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Author-Wayne Thomas Batson
I had first found the book, The Door Within, while searching the many racks of books found in the fourth grade teacher's classroom at the school where my mom worked. I had seen it several times and several times I had picked it up to examine the back cover.
But it wasn't until my family and I took a Christmas trip up to Washington, D.C, two years ago, that I was given a chance to actually sit down and read the whole of The Door Within trilogy. The trilogy instantly made its way onto my favorites list, along with its author, Wayne Thomas Batson.
Recently, Mr. Batson agreed to an interview for Teen Ink.
* * *
RH- Please tell us about yourself.
WTB- I'm Wayne Thomas Batson, Christian, Husband to Mary Lu, Father of Kayla, Tommy, Bryce, and Rachel, Reading/English Teacher of 20 years, and author of 9 books. I'm 42 years old, but with a decidedly more youthful attitude than some 40ish folk. I love to read, write, draw, play tennis, volleyball, lift weights, etc. etc. I'm a huge Lord of the Rings geek, and I'm really peeved that Peter Jackson didn't call me for a role in The Hobbit.
RH- What was your inspiration behind The Door Within trilogy? While reading the books, I noticed how they felt Narnian in a way; did The Chronicles of Narnia inspire these books in any way?
WTB- I actually hadn't read the Narnia series, believe it or not. I've read them since, of course, and I can see the comparison. They are both "portal" fantasy stories, and they both more or less tell the story of Christ through allegory. I think my writing is more influence by Tolkien than Lewis, however, as I've read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings about 15-16 times. But the inspiration for the storyline came from an emotionally powerful event in my own life.
It was way back in 1992, and I was very worried about some people I cared about, whether they had ever really believed in Jesus. I went to them and poured my heart out. I was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, that I can tell you. But I did it. I told them the truth. And they laughed at me. Thought it was cute. That experience fueled a story about someone who had discovered something incredible, bigger than a cure for cancer, and yet, no one was interested. No one would listen.
Sometimes, that's what Christians face when we tell people about salvation. "Saved? Saved from what?" some folks ask. Our world seems to be growing increasingly skeptical. And the new age atheist literature doesn't help. But here's the thing, we shouldn't be embarrassed to tell the truth. We need to remember what we are: broken people trying our best to love other broken people by telling them the greatest news in the history of the world.
RH- I saw The Door Within as an allegory of Christ's death, resurrection and the message of Salvation; and The Final Storm seemed to be an allegory of Revelation; was there an allegory in Rise of the Wyrm Lord? If so, what was it?
WTB- I bet different readers will "see" different allegories throughout the series. In Rise of the Wyrm Lord, you have some Biblical allegories such as "The Fall of Man in Eden," represented by the Wyrm Lord's treasonous murder of Torin. But there are other more personal stories there as well. One is the contrast between Robby and Antoinette. Antoinette is a strong believer. She's been raised to believe. She's taken ownership of her faith and she dares to do while others shrink back. Robby, on the other hand, is a tentative believer. In fact, he feels so worthless that he can't imagine anyone ever saving him. These can both be innocent things, and they can also both be flaws. And in RotWL, readers will see that God can use either type of person in His great story.
RH- In The Door Within, one of the twelve knights is a spy for Paragor; did you mean this as an allegory of a false convert?
WTB- Oh, now that's a sticky question, isn't it? Yes, one of the characters is a type of Judas. In fact, this guy is a little worse than Judas. He never followed out of devotion to begin with. He was corrupt and just masqueraded. I don't know about Judas. There's not enough text to teach us whether he ever truly believed in Christ. But certainly, he abandoned Jesus and made the crucifixion happen.
RH- When you were a kid, did you want to be a knight or a pirate?
WTB- I'm not sure I wanted to be either. In my younger days, I was hooked on Star Wars. I think I may have wanted to be a Jedi Knight. Is there anything cooler than Light Sabres? Come on! I had all the Star Wars figures and ships, and used to invent grand adventures that took place from the front porch to the crab apple tree.
RH- Are there anymore Isle of Swords books in the works?
WTB- I'm waiting to find out from my publisher. If they don't want to do it, I'd like to do it on my own and self publish. One way or another, I'd like to do a 3rd book. Obviously, I left book 2 with a rather large BLACK thread to follow. But, grrrr, leave it to Pirates of the Caribbean to totally jump my idea!
RH- Tell us about your new series, The Dark Sea Annals.
WTB- DSA is the most complex thing I've ever written. God-willing, if the outline holds true, it will be 7 books of the most epic fantasy you've ever read. I'm inventing races, cultures, languages, histories, lore, literature--a whole world, really. It's one HUGE story told over 7 books, but also 7 individual stories that link within the series. It centers around a ruthless assassin seeking forgiveness, finding it in the form of a child, and then realizing that this child will rock his world. Literally. But at the same time there's a government where a King opens a door to evil that should never have been opened. This leads to generational consequences, including a young king named Lochlan who leaves his throne at the worst possible time. His kingdom is taken from him, and he finds himself on the outside looking in. I'd tell you more, but then my publisher would have to kill me.
RH- I have found fantasy one of the hardest genres to write; is there some secret to writing fantasy novels?
WTB- As a matter of fact, there is! All you have to do is mail me $95.95 and I'll tell you what it is. Just kidding. I guess the secret is really loving the genre. If you love it and you like to write, fantasy should come naturally. If it doesn't...read more. I think all writing is hard, and each genre has its own challenge. Write realistic crime thrillers, and be prepared to do a lot of research. Write fantasy, and be prepared to get bogged down creating whole worlds. That takes time and lots of thought. It's also hard to escape fantasy conventions. The genre has been done so many times and so well, that it's hard to be original.
RH- What is the difference between writing teens novels and adult novels?
WTB- I'm sure there's more than one difference. But for me, the difference is in what I expose my readers to. In adult fiction, I can write about issues that matter but might prove too shocking for younger folks. And while teen readers are intellectually capable of handling anything I write, emotional maturity is something very different. When I was a teen, I thought I was mature, but honestly, I was a giant superball of passions. Most teens are. They feel everything SO intensely. Great for some things. Not so great for others. Passions not guarded carefully by intellect and God's authority will, in short order, lead to ruin. In my new supernatural thriller, GHOST, I'm dealing with the topic of spiritual warfare by throwing it into the hard-boiled mystery genre.
RH- Do your kids get a chance to read your books before they're sent off to the editors?
WTB- My kids at home could read them if they wanted to, but very seldom do they want to. I'm just Dad to them. Sad, but true.
RH- What books did you read growing up?
WTB- The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Runaway Ralph, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings--these were my only elementary and middle school books that I read because I wanted to. High school, I read tons of Dean Koontz and Stephen King.
RH- What Bible passage, or book, has inspired your writing?
WTB- Romans is my favorite book. It was the first book of the Bible that whacked me upside the head and screamed, "This stuff really matters to real life!"
RH- Explain how the co-writing process works.
WTB- For Christopher Hopper and I, we outlined together. Then we picked sections to work on, wrote like crazy, exchanged scenes, revised, edited, and so on. We used iChat to write together online.
RH- What was your inspiration behind the Berinfell Prophecy books?
WTB- Kids. Pure and simple. Christopher is a youth pastor of many years, and I'm a middle school teacher with 20 years in. We've seen kids come and go, and so many of them are hurting. We just wanted kids to know that they are of infinitely more value than they might think.
RH- What genre would you like to experiment with? Or what genre would you write if you did not write fantasy?
WTB- My wife keeps telling me that I should write romance, aka Nicholas Sparks, and I probably could. But it would go against my conscience. It would just be for money. I like fantasy, adventure, thriller, and horror--I think I'll always be in one of those areas.
RH- What advice do you have for Christian teens and preteens who attend public school; or for living for God while dealing with peer pressure and persecution?
WTB- Number 1: Identify what you really believe. If you really believe Jesus died for you, that He is the only way to heaven, then you should live each day like that. See things for what they really are. Are you nervous about sharing your faith? Why? Will you get teased? Will you get beat up? Deal with it. Seriously, your school shouldn't let that kind of stuff happen. Get the administration and your parents involved. You shouldn't try to be the lone ranger. Or are you afraid to talk about Jesus because your behavior stinks? Well, fix it. Get into the word. Pray. Then do it.
Number 2: Know your identity in Christ. Your feelings do NOT tell you who you are. Frankly, you aren't smart enough to know who you are. Only God knows you at a cellular level. What does God say about you in his word? THAT and only that is who you are. You are one of a kind, you are loved, you are paid for, you are empowered, you are a friend, you are a child of God, you are a warrior, and an ambassador. How dare anyone else tell you who you are. How could they possibly really know when they don't even know themselves? It's like this: Identity fuels your thoughts. Your thoughts fuel your behavior. Your behavior, in turn, will confirm or deny your identity, and round and round it goes. If you are who God says you are, then your thoughts will be more pure, and your actions will be righteous. But if you think of yourself as "the person my dad abandoned" or "the person the kids at school tease" or "the fat kid" or "the unpopular" or fill in the blank...well, then your thoughts will then fuel pitiful actions. This is why leaning on the Word of God is SOOOOOOOOO important. It is true and unchanging. You can stand on His word again and again and again.
RH- Please share your testimony of Salvation.
WTB- A long story. Here's the short version. Raised in an unchurched family with vague notions of God at Christmas and Easter and dinner prayers. Went to a tennis tournament as a teen and said my first (of many) salvation prayers. Then, went home and forgot about God for years. Fast forward to 1991. I had a bright future, but was filled with instability that I could not put my finger on. I think it was God's finger on me. Things kind of unraveled for a while and I said a new salvation prayer. Then, a buddy got me leading a Bible study, which forced me into REALLY digging into the scriptures, and I was blown away by how relevant it all is. The rest is history. I still struggle with doubts, mostly about my own sincerity, my own behavior. It's hard to get out of the works mentality. Everything else in life we have to earn. Not God's love, thank God.
RH- What advice do you have for teens hoping to share their faith through their novels?
WTB- Don't try too hard. If you do, it will betray the integrity of the message and the integrity of the story, and you'll lose your audience. Tell the story you want to tell. If you're a Christian, you'll breath faith into your work. It's like this: you wouldn't support the most precious sculpture in the world on drinking straws from McDonald's, would you? The story you write better be good if you're going to associate Jesus with it.
Thanks for the interview! I can't wait to hear from readers. I'll check back and respond to comments when I can.
RH- No, thank you for agreeing to the interview. It really means a lot, and I'm sure you're fans would love hearing from you.