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Rich Christiano[Jeff Gerke]


Interview: Wayne Thomas Batson

Wayne Thomas Batson is the author of The Door Within (2005), Rise of the Wyrm Lord (2006), and The Final Storm (2006), a Christian YA trilogy published by Thomas Nelson. His newest title, Isle of Swords, released this summer. During the month of July, Wayne joined three other Christian fantasy authors for a multi-state booksigning tour up the East Coast, which culminated in a TV interview on the FoxNews morning show "Fox and Friends" and has generated more media attention to his work and Christian fantasy in general. Wayne visited with us in August 2007, and shares a bit about that experience.

SM: Tell us about your background, birthplace, where and when you grew up, what your childhood was like, etc.?

Born and raised in Seabrook, Maryland, a child of two teachers, who also happened to be avid readers. My childhood was full of adventure: long trips from Maryland to Panama City Beach, Florida, where we'd stay a month at a time with my grandfather. If I wasn't cruising the backyard with a Star Wars landspeeder, I was building volcanoes with my friend Hal. Other pieces of nostalgia include: catching crayfish, crabbing at the marina, hunting my brothers and sisters to discover the secret location of their forts, heavy metal music, British accents, and much much more.

SM: Educational background? What did you take, and why?

Bachelors of Arts: English and Education. This began as an English major, and then I suddenly realized I needed to pay the bills. Enter Hand-of-God. My parents recommended teaching, so I made my major Engl/Ed, found out I LOVE teaching middle school! Now, I have added a masters in Guidance and Counseling, and 30+ additional credits in Reading Methodology, Creative Writing, etc.

By the way, for the aspiring writers out there: if you want to take a quantum leap in your written craft, take a poetry class – but find one taught by a published contemporary poet. You will learn so much about the power of language and how to make every word count. Critical stuff.

SM: What is your family situation? (Married? Kids? 1.7 dogs?)

Happily married to a wonderful, brilliant, beautiful RN (ML, you are reading this I hope). Four children. 2 Boys, 2 Girls, age 6-11.

SM: How did you get started writing?

A short story writing contest in the 6th grade. The prize was chocolate. I had to enter. Do you feel me? Seriously, I won the contest and was amazed that people liked what I wrote. The path to publishing from that point is too long to discuss. But if people really want to know, maybe I can spill in forthcoming responses.

SM: What works have you had published? (not restricting yourself to SF/F titles) Articles, short stories?

All Novels Thus Far:

Fantasy Genre:
The Door Within 2005
The Rise of the Wyrm Lord 2006
The Final Storm 2006

Pirate Adventure Genre:
Isle of Swords 2007 (September)
Currently working on a Sequel to Isle of Swords, due out Spring '08.

SM: Of your works, which one is your favorite? (including works in progress)

Always the most recent book – that would make it Isle of Swords, but it's so different than the DW books. I love Isle for the wonderful characters that came to life within it. I love it for the adventure and the themes that developed so organically.

But, truth be told, The Final Storm will probably always be my sentimental favorite. I've never cried so much in the writing of a book. Seriously, the conduit to Heaven was wide open, and I loved writing and growing with that story.

SM: Wayne, I'm just a little over halfway through The Door Within and I'm enjoying it VERY much! Next question: Who are your influences as a writer, and why?

Good to hear!

Tolkien is one of my biggest influences. The Hobbit was my "gateway" book into fantasy. His language, vocabulary, and storytelling still captivates me. I try to read The Lord of the Rings every year.

SM: What was the first exposure you can remember having to SF/F as a genre?

As above, it was The Hobbit. I was a 7th grader and not very much into reading for fun. I read very well, but just didn't see it as a form of entertainment. Then my cousin, who was (in my adolescent opinion) much cooler than I was, gave me The Hobbit to read. I thought, "Well, if she thinks it's cool, it must be cool." So I read it, and it WAS cool. I've been hooked on fantasy ever since. I think for me the allure of fantasy – especially Tolkien's stories – was that appeals to the part of us that desperately wants to do something important – even heroic. And there's also, I think, within all of us a longing for another world. Heroic deeds, other worlds – sound like the fantasy genre to me.

SM: What is your personal all-time favorite SF/F work, and why?

Again, see above. The Lord of the Rings series is my favorite by far. I'm also really enjoying some contemporary fantasy including:

Christopher Hopper's White Lion Chronicles – one of the coolest hooks for a story, really reels you in.

Cornelia Funke's Inkheart series – creativity and spectacular language.

Sharon Hinck's The Restorer series – Fantasy for Moms, but it WORKS.

Jenni Nimmo's Charlie Bone series – Just escapist fun.

Donita K. Paul's DragonKeeper series – some of the most original characters you will ever meet.

Tad Williams: The Dragonbone Chair – again, incredible language chops and a thrilling plot.

SM: What is your faith stance, and how does it affect your writing?

Well, I believe that the Bible was delivered to earth in a spacecraft and that the original Israelites were actually aliens. Just kidding. {Rolls eyes; weirdo creative types!} Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I believe He was sinless and yet died a sinner's death on the cross, bearing the sin of the world right to the grave. He defeated death and the sting of death by rising again, and by believing that He is the savior, and Lord and that He died for me, I am a new creation.

My identity is now inseparable from Christ, so what I write is inspired by Him. What do I have that He has not given me? Most of the time I do NOT set out to write a story that has a Christian message, BUT the characters and the plot conspire together to tell whatever Jesus wants me to tell anyway. lol

I think that's an important distinction. Christian writers, IMHO, should not try to write a Bible Tract cleverly disguised as a story. Readers see through that and are insulted by it. Christian writers need to be all about writing a great story. If you are a Christian, then His truth will get into your work. {End sermon. Steps down from lectern.}

SM: What Christian book(s) (fiction or non-fiction) have had the greatest impact on your thought and writing? What NON-Christian book(s) (fiction or non-fiction) have had the greatest impact on your thought and writing?

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis is one of my favorites. The man had a knack for putting into words what you've been pondering but never were able to phrase quite right. God in the Dark by Os Guinness is also outstanding. And right now I'm taking part in a Bible study group reading Inside Out by Larry Crabb. It's one of the most refreshing looks at REAL Christianity and the REAL struggle we all face, but never want to admit. WOW. Powerful stuff.

SM: What NON-Christian book(s) (fiction or non-fiction) have had the greatest impact on your thought and writing?

It's really hard to say what has actually impacted my writing. Stephen King's On Writing is an excellent technical manual – witty and helpful. 13 Ways of Looking at a Poem by Wendy Bishop is also excellent. If you want to supercharge your language, get into contemporary poetry. Every word counts.

SM: Deviating from the script a bit ... tell us something about the recent book tour and the interview with FoxNews ... what are your thoughts about all of it now that you've had a few weeks to sort of recover?

The Fantasy Fiction Tour was life-changing for me. I got to rub elbows with some of the most authentic Christians I've ever met. Bryan Davis, author of Dragons in Our Midst, is one of the most tender-hearted, but lion-fierce men I've ever met. He is serious about being Christlike and serious about his trade, but mannnnn...does he have a wickedly dry wit. I was in tears half the trip. Sharon Hinck, author of The Restorer series, is one of the sweetest ladies I know. She just has a motherly love for everyone. And Christopher Hopper, author of The White Lion Chronicles, just instantly became a best friend for life. And talk about gifts – the man is drenched in the Gift of Evangelism. Wow!

The Tour took us all over the east coast, and we met some of the coolest folks around. A young lady and her family drove three hours to come see me. She gave me a 100 page manuscript that she'd written, inspired by my books. She told me that my books changed her forever. Her mother went so far as to say that my books had radically changed her whole family. I am humbled that God would use my meager words and change lives. God rocks!

The Washington Post article came about when a post reporter picked up on the Fantasy Tour story on the RNS (Religious News Service) and saw that I live in Maryland. Being close to DC, the reporter wanted to interview me for a story in the Post. I was floored – we all were. The article was supposed to cover all of the tour authors, but unfortunately got cut quite a bit before publication. Still, the article caused a chain reaction of press: AP, Fox, Reuters, local and national radio – all four of the authors got involved.

The "Fox and Friends" appearance was the "out of the blue" event. National TV is an incredible opportunity. It went by so quickly. I'm glad that Fox didn't try to shoe-hole me into appearing to be a Harry Potter basher. I was afraid that was where they wanted to go. But instead, they asked me if there was anything I do like in the HP books, so that gave me an opportunity to be positive. Funny thing: before going on air, they had to put on all kinds of make up. Two weeks of touring doesn't exactly leave one looking stellar. So they caked up my face big time. Right after the interview, I called my wife on the cell. She said, next time you go on TV you need to make sure they put some make up under your eyes. Ah, but she loves me.

SM: And, how do you balance writing and family life?

There is no balance. I'm a full time public school teacher. My wife's an RN. My kids all have homework, soccer and football practices. We lead a community group. God makes it all work though. I write as soon as the kids are in bed and sometimes sneak out to the local library to pound pages. I have an October deadline for the Isle of Swords sequel – this is going to be the toughest to meet. Pray for me if you think about it. :-)

SM: When you write, have you ever come across theological "puzzles" you had to sort through to your own satisfaction before you could continue with the story?

No major quandaries, but there was one issue I had in the earliest stages of The Door Within. I struggled with naming Paragor, the central antagonist of The Door Within. His name initially was Paracrist, a name that in ancient Alleb dialect meant "pure light." After his betrayal, his name becomes Paragor, pure darkness. A good friend pointed out that the root "crist" sounded too much like Christ. And I really didn't want anyone associating a villain with our Lord. I had the worst time coming up with an alternative name. I can't explain why. I was just fixated on the original name, and everything else sounded odd. Eventually, "Paragor" arrived.

SM: What do you do when you aren't writing?

I have a wonderful wife, a brilliant and beautiful RN with whom I very much like to spend time. I also have four energetic children who thankfully still like to hang with Dad. And now that August is here, school has begun, so I'm teaching middle school full time. So, there's not much time left over. However, if I had lots of extra time, I love to play tennis, golf, volleyball. I play electric guitar – with the amp turned to "11." ;-) I dabble in 3D artwork. I blog incessantly. I love to hang out with friends. And I truly LOVE to read.

SM: What sorts of things stir the pot of creativity for you? Music, artwork, certain films, etc. ...

All of the above, ha! Seriously though, I get all kinds of story ideas while listening to praise music in church. I probably have a dozen scenes written on church bulletins. I'm also very visual. The Lord of the Rings movies are stunning, so they inspire me. Fantasy artwork is very evocative – Ted Naismith, John Howe, and Alan Lee are some of my favorites.

SM: Do you have a favorite place for writing?

I am the poster-child for Adult ADD. When I write, I need stillness, I need quiet, and to be alone. My favorite place to hide out is my local public library. There's a little quiet tutor room with 4 blank walls, a table, and a chair. That's what I need.

SM: Do you try to work each day until you're "done," or do you have certain hours, or daily word count goal?

It varies for me. Sometimes I write towards a word goal, ie: 1000 words or bust. Other times I race the clock and see how many pages I can knock out in an hour. Yes, authors are a sick and twisted lot. ;-)

SM: Do you tend more toward outlining, or do you work with just a general idea of where the story is going, and the characters just tend to take over on the details?

Some people are seat-of-the-pants writers. They are the spontaneous lot. They write as the muse hits. Some are meticulous outliners. I'm in that camp, except I'm not. Are you following? Good. See, I outline very carefully, sometimes taking a month or more to plot out the story. I have to or I'm doomed to massive rewrites and time consumption you wouldn't believe. BUT, when I start to flesh out the story from the outline, when the characters take on lives apart from my mind...well, the story must follow. So, the outline becomes flexible.

SM: Wayne, I want to thank you again for being with us. It's been an honor to get to know you better this past month ... and your answers were terrific! Before we wrap up, if you can bear one last question ... what three bits of advice would you give a new writer? (or, not those not so new?)

Shannon, it's been my pleasure. I'm grateful for the opportunity.

#1 Work on your novel's opening chapter relentlessly. It is the critical chapter of your book. You must intrigue, captivate, and hook your reader there, or you will likely never be published. Editors receive hundreds if not thousands of manuscripts each week, so they have very little time for dull exposition in the opening. Go after your reader. Create suspense that won't quit.

#2 Work on your language. I don't mean punctuation and spelling – though those things better be sparkling in any manuscript you send out. But I mean the words from your palette – what you will use to paint the picture in the reader's mind. Take a contemporary poetry class – seriously. You will never learn more about making every word count.

#3 Read widely in the genre you want to publish. But read like a scientist rather than a spectator. Remember the parts you like and scrutinize them. What made them interesting? How did the author craft the plot? What made the twists and turned work? Every well written book is a treasure or resources that we can all learn from.

Thanks again!

Never Alone!

Wayne Thomas Batson

[Home][Creativity][Genres][Resources][Links][About Us]

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[David R. Beaucage][Kathy Tyers][James BeauSeigneur][Jefferson Scott][Walker Chandler][Alton Gansky][Ray Hansen]

[Emily Snyder][Randall Ingermanson][Theodore Beale][Steve Laube][Laura Lond][Frank Wu][Donita K. Paul][Brenda W. Clough][Bryan Davis][John Granger]

[Karen Hancock][Miles Owens][Robert Liparulo][Bryan Davis, part 2][Chris Walley][Kathryn Mackel][Gene Wolfe][Sharon Hinck][Wayne Thomas Batson][Lars Walker][Christopher Hopper][Jeffrey Overstreet]

Rich Christiano[Jeff Gerke]

[Home] [Creativity] [Genres] [Resources] [Links] [About Us]

[Audio] [Biographies] [Books] [Events] [Film] [Interviews] [Mailing List] [Publications] [Store]

[David R. Beaucage] [Kathy Tyers] [James BeauSeigneur] [Jefferson Scott] [Walker Chandler] [Alton Gansky] [Ray Hansen] [Emily Snyder] [Randall Ingermanson] [Theodore Beale] [Steve Laube] [Laura Lond] [Frank Wu] [Donita K. Paul] [Brenda W. Clough] [Bryan Davis] [John Granger] [Karen Hancock] [Miles Owens] [Robert Liparulo] [Bryan Davis, part 2] [Chris Walley] [Kathryn Mackel] [Gene Wolfe] [Sharon Hinck] [Wayne Thomas Batson] [Lars Walker] [Christopher Hopper] [Jeffrey Overstreet][Rich Christiano][Jeff Gerke]