Welcome to the another installment of Worldbuilders, a series of guest posts and interviews by my fellow authors of Christian speculative fiction.
Today’s interview is with DG Lamb. We are happy to be joining the blog tour for his Driven to the Hilt series. A brand new book, Tempered Steel, publishing on November 1, 2018, marks his third installment in the series.
Now let’s get to it!
Tony: First, let me ask you possibly the most important question I can ask you today: Coffee or Tea?
DG: Coffee. Two cups every morning, with Italian Sweet Cream (although it’s not really, cream, is it?) Tea only on occasion, and then almost always iced.
Tony: Technically, Italian Sweet Cream is sweetened condensed milk “watered down” with regular milk, so…
No. No, it’s not really cream.
But it is good in coffee!
Now while I pour myself a cup of Joe, tell us about your writing process. Do you write with a pen, typewriter or computer? Do you listen to music? How often do you write?
DG: I mostly work on a computer, which is very helpful, since my abysmal spelling abilities and big clumsy fingers require constant spell check. I also take notes, particularly after taking a shower in the morning. There is something about being stuck in a small space and going through a well-defined routine that gets me to thinking about something else. I suppose my mind frees up and catches logical inconsistencies or gaps in the plot. Then I scribble down the ideas before rushing off to work, leaving the notes for assimilation into the manuscript every Saturday, my writing day.
As to actual writing, I take the time to form each sentence as best I can before proceeding to the next. I trust that when I review it later, better formulations will occur to me and I will see the little traps I tend to fall into, such as telling rather than showing. Finally, I do not listen to music while I write, it would be much too distracting.
Tony: Sounds like you have fairly decent writing routine.
How did you get started writing speculative fiction? Why do you think it’s important?
DG: Actually, it never occurred to me to try and write speculative fiction. That is, until five years ago, when my son came from Oklahoma City to help out after my prostate cancer surgery. There we were, just hanging out in my hospital room, and to pass the time, he shared one of the many story lines he was developing. Now Jacob has long been involved in creative writing, even since before high school. He then asked me if I had ever thought of any story ideas. I told about what I had come up with while trying to distract myself from the pain of grinding up a hot Arizona mountainside under a 70-pound pack during one of our Boy Scout treks. He encouraged me to write it down.
Shockingly, to me at least, with relatively few exceptions over the last five years, I have spent my entire Saturday writing. I believe speculative fiction fosters creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. When wrapped in a well-crafted story with engaging characters, people can see how trends can develop in different directions, good or bad, and consider choices in their own life. And making our best choices is the most important thing in life, no?
Tony: I agree. In fact, I tend to call science fiction in particular the thinking man’s genre.
What do you think prepared you or qualifies you to write in your chosen genre?
DG: Mostly, reading science fiction since I was a kid, which prepared me by exposing me to a variety of writing styles, but also in that it opened up my mind to creative possibilities.
In addition, since the main character of the Driven series, Joshua, struggles with PTSD, I have drawn on my professional experience as a psychologist to inform my writing. Although I primarily help people become more independent after some type of neurological injury, over the years I have also worked with law enforcement officers suffering PTSD after critical incidents. From such clinical experiences, I have learned about the very complex diagnosis of PTSD and used my knowledge of posttraumatic stress symptoms to describe Joshua’s experience.
Tony: It sounds like you put a lot of thought into your writing. What kinds of themes does your series touch upon?
DG: Aside from the paramount objective of telling a compelling story, there are several themes that flow within the main plot of Book 1, The Deepest Cut. These themes are woven throughout all of the Driven to the Hilt series. Foremost is the question of personal moral choices. Joshua’s mother introduces the theory (the Machiavellian ends justify the means), but his struggle to survive provides a practical test of the question of moral choice.
There is also a lightly touched upon comparison of the excesses of capitalism (abuses of power in a company owned colony) versus the exercise of personal freedom in the pursuit of one’s own goals and preferences.
Lastly, an even more remote sub-thread takes the current trend of social shaming self-proclamations of Christian faith to the extreme conclusion of outlawing any public reference to Christianity, forcing people to use the label of Traditionalist. Over time, this has resulted in many people being completely unaware that Christianity is even involved, much as Christmas is only about Santa or the Easter Bunny just gives candy and spreads Spring.
Tony: Good stuff! What advice would you give to new writers who wish to write Christian speculative fiction?
DG: Write from the heart – and find sources of honest feedback. There are SO many times I would have gone way off track without another pair of eyes on what I was writing. Few people will have the luxury of a supportive, highly skilled brother to provide such feedback, such as in my case. But then you will need to hire someone or join a writers group where everyone exchanges manuscripts and critiques. I know the process of having others say negative things about what you labored over so long and hard can be a painful, but how else will you improve?
Tony: Well said! No author worth a read truly writes alone. In fact, let’s take a moment to give a shout-out to the people who help you create your books — Do you use Beta readers? Hire an editor or proofreader? How do you get your covers?
DG: Again, I am incredibly fortunate to have my brother, Chris, act in an editing role. He writes for a living and is very skilled at seeing the big picture issues. He is also willing to devote the substantial time and energy required to not just read the material, but to think deeply about it and provide written feedback. We have a good enough relationship that we can be completely honest in our exchanges, which is necessary for the process to work optimally. We both know that ultimately, I must decide whether and how to use his feedback, and neither of us are sensitive about the outcome.
I also use outside beta readers, having benefitted from other family members (my daughters and wife provide valuable insights into my female characters), acquaintances (a friend of my daughters graduated with a degree in English Literature), and several previous reviewers.
Tony: You mentioned your brother a couple times. Where did you grow up? And how did your childhood affect your writing?
DG: I grew up in Wichita, Kansas, where I am proud to say that I received a foundation in good old fly-over country values. There was an unspoken anticipation of hard work, that Puritan expectation of earning your keep. My parents also modeled compassion and treating people as you would wish to be treated – doing the right thing. Of course, we all fail at that as we are growing up, but then they demonstrated that central Christian principle of forgiveness. What has all of this to do with my writing? Well, all of these things helped in the formulation of the main character of the Driven series, Joshua.
Tiny: Speaking of which, tell us about your latest book.
DG: Tempered Steel, Book III in the Driven to the Hilt series follows Joshua’s journey with a diverse team of teens on the Unseen Planet. Having become the Assassin of his Team, he must not only develop his leadership skills, but do so without using his special ability to slow time. His capacity to coax the best from his teammates will determine everyone’s success, and that is more important than ever, because his mates have become his family.
Join the Team as they rappel face first down the façade of a high rise building, battle nemesis Rord and his team in head-to-head tactical exercises, silently traverse an icy water obstacle courses at night, all to advance from JQuad to the pinnacle of field training, The Combine. As if this was not enough for Joshua, he must also contend with multiple groups of manipulators in the shadows, whose machinations become ever more extreme, even to the point of trying to eliminate him.
Tony: My favorite Christmas movie is Die Hard, so it sounds like the action level in this book is right up my alley. And I am definitely intrigued by the idea of an assassin who can slow time.
DG: And it all culminates with the live Mother World Mission, where the Team must face down a ruthless remnant of the original colony’s survivors. And when the Shadow Players throw in a treacherous surprise, how can the entire Team make it through unscathed?
Well, they can’t.
Tony: So you’re saying that some of this series’ characters aren’t going to make it through this one?
DG: Weeelll, that is the question, isn’t it? Let me just say, that the Mother World Mission will be consequential for every member of the Team. And I will reveal that Book 4 will start with a montage of vignettes from all of the individual Team members point of view. Sort of a post-mission debriefing for the reader, if you will.
Tony: How many books do you have out?
DG: Three as of November 1. I had initially planned a Driven to the Hilt trilogy. But when I started writing the story down, I had written almost 500,000 words before the idea of actually publishing a book even occurred to me. Given the amount I have already written, I’m anticipating that will take five volumes.
Tony: Will that be called a pentalogy, quintalogy or just a series?
DG: Well, I have set for myself a personal goal of finishing the story arc that will be completed with the fifth book. But very early on, I sketched out a story line that extends beyond five books. Frankly, a lot will depend upon the level of interest in the series at the time I finish the fifth book. If there are enough people interested in Joshua’s story at that time, I’ll continue, if not, I probably won’t. So possibly a septology???
Tony: Then I would say that the positive reviews you’ve been getting thus far make it pretty clear we’ll be getting more than 5 books in this series.
Where can we buy you books? How can fans connect with you?
DG: How kind of you to ask. People can access the links to any of the Driven to the Hilt series at our website – driventothehilt.com We have a big giveaway running during this blog tour there on the website with a chance to win all three of the books. So check it out!
Of course, we have a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDGLamb/
The Twitter account is at https://twitter.com/AuthorDGLamb