Interview by Brock Eastman
It’s a world they’ve seen only in their dreams—until now.
Twins Sean and Dillon Kirrel have dreamed about a world beyond their own since they were children, but it has always been a fantasy. Not long before their eighteenth birthday, however, the arrival of a mysterious new neighbor and the revelations he shares bring that far-off world within reach.
When Sean and Dillon learn they share a unique gift—the ability to transfer instantly between worlds—they are offered an opportunity to prove themselves as recruits to the planetary Assembly. But unlocking their abilities awakens an enemy beyond anything they ever imagined, thrusting them into an interplanetary conflict that could consume the entire human race.
“A truly awesome work. . . . Enormously engaging and thought provoking. The concept itself is remarkable, and the writing is absolutely beautiful.”
--Kim Neimi, former executive vice president, NBC Universal
“Recruits is mind-bending storytelling, part The Matrix and part I Am Number Four. . . . An adventurer’s feast of the most addictive sort.”
--Tosca Lee, New York Times bestselling coauthor of Forbidden
“Wow! Recruits is a remarkable feat, combining adroit storytelling with a delicious mixture of the now and the fantastic. The story brings to mind the poignant beauty of Arthur C. Clarke’s best novels, as well as such modern works as Avatar."
--Phyllis Tickle, former senior editor, Publishers Weekly
Brock: How did you come up with the idea for Recruits?
Thomas: For the past several years I have grown increasingly concerned over the all-pervading darkness that nowadays forms the core of both character development and story within the fantasy and science fiction genres.
Three years ago, Publishers Weekly held a global forum on where science fiction and fantasy were headed. A panel that included some of the largest New York publishers and editors in these fields brought several key elements to light. Here are the four points I found of crucial importance.
First, in the six months leading up to that forum, not one book was released by any New York publisher in either fantasy or science fiction that hearkens back to the classical heroic structure of by-gone days.
Second, both of these genres have become redefined by the electronic game industry, which is soon expected to top Hollywood films in terms of both profit and revenue.
Third, the key impact of e-games on both character and story theme was described as “grey-scaling.” This means there is no longer room for either heroes or villains. This is important in e-games because the player is offered the chance to take on every role. None are deemed wrong, or bad. All are equally valid.
Fourth, the classical story structure has been deemed passé. This structure formed the basis for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and for C.S. Lewis and the Narnia series, and has its roots in the ancient Greek heroic structure, many of which were told as fantasies.
Do all readers want dark, hopeless stories?
Long before this conference confirmed my growing suspicions, I felt the question these NY publishers overlooked was, “What has happened to the readers of classical fantasy and science fiction? Are readers satisfied with the direction that these publishers have chosen to take?”
I do not disagree with the new direction as a concept. But I fundamentally dispute this mind-set of exclusively focusing on the new, the dark, and the hopeless.
Brock: Do you outline the entire book before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
Thomas: It really depends upon the story. With Recruits, for example, the characters basically told me the story and I hung on for the ride. This past week I completed work on the sequel, Renegades (Revell winter 2017). For this story, I outlined heavily.
Brock: How do you believe this story relates to the lives of readers?
Thomas: All of the Thomas Locke projects hold to the original Greek structure of inherent value, what Hollywood refers to as ‘leave-behind.” In Recruits, the principal characters rise from nothing to forge an alliance that has profound and far-reaching impact, simply by accepting the challenge of their own self-worth.
With Recruits, I returned to the stories that framed so much of my own early reading. The characters are beset by impossible circumstances, and yet arrive at a point where they can not just survive, but achieve greatness.
Brock: What is the biblical background or basis for the series?
Thomas: When you pick up a Thomas Locke book, do not expect an evangelical story. Instead, these stories harken back to what J.R.R. Tolkien did with The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was a survivor of the trenches in World War I. When war returned with World War II, the darkness he saw was difficult for him, personally. He felt as if the world had not healed.
In The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, he offered a new concept of lore that acknowledged the grip of war, the darkness people faced that had to be combatted, and the courage that was required.
That is precisely what I am trying to do with these series. I’m not putting forth a Christian message for believers. I’m creating a new kind of story that includes the positive aspects that come from our life walk: courage in the face of hardship. Growth. Change. The meeting of life’s challenges. The need for a greater vision. Compassion. And above all, hope.
Brock: How many books are planned for this series?
Brock: How do you strike the right balance in your book?
Thomas: The crucial element in writing speculative fiction is NOT the speculation. The key to these stories being successful is in anchoring them somehow to reality. With most speculative fiction, this comes down to making the emotions of the characters, and the characters themselves, come alive so powerfully that their world and their adventures become real as well.
Brock: What do your readers think about your latest series?
Thomas: The most recent Thomas Locke release was B2 in the Trial Run series, entitled Flash Point. Suspense Magazine recently awarded Trial Run their prestigious Best Book of 2015.
Brock: Where do you like to write?
Thomas: These days I travel a great deal, as it is required both for my teaching and for the service my wife and I are involved in. This year, for example, I will be working in the United States, Europe, and the Far East. As a result, it is necessary to hold to the discipline of writing wherever I am.
Brock: Are you a full-time or part-time author/writer?
Thomas: I like to think of myself as a full-time writer, though there are increasingly other non-writing projects that my wife and I are involved with.
Brock: How long does it usually take you to write a single book?
Thomas: For the past eighteen years, I have written a minimum of four full-length projects every twelve months.
Brock: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
Thomas: I came to faith at age twenty-eight and started writing two weeks later. Within days I knew this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Before that time, I had never written anything longer than a business report. I wrote for nine years and finished seven books before my first (The Presence, Bethany House) was accepted for publication.
Brock: What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
Thomas: Most definitely it was the works of positive visionaries writing speculative fiction. It was a huge honor and delight when, the year after I started writing, Arthur C Clarke agreed to serve as my very first mentor.
Brock: What is the one author, living or dead, who you would co-write a book with and why?
Thomas: There are a number of Christian teachers whose lessons and books have enriched me. I would love to work with any of them in fashioning their teachings into a story.
Brock: Describe your feelings when you opened the box and saw the first published copies of your very first book.
Thomas: I know you are looking for some expression of joy here. And I was certainly happy. But our lives at that point were undergoing some really seismic shifts. The arrival of the book was great, and offered huge comfort at a difficult time. But in truth we were a little too busy just then to be overwhelmed. Now, when I look back, the day that happened really seemed more like, okay, I have now passed through this portal. The book is great, but the spiritual lessons are even greater. God is with us right now. His ways are sure. This is the key.
Brock: In what ways does your faith impact how you approach writing?
Thomas: My faith is center to all my works, both those intended for evangelical publishers and those aimed at the mainstream. There is no difference except whether I openly express my devotion.
Brock: What’s your favorite holiday memory?
Thomas: When I began writing, I needed a place where I could take a holiday from my day job, and time this to writing the climax of my story. For this I wanted to focus totally on the work, without the normal outside pressures. Because I surf, I looked for a place where there were waves. I worked in Germany, which has no repeat no surf. A dear friend suggested I visit the Basque country on the Atlantic coast, on the border of France and Spain. I fell in love with the wild and rocky region, very similar to northern California. I have worked on more than two dozen books there, and dedicated my first French release to the family with whom we stayed since the year after we were married.
Brock: Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Thomas: Just now I am studying the Psalms anew. So many new favorites, so many old friends. It is a delight to dwell in these pages.
Thomas Locke is a pseudonym for Davis Bunn, an award-winning novelist with worldwide sales of seven million copies in twenty languages. Davis divides his time between Oxford and Florida and holds a lifelong passion for speculative stories. He is the author of Emissary and Merchant of Alyss in the Legends of the Realm series, as well as Trial Run and Flash Point in the Fault Lines series. Learn more at TLocke.com.
Author Website: TLocke.com
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