It’s been a lot of fun cruising around reading other blog posts on The Door Within Trilogy. Today I absolutely have to get some work done, but first I wanted to share with you a brief interview that the author, Wayne Thomas Batson extended to me. Looking around the tour, I’d say he might be the most blog-interviewed author we’ve featured yet!
I wanted to talk to him a little about the process of writing and getting published.
VC: When did you complete your first novel and was it/ is it publish-worthy? How many manuscripts lay dead and buried before the first publishing contract?
WTB: I completed The Door Within (the first time, HA!) in 1998. It was more of a novella at that point, maybe 125 pages. Even at that time, it was a winning concept, but not even in the same zip code as a publishable novel! There were still too many holes in the storyline and my language skills needed much more work. That doesn’t mean I didn’t try to send it in to publishers anyway, lol! I made dozens of copies of the manuscript and shot them off with proposals and queries to any publisher that had the slightest interest in fantasy. And then…it snowed rejection letters. “Dear author, we’re sorry to inform you that your manuscript does not meet our current needs. We hope that you find a home for your work.”
And that’s it. After that, I worked on my craft. My wonderful students read Door Within manuscripts as a part of their Strategic Reading practice. But at the same time, they put on the critic hat and became my editors year after year. Slowly the book came around. I learned to pace the story, to amp up the action and intrigue, to make cliffhangers at the end of every chapter. 😉 But a real turning point came when I took a poetry class at McDaniel College. The supremely gifted published poet Kathy Mangum taught the class, and I learned so much about the economy of language. Every single word suddenly came under scrutiny. My craft improved markedly—I suddenly had a toolbox and a palette with which to tell the story.
And as for manuscripts dead and buried…none. There are only versions that I abandoned. 😉
VC: What is your process from the inception of your idea to a finished draft? (ie: do you outline? do you write in order?)
WTB: I am definitely an outliner. I will spend close to a month story-boarding a novel from beginning to end. I end up with about 3-4 sentence summaries of each chapter I plan to write. Then, I start the manuscript and write straight through following the outline. Some call this rigid. Some say this steals the creative thunder. Not so at all. First, I get some of my most creative stuff during the outline, while I have the WHOLE story rolling in my head. And secondly, the outline is not restrictive. I often add several chapters or move chapters around.
And usually my editors at Nelson have great ideas, so we change or cut to make the story as intriguing as possible.
VC: Do you have ideas or plans for novels outside of your current genre? And is Isle of Swords (your spring 2007 release) fantasy?
WTB: Valerie, I have about 20-25 concepts for future novels. They exist in folders (backed up about 100 times, lol) on my various computers. Some are as short as a paragraph; some are as long as 10 chapters. Isle of Swords is a pirate adventure—so not really fantasy. Of course, there is still room for a little fantasy in such a tale.
After Isle of Swords and a possible sequel, I plan to jump back into fantasy. I’ve been soaking up ideas for what may be a huge—I mean, epic—fantasy series. The plot grows exponentially every time I think about it. So many interesting fantasy races are popping up and introducing themselves. Creatures—ah, the beastiary is growing crowded. I can’t wait to get to work on it.
VC: You’re a middle school teacher. Do your students read your novels? What kind of response have you gotten from them?
WTB: Loaded question. Seriously though, if it weren’t for my students, there would not be a Door Within Trilogy. 1993, Arundel Middle in Odenton Maryland. My students challenged me to complete an assignment that I had given them: write a short story. That short story became The Door Within. Over the years through teaching in Anne Arundel, Carroll, and Howard Counties, the story grew. My students were actually the first editors to ever lay eyes on each of the trilogy books. My students are reading Isle of Swords this year.
Now that all three books of The Door Within Trilogy are published, I see my students reading them all the time. The feedback has been wonderful. Funny thing is, the media specialist at my school just did a school-wide poll: What is your favorite book?
Eragon was #1, Harry (well, you know) was #2, and my Door Within books were #3.
VC: Thanks so much, Wayne. That was a fascinating *Glimpse* into your life!
Check out Wayne’s blog for a 90-second trailer for the series!
I almost hate saying goodbye…