Sunday, October 17, 2010

T.L. Hines interview

 Please welcome as our guest today supernatural suspense author T.L. Hines!

NA: What drew you to write Christian suspense?

TLH: I don’t know that anything drew me specifically to a particular
genre—Christian or mainstream, suspense or horror. I’ve always just written
the kind of thing I enjoy reading: stories that are a bit off-center,
incorporating supernatural and/or odd elements. That’s why I like to call
what I write “Noir Bizarre.” It’s a little bit crime/mystery/suspense (the
“Noir”) part, and a little bit of a detour into the Twilight Zone (the
“Bizarre” part). I never go out of my way to work Christian elements into a
story, but I do naturally touch on some of those themes since faith is an
important part of who I am.

NA: What is unique in The Falling Away compared to other Christian
suspense?

The Falling Away by TL HinesTLH: I’m probably not the best person to ask, as the author. I have things
I think are different about it, but I don’t think a book is best judged by
the author. It’s judged by the readers. I’m always interested in tackling
different subject matter, and trying to do different spins on established
tropes. I aimed for a bit of both with this book.

NA: Were there any books that you read that became inspiration or interest
in the genre?

TLH: Oh, I think every book an author reads becomes fodder for his or her
writing. We’re all about telling stories, and the stories we hear become a
natural part of that fabric. In terms of Christian suspense, I certainly
owe a debt of gratitude to authors such as C.S. Lewis and, more recently,
Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker. Without them, I don’t think a lot of
Christian suspense novels (or supernatural suspense) would sit on the
shelves today.

NA: Where did the story idea come from?

TLH: No one specific source. I think most story ideas come from a unique
mash-up of distinct ideas, which certainly was the case with “The Falling
Away.” I traveled a lot across Montana, and I often passed this giant wind
farm on the high plains of the state. Whenever I drove through that
section, I always thought how menacing the giant wind turbines seemed. So
in the back of my mind, I always wanted to set a story in that kind of
area. On the opposite side, I’ve always been drawn to the cultures of the
Native American tribes in Montana, especially after reading about some of
the honoring ceremonies performed for returning soldiers. So the idea of an
Iraqi war vet who happens to be an American Indian seemed to have a lot of
interesting possibilities.

NA: Were there any smaller influences that came into the book?

TLH: Every moment of every day, I think I pick up small little influences
and nuances that happen to work their way into my writing. It might be
individual scenes, character traits, snippets of dialogue…anything, really.
I constantly file away those bits of information and use them later.

NA: Why did you use the image of an embedder as a Christian in your book?

TLH: I think in today’s church, we have this tendency to sanitize the
Christian life. It’s easy to think of “before and after” imagery in terms
of becoming a believer, but life is rarely that neat and tidy. Certainly
mine isn’t. The fact is, there are constant struggles even after we become
Believers. At the same time, I believe He can, and does, use who we are to
accomplish good in this world—even if some of the traits we display aren’t
good traits themselves.

That’s why I was drawn to creating the character of Quinn, a woman who
suffers from Self-Embedding Disorder. On the one hand, she’s suffered from
this compulsion, and continues to struggle with it. On the other hand, it’s
this compulsion itself that uniquely qualifies her to do what she does. Her
compulsion—the embedding—becomes something of a spiritual (and physical)
shield for her.

NA: Do you believe there is demonic activity like you described going on
frequently today?

TLH: Sure, I believe we see demonic activity, and activity of a fallen
world in general, around us every day. Disease, disaster, lies, and so on
are symptoms of our broken world; this isn’t the way it was supposed to be.
At the same time, I don’t think we have a good handle on how evil truly
operates. C.S. Lewis portrayed operating as “armies” controlled by a true
chain of command, and many Christians still think in those terms. I wanted
to present a different view of evil and how it spreads, and the metaphor of
an infection or bacterial strain seemed an interesting way to do it.

NA: Which character was the hardest to write?

TLH: Every character is hard to write for different reasons. Dylan, the
main character, was a challenge for a couple of big reasons. First, he has
some obsessive/compulsive tendencies, so he really needed some quirks in
his thinking and logic. Also, as a physically injured man who has lost
touch with his heritage, he’s a “broken” man on both physical and spiritual
levels. Finally, because his missing sister Joni still exists inside his
head, it became a challenge to portray his ongoing relationship with her.

NA: Which character was the easiest to write?

TLH: I don’t think there’s such a thing as an easy character to write. If
it’s easy, I feel like I must be doing something wrong.

NA: If you could be any character in your books, who would it be?

TLH: Interesting you should ask this. In many interviews, I’ve talked about
authors who write what I like to call “wish fulfillment” characters. By
that, I mean they write about main characters who can do all the things
they, as authors, wish they could do. They have supreme powers of
reasoning. Or they’re expert martial artists. Or they’re world-renowned
experts in their fields.

I feel like I’m drawn to writing the opposite kinds of characters. I write
characters I’d never want to be. I’m drawn to people who are mentally
unbalanced, living in the margins.

NA: If your books were made into a movie, would you have any preferred
actor, director, composer, etc?

TLH: I’ve been asked this question before, and I have to say I’m not the
guy who fantasizes about any of my books being made into movies. I’ve had
interest in film rights from several sources, but nothing that’s ever
panned out.

NA: Can you tell us three things about yourself we readers may not know?

TLH: Hmmm. I’m an undefeated 3-0 in air guitar competitions (I performed
songs by ZZ Top). I’m 0-1 in my short-lived boxing career. I have some
obsessive/compulsive tendencies myself…which is probably why some of my
characters inherit those same tendencies.

NA: Do you have any other book plans or ideas after your current series?

TLH: Well, I haven’t really written a series. All my books are standalone
stories, and I like that. Sometimes, I think it would be more difficult to
write a series, coming up with different situations and ideas for the same
characters. I admire writers who can do that, but to this point, I’m not
one of them.

NA: Do you have any advice to those writing or planning to write Christian
speculative fiction?

TLH: Listen to the voice inside more than the voices outside. There will be
plenty of people offering you plenty of advice for how and what to write.
They’ll tell you which genre you should aim for, which subjects to shy away
from, which stories are “big sellers” in the marketplace right now. Ignore
them and write the story that quiet voice inside is urging you to write.
That’s the story God wants you to write, and that’s the story that will be
true to who you are as an author.

NA: Thank you for visiting, Mr. Hines! May God bless you and your writing!

Read my review of The Falling Away
Check out Mr. Hines' website
Buy The Falling Away
Check out more Christian suspense!

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