Saturday, January 11, 2014

Interview with T. R. Williams, author of Journey into the Flame - January 11, 2014

Please welcome T. R. Williams to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Journey into the Flame (Rising World Trilogy 1) was published on January 7, 2014.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

T.R.:  I started writing January 22nd 2010. It took a year of starts and stops to settle into what the story arc would be for my first book – Journey into the Flame.

I don’t think that I can put my finger on exactly why I started writing. I will say that storylines had always bounced around in my head. I would see a movie and say “Wouldn’t it be cool to write about this? Or what if the writer and director did that with that character?”. The ideas continued to flow, until one day I sat down and wrote my first sentence.
“In a moment, I found myself in a room which was an ancient library. Books of all kinds and from all time…. I have been here before…”
 That exact line didn’t make it into the final manuscript. But it was my first piece of writing and some of what it alludes to remains in the first book as it is on shelves.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

T.R.:  This is only my first book, but I would have to say that I am much more of a plotter than a pantser. Journey into the Flame, along with the other two books of The Rising World Trilogy, have a lot of moving parts and characters. I found that the links and threads that connect the various elements of the series needed to be mapped out first. Some storylines start and end within one book while others traverse all three. That takes a bit of planning.

That isn’t to say that things didn’t change as I wrote the actual chapters. Many new ideas for twists and turns emerged as the characters and conflicts did. A few changes even took place at the last minute, just before my editor took my pen away.

So, the short answer to the question is, I am 80% plotter and 20% pantser. At least for now.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

T.R.:  The greatest challenge for me is character development. As in my real life, there are people that I connect with and have an affinity to. I found that writing about these types of characters was easy – I could get into their heads and understand the whats and whys about their life. Characters that weren’t represented by a real-life person in my world were harder for me to develop. I had to research real-life people that I thought closely represented each character.

Adding to that challenge was the practical fact that the book ideally needed to be a certain length, with only so many words. I’d created and written detailed backstories for most of the characters, but, in order to keep the flow of the mystery, I had to make choices as to what backstory elements would be included and which would be left out. This was a real challenge, because as is true in real life – it’s the small and subtle things that define the true character of people.

There is, lastly, the challenge, when writing a trilogy, of developing lead characters over the span of the series. I didn’t want the characters to be completely developed in the first book and then remain stagnant for the remaining two. So many story elements needed to be spread out across the trilogy. I know that leads to readers wanting to know more about a character in the moment – but there are still two more books to come.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

T.R.:  Two of my favorite authors are JRR Tolkien and Charles Dickens.

I like Tolkien for creating a whole world, complete with its own history, culture and language. He was able to take the moral compass which guides our current lives and present it in a new and captivating way. My favorite character in Tolkien’s world was Tom Bombadil.

One of my other favorite novels is A Christmas Carol. I’m not sure I have a favorite character. I like them all. This was one story where none of the characters were bigger than the novel that Dickens wrote. I find that inspiring.

TQ:  Describe Journey into the Flame (Rising World Trilogy 1) in 140 characters or less.

T.R.:  In 2027, a series of cataclysmic events shake the world. A few years later, several mysterious books are found around the globe and provide earth’s remaining population the one thing they need: hope. Journey into the Flame moves the reader to the year 2069 where someone has uncovered the true power of those books.

TQ:  Tell us something about Journey into the Flame that is not in the book description.

T.R.:  One of the things that has always intrigued me is reading and learning about people who have done extraordinary things or have incredible gifts and capabilities—individuals who have healed themselves, who possess incredible musical talent at an early age, who can read another’s thoughts. The list goes on. I’ve always believed that all of humanity has these abilities in a latent way. We just haven’t tapped into them. What if all we needed was just the desire to uncover them? Journey into the Flame begins to tug on a singular thread of that tapestry.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Journey into the Flame? Why did you choose to write a genre bending dystopian novel?

T.R.:  The inspiration for the entire Rising World Trilogy is rooted in presenting a view of our world where things are more connected than we acknowledge. Science and religion have been battling for ages – what if there was a way to bridge some of their understandings? What if things that we see as separate and different can be overlaid to present a more complete picture?

I like that phrase--genre bending dystopian novel. One thing that moving a perspective forward to the future accomplishes is that you can change the atmosphere and variables that characters must face. While the moral struggles of the players might be similar to ones we face in the present day, the thought processes and ultimate resolutions to dilemmas can be new and different. So, of course, might the way we think about things in our own lives.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Journey into the Flame?

T.R.:  I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but most of the research for the book was spent in two areas: science and setting.

I spent a great deal of time studying the workings of the human brain and human DNA. There was a lot of refinement required in the manuscript, taking these core elements and presenting them in a way that the reader would not find boring and dry.

I also spent time researching the locations around the world where scenes of the story would take place. I attempted to choose places that I had been to, but in some cases that wasn’t possible. There was also the challenge of setting the story in the future. What would a certain country or city look like in forty years after it might have been destroyed?

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite good guy, bad guy or ethically ambiguous character?

T.R.:  The easiest character for me to write about is a man by the name of Simon Hitchlords. He’s just mean. He has one governing agenda in his life – he wants more power than anyone else. So when I write about him – it’s not difficult to project how he would react to various situations.

The hardest character for me to write about in Journey into the Flame was an elegant and aristocratic woman by the name of Andrea Montavon. She has a sinister streak in her, but she wasn’t always that way. She was difficult to construct because I don’t have people like that in my direct life.

My favorite good guy is Sebastian Quinn. His macro view of the world allows for some interesting insights. My favorite bad guy is Simon Hitchlords. As I said earlier, his decision making is easy – he’s just mean.

My favorite ethically ambiguous character in Journey into the Flame is Randolph Fenquist. But in the second book, there is another character I like even better in this regard. These characters are fun because they most mimic our own lives as we grapple with what is right and what is wrong.

TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from Journey into the Flame.

T.R.:  There is a moment where the main protagonist, Logan Cutler says “I can’t imagine a world where people can’t pray.”

I have more, but the question said only one. ☺

TQ:  What's next?

T.R.:  The immediate next thing is the completion of Book II and Book III. They have been plotted out, but I expect many pantser moments (I like that term, I hadn’t heard it before this interview).

After that, we will see. I have ideas for other novels. If I am fortunate, I will be granted the opportunity to write them and have them published.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

T.R.:  You are most welcome. Thanks for having me!

Journey into the Flame

Journey into the Flame
The Rising World Trilogy 1
Atria Books, January 7, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook,  448 pages

In 2027, the Great Disruption shook the world. An unexplained solar storm struck the earth, shifting it four degrees south on its axis. Everything went dark. Humanity was on the verge of despair. Then a man named Camden Ford discovered a set of ancient books called the Chronicles of Satraya.

Thirty years later, the world is a different place. Thanks to the teachings of the Chronicles, hope has been restored, cities rebuilt, technology advanced. The books also have a different owner: Logan Cutler, who inherited them when Camden mysteriously disappeared. But when Logan auctions off the books to pay his debts, they fall into the wrong hands. The Reges Hominum, a clandestine group that once ruled history from the shadows, is launching a worldwide conspiracy to regain control.

Soon Logan realizes he’s made a terrible mistake. With the help of special agent Valerie Perrot and the wisdom of the Chronicles as his guide, he embarks on an epic quest to get the books back before it’s too late.

Abounding with questions about humanity’s secret past and its unknown future, Journey into the Flame will not only take you to the start of an incredible new world, it will also take you deep into the greater mysteries of the self.

About T. R. Williams

T. R. Williams divides his time between Seattle and Chicago. He is a scholar of ancient texts and loves to ponder the mysteries of life.


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