D.J. Williams on Travel, Fighting Child Trafficking, and The Disillusioned
Following yesterday’s review of The Disillusioned, I’m delighted to have author D.J. Williams on the blog today to discuss his upcoming novel and some of the subjects behind it. You can read about The Disillusioned and find my review of it over here. Thank you to Mr. Williams for kindly taking the time to answer these questions; The Disillusioned will be published on May 1, 2013 from WestBow Press and is available now for pre-order (links below).
Author D.J. Williams
and the poor is what kept me writing…”
Religion and child trafficking are the two central pillars of the The Disillusioned’s story. How did the concept for focusing on these two subjects come together? Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to draw the story into an African setting?
When I started writing The Disillusioned I asked myself some tough questions about today’s religious landscape. I dialed in on a prestigious Christian family and the story took off from there. I’ve been behind the scenes of many churches and I’ve walked the dirt roads of the poor. I found it intriguing that for many who pursue their calling in the church these two pillars are still worlds apart, especially in the U.S. We’ve seen how success can change religious leaders when their pursuit of sharing the Gospel becomes a life filled with self-ambition inside professional religion. I had a ninety-two year old friend tell me once that the greatest difference he has seen in today’s religious institutions is that many are pursuing a career instead of a calling. All of this is happening while the poor are still starving, still being sold into slavery, and still dying each day. The disconnect between religion and the poor is what kept me writing until the last page and I don’t think the story is over.
Now, before anyone writes me an email disputing the paragraph above I will say this…I have many friends who are leaders in churches throughout the world. I’m not saying that all of them are self-ambitious or power hungry tycoons. But, I will say that if we believe this side of the church does not exist then we are fooling ourselves and missing the mark in our faith.
As far as the story taking readers to Africa, I didn’t know that was going to happen. I didn’t even know it would involve human trafficking. The deeper I went with the characters the story just took me there. Once I realized it was an important thread I knew that there was a message I wanted to convey. Sure, I wanted the story to be entertaining, suspenseful, and filled with a shadow of mystery that kept readers guessing until the last page. I also wanted to challenge readers to look at the faith they believe in, the life they are living, and ask themselves how they can make a difference in the lives of those in need.
You’re certainly an experienced traveler – born in Hong Kong, living now in LA, with everything from the Amazon and Africa in between. Did you find that your travel inspired any of Sam’s reactions to being abroad in the novel?
I have been very fortunate to be given opportunities to travel the world. Growing up in Hong Kong immersed me in a variety of cultures and I think that shaped my view of the world from a young age. When I decided that The Disillusioned was going to Africa I knew exactly where the places would be because I had been to many of them myself. It definitely helped in the writing process because I was describing places I remembered and people who had crossed my path. I tried to infuse a bit of my life experience in both Danny and Sam, just enough for readers to relate to the adventure of traveling to a foreign land.
what I could to help make a difference.”
The Disillusioned does a powerful job of raising awareness of the harsh reality of child trafficking. What can readers do to help in the fight against this tragedy?
As many of us know, millions are being sold into slavery. Human trafficking is the second fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world. It is not just something that is happening in third world countries, it is happening here in the U.S. as well. Knowing that is reality I decided before The Disillusioned was finished that I wanted to do what I could to help make a difference. So, for every book sold we are making a donation to the “Let’s Respond” Campaign, which is headed up by the F.A.C.T. Alliance in Orange County, CA.
They are focused on building aftercare facilities for victims, both nationally and internationally. Without aftercare, rescue is futile, as statistically, victims tend to go back to the only life they know unless they have strong alternatives. Currently, the campaign is focused on building an aftercare village in Africa, a victim support facility in Northern California, and has partnered with The Love 146 Roundhome in the Philippines. I am excited that The Disillusioned will be a part of helping this great organization.
Prior to writing The Disillusioned you did a lot of work producing and directing for television. Did you find that your experience with that method of storytelling affected your approach to novel writing?
I think working in any type of creative media helps when you crossover into another aspect of visual or written storytelling. In all of these areas you’re trying to tell a story that is compelling for the viewer/reader. You need to grab their attention and then keep it throughout. That’s probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned from the projects I’ve been involved in. Also, on the television side I work mainly as a producer or director so it’s a different frame of mind from writing. I’m always watching the clock, the schedule, the shots and making sure I’m getting what we need to cut an episode together. For me, writing The Disillusioned was an escape from all of that. I took my time. I wrote alone. No one read a single word until I was nearly finished. It was much more solitary than directing or producing, which I enjoyed.
Last but not least, what project (or projects) are you working on now? Readers could possibly imagine a sequel to The Disillusioned; is that something you might pursue in the future?
I have a 4-book series that has been shopped around over the last year and is still trying to find a home. I’m going to shelve it for now because there is a story I’ve been researching over the last three years. I think I’m finally ready to write it. It’s filled with rich characters from the 1920’s and present day whose lives collide. My hope is it will keep readers guessing, leaving them on the edge of their seats, trying to figure out how these two eras will unfold in the story. With The Disillusioned ready to hit the shelves I’m finding myself once again standing on the edge ready to jump back into the deep end. As far as a sequel to The Disillusioned…I will let the readers decide. I will say that I have outlined the second book already just in case. Wish me luck!
With the DNA of a world traveler, Williams was born in Hong Kong, has ventured into the jungles of the Amazon, the bush of Africa, and the slums of the Far East, to share stories of those who are overcoming incredible odds. Williams is the co-author of Restoration Road with Mitch Kruse and ghostwrites for other fiction authors. He has also produced and directed over 140 television episodes syndicated on NBC, ABC, FOX and various cable networks worldwide. Currently, he lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife.