November 18, 2009

Day 3 - Part Two of My Exclusive Interview With the Authors

Welcome to Day Three of the CSFF Blog Tour for Curse of the Spider King by co-authors Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper (Book One in The Berinfell Prophecies).  I recently had the awesome opportunity to interview both authors, and they didn't disappoint.  Yesterday, I posted Part One of the interview.  Today, you get to read the final questions and answers about the most exciting new Fantasy series in a few years.  So, without further ado...


Me:  The stage is set for the sequel and we even get to see a tiny preview at the end of Curse of the Spider King. Has the series been laid out already, or are you still unsure how many books will be in The Berinfell Prophecies?

WTB:  There will likely be three books at least. We've just recently finished Venom and Song, the second book, and are considering some plot ideas for book three. It all depends on what God wants. If the books sell well, then certainly we'd write as many books as we have good ideas for.

CH:  Here-here!


Me:  What can readers expect from book two of the Berinfell Prophecies?

WTB:  Venom and Song will absolutely AMP the stakes. It's not just the Seven who are at risk but everyone in two worlds. Readers will get much more into the world of Allyra and meet the strange races and beasties that thrive there.

CH:  Aside from all the freakish monsters, fast-paced battles, and crazy plots twists, my favorite thing about Venom and Song is that the readers really get to see each of the characters develop. In Book One, you're merely introduced to them; they don't really have a whole lot of interaction together. But in Book Two, the characters--who are each very different in their own rights--have to live with one another day-to-day. And things get extremely interesting!


Me:  I love the interactive aspect of the riddle you pose to readers, what inspired you to create a forum just for readers of this series that will allow them to create their own tribe and solve a mystery?

WTB:  Again, CH, you can speak best on this one.

CH:  Wayne and I are both firm believers that reading needs to be exciting, and technology has allowed us to super-charge the way we involve fans. I've been really impressed with the whole ARG (alternate reality game) concept, playing out a story-line with real people in real time where their responses to challenges across multi-media platforms actually shapes the outcome of the game. We've had huge success with it and love getting to know our readers from around the world! As for Tribe Building, while I've certainly hand my hands in it a little, that's really Wayne's baby. He's a master at large-group ventures like that. I admire that about him a lot!


Me:  Both you and Christopher Hopper/Wayne Thomas Batson are musical. Do you ever have jam sessions?

WTB:  Christopher Hopper is the musician. The guy's played all over the world and has 9 CDs. I'm just a wanna be. I played in a metal band back in the day and loved it. It's the one area of my life that I've kind of had to let go, but still care deeply for. So CH and I thought about creating a soundtrack for Curse of the Spider King. We've recorded one song "The Lost Ones," that will be out on iTunes this month. I still can't believe it. But yes, we've jammed to it live and gotten spectacular reception.

CH:  Wayne is a really good guitarist for all his "I've had to let it go" talk. I've had so much fun playing live together during our book signings...just so much fun. And as he said, people really seem to like the song, which is always encouraging. While the music is mostly mine, the lyrics are mostly all his. I can honestly say, Wayne is a brilliant lyricists, as he is a novelist.


Me:  There are definitely plenty of spiders in this series. How do you feel about spiders in real life? Do you kill them when they come inside and your kids say, “Daddy, get it.”?

WTB:  I kill them with great vigor. I absolutely hate spiders. They may serve a very necessary role in the Lord's ecosystem, but I just don't like the look of them.

CH:  I find them absolute fascinating! Just today I was teaching my 4 year old, Eva, why spiders make they catch flies, wrap them up, then suck their insides out. Crazy! Who came up with that anyways? But, yes, I do get the chills when killing them, especially if you go to snag one with a napkin and it scoots away from you! YIKES! I'm such a girl!


Me:  I caught a few references in the book that made me giggle. On page 210, it says, “…and some teachers were known to write novels in their spare time.” And on page 235, you give a shout out to Donita K. Paul’s most recent epic with this, “I did a poster for my book report on The Vanishing Sculptor.” What inspired you to add these fun little pieces of real life into your story?

WTB:  CH did the first one, so he'll have to say. And the reference to Donita's new book came about because I'd just read it and was very very impressed. Therefore, a mention seemed natural.

CH:  How can I not plug the great Wayne Thomas Batson with a cameo reference? Come-on! Too much fun!


Me:  What was the most challenging aspect of writing Curse of the Spider King? And conversely, what was the most enjoyable part?

WTB:  The challenge: Deadlines versus Available Time. Christopher and I are both very busy people ASIDE from writing. Large (and growing) families, full time day jobs, and numerous other demands make it really hard to find time to write...and not just write but collaborate. With Venom and Song, it has been absolutely ridiculous how much Christopher and my schedule clashed. Seemed like we could never find time to write together. Most enjoyable: the times we could write together. I can only tell you that one day I may publish our iChat conversations (which I've saved nearly all of). Writing with CH has been the most fun, definitely the most fun I've ever had writing. We are kindred spirits with weird views of the world. I think that comes through in the books.

CH:  Most challenging? Definitely schedule juggling. Before these books, I was a morning person for 29 years, in bed by 10pm at the latest (and that was pushing it). It's currently midnight right now, and I'm still going strong. Something's just wrong with that. Most enjoyable? Spending time with Wayne doing what we love, writing novels for the glory of King Jesus.


Me:    What do you do to battle the block? Computer solitaire, surfing the web, or something else?

WTB:   I don't actually get writer's block. Most times I have more ideas than I know what to do with. However, I do sometimes get stumped on a name for a character or place or some such. Christopher will tell you I spend WAY too much time trying to put together just the RIGHT names. It's my curse, I think. The other issue is distraction. Writing with active internet around is dangerous for an ADD dude like me. Focus, Wayne, must focus!

CH:  OK. Wayne is not exaggerating. He gets hung up on finding the "perfect name" more than anyone I know. It drives me batty sometimes (in a fun way!). But the payoff is that he gets KILLER names!

As for writer's block, like Wayne, I don't struggle with it very much because I'm always swimming with more ideas than I know what to do with. However, I learned a GREAT trick from Bryan Davis: Never finish a writing session at the close of a scene; finish mid-scene or mid-action. That way, whenever you come back to your manuscript, you come back into something you're excited to write! This has helped me a lot, not in battling writer's block, but in staying motivated!


And that's going to do it for this month's CSFF Blog Tour.  Please check out some of the other participants' blogs for more info on Curse of the Spider King.  And be sure to join me next month.

CSFF Blog Tour Participants:

Justin Boyer
Amy Browning
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Tina Kulesa
Melissa Lockcuff
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Cara Powers
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson
KM Wilsher

November 17, 2009

Day 2 - My Exclusive Interview With the Authors

Welcome to the second day of my favorite CSFF Blog Tour to date!!!  Yesterday, I gave my review of Curse of the Spider King (Book One of The Berinfell Prophecies). Today, I will be posting the first half of my exclusive interview with co-authors Wayne Thomas Batson (WTB) and Christopher Hopper (CH).  Enjoy!


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!

November 16, 2009

CSFF Blog Tour: Curse of the Spider King

Curse of the Spider King
by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper

Important Links
* Amazon
* Wayne Thomas Batson's Site
* Christopher Hopper's Site
* The Berinfell Prophecies Forum

Curse of the Spider King (Book 1 of The Berinfell Prophecies) weaves together a tale of seven Elven Lords, who, as infants, narrowly escaped their doom and are now residing on Earth, completely unaware of whom they are, or any idea of their true heritage.

Seven thirteen-ish “human” children begin to notice dark strangers lurking about, and friendly sources give them each a very special book, The History of Berinfell, a book that comes to life with only a touch. Their first tastes of a history they didn’t even know was their own come rushing out of the ancient handwritten text, seemingly releasing giant Warspiders or setting fire to their classroom.

Each child is an Elven Lord, and thus, is endowed with a mysterious and previously unknown ability that manifests near their thirteenth birthday. As children of Earth, the possibility of such gifts or other existing realms is unheard of. However, The Seven have been sought out and protected by Sentinals from the children’s homeland of Allyra, and are hiding in the shadows. Unfortunately, the Elven Lords are also being hunted by dark forces bent on their destruction.

Curse of the Spider King is what YA Fantasy Fiction is all about. It’s well-paced, richly developed, and irresistibly enthralling. The language is beautiful without getting too caught up in itself. And while we discover more about The Seven, Allyra itself remains mostly a mystery. The scene is set for book two in The Berinfell Prophecies, Venom and Song.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part One of my interview with co-author Wayne Thomas Batson.  And please check out a few of our other CSFF Blog Tour Participants:

Brandon Barr  Justin Boyer  Amy Browning Valerie Comer  Amy Cruson  CSFF Blog Tour Stacey Dale  D. G. D. Davidson  Shane Deal Jeff Draper  Emmalyn Edwards  April Erwin Karina Fabian  Todd Michael Greene  Ryan Heart Timothy Hicks  Becky Jesse  Cris Jesse Jason Joyner  Julie  Carol Keen Krystine Kercher  Tina Kulesa  Melissa Lockcuff Rebecca LuElla Miller  Mirtika  Nissa John W. Otte  Cara Powers  Chawna Schroeder James Somers  Speculative Faith  Robert Treskillard Fred Warren  Jason Waguespac  Phyllis Wheeler Jill Williamson  KM Wilsher