Monday, June 19, 2006

Interview with TL Hines

Captain’s Log, Stardate 06.19.2006

The quirky and creepy Tony (T.L.) Hines (that’s a compliment, by the way) is here with me today!

Tony's new thriller is WAKING LAZARUS, which sounds totally awesome. Don’t believe me? Here’s the blurb:

Jude Allman has died and come back to life three times, becoming a celebrity against his own wishes.

When the world crushes in around this unlikely miracle man, this modern-day Lazarus, he escapes into the vastness of Montana. He changes his name and withdraws from the public eye, trying to forget all that came before.

But the past, like Jude, won't stay buried. A prowling evil circles his adopted hometown of Red Lodge, Montana. Children are disappearing, and Jude may have the key to solving the crimes—hidden inside the mysteries of his own deaths.

His days of hiding are over, and now he must face the questions that have haunted him for years. What if his resurrections aren't just accidents? What if there's a reason behind it all? What if he's been brought back just for this moment?

And now, here’s Tony!

Where did you get the idea for WAKING LAZARUS? It's waaaaaaaaaay cool, dude.

Thanks, Camy. WAKING LAZARUS is a supernatural thriller about a man who has died and returned to life three times. Now he has to unravel the mysteries of his own deaths to stop a killer.

In a way, I started working on the book when I was five years old, on the day I went icefishing with my uncle. After a few hours on the ice, we started to make our way back to the car; somewhere along the way, I stepped into an old ice hole that had been crusted over and hidden by snow and wind. Immediately, I plunged into the lake below. My uncle, thanks to a bit of quick thinking, grabbed me and pulled me out of the hole before I slipped out of his reach beneath the ice.

Thirty years later, that scene--still vivid in my mind--became the inspiration for the opening scene of WAKING LAZARUS. Young Jude Allman, icefishing with his father, has the exact same experience and drowns.

A second source of inspiration came when I was attending the University of Montana in Missoula. One of the many odd jobs I held while working my way through school was a university janitor. For a time, I cleaned the cadaver storage room in the Chem/Pharm building. Whenever I was in that room, my overactive imagination always pictured one of the cadavers suddenly sitting up.

Those two images--the boy slipping beneath the ice and drowning, and the body in the morgue sitting up--converged and became a story idea: what if there were a man who has struggled with recurring Near Death Experiences throughout his life? What kind of person would he be? What might those Near Death Experiences mean?

So if I were a member of the Big Honkin' Chicken Club (a la Brandilyn Collins), would reading WAKING LAZARUS give me a coronary?

You know, the book does deal with some harsh subject matter: children in peril, mental instability, a creepy bad guy. And yet, I hope the redemptive elements really shine through. It's a novel that deals with dark subject matter, but it's not a dark novel, if that makes sense.

One of my favorite book endorsements came from Edgar® winning author Steve Hamilton: "T.L. Hines has created something truly amazing in WAKING LAZARUS. As a dark and engrossing thriller, it grabs you from the first page and never lets go. But beyond that, this book is ultimately positive, dare I say even inspiring. That he's accomplished both, in a debut novel yet, seems almost miraculous to me."

Aside from being a very kind endorsement, I think it's a wonderful summation of what I was aiming for: something that balanced lightness and darkness, depravity and hope.

All of which is to say, I suppose, that the book may give Big Honkin' Chickens a coronary. But only a mild one.

What is The Other Side of I won't get sucked into some extradimensional portal, will I?

Buy a copy of the book, and you'll be just fine. Wait, I thought I was Tony Soprano for a minute.

The Other Side is a special online project for people who want to sign up as Volunteer Publicists for WAKING LAZARUS. That means they agree to help spread word about the book--as much or as little as they want.

In return, they get bonus content such as LAZARUS EXPANDED, a bonus e-book filled with more than 100 "behind the scene" notes and comments about the story. They also get a chance to win prizes, such as a share of my first royalty statement, an iPod Nano, or a role in my next novel (coming Summer of 2007 from Bethany House).

It's my effort to build a community among readers, to help them interact more with the book and me as the author, and to help have everyone have a little fun.

Finish this sentence: Writing a novel is...

Hmmm. Writing a novel is a marathon, made up of several sprints. For me, anyway. By that I mean, writing a novel is a long, complex process: I have to keep so many threads going at once, keep the reader interested, take care of my characters, make sure they're growing and developing.

And yet, that also means sitting down each day and doing a sprint: getting individual scenes on paper, resisting that urge to edit as I go.

Once the marathon of sprints is done, it's time to run through another marathon of edits (which, oddly enough, is the step I most enjoy). Then, when I hand in the book, I've discovered, it's time to start a marketing and promotion marathon.

So that's my answer. Writing a novel is like running at least three marathons.

Do you have a scripture verse for your writing?

I didn't become a Christian until age 27 (I considered myself an atheist before that, actually), so since then, I've had a deep interest in apologetics. And the cornerstone verse of apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15, which says in the NAS translation: "(S)anctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you."

Actually, I like the simplicity of the New Living Translation for that verse best: "Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it."

What's your favorite ethnic food and why?

My favorite ethnic food is anything I can't find in my hometown in Montana, which leaves a lot of possibilities. Whenever I find myself in a larger city (said the country hick), I usually look for Indian, Thai, Ethiopian, or Malaysian food--I love exotic spices such as curry and saffron.

If you were a bouquet of flowers (or any other vegetative matter) what would you consist of and why?

No manly-man would ever consent to being a bouquet of flowers, Camy. Or vegetables, for that matter.

[Camy smacks head.] Sorry, Tony, I forgot your gender for a second there.

That said, I think I'd be a bouquet of thistles. Thistles are plants we always think of as unwanted weeds; we spray them or uproot them to get them out of our gardens.

And yet, there is a beauty in the purple flowers of the thistles. That's a nice metaphor for what I am, for what we all are--depraved, but with a spark of the divine.

It's a metaphor, as well, for the kinds of stories I find interesting. I like characters who appear to be thistles, but who discover and act on the essential goodness inside them.

Who are the authors/what are the books that influenced your writing career the most?

When I was a young buck, just 12 years old, I discovered a book called "The Shining," written by an obscure, little-known author named Stephen King. I read it in one day, and when I closed the book, I realized this book was something very special--not the typical Hardy Boys fare I was used to reading. At that point, I knew I wanted to be a writer. (No, I shouldn't have been reading Stephen King novels at age 12, but at the time, I think my mother was thrilled to see me read anything at all.)

King has been the greatest influence on my storytelling sensibilities. In the CBA arena, anyone who writes supernaturally-influenced stories owes a debt of gratitude to Peretti and Dekker. I also love crime and mystery fiction; favorites include C.J. Box, James Lee Burke, George Pelecanos and Elmore Leonard. C.J. Box has been a great mentor, and encouraged my writing for a long time. All the writers who read and endorsed WAKING LAZARUS have been incredibly kind to me, especially folks such as Brandilyn Collins, Eric Wilson, Creston Mapes and Colleen Coble.

What's your next book to hit the shelves?

WAKING LAZARUS officially releases July 1, so we're very close to launch day right now.

I'm also working on Book #2 for Bethany House, tentatively titled VALLEY OF SHADOW, which will release summer of 2007. It's about a woman who hears the voice of her dead father speaking to her from the shadows. He tells her the spirits of the dead occupy the shadows of our world, and he recruits her into a secret government network that works with the shadow operatives. But all is not as it seems; soon, she discovers the true nature of the shadows--as well as the true nature of what they want.

You're off the hotseat! Any parting words?

Thanks so much for a fun interview, Camy. (I've never been able to compare myself to a bouquet of thistles before.)

My parting words to writers: keep writing. If it can happen for me, it can happen for you. As cliche as it sounds, it really does just takes persistence and timing.

My parting words to readers: if you like "edgier" Christian suspense, the industry is seeing a lot of great new offerings. Brandilyn Collins, Chris Well, Melanie Wells, Tim Downs, Creston Mapes, Bob Liparulo, Kathryn Mackel and Eric Wilson are all wonderful people--and they're doing some great things in their books. That's just the beginning of the list; there are a lot of other writers out there, as well, stretching the boundaries.

Waking Lazarus, a novel of supernatural suspense: coming Summer 2006.
Be a Volunteer Book Publicist, win a share of royalties or a role in my
next novel:

Camy here: Thanks so much, Tony!