Interview with Douglas Smith, Author of The Lost Expedition
16 Jan 2024
What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write The Lost Expedition?
The Lost Expedition is the final book in my Dream Rider Saga trilogy. I’d written one novel (The Wolf at the End of the World), which had been well received, so I figured, “How hard can a trilogy be?” Yeah, right. I wrote the entire trilogy before publishing the first book, The Hollow Boys, taking advice that Charles de Lint had given me. The Dream Rider Saga is one long mystery told over three books. When you’re writing that type of trilogy, it’s wonderful to be able to change the earlier books as you’re writing the later ones. Plus, readers don’t have to worry when (or if) the final book will come out.
The inspiration for the Dream Rider came from my love as a kid of comics, superheroes, and stories of lost cities. I call the series “Indiana Jones meets Teen Titans.” I’d wanted to write a YA series for a while, so when I got this idea for an orphaned teenager who can travel through our dreams but can never leave home, I figured it would fit perfectly. Then I asked myself questions. Where did his power come from? Why is he an orphan? So I gave him a backstory, purposely sketchy at first: Will’s parents, shady dealers in ancient artifacts, disappear on a jungle expedition. Will, the only survivor, returns home with no memory of what happened, with his strange power to walk in our dreams…and severe agoraphobia. He uses the money his Dream Rider comic creation brings to make a skyscraper home with everything he needs—everything but the freedom to go outside. But it’s YA, so I needed a romance. Enter Case, an orphan Will’s age, who survives on the streets with her young brother, Fader, because they have their own gifts. Case hears voices warning her of danger. And Fader? Well, he fades. People just don’t notice him.
Book 1, The Hollow Boys, throws Will and Case together, and into danger and an unlikely romance, as they join forces to defeat a centuries-old body swapper preying on street kids. In book 2, The Crystal Key, dark secrets lead Will, Case, and Fader to a mysterious world, trapping them between warring cults willing to kill for a dangerous artifact from Will’s past. In the last book, The Lost Expedition, Will’s search for his lost parents propels the three friends deep into the jungles of Peru, where they battle an ancient evil to save all of reality.
If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of The Lost Expedition, what would they be?
Interesting question, since I use modern rock and pop songs for the chapters titles in these books. For Will, my 17-year-old agoraphobic superhero, I think I’d go with Bowie’s “Starman.” It’s about a visitor from outer space, so it fits Will’s weirdness with his Dream powers. But it’s also a song that has always made me smile, which fits Will as well.
For Case, my life-hardened street kid and big sister to Fader, I’d pick Billy Eilish’s “Tough Guy” or maybe Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” I use both in the books for titles of Case’s chapters.
What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?
I enjoy reading urban fantasy, especially Charles de Lint. Lately though, I’m reading mysteries, detective, action / adventure, and non-fiction. When it comes to writing, my short fiction has been a balance between fantasy and SF, with horror elements in many of them. My novels (The Wolf at the End of the World and the three Dream Rider books) are urban fantasy, and my next planned novel will be the sequel to The Wolf. But after that, I have a near future SF novel planned, expanding on my short story, “Memories of the Dead Man.”
What books are on your TBR pile right now?
My TBR “pile” is on my Kobo, as I do almost all my reading via ebooks. I just finished Babel by RF Kuang and the wonderful Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. I’m reading City of Mirrors, the final book in Justin Cronin’s excellent The Passage trilogy, then I’ll move on to the latest in Ian Hamilton’s excellent Ava Lee series, The Fury of Beijing.
What scene in your book was your favorite to write?
Ever so many. It was fun to be able to write a Morrigan scene again, after her departure at the end of The Hollow Boys, but I probably enjoyed the Indiana Jones-esque scenes where Will, Case and crew are discovering and navigating the weird world that leads to the Crossing. And it was fun to finally dole out the answers to the many mysteries from the first two books.
But overall, I enjoyed the Case POV scenes most. I’d have to say she was the easiest character for me to write, to be inside her head, since she became in many ways the conscience of the books.
Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)
Coffee. In a favorite mug. A mug that I just had to replace after using the same one for a couple of decades. A lot of words written with that one. My new mug and I are slowly getting to know each other. Hey, don’t judge. It’s an important relationship for a writer.
Music. I listen to music, via headphones, when I write. Despite my love of rock, I listen to orchestral pieces that are more cerebral than emotional. Bach and Corelli, but Vivaldi is my go-to. I think I have over 17 hours of Vivaldi on my player.
Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?
Chase your dreams. Never give up, never surrender (although that one may be taken).
If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?
I’m a character-driven writer. I can’t start a story unless I know my characters. Characters drive plot. I always try to start with an interesting character with a problem. Plot twists and turns come from choices my characters make as they struggle to solve their problem. To make those choices believable to the reader, I need to understand my characters so well that their choices are true to each of them. “Love the characters!” is a common comment in reviews of these books, and I think readers will come to love Will, Case, and Fader, and the bonds that form between them.
Douglas Smith is the author of the new book The Lost Expedition: The Dream Rider Saga Book 3
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