by Kevin Lucia
Wayne Thomas Batson Interview
"I wonder if people are so desperate to be entertained because they don’t like quiet moments where they are left alone to think. In those times, they might actually hear God calling for them. They might actually wonder, “Why am I here?”" -- Wayne Thomas Batson
Wayne Thomas Batson has spent thirteen years teaching Reading and English to middle school students. He has played an active role in the Strategic Reading Program in his home state of Maryland. Wayne and his wife have four young children. He graduated from the University of Maryland - College Park and has a graduate degree in Counseling.
Kevin: According to your bio, writing professionally has been a life-long dream of yours. How does it feel to finally “be here”?
Wayne: Honestly, it feels a bit surreal. When I see my books in a store or see someone I don’t know reading one of The Door Within books, there’s this moment of disbelief…followed quickly by thankfulness. Funny thing is, before I became a Christian, I fancied myself to become the next Stephen King. Then, in 1991, as a new believer, I literally threw all my King-esque manuscripts away. Looking back, I wonder about those stories, but it was — at the time — part of a very necessary purification for me. Over the next several years, through some very wise friends, I learned that God could use me as a writer. Now that I’m published, I have to admit, I still don’t feel “here,” as you put it—like, ah, I’ve made it at last! Not at all. There is still so much more to learn about the craft of writing, and I absolutely know there are more stories to tell.
Did you do any work on The Door Within while teaching? If so, how hard was it juggling the responsibilities of grading papers, making lesson plans, and trying to write a novel?
Like juggling bowling balls, flaming axes, and running chainsaws—that should give you some insight about balancing family, teaching, and writing. Actually, The Door Within was the easiest to write because I really took my time. Thirteen years…but it was very inconsistent. My students bugged me like crazy to continue developing it. If it weren’t for them, The Door Within would have never been written.
Your portrayal of Aidan and Antoinette was very real-to life. Did you at times find yourself drawing from your experience as a middle school teacher and the students you’ve encountered over the years?
Thanks for saying so. And yes, being immersed in the lives of middle schoolers gave me a real sense of what Aidan and Antoinette would be thinking, doing, and feeling. As a Reading and English teacher, I often have students write to me about what they are going through. I wanted to make my characters people my kids could read and say, “I have SO been there.” Or “How’d you know I felt that way?” One other benefit of teaching is that I’m exposed to lots of cool names. Antoinette and Sir Rogan, to name a few, were names of former students.
I was impressed with the way you wove Biblical “lore”, if you will, into the fabric of the story, yet you were able to maintain your integrity as a novelist and turn it into legend all your own. How challenging was this?
The challenge for me really was not to be preachy because my goal was to create a story rich in truth, but accessible to all readers. The storyline grew out of my astonishment over the FACT that there is a very real spiritual realm connected to us, and yet, most people (including me at one time) have no clue that it’s there. The tale grew out of that concept. It was very complicated—and thank God for Beverly Phillips and June Ford, my editors at TN—to reconcile the strange time differential between events in our world and the Glimpse Realm, and at the same time, show this interconnected nature between worlds.
The artistry of these hardcover novels – from the covers, right down to the page tinting – is marvelous. Did you provide any inspiration for this, or was this something the publisher created?
Tommy Nelson Publishing took a BIG risk, a big leap of faith, with my books. They said from the beginning that they wanted The Door Within books to stand apart from what’s already out there, and they were true to their word. I just about fell over when I saw the first proposed cover. But here’s the coolest part: they gave me extensive input about the artwork and design. They truly tailored it to my ideas, so with my books, you really can judge the book by the cover. Funny story: My original idea for the design of Rise of the Wyrm Lord’s cover had some really sinister looking red eyes in the shrouded cave. But I think something got lost in the description. When I received the original comp of the cover, there were these gigantic blue kitty cat eyes. Seriously, it looked like Mittens the Dragon-cat was about to emerge from the cave. Patti Evans, TN’s wonderful art director and I agreed to eliminate the eyes all together.
What was your first break into the writing world?
The Door Within Trilogy contract was really my big break. My agent coerced me (lol) into flying down to Atlanta for the CBA convention that summer. He arranged about 16 meetings for us with editors from an array of publishing houses. One of those was Thomas Nelson Publishing. And thanks to Dee Anne Grand, then TN’s VP in charge of acquisitions, The Door Within was going to happen.
Any musical inspirations that help you write?
I have strange musical tastes. While writing though, I listen to progressive heavy metal. I know what you’re thinking: a.) How can you possibly concentrate with that noisy music? But Prog Metal is really quite classical and symphonic. It’s also driving and epic—an adventure in every song. b.) And, secondly, isn’t that evil? I choose here to respectfully agree to disagree with my Christian peers who think that a particular style of music is inherently evil. The bands I listen to may not all be Christian, but they are mostly positive or ask the big questions of life. My particular favorites are The Orphan Project, Angra, Dream Theater, and Evanescence. Oh, and I like Yo-Yo Ma too.
What's your next project?
Isle of Swords, a high adventure on the high seas. It’s one part Pirates of the Caribbean, one part DaVinci Code (in a Biblical way, though), and one part The Bourne Identity. Isle releases May 2007. I’m immersed in my deadline for it now, and LOVING where the story is headed.
Who are some of your favorite authors/writers? Which one would you say has been your biggest influence?
Tolkien’s books brought me into the world of fantasy—and reading in general. I couldn’t get over how I could be transported emotionally and physically into another world—just by reading two-dimensional words on a page! My family used to drive 28 hours from Maryland to Florida every summer, and I just brought Tolkien with me. I was there in the back seat physically, but otherwise…I was gone! Tromping around Middle Earth with my friends, Frodo and Sam.
As a reading teacher myself, I often find myself frustrated with not only the low reading ability of today’s students, but also the general apathy towards reading, even from the skilled students. Where do you think this comes from: the media, their parents, the Internet?
I know what you are talking about, but actually, I think things are improving somewhat for younger students or Tweens. If I consider the way things were when I began teaching in 1991, I know that students are now more motivated to read than they were then. Students seem more literate as well. BUT, the older kids get, there does seem to be a growing apathy toward reading as a source of pleasure. These kids are able readers, but they choose other outlets. I don’t know, but I suspect that the culture of America is to blame. We are an “entertain me NOW” society. Look at the billions we spend on technology so that we can passively watch or listen or chitchat EVERYWHERE we go. Not that movies, or iPods, or cell phones, or any of the entertainment biz is evil per se. It’s just…well, I wonder if people are so desperate to be entertained because they don’t like quiet moments where they are left alone to think. In those times, they might actually hear God calling for them. They might actually wonder, “Why am I here?”
To any parents trying to instill a love of reading in their child, what would be your advice?
First, read to your children from day one. Get crazy with stories too. Act them out. Do funny voices and accents. Always stop at “the best part” and leave them begging to read the next day. Second, read for pleasure yourselves, Mom and Dad. Show kids that YOU really do see reading as a source of fun. Lastly, expose your children to all genres so that they can have that “AH, HA!” moment like I did when I first read The Hobbit. That, wow, this is good, moment. Priceless.
What’s your advice to aspiring writers?
1. It can be done.
2. Your creativity is already there—you can think up a story as good as Tolkien, Rowling, or I ever could. But your craft is probably not there yet. Read like a crazy person—esp. in the genre you think you want to write. But don’t just read to be entertained. Learn what the authors are up to. Remember that part that thrilled you? What made it thrill you? And, I know as a teacher, I’m biased, but listen to your teachers. They will teach you the ingredients of good writing. It may not seem exciting—in the same way that drills at football practice or practicing scales on an instrument seem tiresome. Everyone wants the glory of the big game or the rock concert, but few are willing to invest the work needed to get there. Writing is work. Creating is work.
Here’s my “fun question”. If a movie was made, based on The Door Within Trilogy, what actors would you have as the lead roles?
Ah, too fun! Here’s my potential cast:
Aidan Thomas: some unknown lad, soft-spoken but tough as nails.
Antoinette Lynn Reed: again, an unknown, but she must have serious inner fire.
Captain Valithor: Sean Connery. Please, God, let them make the movie while Sean is still with us!
Paragor/Paragal: This may seem weird, but I’d cast myself in this role. I’ve read his most intense scenes like “Traitor’s Legacy” so many times, I feel like I just know his flaws and his arrogance.
Mallik: Gerard Butler, the Scotsman who played Beowulf
Sir Rogan: my buddy Dan who, I’m convinced, is part Viking.
Thanks, Kevin for the great interview. These are some of the most fun questions I’ve had the pleasure of answering.
Lucia Kevin Lucia writes for The Press & Sun
Bulletin and The
Journal. His short fiction has appeared in Coach’s
Midnight Diner, The Relief Journal, All Hallows, Darkened
Horizons Vol. 3 & 4,
NexGen Pulp Magazine Issues 1 & 4, From the Shadows, Morpheus
Bohemian-Alien, Shroud Publishing’s horror anthology, Abominations,
Tyndale House’s inspirational anthology Life Savors. He’s
writing a novella for Shroud Publishing’s upcoming novella series, The
Hiram Grange Chronicles. He resides in Castle Creek, New York, with his
wife Abby, daughter Madison and son Zackary. He teaches high school English at
Catholic Central High School
in Binghamton, New York; and is finishing his Masters of Arts in Creative Writing
at Binghamton University. Visit him at his website and