate?

A species to whom human frailties like violence and greed are unknown, the XYZ live in abundance and value shared knowledge and emotional connection above all else, therefore their attempts to communicate with humans are driven by a desire to save Earth and all its inhabitants. However, as the story unfolds it becomes clear that while some humans are driven by the same desire, others are not. The XYZ are also able to identify hybrid human/XYZ on Earth as a result of the DNA time capsule they had left behind on Earth hundreds of millions of years before. Because it becomes compromised, the XYZ DNA finds its way into a small percentage of the human population who share the same abilities, although they have yet to fully harness them.

Who is Herriden?

Herriden is the first child born aboard the HELIX in Percivious Origins, and he represents hope during the XYZ’s voyage to a new home. He is the only XYZ character that makes an appearance in all three novels and readers witness his journey from birth, through childhood and into adulthood when he takes over command of the ship. His arrival on Earth and his role in the fate of his species, the planet and humankind are pivotal to the story.

Can you give us any clues about the origins or explanation of the pandemic itself?

At the risk of a SPOILER, our pandemic remains a mystery throughout the trilogy and is not reconciled until well into the third novel, Percivious Escape. However, the one clue we can give is that it is all about energy. Energy transfer and energy accumulation is the key.

What prompted you to write this story at this particular time in history?

It was interesting because we had been working on Percivious Insomnia on and off over a seven-year period. So, to be launching its release just as a real pandemic took hold was eerie, it was unbelievable. I remember working on the book trailer and saying to AJ Cook, “Do you think we should use the term pandemic, it seems so dramatic, perhaps epidemic is better?”. 

In the end we decided upon pandemic with absolutely no clue as to what was to unfold and how it would impact our daily lives. On one hand it made the novel very relevant, and it absolutely did influence the description of the insomnia pandemic in the trilogy, especially throughout the writing of Percivious Escape. However, the mystery or the cause behind our insomnia pandemic results in a much different outcome than what we experienced with Covid, therefore what we ended up with was a true to life fictional pandemic but with more devastating consequences. 

How do you work together? Who does what?

As a couple we love to talk about just about anything…for hours. When it came to writing together it started slowly. It was a bit of an epiphany with the premise and then ideas just started coming together and we started jotting them down. Sentences turned into paragraphs and then a first chapter initially. But three novels later we have a reliable process in place. We usually discuss an overarching story arc and key plot ideas. But when it comes to the writing I (JJ Cook) will take a stab at it and then we edit it (many times) together. So, it’s literally a labour of love and what we have in the end is a single voice, I believe, resulting from a true joint effort. We really don’t hold back when it comes to writing. 

To observe us I am sure you would wonder why are they doing this? Our “discussions”, which we affectionately now call “doozies'' thanks to their increased frequency during the writing of book 2, Percivious Origins, have oftentimes led us to develop a new plotline or uncover an unforeseen twist. I (JJ Cook) had a revelation while writing Percivious Origins. You can think you know someone, especially your partner, only to be surprized yet again. Agreeing to write sci-fi, which would not have been the path I would have set out on had I been writing on my own, seemed exciting initially. AJ Cook, a huge sci-fi fan, would ensure that the science was solid which would enhance believability so that the characters and the story would be guaranteed to stay front and center. How hard could it be? 

The only thing was, and I learned this in the very early days of writing Percivious Origins, that he is more than just a sci-fi fan, he is a science fan and I was very quickly drowning in the vastness of space - terms, physics and ideas I knew very little about. It was a humbling experience and to be honest one I would have rather avoided. But this story, Percivious, is one that haunts us and the characters would not let me go. So, we persevered through time, space and countless doozies in order to finish the trilogy and develop the true heart of our story.

JJ Cook, you have worked in marketing across many different industries. How did you bring your experience to bear in writing Percivious Escape?

My background and work history have brought insight to characters spanning an array of disciplines, ages, countries, and cultures.

AJ Cook, you are an MD currently working as a pediatric urologist and director of fellowship education at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, and have contributed to many published studies. How has your medical and humanitarian experience contributed to your work on Percivious Escape?

My experience as a surgeon—as well as the relationships I have with my young patients and their guardians—has contributed credibility and realism to the narrative.

What gave you both the idea of writing this book and why is it important to you?

About ten years ago it struck me. I said to AJ Cook, “Wouldn’t it be an interesting premise for a book, if someone (or something) was able to exploit your sleep hours. The one thing that still remains ours/uninterrupted (for the most part)”. I didn’t know it at the time, but a trilogy was hanging in the balance as I waited for his reply. As it turned out he loved the idea and the premise for Percivious was conceived.

Now the trilogy is finished and awaiting publication, what will you do next?

We are approximately 19,000 words into a new novel set in the Rockies. I would say it will have the same feel as the trilogy and some similar elements. There is a bit of a mystery that leads the characters off planet. But this time in search of treasure instead of an escape for survival. And…there may also be more to the Percivious story…

To be clear, we are absolutely satisfied with the conclusion of the trilogy in Percivious Escape, however, we have had requests for a continuation of the story. So, depending upon how this last novel is received overall, you may see Percivious become a series rather than a trilogy. For us, the door is still open a crack and it might not be over just yet. We will just have to see where the story takes us!

Preorder Percivious Escape

About JJ Cook and AJ Cook, MD:

J J Cook’s background in marketing across a spectrum of industries—technology, finance, and the arts—brings insight and depth to characters spanning an array of disciplines, ages, countries, and cultures. A J Cook, MD’s current role as a pediatric urologist and director of fellowship education at the Alberta Children’s Hospital has allowed him the opportunity to author and contribute to numerous published studies and hone his writing skills, while his experience as a surgeon—as well as the relationships he’s developed with his young patients and their guardians—has contributed credibility and realism to the narrative.

Facebook |Twitter |Instagram | TikTok | Goodreads

No comments:

Post a Comment