Welcome, Jeff. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
I have been asked that question a number of times and I hadn't really thought about it too much. The lead character in The Key to the Kingdom was a compilation of people I know, yet when describing the situations and how he faced them there was a small element of how would I attempt to solve his problems.
So I suppose there is a small bit of myself in at least one of the characters.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Quirky? I'm not quirky at all....Quirky? I'm not quirky at all...Quirky? I'm not quirky at all...
I don't really think I am normally that quirky. However, I ran track through high school and college and got it in my head that I ran better in a particular pair of socks. So every race I ran during those years I would wear the same pair of socks. (I washed them of course-but was always terrified that the dryer would eat them.) By the time I had finished my career, those socks had traveled the country with me and they had no elastic left and were barely holding together. They gave new meaning to the phrase "floppy socks."
Does that count as quirky?
I’m sure it does. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I had been interested in writing for a long time. As a pastor and teacher I spend a lot of time writing lessons that I am teaching, so writing as a discipline was something I did all the time. A few years ago I wrote a book on ministry called Visible, Vibrant, & Vital. It was work but really just an extension of what I did each week in preparing to teach. I also wrote some articles regularly related to preaching, researching, and teaching that I enjoyed. Those efforts were my first real attempt at writing for publication.
The idea of writing a novel took me into new territory and I really got a kick out of weaving a story together. It was unlike anything I had ever attempted before. The process of creating a work of fiction was very different, but I had a real sense of accomplishment when it was finally complete. I guess I knew I was a writer when I held the printed book in my hand.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I read all the time and enjoy a variety of topics. I tend to move from one style and type of book to another. I blend mystery novels, historical biographies, cultural resources, and sports stories. On any given day I am probably reading a couple of books as well as tracking an audio book in my Jeep or on my iPad.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I don't mind the run, run, run world. I believe that God has created me for a purpose and I am living on His time, not my time. So I want to squeeze every bit of living life to fullest out of each moment I am given. We only get one crack at this thing called life, so when I tap out at the end, I want to have lived and left nothing in the tank.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
The way that I choose names is no great formula. It is more of a "pulling them out of the air" and seeing if they sound right as I picture the character in my mind. The only extra pause I gave to character names was whether or not they would allow me to create a nickname for the character or if there might be a way to twist the spelling of the name to make them more memorable.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I don't have an answer for this because I don't believe in looking backwards too often. I have been blessed beyond anything that I have ever dared to dream. Family, friends, and opportunities to touch and change the world are all things that I consider to be some of God's greatest gifts to me. Hopefully the things that I have accomplished are all a part of His plan for me. And I get the excitement of getting up each day and knowing that I have an endless sea of opportunities to chase.
One day I might slow down and glance backwards, but I doubt it. I believe we are to live leaning forward.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A tiger...because it has a paralyzing roar.
Seriously, there was a group called the Fauna Communication Research Institute back in the year 2000 that did a study and found out that one of the reasons that tigers were such amazing hunters is because their roar contained an audio frequency that you couldn't actually hear but you could feel. They concluded that for just a moment it leaves you unable to move, of course this gives the tiger an amazing advantage in the wild.
I guess that there is something about me who makes a living as a communicator that wants people to pause long enough to notice and process what is being said. So in that illustration, I think the tiger fascinates me.
What is your favorite food?
That is easy. I am a fan of the four basic food groups.
(1) Ice Cream (2) Pizza (3) Pop-Tarts (4) Donuts
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Detail...There are times as I write that I am so anxious to get the story typed out that I don't slow down enough to paint the picture for the reader. My editor helped me with this process tremendously and although I know exactly what I mean, I completely understand the environments I am writing about. I know what everything looks like...I have to remember the reader doesn't. So I have to find the right balance of giving enough information to help them experience the moment without burying them in too much detail.
I have to step away from the section I am working on in a story and come back later with fresh eyes and perspective to see if I accomplished what I set out to communicate.
Tell us about the featured book.
The Key To The Kingdom is an adventure-thriller set in the
Central Florida area. A lot of the story revolves around
the life of Walt Disney and the creation of Walt Disney World. The book is
"factual fiction" which means that although a work of fiction, the
story is built upon solid facts. Those facts allow the reader to immerse
themselves into a mystery where they can actually go to very real places and
find the same clues the characters are finding. They can go see the actual things described in
the story, and in some ways get to unravel and live the adventure.
For Disney fans it is a work that allows them to revisit places that many of them are familiar with as well as learn a lot of things they have never heard about before. For a non-Disney fan it introduces a new world to them and allows them to interact with characters who find themselves in an impossible situation struggling to do the right thing against overwhelming odds and obstacles.
It has been tremendously gratifying for people to ask, "So the things in the book are real, these are things that I can go find?" The answer is yes. When I get letters and e-mail from readers saying how they went and found the things mentioned in the book I feel like I have connected with them.
There are moments when the reader has to remember the book is a work of fiction. I have the freedom to create some places and scenarios that help drive the story forward.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Day One - Night
Halogen headlamps pierced the darkness of the cool central
Florida night. The GPS
guided the Mustang surging toward the coastal community of Port Orange. Racing along Taylor Road, Dr. Grayson Hawkes approached
an unknown destination. Questions swirled in the tornado of curiosity whipping
through the preacher’s mind. The glow of the dashboard light illuminated the
business card propped against the gearshift; 1819 Taylor Road, Port Orange had been neatly printed in blue ink. Flipping
the card he read the name on the other side.
Walt Disney Company
Reading the name of his dear friend brought a slight smile to his face. Rales had been hired by the late Walt Disney himself as an animator at the Walt Disney Studios on Rales’s thirtieth birthday. In the years that followed he had worked on animated features, been involved in projects at
Disneyland, and eventually became a part of that
exclusive group of creative Walt Disney Company designers known as Imagineers.
Rales was part Disney historian, part Disney philosopher, and a modern day
keeper of the dream that Walt himself had begun.
Farren Rales had given him the business card with an invitation to meet the old Imagineer at ten o’clock this evening. The GPS announced a turn seconds before an inconspicuous dirt road veered to the right. Hawk responded sluggishly and shot past it. He instantly banked his ride into a U-turn that corrected his course. Slowly navigating the heavily wooded, chassis-jarring dirt road, he watched for signage. The headlights threw a glow on a sign that read Gamble Place Parking with an arrow that pointed right. He turned the...
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Visit the DixonOnDisney channel on youtubewww.jeffdixon.org
Thank you, Jeff, for the interesting interview.
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The Key To The Kingdom - paperback
The Key To the Kingdom - Kindle (on sale right now)
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