The Dinosaur Four is an R-rated B-movie time-travel thriller about ten everyday strangers trapped 67 million years in the past. The story begins when the corner of a building containing a cafe is suddenly transported from downtown Denver to the late Cretaceous. The people inside must figure out where they are, how they got there, and how they might get home, all while trying not to be killed by dinosaurs… or each other.
Time-travelling corners and dinosaurs. What else could you want from a novel? The author of this sci-fi time travel wonder, Geoff Jones, has joined me today so that we can fossick through this time-bending adventure. Geoff, thanks for taking a little time out of your schedule to chat. First things first, where on earth did the idea of a time travel corner of a building originate?
I wanted to write a monster story, and I went with dinosaurs because they are terrific monsters that everyone knows about, but that aren’t represented enough in fiction. As I was thinking about different ways this might play out, I somehow came up with the idea of trying to lure a Tyrannosaurus rex to a spot in the middle of a river. This stuck with me, and I began crafting a story around that moment.
Were you always a big dinosaur aficionado, or did you find yourself needing to investigate more about dinosaurs as a part of writing the novel?
I’ve always been a casual follower of dinosaur news, and I read up on various details to be sure I represented things reasonably well. I was pretty excited to see a news story came out after I published the book about a species called Dreadnoughtus with a “weaponized tail” which is something I had already depicted.
Seeing research that supports your fiction so reassuring. Plus I love that body parts like weaponized tails really existed. Apart from expounding on the awesomeness of things like weaponised tails, what were the other elements that you hope that readers pick up from your novel?
Heh, well I wanted the reader to truly believe that no one was safe. In some ways, the 1979 film Alien was a model for me. When that film first came out, no one knew much about Sigourney Weaver. Tom Skerritt, and John Hurt were the stars. You expected them to be the heroes.
It almost feels like a bait and switch that they played with the casting. I won’t ask if you’d employ the same tactics if you were casting for your novel because that would give too much of the game away, but I’d be interested to know who you’d like to take on some of the key parts?
For Tim, I imagined Noah Wylie back in his early acting days. Al was one of the less famous Baldwin Brothers, but could also be played by Michael Shannon. Lisa was a cross between Jewel Staite and Uma Thurman (!), Beth was Allison Mack, and for Hank, I always pictured Michael Landon. I recently sold the film rights.
Wow, that’s fantastic! Can you tell us more about how that’s progressed for you?
My understanding is that few deals move beyond the option stage, but I’m hopeful. The producer is a great guy and he really “gets” the book. He flew out to Colorado to meet me and see the downtown Denver location where the story begins. Fingers crossed!
I will definitely cross my fingers for you! Apart from getting the opportunity to participate in amazing deals like a selling the film rights, what do you feel is on of the greatest rewards you’ve received from publishing this ‘The Dinosaur Four’?
I love hearing from readers. Every so often I’ll get an email or read a review from someone who had a good time reading my story, and that’s honestly pretty damn awesome.
That must give you so much satisfaction. And I would imagine that it would also push you towards more writing. Have you started on your next writing project, and if so what can you tell us about it?
My next book is also about a small group of people surviving a disaster, but this time, it’s the end of the world.
I sense a theme developing here putting characters in positions where there’s some significant disaster ahead. I’m looking forward to seeing how that one develops. What keeps you coming back and writing down these tales that you love working on?
I love to be entertained by a good story, and being able to do that for others is critically important to me.
As it is critically important for you to setup an entertaining story, how do you approach your writing process to ensure that this happens?
I usually come up with some big exciting scenes, and then craft the situations and characters that bring those scenes to life. A lot of the details will change along the way, and the characters will surprise me as they become real, but I’m always trying to build toward those big moments.
When you start writing, are you only writing when the big scenes come to the forefront of your mind, or have you developed a daily practice to try and entice them out?
I try to write every day for about an hour before work.
Is there any music that gets you into the writing zone?
I listen to film scores while I write. Lots of Zimmer and Holkenborg. Sometimes older stuff by Williams or Carpenter.
I’m the same way; I find that film scores provide excellent zones for writing in. Do you ever run into instances when the music and motivation both wane and you find yourself trapped in writer’s block? What do you do to get yourself moving again?
If I can’t figure out how to come up with something good, I just go ahead and write something bad. I know I’ll have plenty of chances to come back and make it better. This way, I can move on to a scene that I’m more excited about, and often the situations in that scene will dictate what needs to happen back in the section that had me stumped.
Once you’ve removed all of the stumps and your story is largely coherent, how do you go about editing? Are you hands on in the editing process?
I spent one year writing The Dinosaur Four from start to finish, and then two more years polishing it. During that time, I work-shopped the book in critique groups, sent it out to dozens of beta readers for feedback, and hired a professional editor to review it from start to finish.
Wow, that is dedication to the craft of editing, but working that hard on the book has obviously produced a fantastic final product. What is your number one top tip for other authors who are looking to end up with a book as polished as yours?
Read your work out loud.
I always find it interesting how many things that you can pick up when you read your writing out loud. Once authors have their fully polished book, do you have any tips to help them conquer the mountain that is self-publishing?
On the business side, one of the best places to learn is the Writers cafe at Kboards.com. On the writing side, you’ve got to get feedback. Writing is just the first step. Finishing is the hardest part and editing is crucial.
Well, together we’ve worked through the hardest part of today’s interview. Geoff, if you have a few minutes I’d like to take a little time to tap into your personality a bit more because it’s always fun to find out some of quirks of the author behind the tall tales. Let’s get moving with: Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
When you’re at the grocery store and you need to stop for a moment, move your cart to the side and get out of everyone’s way.
*Laughs* I totally subscribe and abide to this custom; I’m so glad there’s someone else who respects the space in supermarket aisles! What is your favourite quote?
There’s a fun homage to Jaws in The Dinosaur Four. Several characters flee a T-rex to a cliff top where it can’t reach them. Hank pulls out his cell phone to take a picture and says “Smile, you son of a bitch,” which is of course Martin Brody’s climactic line.
*Laughs* I love that re-contextualized version of that line. What is your favourite ocean?
The bay just north of Akumal, Mexico.
Do you have a ‘do not use’ or ‘most hated words’ list when you are writing?
I have to remember to avoid having characters trying or starting to do something. It’s always better when they just do it.
It’s back to that old adage that action is better than thinking about it. Would you have a cast party with the characters in your book if they could come to life?
I don’t know about a party, but I’d be happy to meet them for coffee.
Coffee might be better if you pair it with cake. If you invented a monster what would it look like and what would you call it?
It would be a cross between a Wookie, a chimp, and a dog. I would call it Jordy and he would hang out with me everywhere I went.
*Laughs* If it’s part Wookie, I totally want one! That would be AWESOME! Are you an introvert or extrovert?
I’m an introvert, until we start talking about books or movies or television.
If you ruled your own country, who would you get to write the national anthem?
Solid choice. Finally, is there a question that you haven’t been asked that you’d like to be, or anything that didn’t come up?
Tell me about the audio book.
You have an audio book? Few of the authors I interview have audio books, so I would love to hear all about your experiences getting one developed.
I hired Nick Podehl to narrate the audio version after hearing his incredible performance of The Knife of Never Letting Go. He did a fantastic job bringing my story to life, and honestly, I think listening to the audio book is a better experience than just reading it.
Nice plug for the audio book :). For any readers out there who are lamenting their inability to read on their commute, take advantage of Geoff’s audio book of ‘The Dinosaur Four’. Geoff, thank you again taking us through time back to the dinosaurs. I wish you the best of luck getting this book out there and I hope that your film option progresses further.
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