Debut Author T. J. Newman Discusses Falling, Summer's Most Anticipated Thriller

Hailed by Library Journal as “one of the year’s best thrillers,” Falling is already receiving rave reviews. It has received three starred reviews, including one from Library Journal, and is a LibraryReads pick for July. Falling goes on sale today, July 6 th.


T. J. Newman, a former bookseller turned flight attendant, worked for Virgin America and Alaska Airlines from 2011 to 2021. She wrote much of Falling on cross-country red-eye flights while her passengers were asleep. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Falling is her first novel.

You just boarded a flight to New York. There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard. What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight, your pilot’s family was kidnapped. For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die. The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane. Enjoy the flight.

Hailed by Library Journal as “one of the year’s best thrillers,” Falling is already receiving rave reviews. It has received three starred reviews, including one from Library Journal, and is a LibraryReads pick for July. Falling goes on sale today, July 6 th.

1. I understand that you wrote Falling on cross-country red eye flights while you worked as a flight attendant. How did your experiences as a flight attendant influence this novel?

Working in aviation is such a unique and nuanced experience. I believe you have to live and move within that world to truly grasp what it's like. I flew for ten years and I think that my experiences made it into the book by providing an authentic insider's view of a world that's hard to understand from the outside looking in.
 

2. The premise of this book is so terrifying and intriguing, what was your inspiration behind this chilling idea?

The concept for Falling came to me at work. I was working a red-eye to New York (my favorite route) and I was standing at the front of the cabin looking out at the passengers. It was dark. They were asleep. And for the first time a thought occurred to me--their lives, our lives, were in the pilot's hands. So with that much power and responsibility, how vulnerable does that make a commercial pilot? And I just couldn't shake the thought. So a few days later, I was on a different trip, with a different set of pilots, and one day I threw out to the captain: "What would you do if your family was kidnapped and you were told that if you didn't crash the plane, they would be killed? What would you do?" And the look on his face terrified me. I knew he didn't have an answer. And I knew I had the makings of my first book.


3. The pilot Bill, and his wife Carrie, are such integral characters to this story. There are several flashbacks in the book that show the early days of their relationship, and how they fell in love. Why do you think these scenes were important to include?

The most important aspect of their relationship as it pertains to this story is their acceptance of one another as individuals. Resentment never once comes into play for them. Carrie understood exactly what she signed up for when she chose a life as a pilot's wife (albeit, obviously, this story pushes the boundaries of his duties unfairly) and the trust and respect that comes along with that acceptance allows them to fight the situation from a united position void of blame. I thought the flashbacks to pivotal moments in their marriage's origin story were a way to show that unshakeable foundation, and for the characters, I felt like they served as a poignant "life flashing before your eyes" highlight reel.

 

4. There are so many shocking twists and turns in the novel, and I found myself racing to finish the book to see what happened next. Did you plot out the entire novel beforehand? Or were there a few twists that discovered during the writing process?

The scene in the cockpit where Bill first learns of the predicament he is in - those were the first pages I wrote. That's where I started...because it was the only thing I knew would happen. I quite literally only had the story concept in mind, and I didn't plot at all. I started with that scene and simply wrote the characters into and then out of their problems. (By the way - I have discovered that not plotting with a plot driven book makes for a bear of an editing and revision process!)


5. One element of this novel that I found so interesting, was the dynamic between the terrorist, and Carrie, the pilot’s kidnapped wife. Although Carrie is afraid of her captor, there are a few moments in this book that showcase his humanity. As a reader, although you don’t agree with his methods, you do understand his pain. Was it important for you to have an antagonist that wasn’t so easily defined?

I wanted the antagonist story line to be centered in empathy. It's easy to root against a villain that's pure evil, but I find stories with antagonists that are all grey to be far more satisfying and interesting.


6. At the beginning of the book, Bill is given a choice, to crash the plane to save his family, or to let his family die to save the passengers on the plane. Although the terrorist insists that Bill must make a choice, he is determined to find a way out. What do you think it says about Bill that he is so confident there is another way?

The idea that there wasn't another way was a dangerous place for Bill to go so he simply never let himself go there. For him, it was almost a mind over reality situation. And that stubborn, duty-bound mentality is the crux of who he is.


7. The relationship between the flight attendants was another highlight of this novel. They have such a comradery and sense of humor between them. Were these friendships at all inspired by your relationship with your coworkers as a flight attendant?

Flight attendants are some of the most resourceful, hard-working, and devoted people I've ever known. There's a level of trust and comradery that's reached nearly instantly when you get with your crew and those features are everywhere within the cabin crew of this story. (Although the characters in Falling are 100% figments of my imagination)


8. After reading Falling, I developed such an appreciation for flight attendants. What do you hope that people will learn about the brave individuals in this profession after finishing this book?

There's a common misconception that flight attendants are on board for service alone. I assure you, if a flight attendant's only purpose was to bring you a drink, they would have replaced us with vending machines a long time ago. Flight attendants are on board to ensure passenger safety and security and to act as medical first responders. Service is just something we provide. So to hear so many people say that this book has opened their eyes to that and that it has increased their respect for flight attendants makes me more happy than you could know.


9. So many early readers of this book, myself included remark on how difficult Falling is to put down. What do you think it is about this story that keeps readers so engaged?

I love this feedback because that was my primary goal. Pacing was an overarching mantra for me while I was writing. I wanted to make the pace so relentless that there was never a good place to stop. You know when you're at the movie theatre and you have to go to the bathroom really badly but you don't get up because you don't want to miss anything? I wanted to create that kind of a reading experience.


10. I found the end of this book incredibly moving, without giving anything away, why did you decide to end on that scene? What do you it says about the characters and what they learned from this experience?

At its core, this is a story about love and family and the ending is a meditation on what is learned when those themes are pushed to their limits. I couldn't see any other way to end it than how I did.

 

 

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