Nearly three months since the release of The Dream, I finally found some time to talk about what my thoughts were behind some of the characters, scenes, and lines within the story. I am currently in the editing process for another book called Adelaide and the Battle of the Bands, which means that I will soon enough be working on the sequel to The Dream! If you haven’t read the book yet, you can get it at the Amazon Kindle store!
Chapter One The Note
Photo Credit: Flickr user Brady Withers
Jack Cooper, Timmy’s boss in The Dream, is based on a few bosses I have had over the years, not one in particular. I named him after Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin’s character on 30 Rock) and Mark Cooper (Mark Curry’s character on Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper).
Timmy himself is named after my best friend growing up, who never actually went by Timmy. Even though I write books now, I have never been a major bookworm myself, but Tim was always reading books, so I thought it would be fitting to name my first book’s main character after him.
I have never lived in an apartment like the one I described for Timmy’s home, so I based it off a combination of rooms I remember from my college dorms and an apartment my brother once lived in that I considered moving into when I graduated.
I named the character after Aziz Ansari, who plays the role of Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation. I was watching the show a lot on Netflix at the time I was writing the first chapter of the book and he always makes me laugh. Of course, the character in the book is nothing like the comedian, I just needed a name and that is what I came up with on the spot.
The concept of being locking someone out of a computer right before firing them was something that I have never experienced, but I figured it would make sense for companies to do. As soon as my wife read the first chapter, she told me that the company she works for has done that to people. I guess I was right.
Chapter Two The Meeting
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The reason why I had Jack Cooper ramble on is because I don’t believe I’ve ever had a boss in an office situation that did not like to ramble on beyond the point of comprehension. I think that is how someone becomes a manager, they just talk until their employer gives them a promotion. Just a guess.
I’ve been through a lot of jobs, but I’ve never actually been fired. What Timmy went through by being fired is not in any way something that I have gone through, it is just what I expected to happen every time I got called into a one-on-one meeting with any boss. Part of the reason why I knew I could write a book is because I tend to play out every worst case scenario in my head when I think things could go wrong.
I do find it fascinating how we can have certain people in our lives for years and years and then something suddenly changes and we move on without them as if they never existed. It could be because of something like high school or college graduation, moving from town to town, or leaving a job. Social media changed that somewhat, but who hasn’t deleted a “friend” after realizing that they aren’t really part of their lives anymore? That’s how I think Timmy would have felt after getting fired, like everyone was just going to delete him from their memories. It’s weird to think that people move on without us, but they do. I think that is one reason why it is important that we look to please God first and not other people, because God doesn’t forget about us when we graduate, move, or get fired.
I do think “employee of the month” awards are a funny situation, so writing about Timmy seeing his awards as he goes through his files after being fired was quite natural. I got employee of the month at one office job and the only reason why I was excited was because I got a $50 gift card. I had seen several people who got that award be fired within months of receiving the award and I knew several people didn’t deserve the award, including me. It felt like one of those things where somebody had to get it and they don’t like giving it out to the same person every month. Pretty soon they start running out of people who deserve it so they give it out to whoever they think needs a morale boost. It reminds me of elementary school, where almost every kid gets student of the month eventually. They would give out two for every class each month, one to the smart kid who always got A’s and one to the bully who didn’t beat anyone up that month. Even back then I liked the reward more than the recognition.
Chapter Three The Phone Call
Photo Credit: Flickr user JonJon2k8
By this point in time, you may have noticed that all of my chapters start with “The” something. Despite being an author, I spend a lot more time listening to music than reading books and I’ve always wondered how bands decided on the name for their albums and songs. Sometimes it is obviously based on the chorus, but other times it almost seems irrelevant to the song. I chose to name my chapters this way because I thought it would stand out and because I thought it would be easier to come up with names that way.
In case anyone missed the Biblical reference from Timmy’s t-shirt, there are several verses in the various Gospel accounts that quote Jesus saying the following:
“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. – Matthew16:25
“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life or My sake and the gospel’s will save it. – Mark 8:35
“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. – Luke 9:24
“Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. – Luke 17:33
I didn’t have to put a lot of thought into Allie, the hostess/waitress at the restaurant. I just imagined every hostess and waitress at any restaurant I’ve ever been to and tried to describe one. Somehow, the character interested my wife quite a bit and I have a short story in mind for her character that I hope to write soon.
Have you ever been handed a three page menu at a pizza restaurant and spend ten minutes looking at it, pretending that you’re interested in all the various options and that you aren’t just going to end up ordering the pepperoni or the meat lovers pizza in the end? No? Well then, me either.
When I first told my older brother that I had written this book, he joked that it better not be a thinly veiled story about a younger brother overcoming his older brother. I had to assure him that the book was not about him keeping me down, even though obviously the brother relationship turns out to be an important one at the end of the book.
Chapter Four The Scroll
Photo Credit: Flickr user NZatFrankfurt
I don’t know if there is a correct or easy way to respond to death and I don’t think Timmy knew how to respond to either of his parent’s deaths. As a Christian, I know exactly where death came from and what it means as far as ultimate destination, but it still always makes me think harder about life when someone close (or even an acquaintance of some sort) has died. In Timmy’s case, he was experiencing two types of death in this book. The one type was obviously that of his mother, but the other type was the death of his career and everything that it meant to him. He had to re-think how he was living his life.
The man in the scroll is obviously Jesus, as Timmy would discover later in the book. Although the reference may be easy for most people to pick up on, especially Christians, finding out who Jesus is has always been difficult for outside observers. Was he a great teacher? Was he a rebel? Was he a warrior? Timmy couldn’t figure this out and by reading the scroll and a lot of people today aren’t sure what Jesus was supposed to be. A big reason for that is that a lot of people don’t read the entire Bible to figure that out, but another reason is that Jesus is a lot of things to a lot of people. Ultimately, I wrote this book because Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of everyone who believes in Him. Some people will hate the book for that reason alone, but I hope others find hope in Him because of it. I’ll take on all the hate if it helps some find God’s love.
Some will also say that this is a pretty depressing book, to which I agree, at least in the beginning. Some people have depressing lives and they need to find a way out of that depression, including myself at times. That might mean that the book starts out slow, as a few readers have suggested to me, but a hero has to overcome something for a story to have any value. No one dreads the day that they might have to overcome being too happy. I understand the criticism and I definitely worked on having more pep to the beginning of my next book, but I also had my reasons for starting out The Dream with more of a somber tone. Some people just need to know that there is hope when going through tough times.
On a lighter note, who hasn’t thought about smashing their phone and walking away from tech-crazed society a time or two? The working title to this book was End Communication because I had that part of the story worked out from the beginning. The idea of calling the book The Dream came later when I realized it was such a prevalent part of the story.
Chapter Five The Long Night
Photo Credit: Flickr user ericzchu
The park that Timmy can see from his dream is actually based off my view from my dorm room my sophomore year of college, not any hotel I’ve ever visited. I could look outside and beyond the street that goes through the center of campus was one of many beautiful parks in the area. No, I don’t have nightmares about it, I just used it as my vision for writing about Timmy’s terrifying dreams.
I think it is funny that we consider our life’s aspirations to be our “dreams” because dreams don’t normally make a whole lot of sense. I’ll have dreams where I’m hanging out with people from high school, college, old jobs, and people who I hang out with today as if nothing is unusual. I’ll be worried about something in a dream that I have moved on from in real life years ago or I’ll get excited about something in a dream that never happened. Timmy’s dreams are similar in that they splice fact with fiction, which can be frightening. I used his dreams to help him realize that he had to face his reality no matter how difficult it was for him to look at.
I grew up in the southwestern part of Oregon, where camping near lakes, rivers, or the ocean was at least an annual event, though usually more often than that. That meant that every year I would find myself wandering off from camp and doing things that boys do when they are bored in the semi-wilderness, which includes pretending to be a hunter-gatherer. I have never speared a fish with a wooden stick, but I sure did try.
Chapter Six The Stranger
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When Timmy meets Lindsey he tells her that he is “the lost and found.” That’s called a joke. No, that’s called a lame joke. If anyone thought it was a lame joke, it was a lame joke for a reason. Sometimes guys tell lame jokes around pretty girls and immediately regret telling the lame joke because it is lame. At least awkward ones do. There are probably cool guys who would have told a funny joke at such a time as this, but they aren’t the type that go running off into the woods like this.
As I read through the story again, months after releasing the book, there are things that stand out for me that maybe I didn’t notice before (and not just the things I would have done differently). One is that Timmy trusts Lindsey awfully quickly. That seems kind of unusual, but I can still see it happening. Sometimes we trust people right away. Sometimes things just click between two people. Maybe they were made for each other and that’s why they click. I know that when my wife and I started dating a big part of that reason is that we could talk for hours without being judgmental or defensive or weird about things. We just fit. I think Timmy needed someone to talk to and God put Lindsey in his life just when he needed someone. Speaking as the author, I suppose I could say this with more authority, but I also like to leave certain things up to a reader’s interpretation, because everyone reads a story in a way that they can relate it to themselves.
Chapter Seven The Dinner
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One reason why I decided to become a fiction writer instead of a non-fiction writer is that I don’t really love having to do research and always be completely correct about every tiny little detail. Novelists don’t have to write bibliographies. Since I don’t love researching, a lot of the stuff I write about is somewhat personal, as many of the things I write about are things that in some way or another happened to me or someone I know. For example, at the beginning of this chapter Timmy talks about stacking firewood. That was my job as a kid. I’m not bitter about it anymore. Well, I did write about it in this book, so maybe I’m a little bit bitter, but not as much as I was when I was fourteen.
Another thing I stole from my childhood was the memories of church potlucks. My best friend (the real Tim, not the Timmy in this story) and I would sneak out during service because we…had to…”use the bathroom.” For some reason it always took us like twenty minutes to do our business. Maybe it was because we were really seeing what people had brought for lunch. We didn’t usually take food during our breaks, but I bet we snuck a cookie here and there. I slept fine.
There is a part in this chapter where I write about “owls hooting in the trees.” I try to have multiple people look over my writing before publishing to get rid of as many errors as possible. My wife’s job is to tell me if anything sounds really stupid. I had originally written that the owls were howling, you know, like wolves do, because I had a brain fart. My wife will never let me live that down.
Chapter Eight The Family
Photo Credit: Flickr user Al_HikesAZ
I think Timmy’s misconception about what “church” is has to be a fairly common one. I can’t count the number of times when people have told me that church is like “this” or like “that”. What they usually mean is that church should be exactly what it was like for them growing up. I think its a lot more than tradition.
I believe God puts people in our lives for very specific reasons, even the kind of people we don’t personally wish were there. He gives us the right people to challenge our faith in Him. A lot of people let their life’s circumstances dictate how they feel about God, but I believe God uses all of our circumstances as opportunities to bring us closer to knowing Him. A lot of situations cause us to freak out like Timmy freaked out when he heard Peter’s sermon, because it is too personal, they hit too close to home and it hurts.
Things never tidy up so easy in real life, so why should they be so clean in a story? Just as Timmy was about to find some kind of closure on his encounter with Peter’s story, something big happened to distract everyone. Journeys usually take longer than we wish.
Chapter Nine The Fire
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There’s a key phrase in this chapter that I could see someone reading over without much thought. Lindsey tells Timmy “this is not our home, let’s go.” The biggest struggle that many people have is that it is really easy to try to attach ourselves to certain situations, people, places, or possessions and call them our own. As a Christian, I believe its important that we look to Heaven as our home. That is where God is and where our hearts need to be. If our eyes are set on the Kingdom of Heaven, it is easier to let things go when they burn away.
I wrote this book based on a lot of my own frustrations with the modern working environments found in the country as well as the strange economic situation we find ourselves in today. I live in a country where good jobs have been hard to come by, yet consumerism is at an all time high. We’re broke and we want more stuff. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on the book and I’m hardly the only one who has been affected by all this. I didn’t know what the response to the book would be, but it has been encouraging to me to hear that it has comforted some people who have gone through a lot of the same things that either I have gone through or the characters in this book (especially Timmy) have gone through.
Chapter Ten The Black Eye
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The questions at this point I’m sure are all about the ending. A lot of people commented on how abrupt the ending was and I understand their feelings. The thing is…I did it on purpose. The Dream is intended to be a series. Just like life, sometimes we have things half figured out, but there’s so much more in our future that finality isn’t always final. In this case, Timmy has realized that he doesn’t have it all figured out, but he sees that there may be hope. What does he decide? Well, you’ll just have to read book 2.