Today, I met with Greg Hart, author of Dylan Knight: Rush Against Time. His novel combines action, mystery, and humor in a way which will appeal to readers of all ages. Here’s a quick summary of his book:
Fifteen year old Dylan Knight is about to lead a double life; kept secret from his friends and most importantly, his parents.
Dylan is a natural at solving crimes; unfortunately, the local police don’t always appreciate his efforts. Dylan seems to attract trouble everywhere he goes, even when he’s risking it all to save others from harm. When he draws the attention of an underground government organization, he wonders if their tempting offer is too good to be true. Dylan can’t resist the opportunity to reach for his dreams… until he discovers the man sent to recruit him might be just as ruthless and dangerous as the criminals he’s been trained to apprehend. Can Dylan learn to reconcile his life as a normal teen with his desire to fulfill his destiny as an unstoppable crime-fighter, or will the secrets take a toll on him?
Tricia: How did you come up with the idea for Dylan Knight: Rush Against Time?
Greg: The idea for the book had been around for a while. I did a series of seven books called Codename: Conundrum which had some of the same characters in the books; two in particular are John Talbert and Sarah Hughes. In Codename: Conundrum, John and Sarah were lovers by the third or fourth book. But in Dylan Knight: Rush Against Time, John and Sarah not so much. John isn’t a teenager, but a special agent and the leader of the group, Veritos, and Sarah’s still a teen, but she’s part of the unit.
Getting back to the question, the book is based on the series and was one of my first works as a writer. It was a total mess. Each book had a plot, but the scenes in them didn’t make much sense. When I really started to write Dylan Knight, it was after reading the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz. I read the series and became an instant fan after reading the first book. By the time I got through reading the fourth or fifth book, I was inspired to write again. Then I remembered I had written Codename: Conundrum. I revisited the books and made a lot of changes and Dylan Knight was born.
T: Who is your targeted audience? In other words, who will Dylan Knight appeal to?
G: That is a hard question. It’s obviously a Young Adult book, but I really haven’t made up my mind just yet. Some readers have mentioned that it’s good for grade and middle grade kids. For me, I just wrote it for anyone to read. The Alex Rider series are for audiences similar to what people have said, but I’m an adult and I like the series. I would definitely say, early grade to middle grade students. If the book happens to be liked by adults, who are kids at heart, then all the better.
T: What is your vision for your book? Are you considering a sequel, or a series?
G: A second book is definitely in the makings, so is a third. So right now, it looks to me like it’s a trilogy. I’m not wanting it to be a trilogy right now because I feel that Dylan and the rest of the Veritos unit has a lot more adventures ahead of them. So I’m hoping to make it into a series instead of a trilogy. I was never much a fan of trilogies.
T: What is Dylan’s biggest challenge?
G: His biggest challenge would be the fact that he’s naturally curious about the things around him. He’s always finding some trouble to get into, whether it’s on purpose or by accident, he gets into it. His parents tried to keep his natural curiosity in check while keeping it healthy at the same time. But as he got older, it sort of started to land him in trouble with the local police department. Because of this natural curiosity, he started solving crimes. Now he has to face his biggest problem ever, he has to lie to his family and to his best friend about joining a secret group ran by the government called Veritos. With this, his lies get bigger and bigger and he begins to wonder if joining the unit was the right thing to do after all.
T: As a writer, what is your greatest challenge?
G: My greatest challenge…I have several of them. But if I would have to choose one of them to be my greatest challenge, because I’m writing a series, it would have to be keeping all the plots and time lines straight. I’m constantly going through my notes to make sure that each scene and plot of each book isn’t creeping into the book I’m writing.
T: Which character in you book is more like you? How?
G: Now this is a hard question to answer. I have to think on that one… I would have to say both Jackson Bedford and Sheridan Michaels. Jackson loves to make people laugh and enjoys laughing as well. Given the chance, I’m like that because who wants to stay blue and depressed all of the time. Sheridan, well he’s a doctor. Granted, I’m not a doctor nor do I have a degree in medicine, but I do know about herbal remedies and some basic first aid treatments. When I was a kid, other kids would call me Dr. Greg or Dr. Hart because every time someone got hurt or injured, I would take them to my house or theirs and begin to apply first aid treatment to the injury. I would pull out everything, band-aids, peroxide, iodine solution and every other first aid chemical I could find, except for rubbing alcohol. I hate the stuff and the way it smells. I would clean their injury and send them on their way. I wanted to become a doctor when I was kid but when I got hurt and had to have stitches put in my arm, I passed out at the sight of it being done. So that put a damper on my Doctor career.
T: I know that you’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on Dylan Knight: Rush Against Time, but are there any other projects you are working on?
G: I am. Not only am I finishing up Dylan Knight: Rush Against Time, I’ve started writing the first chapter to Rush Against Time’s sequel. It’s called Fallout. I’m also doing a short story series called Camelot’s Return where it’s all done through the eyes of Nilrem (Merlin spelt backwards), who is a descendent of Merlin and we soon find out not only does he have to protect the British royal family and advise Parliament on what laws are just, but he has to find the once and future king of England known as King Arthur. So far I have written two stories, the first one is called The Awakening and the second is called The Great Dragon. It’s a very interesting set of stories and I’m really excited about what will happen next.
T: Where do you find the inspiration for your work?
G: The inspiration for all of my work comes from everywhere around me. I took a creative writing class when I was in high school. The teacher said ‘Inspiration is all around us. We just need to know where to look for it and it may even take us by surprise.’ And indeed she was right, it’s all around us. I remember one day back in 2006 and it was during fall. The leaves were turning different colors and were falling. It happened to be a windy day and I was sitting on the front porch and watched as the leaves fell from one particular tree. As soon as I saw the leaves fall and the way they twirled as they fell, I got an idea to an opening scene of a story that I did for a class project. I got an A for it.
But the inspiration for Rush Against Time came from two places. One I mentioned earlier, the Alex Rider series, and the other came from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The inspiration for Fallout comes from the earthquake that hit Japan and caused some damage to a nuclear power plant. But I have to be very careful because some inspiration is not very good because it can lead to things that hit too close for comfort. For instance, at the beginning of writing Rush Against Time, I was going to have Dylan Knight, our main character, severely beaten and left for dead. I had to change the scene dramatically; he still gets injured but not as severely, because just as I was coming up with the scene plot, a local boy was found dead behind a middle school in a small stream. He was the same age as Dylan, and believe it or not, he was doing a school report on gangs and one gang in particular, the very one who had killed him. It sent a chill up my spine and I knew I had to change it all around. So I’ve learned to be careful when finding the inspiration, or in this case allowing the inspiration to find me.
T: If you could choose a song (or songs) to represent Dylan Knight: Rush Against Time, what would it be?
G: That’s easy. Two songs: Secret Agent Man, and the James Bond theme song. I only say this because people have been saying that Rush Against Time has a spy theme to it all.
T: If your book was made into a movie, who would you cast in the starring roles?
G: If I was part of making the decisions on who would play who, I would first of all choose Matt Bomer to play the role of Special Agent John Talbert. Don’t ask me why because I can just feel him playing the part. As for Dylan, Jackson, Sarah, Luna and Sheridan, I wouldn’t put any famous teen actors in their roles. I’m all for the youth who have talent in acting but there are too many young actors and actress out there who are really good and they slip through Hollywood’s fingers. But yet at the same time, they also need to be surrounded by people who will not let the pitfalls of Hollywood get to them. Having said that, I would want fresh new, talented young actors and actresses to play their roles. I believe, if you have the talent then use that talent instead of letting fade into nothing.
T: Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
G: I do and people have said this time and time again and they are right. Join a writer’s group, whether it’s a local one, or an online one. It helps the writer get the proper feedback from others who are writing in the genre as you and it also helps you become a better writer. One writers group that is really good is authonomy.com ran by Harper Collins publishing, I’m also a member there. I also advise people to read as much as they can: articles, books by your favorite authors and no so favorite authors, the good, the bad and the just plain outright ugly ones. As I’ve said earlier, reading the Alex Rider series helped me out with writing Dylan Knight: Rush Against Time. It basically with the structure and with a believable plot, but reading the books wasn’t the only thing that helped me write it. Other factors include authonomy.com, and online articles from both Writer’s Digest e-newsletters and Author Enablers. You can find Author Enablers in a monthly newsletter called Bookpage that you can get through your local library or online. Or you can read their blog on authorenablers.com. All the resources that I mentioned are very good.