Me: Why did you decide to collaborate with co-author Christopher Hopper/Wayne Thomas Batson?
WTB: It was an easy decision. I had been praying for a LONG time that God would bring me a writer friend to work with, kind of asking for a CS Lewis to JRR Tolkien. A friend and someone who just "gets" what I do. Well, BAM, God introduced me to Christopher at a convention. And right there I said, "Hey, wouldn't it be great to get together for like a bootcamp weekend where we could write and help each other out with our writing?" So we picked a locale halfway between my home in MD and his in NY. It turned out to be Scranton, PA. And we had an absolute ROARING good time. He was working on Athera's Dawn (book 3 in The White Lion Chronicles) and I was working on A Sword in the Stars (Book 1 of The Dark Sea Annals). And we found that we have very similar writing styles and interests. So right then, just six months after we met, we agreed that it would be "WAY COOL" to write a book together. God made it happen just three years later.
CH: As Wayne said, it was really a God-thing that brought us together. We still marvel at how providential it was. As for writing a book together, it was a real "wouldn't it be cool if" kinda' thing. When you say those kinds of things and dream with other people, you know it probably won't happen, but deep inside there's that crazy potential of "what if?" When Wayne's publisher asked him for a new series, he pitched our outlandish idea of co-authoring a novel. And to our utter surprise they came back with an emphatic "Yes!"
Me: Did you both always have the same vision for the series?
WTB: I think so. We outlined together, so whatever vision we each had, it kind of melted into one vision that we shared.
CH: It very much grew organically from dozens of phone calls, emails, and iChat (AIM) sessions. We feed very well off of each other, so one idea tends to start a chain reaction of many more. And since we're both extremely easy going, and stated from the beginning that we wouldn't take things personally, we have an easy time of being open about stuff we don't like, or don't agree on. It's as simple as, "Dude, cool idea, but I don't think that's going to fly." We smile. We nod. Then we move on. It's really freeing, actually!
Me: As an accomplished Christian Fantasy Fiction author, how do you weave spiritual themes into your stories without beating people over the head with evangelism?
WTB: I think you need to be real. Make your characters real people with real problems, asking the same questions that we all ask of life...if we're honest with ourselves. Ask any of the big questions of life: who am I? why am I here? what happens when I die? is there any truth we can hold on to? --ask any of them, and the only real answer is Jesus Christ. But, and this is important, you must respect your readers, and you must respect the God you hope to honor with your writing. You cannot wrap the gospel message in a lame story and expect readers to be impressed. What does that say of God? Write a good story, take readers on an adventure, give it take home value...and there you go.
CH: I like what CS Lewis once said (don't we all?), and I'm paraphrasing here, but fiction has a way of circumventing the dragons that people set up to guard the front gates of their minds, and go in the back door. It's very easy, in my mind, to wrap spiritual principles in fiction, because it was one of the chief tactics used by Jesus himself. Parables. While his were a few sentences, ours are about 125,000 words (tells you who's more efficient!). If you are true to the story and the characters, you can communicate profound spiritual truths without the reader ever knowing you just dropped a bomb.
Me: How much inspiration for you stories do you draw from your life as a teacher(WTB)/youth pastor(CH)? As a father and family man?
WTB: Wow, I can't skip this one. Seriously, if it weren't for my students, I'd have never been published. They loved my stories first and made me believe that they might be something more than a hobby. And also, my students helped me to realize how much hurting there is out there. If you don't believe this is a broken, fallen world, just listen to today's youth telling about their lives. It's tragic. We're absolutely neglecting an entire generation, to the destruction of us all. I want kids to read my books and KNOW that there's hope. To know that there is a God and that they matter to Him. My own children are inspiring as well--mainly because they are so 3-dimensional to me that I never run out of traits for new characters. ;-)
CH: I have counseled literally thousands of people in my life, the majority of them teenagers. Those experiences have been absolutely key in developing characters, both young and old, and defining not only how they will respond to stimuli in the plot, but how they will grow and be bettered as individuals. While a few of our characters are based on actual people, all of them have strong ties to issues both Wayne and I have walked countless teens through first hand.
Me: How does Berinfell itself differ from your other books’ realms?
WTB: Berinfell is actually the Elven capital. It exists in a larger realm called Allyra. In this world, there are seven high races, among whom are Elves, Gwar, Drefids, Saer, Taladrim, and a coupla others I won't now mention. ;-) Allyra is much more of a world readers could get lost in. It's immersive and vast. Even in the first two books, you only get a small sampling of the immensity of Allyra. The Realm (in The Door Within Books) was a mirror of Earth. Even its citizens are Glimpse Twins of each of us. The Realm is much more of an allegory.
CH: In The White Lion Chronicles, Dionia is pretty much a giant land mass, something I saw as a big floating island. It's all been discovered, and the reader gets to see almost every part. As Wayne said, Allyra, on the other hand, is epically huge. Especially in Book 2, there seems to be new creatures popping up all the time! It's terribly exciting!
Me: Can you explain the process of coauthoring?
WTB: Tag! Christopher, I'll let you handle this one! lol
CH: Oh man, thanks Wayne. ;) Co-authoring. Well, first let me say, if you don't get along with the person--and I mean really get along with them--DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CO-AUTHOR A BOOK TOGETHER. Wayne and I have really been blessed with a cool friendship that goes way outside of writing together. In a *non-metro way (*we both have wives, love our wives, like that our wives are women), we finish each others' sentences, get similar ideas at the same time, and even find that we forget who wrote certain parts because it's "OUR" voice, not CH's or WTB's.
As for the actual question, first we come up with the plot and the main outline. This is created over tons of phone calls, emails, text messages, random idea threads scribbled down, etc. We just get everything out we can think of. Once that's been put into a master Scrivener file (check out Scrivener online), then we divvy up the work, not by chapter, but by scene, based on what each of us is really excited to jump into. It could be the first chapters, or the very last chapters. Doesn't matter. As long as we're sticking to the basic understanding of the outline, we know we're in the ballpark for content, character development, and themes. Each of those chapters is then inserted into the master Scrivener file, and then we start read-throughs.
Unlike what many people might think, we do not "track changes." Instead, we give each other carte blanche to edit the stink out of every single word if the other person wants. This, we've found, is essential to creating a voice representative of both of us. People often ask, "So who wrote this chapter?" While we might be able to say who first created it, in reality, ever single line of a given chapter has been gone over at least a dozen times by each of us before it ever goes to the editors.
As for tools, on any given weeknight, Wayne and I will have our Macs running Scrivener and iChat (AIM).
Me: The story has such an amazing flow to it, even though we’re following seven different children’s journeys. What made that possible?
WTB: I hate to be simplistic, but the straight up answer is: good editors. We juggled and juggled chapters and order issues, but through it all, the editors shepherded us to something more cohesive.
CH: And it wasn't easy, let me tell you! Maintaining theme integrity, details, plot, subplot, character development, and pacing was a challenge. As Wayne said, we have an amazing editorial staff and couldn't have done it without them.
Okay folks! That's it for today, tune back in tomorrow for the rest of my exclusive interview with Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper. Also - for your browsing pleasure, here are a few links:
Both these guys are righteous dudes and deserve at least a click to their sites. Check em out!