In Signal Erased, Adele Jones combines intricate science-fiction with compelling characters and relationships, revisiting familiar characters through a new lense.

What was the inspiration for Signal Erased?

Signal Erased began with a thought about constructive and destructive frequencies in the context of matter modification at a quantum level. When I continued to encounter references to frequency through a variety of sources in the ensuing period, I began thinking maybe I should write a novel based on these ideas. Still, the story that emerged took me by surprise. To be fair, there was a hint of a romantic interest at the end of my previous novel, Immortal Mistake, and from this I thought it would be nice to revisit the hero of that novel, Rennie Parker, when he was in a happier situation in his life. I just wasn’t expecting Anna Faraday, as the main protagonist of Signal Erased, to pretty much ‘zero’ him as someone peripheral to her world. (Poor Rennie!) The love-triangle-trope between Anna, Anna’s high school crush, Chase Vaughan, and Rennie, largely self-perpetuated and the plot developed naturally around Anna’s and Rennie’s deeper issues, making it one of the fastest novel-length stories I have written. It was also fun tidying up some loose story threads on some familiar characters from the Blaine Colton trilogy, however, I wanted to get them out of the way quickly so Anna could tell her own story.

Who or what inspired Anna and Rennie's characters?

Those who are familiar with the Blaine Colton trilogy will remember Anna as the little sister of Blaine’s twin best friends, Sophie and Jett Faraday. We didn’t get to know Anna well in those stories, so when the idea of her and Rennie being co-stars in a new adventure began to develop, I began exploring who Anna might have become in those passing years. What were her interests? We’d been offered glimpses of her personality in previous stories, but who was she really? And then there was the shadow of loss that had been cast over her family. How would that have impacted her as a young girl? How might she have coped? What did that look like against her family’s beliefs, and her own, especially now she was turning seventeen?

Conversely, for those who have read the trilogy and Immortal Mistake, Rennie was a fully developed character, but he was now nineteen. Given his world had been so consumed by drama in the past, I wondered how he might choose to live as a young adult. Even though Blaine’s adoptive family took Rennie in for a time, I knew he would be fiercely independent and reluctant to be beholden to anyone. I also wondered whether he would still be uncomfortable letting others close. Because of his background, I swiftly decided friendship and trust would be a hard-won connection with him, and very few would be allowed into that protected space. For that reason, his interest in Anna also had to exist in that safe, secret place. Plus, he was shy and never a ‘small talk’ kind of guy. We also knew from the last page of Immortal Mistake he had an immediate ‘wow’ factor upon meeting Anna. This story allowed me to pick up that interest four years later.

Did you incorporate much of your personal experience into this book? If so, what did that look like?

Absolutely! Not the turning invisible part, of course—although that would be a fascinating experience, right? Anna’s musical interests were very much drawn from my own high school years. Throughout my secondary education, I was actively involved in bands, ensembles, choirs, musicals and anything else music related. It was great fun! I appreciate the way music connects deeply with listeners and understand how melodies can communicate emotions more clearly than words, at times. I personally enjoy a diversity of musical styles, but have a particular fondness for ragtime and swing from some of my high school studies. A fun fact is many years ago I learned to play a ragtime piano duet with my mother.

From Rennie’s perspective, I really appreciated his simple, independent way of living to a budget, as I was doing at his age (although unlike Rennie, I did have supportive parents I could phone for advice, if needed). I also have a healthy appreciation for high-performance vehicles, being well exposed to motor sports (car and motorbike racing especially) as a young person and having enjoyed watching these events with my relatives. Even though I’m not as much a follower of motor sports as my family members these days, I had a lot of fun investigating motorbike models and their features to find a suitable option for Rennie, whilst remaining within his likely budget and the limits of his licence restrictions, as dictated by Queensland transport legislation. And I can’t say I minded researching Mustangs on Chase’s account either … It’s important to do proper research, right?

There are some powerful themes in Signal Erased, including grief, betrayal, healing and love in a desperate race to stay attached to the physical world. Did anything spark your interest in these themes?

Anna and Rennie are a classic case of opposites attracting. Anna seems to represent everything good and sweet in the world, whereas Rennie has a dark, complicated past that continues to shadow him, even as he works hard to carve out his life as an independent young man. The reality is they are both hiding deep wounds and using their external behaviours as a mask, just in different ways. Anna does this by playing everything safe, not rocking the boat, and always keeping upbeat. Rennie has built impenetrable emotional walls that protect him from the criticism of others and prevent anyone from seeing who he is, along with any vulnerabilities. Throughout the story we discover how much Rennie still grapples with forgiveness in relation to the physical and emotional hurt his father has inflicted upon him over the years. In contrast, Anna claims her faith is a place of refuge and freedom and a key to Rennie’s own healing, but it soon becomes clear she has shut off the painful memories and hard questions surrounding her brother’s death as an untouchable zone, both emotionally and spiritually. It’s only when she faces disappearing forever that she realises she has merely masked her grief and shut her life into a safe space of carefully defined boundaries. Chase, the third person in the love-triangle, unsettles Anna’s world by engaging in risky behaviours. He also possesses a knack of pressing all of Rennie’s buttons at once. Whilst advancing the story in many ways, Chase became a surprising source of comic relief, however the issue of risky teen behaviour is very real, especially when behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.

What was the biggest hurdle in writing Signal Erased?

The biggest hurdle in writing Signal Erased came in the first round of editing, after the story was accepted for publication. Near the beginning of the novel Anna and Rennie are forced to pair up for a wedding that includes dancing at the reception. I had set their dance to a popular love song released over sixty years ago. This song was then used a theme for moments of connection throughout the novel. Unfortunately, I had wrongly assumed because the artist was long deceased it wouldn’t be a problem to reference some of the lyrics in text, however, I didn’t realise the person who had performed the song was not the composer—and that person was very much alive and continuing to receive royalties! When this was highlighted in these first round of revisions, I was a bit bummed as the song was a perfect fit for the story. Further, the connecting thread throughout the story had some very specific themes that were more significant because of this song. In failing to find a suitable option, I ended up changing the story to say Anna had composed the song for a school project and used the bride and groom as inspiration, which the bride had then (unbeknownst to Anna) requested be played by the band at the reception. As lyrics from “Anna’s song” needed to connect the story, I ended up writing a song with the necessary lyrical and musical elements to achieve this. I’d hoped it might be possible to record this song before releasing the novel, but that didn’t happen.

What aspect of Signal Erased were you most excited about?

I love the cover of Signal Erased and think my readers will agree it is a beautiful design (kudos to Carmen Doherty at Rhiza!). I couldn’t wait to hold the printed product and share it with my readers, and I was not disappointed. It was also quite exciting to revisit Anna and Rennie four years since we’d last seen them, especially in the context of a romance. Giving them their own story was special, with the bonus of getting a brief update on some characters from the trilogy.

Was there anything about writing this book that was a new experience for you?

Signal Erased was my first science fiction teen romance. (Awww …) It is also my first published novel-length story with a female protagonist. From the start, writing a female protagonist was different to writing a male lead. Outside this, Anna was a very different character compared to Blaine and Rennie, being more settled in the context of her family relationships, beliefs, friendships and interests. Even though there was an obvious villain in the story, Anna’s primary obstacle was more internal than the external forces against her. Another first, as mentioned above, was writing a song specifically for a story.

What do you hope your readers will take away from Signal Erased?

I hope Signal Erased is an entertaining, heartwarming story that speaks to people’s soul. I feel there are many relatable aspects readers can connect with. Obviously, there is the daily routine of high school intermixed with teen crushes, friendship and peer group dramas, plus revelling in the freedom of having a car licence and independent operation of a motor vehicle. But the deeper themes around loss and grief, personal safety, trauma, spirituality, risky behaviours, and music as a healing medium are more complex and not so easily navigated. These facets will resonate differently for each individual reader, who will bring their own lived experience to the story. However that resonance translates, I hope readers find the characters, with all their flaws, opinions and challenges, authentic in the context of the story I have created.

Do you have any other projects in the works?

I am currently writing a dystopia-in-reverse science fiction story. This sounds strange, but as I was contemplating my next project, it struck me that the bulk of futuristic fiction runs towards the concept of the inevitable self-destruction of humanity and leaving earth behind in an uninhabitable mess. This got me thinking—why is it stories set in the future automatically assume the same humans that have the capacity to develop technology to explore and survive on alien planets are supposedly so inept they cannot invent/determine means of sustaining their survival on earth in the first instance? So, I began to consider what this might look like in reverse … Needless to say, it’s a different story to the ones I have written thus far, but I am enjoying the protagonist’s unique voice and the creative process of manuscript development.