As an author, I understand how it feels to finish a book. One of the most challenging, yet fulfilling aspects of the writing process is simply finishing. For Thomas Robins, he finished not only a series, but also the complete novel of Desperate to Escape this week with the fourth installment in the science-fiction serial.
Thomas published the first part of his D2E series last September. It is unique in a number of ways, chiefly in that his protagonist is an African-American woman from the inner city of Chicago. Ineeka Coleman’s unlikely story puts her as a NASA astronaut on her way into space when everything goes wrong. The fascinating part of the book is the dual-narrative where the reader is treated to Ineeka’s time in space in one storyline and her time on earth in the other. Each story can’t exist without the other and even though you know one will end with her in space, there are tons of unexpected results and surprises along the journey for Ineeka.
I’ve been privileged to be a beta-reader for Thomas and his last couple D2E installments and he really pushes the envelope and gets the reader to think in the final couple chapters as the finish line approaches. I had a chance to ask Thomas a few questions about the series, about writing and what’s on the horizon. (Fair warning, the TV series LOST is mentioned more than a few times.)
I’ve learned that, as an indie author with a full-time job, you can’t find time to write, you make time. I’ve also learned that spending a year on a creative project is exhausting. Rewarding, but exhausting. Short stories are a much different thing: work intensely for a couple weeks and it’s done, but when the word count starts piling up, there are levels of difficulty that go into keeping everything straight. For example, when editing the final part of the story (part four), it turned out one of my characters had changed the way she talked since the last time she was in the story (part one). Something like that is not likely to happen in a short story.
Where did Ineeka Coleman come from? You don’t live in Chicago and Kansas doesn’t strike me as an “urban area,” so how did you go about creating that character?
I knew the main character would have to be strong enough to overcome some substantial hardships and Ineeka’s character came to mind as someone who could survive and grow despite the adversity. I’ve always heard author’s say a character wrote herself, but this is the first time I’ve had it happen to me. Ineeka’s story seemed to write itself. Really, I think the first scene in the book is still my favorite: a young girl tucked away in bed using her imagination to play out her fantasy of space travel. Looking in from the outside, you’d think her whole life was terrible, but at the end of the day she had dreams just like all children do.
Ha Ha. I feel like Damon Lindelof as I say this, but I really did have the basic story start to finish developed before I started writing. I did come across a substantial roadblock that changed the structure of the series, however. Originally, the first book “flashbacks” would feature Ineeka, book two was for Williard, book three was for Harold, and book for would go back to Ineeka. When I started writing book two, I just could not make Williard as engaging a character as Ineeka had become. I decided to make her the focus for all the books instead. Of course, I am sitting on a mountain of backstory for Willard and Harold that was not used in the books. I’m not sure they will ever see the light of day, though. Rest assured the ending was exactly as it was meant to be.
Speaking of LOST, once I finished, I really saw a lot of influences from the iconic TV series. How much do you think it influenced you in writing D2E?
I don’t watch much TV. In fact, I didn’t start watching LOST until a few seasons in. I think one of my friends lent me the DVDs and asked me to watch them. It is some of the greatest writing I’ve ever seen in television series. The slow, methodical buildup to the first season cliffhanger was brilliant, in addition to all the philosophical and religious views they touch on. LOST did influence my writing in that I liked how LOST gave equal weight to the backstory and the main storyline. In Desperate to Escape, the two parts of the story are nearly identical in length and help the reader understand why Ineeka acts the way she does.
Wow. I have some short stories running around my head I’ll take a stab at. I already have a superhero short written for a LOOW collaboration titled Repose. That is due out later this year. I fully expect my next novel to be even better than Desperate to Escape. It is a big project that I have been putting off until I am done publishing Desperate to Escape so I can stay on deadline.
How do you incorporate writing into your personal life and career?
Earlier, I said you can’t find time, you make time. Here are my secrets: First, if I am rocking a sleeping child, I don’t watch TV or surf the web on my phone, I write scenes on my phone. It passes the time nicely. One of my Kindle World books was almost entirely written this way. Second, I get to go to the coffee shop one night a week to work on my writing. It’s my night out. My wife has a night out too (for her hobby). It’s a great system we use to allow each of us to have a break from parenting duties while also giving each of us a night to spend quality time with the kids. It’s a win-win.
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
This is such a hard question to answer because I don’t keep up with when I read books. The one that comes to mind is Eleanor by Jason Gurley.
The best thing is when people read my writing and enjoy it. Ultimately, I make up stories all the time. Most of them are forgotten, others are never written down. The only reason I write and publish stories is because I think those stories are worth sharing.
Anything else to add?
Will, thank you for taking the time to interview me. Please let your readers know they should sign up for my e-newslettter on my blog at www.thomasrobins.com.
Do yourself a favor, and pick up the four parts of the Desperate to Escape series before the price goes up (because they are really a steal at just 99 cents a piece!) Click right —-> HERE!
Oh…and behold the complete D2E cover (all four parts and the omnibus edition were all designed by the amazing Jason Gurley, btw…). Thomas is pegging August 1 as a release date for the full D2E story.