Today the amazing and incredibly multi-talented and multi-layered T.L. Hines is with us today. Tony’s been a professional writer for more than 15 years and has an amazing background in advertising (hence his awesome PR strategies). I read his bio on his website, and let’s just say this designer-girl is blown away. Click the link for all that tantalizing information or go explore his stunning site after the interview. Be sure to check out his blog as well.
DM: Tony, thrilled and jazzed to have you here. This is your big week. WAKING LAZARUS, , your first fiction book, is about to be released. You’ve been building recognition and exposure for months now. Tell us a little of what you’re feeling?
TLH: I think I feel somewhat like what most marathon runners must feel like about 25 ½ miles into the race: ready to have the whole thing done, but also exhilarated to know you're about to accomplish something special. Actually, it's all a little bit surreal now; I've heard people saying they've spotted the book in stores, but the books haven't made it to my area of Montana yet. Of course, Montana's still waiting for electricity and indoor plumbing.
DM: LOL! Okay, let’s back track a bit. When did you start brainstorming this amazing concept for Volunteer Book Publicists, before or after your book was contracted?
TLH: It was right about the time the ink on the contract dried. When I signed the contract, I immediately started thinking about ways to help support the launch. I got a copy of Seth Godin's "Launching the Ideavirus," and that helped spark some of the initial thinking—along with my admiration for the open source software movement. (Firefox, for instance, is open source—software developers make the source code available to other developers, who then, in turn, write plug-ins for added functionality.) I wanted to "open" the behind-the-scenes stuff to anyone willing to help promote the book, so I created the Other Side for Volunteer Publicists at www.tlhines.com/breakonthrough. In exchange for helping to spread word about the book, Volunteer Publicists can win unique prizes such as an iPod Nano, a share of my first royalty statement, or a role in my next novel.
DM: There’ so much information about the book itself on your website , so I encourage everyone to take a look, but let’s talk about what made you explore the world of fiction. What was the spark or catalyst that plunged you into the world of Jude Allman, starring character of WAKING LAZARUS, and writing his story?
TLH: A couple things from my own life led to the story for WAKING LAZARUS. First, when I was a young child, I fell through the ice and nearly drowned. Even today, I can recall the shock of that moment. Many years later, while working my way through college, I was a janitor in the University of Montana's Chem/Pharm building, where I cleaned the cadaver storage room. When I was alone in that room with the two cadavers late at night, I always pictured them sitting up suddenly. Those two images—a drowning boy, and a cadaver sitting up—converged to become the idea for a story about a man who has struggled with recurring Near Death Experiences.
DM: You’ve had a very interesting faith journey, Tony. You used to be an atheist and now you write fiction from a Christian worldview. Can you share how this journey started and what you feel God is compelling you toward in this writing adventure?
TLH: That's right. I considered myself an atheist until age 27. Most Christians, I thought, were cultural Christians—they only called themselves that because those were the beliefs they were raised with, and they'd never explored anything else. But then it hit me: I was guilty of the exact opposite thing. I was a cultural atheist, blindly believing what I'd grown up with. How could I knock people for doing the exact thing I, myself, had done? So, I began to read about different faiths, and started trying to look at my atheism objectively. And really, it came down to this for me: all of us have to make a leap of faith with our beliefs. We have to make a leap of faith that a loving God created the universe, or we have to make a leap of faith that the universe created itself, or whatever. We can't totally KNOW, and probably never will, the origins of existence; a creation, I think, can never fully understand its creator. But for me, it was ultimately easier to believe in a self-existent creator of all other existence. I made that leap to an existent God, and from there, a further leap to Christianity.
One of the first things that struck me, after I began looking at things as a new Christian, was the realization that God had been at work in my life all along—even when I was an atheist. That still amazes me, in fact. And in a metaphorical way, that's the story I explore in WAKING LAZARUS. Jude Allman is a man called by God, even though Jude rejects that call.
DM: I love that you can look back and see that. Amazing. Now, tell us a little about your writing process? Is writing a daily endeavor?
TLH: Writing is a daily endeavor when I'm working on a new project. Currently, I also work a full-time job, so my writing "day" is really two hours in the morning—roughly from 5:00 to 7:00 am. People talk about being an outliner, or a seat-of-the-pants writer. I'm a politician, claiming to be both. I've found a process that works for me. When I write a story the first time, I draft it as a screenplay. This gives me a rough, 100-page outline with key scenes and dialogue, and acts as a detailed plot outline for my first draft of the novel. So I get the joy of discovery that comes with being a seat-of-the-pants writer, combined with the focus an outline provides.
DM: Wow, that sounds cool. Do you find your stories or do they find you? What comes first, the story or the characters?
TLH: That's a perfect way to say it: the stories find me. That's the seat-of-the-pants part of me talking. When I set out to write a story, I have a rough idea in place. I might know what the "hook" of the story is, and I might have a rough idea where I'll end up. But I usually don't have a good idea how I'll get there, and a lot of things work their way into the story along the journey. So definitely, the story finds me. And I’m a firm believer that characters always define story—if you have an interesting enough character, anything that character does will make an involving story.
DM: What can we expect from T.L. Hines down the road? Will those other two books you worked on see the light of day? Will Jude Allman have another tale to tell?
TLH: I’m working on my second book for Bethany House right now, another supernatural thriller set to release Summer of 2007. The two other books you refer to might see the light of day sometime; we'll have to see. At this point, there's no real plan to create a sequel for WAKING LAZARUS. That's not to say it won't happen; down the road, who knows?
DM: Tony, thank you so much for sharing with us. I can’t wait to read WAKING LAZARUS. The story is so intriguing and original.
TLH: Thanks. It was a lot of fun for me to write—and, oddly enough, very emotional. It's a suspense/thriller, but I found myself really plumbing the depths of my own emotions with it. And, based on some initial feedback, readers are picking up on that. That’s so great to hear. I do hope folks get a couple hours of escapism with the book. But I also hope the book gives them a few things to think about, as well.
DM: Again, I encourage you to check out Tony’s website. It’s packed with great information for readers and writers alike.
Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of WAKING LAZARUS. I'll draw one lucky name on Sunday. Blessings!