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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Make an Editor Fall for Your Story ~ Wayne Thomas Batson

Wayne Thomas Batson is the Bestselling author of nine adventure novels including the fantasy epic Door Within Trilogy, the pirate duo Isle of Swords and Isle of Fire, and the epic Dark Sea Annals. A middle school Reading and English teacher for 22 years, Batson loves to challenge—and be challenged by—his students. So, when he began writing stories to supplement the school district’s curriculum, it was his students who taught their teacher a lesson. Batson’s students were so taken by one of the stories that, over a thirteen year span, they pushed him to make it into a full-length novel. You can find Wayne at:

Welcome, Wayne! First, tell us about your latest release, please.

On a grand scale, The Errant King is about a world that has lost its way, a place where too many have opened doors to evil and the global consequences. 

On the personal scale, The Errant King is about a boy and a girl. Ariana lost her parents in the infamous Grey Hour Raids. Now, all she wants to do is make a name for herself in her village or leave home for a new way of life. Lochlan is the High King of the known world, but all he wants a chance for someoneanyoneto really know him without the crowns interference.

Do you purposely weave Christian pictures into your books or does your worldview seep into the story?

It’s a little of both. Generally, the plot and characters come first, but as I get to know the people in the story and better understand the challenges they face, I start to see thematic threads emerging. Once I recognize where that theme is (or could be) heading, I do seek to create places where the theme can be woven in. That said, I’ve heard from readers about themes in my books that I never even knew were there. They just sort of “become” because of who God has made me to be.

What is your goal when weaving in the theme?

My goal in all aspects of writing: craft, story, mechanics, themesall of itis to honor God with quality and lead readers to ask the big questions of life. If readers are impressed with the quality of the story and they ask those big questions, Im convinced God will meet them halfway.

Are you trying to connect with kids who go to church or to any kids? Boys or girls?

My publishers havent given me much demographic information. But early on, my books were selling better in the secular market than they were in the Christian market. Im not sure if thats still true. But I dont write just for anyone. Books like The Hobbit had such a huge impact on me as a kid that I want to do my level best to write stories that will thrill readers todaywithout violating consciences.

One book all children should read, and why should they read it?

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. See there, I cheated. I put several books in. But really, I think all kids should be exposed to a world that is more black and white, where honor matters. I also fully believe that Tolkiens books, with their lush description and world-building, will wake something up in readers, a longing for a faraway world. It is the yearning for what C.S. Lewis calls that mysterious something that were all after but that this earth can never fully satisfy.

I can see where a reader might long for heaven after spending time in the Shire.

How can I make an editor fall for a story?

Two ways:

1) The Unique Hookthis is a plot device, a scenario that the reader hasnt seen before but is an obvious problem. A character wakes upsix feet underground or a train enters a tunnel but doesnt come out of the other side. Something that makes the reader sit up straight and utter that famous Keanu Reeves-ism: Whoa!


2) Thumbscrewsthis is a character driven approach where you not only bring an interesting person to life in short order, but you also dump that person into any one of a thousand worst case scenarios. Hes lost his wife; his daughter is dating a biker, and the office just called claiming that hes responsible for a huge account failing.

But no matter which approach you use, you need to do it FAST. First line, first paragraph, first page. Spend a month just on those. Make them spectacular. You have got to be noticed out of a sea of other stories. Do it right away, or the editor may not even read on.

Heh heh. What have you got against bikers, Wayne?

But, really, I love this advice. We do have to find a way to stand out.

So you like conflict early on. What do you think is most important--conflict, characters, or voice/prose?

I think you can be successful with any approach. But why not just excel at all three. Youll have a much wider audience that way. That said, the stories that really endure are the ones with at least one endearing character.

Why not excel at all three? Well, when you put it that wayit all sounds so simple.

Do you outline your plots?

I outline vigorously. I use a program called Scrivener that lets me use pushpin note cards to fully plot my stories, complete with art files, sound FX, pretty much anything I want. I spend about a month outlining each novel. For me, thats the only way I can do it. Otherwise, I get lost in my own plots twists and turns.

Okay, let us gain from your hard-won wisdom. What do you know now that you wish you knew five years ago?

I wish I knew way back then more about the actual business of publishing. Im grateful for the contracts Ive gotten. But having sold close to half a million books, youd think I would have earned enough to write full time, but not so.

Unfortunately, legacy publishing just doesnt treat the author very well. The royalty percentages are scandalously low. Thank God thats changing now with the advent of eBooks. It wont be long nowtraditional publishing houses will need to begin raising royalty rates or their authors will jump to eBooks.

Whoa. Okay. So what do you know now that you wish you still didn't know?

I wish I didnt know the conflict of duties that writing professionally can trigger. Im a full time teacher at a public middle school. Im a husband, as well as a father of four. Im a writer busy with several deadlines a year. And no matter what I spend my time doing, something always feels neglected. It can be very stressful and discouraging.

I can't even imagine. You work really hard.

Will you ever consider publishing with general market publisher?

If the contract is right, I would in a heartbeat. That said, Im not sure Ill ever sign with another print publisher. Im under contract for seven books in the Dark Sea series. But aside from those, I plan to do the rest of my books as self pubbed.

Well, I wish you much joy and success, because writing has to be satisfying or it's not worth doing. So, what is your favorite part of writing novels for teens?

I absolutely LOVE reading my stories to kids. I tend to dress in full medieval gear and speak in English/Scottish accents, all the while reading the stories with all manner of drama.

Fun! Do you have a life verse or a Bible passage that shows the direction you want to go with your writing?

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;

Do the children read your books? Do they give you fodder for the books?

My kids have read some of my books, but they just see me as Dad. And yes, they are always targets for future characters. 

Thanks for stopping by, Wayne! 


 is the editor of the semi-annual newsletter: Best Books for Young Readers (subscribe for free and you'll be entered to win your choice of a Kindle Fire or a Google Nexus). She has published short works in a number of places and has received an SCBWI Work in Progress grant. She can usually be found blogging about young adult novels at


  1. Great interview and fantastic advice! Thanks so much, Wayne!

  2. Thanks for weighing in! I love the photo in authentic garb. If ever I'm asked to read, think I'll go there and do likewise.

    Like Wayne, I love trade publishing and probably won't stop, no matter where my path leads in future. But many, many fine writers are becoming frustrated with being the last and least paid for work of which we do the lion's share. And rightly so. The Word says, "the workman is worthy of his hire." We writers have been wrong, IMO, not to insist that our work is worth a fair recompense.

    1. Deb, thanks so much for commenting on this issue.

      I had to cut the interview, because I was out of space, but one other thing Wayne said was, "I don’t write for money, but I have to support my family and have something to show for the time I spend. I suspect that if you analyzed the time I put into my novels that in the end it would work out to less than half of minimum wage."

      On the one hand that sounds bad and, yes, the workman is worthy of his wages. But on the other hand, if you sold half a million books in one year, you'd be making far more than minimum wage. So while the workman is worthy of his wages, is the salesman also worthy of his wages even if he doesn't sell a whole lot of books? If only a hundred people buy your book, the publisher shouldn't pay you a year's salary.

      I just don't think it's all cut and dried.

      I have a question as a Christian writer, planning to publish one way the other, about what wages I owe to the workman? What do Christian writers owe to the publishers who gave them their first book deals and gave them nice covers and put them in bookstores?

      When my agent failed to sell my book last year, I wrote to tell her I was sorry I hadn't written a book that would sell for a million dollars and make her company money. She put out money on me. She spent many hours putting together my proposal and going to BEA to meet editors and paying for a retreat at her house so I could meet her and her other authors. I felt like I'd let her down, not the other way around.

      I've never been published and I've never talked to published authors about how much they make. So I didn't realize that authors thought royalties were too small. But I think it can't be all black and white. On the one hand, publishers have to pay authors a living wage. On the other hand, authors have to sell enough books to earn a living wage. Even if a publisher gave authors a 50% royalty, some authors would make less than minimum wage.

      I'm not dissing Wayne. I know him to be a thoroughly gracious man and I believe he is a man of integrity. I'm not questioning him. I'm just wondering if more authors feel this way, and I'm wondering what happens to the Christian publishers and Christian publicists and Christian agents and Christian editors...what do we owe to them? They've been faithfully publishing Christian novelists for years and now that publishing is easy(er) for authors, do we ditch the publishers or are there still authors who want to just write and let the publishers take care of the other stuff.

      That's where I think the publishers blew it. Not in meager royalties but in demanding that authors do it all. Write, sell, have a platform, pay for freelance editing, blah, blah, blah.

      The publishers should have the platform. The publishers should do the editing and the marketing. If they did all that, then the royalties they paid would be enough for the writers.

      What do you think?

  3. Cool interview! ("WHOA," in true, pithy Keanu Reeves-style.) I'm all about medieval fiction, and the more I see getting published w/in the CBA, the more encouraged I am. YES, people do love reading about this time period, not just Regency or this era. Thanks for the great post.

  4. Awesome interview! Thank you Wayne and Sally.

  5. Thank you for the great interview, and thank you for commenting, all.


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