Fantastic Books I’ve Edited: Week VIII: Breaking Free


Happy Black Speculative Fiction Month Everyone! Tonight, I continue my blog series Fantastic Books… with a spotlight on SF Author Alicia McCalla, in which she discusses her grandfather as the inspiration behind her first dystopian novel, Breaking Free.

But first here is my own review of Breaking Free, which I had the distinct pleasure of editing:

“As Red Death jammed the IV needle into his arm, betrayal pierced his soul. Dr. Gary Leonard Kates, founder of the Revolution against CAGE, was tied to a chair. He thought about his three, little granddaughters as the lethal serum pulsed through his veins. He refused to tell Red Death the code. He’d take the secret to his death.” ~ Alicia McCalla, Breaking Free

Breaking Free, by Alicia McCalla is a YA science fiction novel that tells the story of XJ Patterson, a Black teenager. The story follows XJ as she battles “Cage,” a sinister governmental agency that oppresses psychically-gifted people of color, and fights to save her mom, the revolutionary Dorthy Kates-Patterson.

With flashes of brilliance, Author McCalla highlights XJ’s discovery of love in the most unlikely of places, her reluctance to take on her mother’s fight and the growth of her own preternatural powers–making her a force to be reckoned with. Ms. McCalla does not shy away from depicting the racism and classism of the alternate world she’s created, a world eerily similar to our own, nor are her characters one dimensional. In fact, she even managed to make me feel sympathy for XJ’s teenage, arch-nemesis.

Breaking Free is a fast-paced read, complete with edge of your seat SF, action and humor. And XJ is a likeable and strong heroine that young folks can easily identify with–most especially young folks of color. I thoroughly enjoyed Breaking Free, and I give it an enthusiastic five stars!

(This interview was first published on Petit Fours and Hot Tamales)

When I was a little girl, my granddad made me feel like I was a princess. It was exciting to be the only grandchild for so many years. As I became an adult, I would regularly call my granddad to check-in and tell him about my life, adventures, and latest escapades.


When I would call, I’d play a game with him. I’d ask him if he knew who I was because I never wanted him to forget that I was his first grandchild. He would laugh and tell me that he could never forget me because I was unique and that he’d always remember me because of my voice. He said, “How can I forget that you are my first granddaughter?”

The last couple of years have been difficult. When I call, it’s hard for my grandfather to remember who I am. He knows my voice and knows that I’m important but he oftentimes can’t remember my name. He’s been diagnosed with moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
When I began writing BREAKING FREE, I knew that I had to include my grandfather in some way. In his youth, he showed quick wit, brilliance, and intelligence. My granddad was a trailblazer but more importantly he was cool. So it was natural for me to use him as the inspiration behind XJ’s holographic grandfather.

In BREAKING FREE, XJ’s grandfather chooses to commit suicide rather than allow CAGE to swipe his mind. He sacrifices himself for the revolutionary cause and copies his consciousness into a super computer. As a holographic image, sometimes his body becomes corporeal and sometimes his memories are degraded but he’s able to use his genius to help XJ become a revolutionary leader in her Genetically-Enhanced worlds.

BREAKING FREE tackles controversial issues such as race, class, same-sex relationships and gender but there is also this connection to my beautiful grandfather. Before my Grandfather completely succumbed to his Alzheimer’s, I sent him a copy of BREAKING FREE to read. He was so proud and excited to see my name on the cover and to read the story. Lately, I’m hoping that he’ll remember me, and I’m hoping that he’ll continue to be proud.

Alicia McCalla is a native of Detroit, Michigan, who currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia. She works as a school librarian and enjoys traveling as well as spending time with her husband and son. Visit Alicia at: to sign-up for e-updates, giveaways, and sneak peeks of her upcoming novels.


Contact Valjeanne Jeffers for editing:

Valjeanne Jeffers is the author of eight science fiction/fantasy novels, and she has been published in numerous anthologies. Purchase her novels at and Amazon

She is co-owner of with poet and artist Quinton Veal. Contact Valjeanne for editing, and Quinton Veal for cover art at: Their reasonable prices will shock and amaze you 🙂


2 Replies to “Fantastic Books I’ve Edited: Week VIII: Breaking Free”

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