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
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:
! First, tell us
about your latest release, please. Wayne
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 someone—anyone—to really know him without the crown’s 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, themes—all of it—is 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, I’m 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 haven’t given me much demographic information. But early on, my books were selling better in the secular market than they were in the Christian market. I’m not sure if that’s still true. But I don’t 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 today…without 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 Tolkien’s 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 we’re 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?
How can I make an editor fall for a story?
1) The Unique Hook—this is a plot device, a scenario that the reader hasn’t seen before but is an obvious problem. A character wakes up…six feet underground or a train enters a tunnel but doesn’t come out of the other side. Something that makes the reader sit up straight and utter that famous Keanu Reeves-ism: “Whoa!”
2) Thumbscrews—this 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. He’s lost his wife; his daughter is dating a biker, and the office just called claiming that he’s 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. You’ll 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 way…it 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, that’s the only way I can do it. Otherwise, I get lost in my own plot’s 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. I’m grateful for the contracts I’ve gotten. But having sold close to half a million books, you’d think I would have earned enough to write full time, but not so.
Unfortunately, legacy publishing just doesn’t treat the author very well. The royalty percentages are scandalously low. Thank God that’s changing now with the advent of eBooks. It won’t be long now…traditional 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 didn’t know the conflict of duties that writing professionally can trigger. I’m a full time teacher at a public middle school. I’m a husband, as well as a father of four. I’m 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, I’m not sure I’ll ever sign with another print publisher. I’m under contract for seven books in the
But aside from those, I plan to do the rest of my books as self pubbed. Dark Sea
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,
Sally Apokedak 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 sally-apokedak.com.