Several months ago, I was perusing the website of author John Twelve Hawks
and found myself both intrigued and impressed by the ideas presented. So intrigued and impressed, in fact, that I decided to make The Traveler an SF Book of the Month Club selection. However, given the mystery surrounding the author’s identity, I seriously doubted that he would respond favorably to a guest blog invitation (if he were to respond at all). Still, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Well, I asked and J12H answered – not only that initial query, but all of the reader submitted questions from this blog.
Before we move on to the Q&A, I’d like to thank the author for taking the time to stop by. I also told John that he has an open invitation to drop by and update us on works in progress, upcoming releases, or, frankly, any topic of interest he’d care to discuss. And he can rest assured that, while he’s with us, he’ll always be among friends.
So check out J12H’s Q&A and, if you’re still in a reading mood, follow it up with a long overdue mailbag…
For a variety of personal and philosophical reasons, I have never met my publisher, my editor or any of my readers. This doesn’t mean that I don’t care about readers’ opinions. During the last few years, their suggestions have helped me write the trilogy and their positive messages have kept me going.
People have contacted me through johntwelvehawks.com, but I want to thank Joseph Mallozzi for giving me a new way to interact with readers. Joe is a kind, highly creative man who is trying to spread positive energy in our turbulent world.
Arctic Goddess writes:
Question for John Twelve Hawks: Many first time authors take elements of their own lives to incorporate into their stories. Would you say this is true of your work?
JTH: The book and its themes are very autobiographical. I have worked or lived in every location described in the trilogy.
Questions: Did you travel or live in any or all of the places described in the book? The detail was very striking.
JTH: See previous answer about the locations. I currently move between three cities: Los Angeles, New York and London.
In New Harmony, they spoke of using computers, etc., were they not concerned about the risk? Being found by the Tabula?
JTH: The people of New Harmony are innocent about how the Tabula will view their Utopian community. The Tabula will punish them at the beginning of The Dark River.
The pages of the web site – who created them? Was this for the book – to accompany the book or other?
JTH: I designed and wrote all the content for the johntwelvehawks.com website, The Traveler on-line game and the other Fourth Realm websites on the Internet. (For example, there’s a website for Hollis’ martial arts school, a website for the Evergreen Foundation, etc). I see the Internet sites as being extensions of the books.
What are the titles of Book 2 and 3?
I found the title – The Dark River. But there did not seem to be a third one on Amazon.
Thank you for writing a great book. I look forward to the next two. And, THANK you for entertaining our questions.”
JTH: The second book is called The Dark River. It was published in 2007. The third book is called The Golden City. It will come out in the summer of 2009.
1) Your mythology regarding the Travelers and the other Realms in incredibly well thought out. You delineated the Tibetan and Native American influences very clearly. Were there any other sources that you pulled from?
JTH: I’m a Buddhist and have traveled extensively in Tibet. I grew up reading myths as a child and they had a profound influence on me.
2) This is a nitpicky science question. I am familiar with certain microkelvin experiments and there outcomes so I have to ask, where did you get the idea of the super-cooled liquid helium?
JTH: Liquid helium technology is just one of many “real life” approaches to building a quantum computer. In the third book of the trilogy, the Evergreen Foundation scientists will try another technique.
3) I am interested in why you decided to incorporate the developing love of Maya and Gabriel as well as Hollis and Vicki into the plot. What was your motivation behind adding this dimension to the plotline?
Thank you very much for writing such a compelling story.
JTH: Throughout the trilogy, Maya is slowly learning how to become a human being. One of the key aspects of this is opening herself up to love and compassion. The other three characters are also influenced by the vulnerability that comes with loving another person.
Narelle from Aus writes:
1. What are your thoughts on only a few people owning/controlling such a large portion of the media?
JTH: It allows the easy manipulation of the population.
2. Do you think the growth of the internet has helped or hindered the flow of real information?
JTH: The Internet gives individuals a way to counteract the Vast Machine. I am not against technology – just the way certain kinds of technology are used.
3. Can you meditate on a plane?
JTH: I have meditated for over 30 years — in every possible place and every possible situation.
4. What are your thoughts on the Dalai Lama’s interests in neuroscience? It’s been interesting watching the studies. The monks make me laugh when they are all wired up (try not smiling when they smile!), but to see the read-outs as they change from one form of meditation to another is brilliant.
JTH: The MRI and EEG experiments on Buddhist monks have shown that meditation can have a profound neurological impact on the human brain.
5. When Gabriel was in the realm where the town is continually burning and being rebuilt was this a reference to Samsara?
6. Do you see Marketing and Advertising of major corporates just another part of the Vast Machine?
JTH: I feel that I am using the power of corporate publishing to present certain political and spiritual views. The trilogy has been translated into 27 languages. It’s a privilege to have millions of readers all over the world.
7. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING ENDING THE SECOND BOOK WHERE YOU DID??!! Thank You for your time.
JTH: Narelle, several readers have hated this ending. Others have different feelings. The most direct answer is that I’m writing one big book in three volumes and the narrative stops at certain moments. Ending The Dark River at this point shows the power of Maya’s choice. For love, she has sentenced herself to Hell.
Silver Comet writes:
1. Do you really think it’s possible for an individual to stay largely off ‘the Grid’ in today’s world?
JTH: I’ve been off the grid when I was part of a commune and living in third world countries. It’s difficult to live off the grid if you have children or if you feel nervous about breaking the law.
These days, I’m on the grid – primarily because of medical issues. But I think that it would be hypocritical for a writer to condemn our surveillance culture and then appear on the Charlie Rose show to blather about personal details. Focusing on a writer’s life undermines the power of that writer’s ideas.
2. Was there a special (personal) event which leads in the end to your idea for this book?
JTH: I had a vision of alternative worlds. This was followed by a time of great personal crisis.
3. Do you already know the main story and developments for all the following books or is this a flowing process during the writing? Thank you for answering our questions and for writing such an interesting book.
JTH: I wrote a general outline for the entire book on three pages of wide-ruled paper. I also had pages and pages of encyclopedia-like entries about the different elements of this fictional world. The outline was so general that it gave me great flexibility when I sat down to write.
Did you draw from your own experience of living off the Grid, e.g. Satellite phones to connect to the internet?
JTH: Yes. I know a great deal about the techniques described in the book.
Thanks for the great book, when I finished reading it I had a dream connected to it, which rarely happens with a book.
JTH: Thank you, Bridjess. That’s a profound compliment.
Do any of the identity camouflage techniques used by Maya (injections of drugs to her face, false fingerprints) have any basis at all in actual science (real or theoretical)?
JTH: The fingerprint techniques described in The Traveler were inspired by experiments that have shown you can transfer fingerprint images to a plastic mold. The rest of the techniques are fictional.
And the same question as to the quantum computer – was it a construct from your imagination, or is there some basis for it in today’s science?
JTH: I have done a great deal of research on this issue. For the non-scientific reader interested learning about the quantum computer, I recommend George Johnson’s book: “A Shortcut Through Time.”
What inspired you to become a Writer?
JTH: I had no choice. I would have gone crazy if I wasn’t able to release these thoughts in some way.
What would you say were your high and low moments in your career?
JTH: When I finished the first draft of The Traveler, I assumed that no one would want to read it. The first time I received foreign translations of the book – in Korean, Polish and Spanish — was very exciting.
As to the low moments: For various personal reasons, I gave away most of the money I earned from The Traveler. That act hasn’t changed anything or made anyone happy.
Have you ever had one of those moments where an idea comes to mind for a story and you simply have to write it down?
JTH: Yes! That’s why I had to write the three books.
If the world was about to end and you could only take one book into the afterlife, what would you take?
JTH: The Norton Anthology of English Literature.
You are a talented person, you produce quality books, have you ever felt nervous when you release a new book and you have that feeling the fans may or may not like?
Are you a fan of Stargate SG1/Atlantis? and what is your opinion on the show?
Thank you Mr. Hawks for your time.
JTH: When a book is published, I can no longer rewrite and change it. I have tried throughout my life not to worry about those things I can’t control.
I have never owned a television. Now that I have “met” Joe and his viewers I intend to watch DVDs of the shows on my computer.
Quick question for John Twelve Hawks-How does one live in today’s society and balance using technology without feeling that they are giving completely into the grid?
JTH: The first step is awareness. The second step is to fight against fear. Realize that fifty percent of surveillance can be avoided by simple techniques that control how much of your personal information is available to the Vast Machine.
Therese Slusher writes:
The Traveller is practically crying out to be made into a film…Question for the author…Has it been optioned? Has anyone approached him about making it into a film and what are his thoughts on that?
JTH: When The Traveler came out it was optioned by Universal studios. An awful script was written. I rejected it and the film rights back reverted to me.
Recently, the trilogy has been optioned by a new studio. The producers and screenwriter involved seem to understand the vision of the books. Specific information will be released on my website in the next few weeks.
1) Is there a reason for the pen name? One you’d be willing to share, I suppose. As in, is it because you’re actually a secret CIA agent and/or Russian spy, or merely because you don’t ever want your mother knowing what you’ve written?
JTH: My mother and the rest of my family don’t know that I have written the novels. Those people I know who aren’t close friends see me as a failure by the American standards of success. Being a “failure” in such a way has been a continual lesson. It’s helped me realize that we make quick judgments of others based on little real information. We assume so much – but don’t know the secrets held within the heart.
I live alone and have a Spartan, highly disciplined lifestyle. For awhile, I followed the “one” rule – to only own one chair, one bed, one table, one suitcase, etc. I broke down recently and now own three chairs.
2) Have you ever “overhead” a conversation on your book, or a pen name (either online, in print, or in the bookstore) and kind of laugh or smile because they have no idea? What is your general reaction to that kind of situation?
JTH: I was on the subway in New York City a few months ago and for the first time in my life I saw someone with one of my books! A young woman was reading the paperback version of The Dark River.
At that time, I had just gone to a postbox and picked up the Danish translation of the novel. I could have “proved” that I was John Hawks.
So I leaned forward and said: “So, ahhh, what do you think of that novel?”
The young woman looked up at me and I saw what she was thinking: “This badly dressed man is trying to pick me up on the subway. What a creep!”
She said: “I really like it.” And immediately started reading again.
When I got off the train, I sat down on a bench. I smiled and then started laughing at my own vanity and foolishness.
3) Does the name have a specific meaning? Was there a specific reason you chose it? You needn’t answer why if you don’t want, I’m just wondering about the history behind it.”
JTH: I had an experience involving twelve hawks. They were real hawks — nothing symbolic about them.
Belouchi writes: “Will the Daganian Zpm, The Tria or The Phoenix ever surface up before the end of season 5?“
Answer: One will.
Thornyrose writes: “So how long are you going to torture us about the Secret Project? Can you at least let us know how many pages you think it will run, so that we can speculate on its subject?”
Answer: At present, I don’t know how long it will run. I know the story I want to tell. Now it’s just a matter of getting it all down.
Mellow Yellow writes: “So you guys are all going to be working on SGU?”
Answer: To varying degrees. Carl will remain on board fulltime and continue to produce episodes. The rest of us will write a few scripts and act as story consultants.
Mellow Yellow also writes: “ So, what can you tell us about SGU..will it be more character driven or action driven or are you guys trying to balance it out somehow.”
Answer: The way it’s shaping up, I’d say that SGU will definitely be a more character-driven series.
Alicia writes: “ will the atlantis conference table return for the sga movie? Its a sga movie right? when can I post questions for marty g.?”
Answer: Yes, it’s an SGA movie. The old conference room table is gone. The new and improved conference room table will probably make an appearance. Martin will be fielding questions for his episode, Brain Storm, after it airs.
Michelle writes: “Thanks for all the LA stories, Joe. You didn’t tell us your sartorial choices for the pitches. Did you go with your usual 3-piece or a more LA-style tee-shirt and $500 torn jeans?”
Answer: Torn, yes. $500? Nowhere near. I went business casual – suit and dress shirt, no tie. And, for the last few pitches, no sunglasses either L .
Jean writes: “could we get an update of the spoiler poem? Also, is Vegas a “stand-alone” episode or will it tie into the season (and series) finale?”
Answer: Vegas is more or less a stand-alone episode, although the events of this episode will have repercussions.
Tamijb writes: “Which do you prefer to write for movies or television? Or does it not matter as long as you are writing.”
Answer: It doesn’t really make a difference to us. Although, at this point in our career, it would be nice to write something we have created.
Knightie writes: “Any hope of a promotion for Sheppard in the movie ?”
Answer: No plans to promote Sheppard anytime soon.
Jessica writes: “Anyway I was wondering, have you ever participated in any kind of competition such as nanowrimo or anything else like it?”
Answer: I haven’t. In fact, I’ve never heard of nanowrimo.
GoSpikey writes: “Don’t you mean ‘Kanayo’?”
Answer: Kanoyo on his driver’s license; Kano to his friends.
Shirt ‘n Tie writes: “I recently (on your recommendation) read Plague Year which is a fab read…Any chance you could develop this into a Screen Play? I think it has great movie material!”
Answer: I believe author Jeff Carlson has already optioned the rights and a movie is in development.
Trish writes: “Do you think you might write for Amanda’s *Sanctuary*?”
Answer: Nope. Paul and I will be writing for SGU, the SGA movie, and, hopefully, various other personal projects.
Mrs.B108 writes: “Will Michael show any emotions in The Prodigal?”
TBA writes: “1) So, what’s up with the Genii? Thought they were allies when Ladon took over, but seeing what they did in last week’s ep en how the team spoke about them, kinda not anymore?
2) Will there be any open arcs wrapped up before the series’ end, or is that something for the movie(s)?
3) Ever had a ‘damn, with I’d put that in the episode’ moment, right after the episode was shot?”
Answers: 1) What indeed. We were hoping to explore the fall-out from Inquisition in future episode but, alas, it seems unlikely now. 2) Some arcs will be wrapped up by series end. 3) All the time. But we only have so much money to spend.
Danny writes: “ Stargate Universe is sounding good, so what do i have to do to cast in it?”
Answer: Get your agent to contact MGM.
Halo Luver writes: “1.How come we haven’t seen a F-302 jump into hyperspace. In season 6, the other fighter was able to make short jumps just fine.
2. How come the Daedalus never exits hyperspace next to Atlantis? Is it just protocol to exit in orbit?
3. How come enemies can’t exit hyperspace inside Atlantis shield?
4. How come we haven’t seen any Wraith telepathy in recent episodes/seasons?”
Answers: 1. SG-1 made extensive use of F-302’s. The Atlantis expedition, on the other hand, makes use of the ancient technology at their disposal – namely, puddle jumpers. 2. Given that the ship possesses beaming technology, there’s no reason for it to risk a hyperspace exit that close to the city. 3. If an enemy knew where Atlantis was located and was up for a suicide run, then it would certainly be theoretically possible for them to do so. It’s all in the timing. 4. No specific reason.
Dyginc writes: “ Did I miss the next BTOM picks?”
Answer: This week, we’re discussing John Twelve Hawks’ The Traveler. Next week, David Anthony Durham drops in to field your questions and comments about his novel, Acacia. The week after that, horror great Brian Lumley stops by when we discuss the classic Necroscope. Since we’re heading into holiday season, I thought I’d give everyone a little extra reading time. I’ll be announcing January’s Book of the Month Club selections in the coming days. Again, we’ll be fortunate enough to have three guest bloggers join us for the festivities, including one who, I was surprised to hear, is a big fan of the show.
Planet_tv writes: “1. Will there be anything in the remaining episodes that will make fans go “I didn’t expect to see that happening” (I’m hoping you can answer with one of the following: yes, no, maybe or no comment)?
2. What is the total number of episodes that Keller will be in this season?
3. What is the total number of episodes that Teyla will be in this season?
4. Will you be dressing up the pugs for Halloween?”
Answers: 1. I hope so. 2. No idea. 3. No idea. 4. Of course. The pugs and the frenchie.
Bluejay writes: “*come on tell us what the deal was with those smooth haired pics of Todd. Was it a look they tried and didn’t like or was it from a cut scene that will be on the dvd?”
Answer: Have no idea what you’re referring to.
Bluejay also writes: “*when will we know for absolute sure that Todd will be in the movie? Don’t suppose you’ll tell us how big a role he’ll play will you?”
Answer: We won’t be absolutely sure who will be in the movie until after the actor deals have been closed.
Bluejay also writes: “*do you know if there will be an interview or something on the dvd with Chris H.”
Answer: No idea.
Bluejay writes: “*general wraith question- do they sleep (not hibernation) and is it lying down or standing up?”
Answer: That’s something we’ve never explored. I imagine they do sleep, lying down.
Bluejay also writes: “don’t suppose you want to tell us about their grooming habits, if it’s more bug like or such.”
Answer: I would imagine their grooming habits are more human like.
Bluejay also writes: “in ‘common ground’ Todd said that the gift was given to their brothers but, ‘broken ties’ wraith tells us no sympathy for the fallen. So, what’s the deal with that then? Speaking of brotherhood we haven’t really seen much of it, they seem so ready to turn on each other how can there be a sense of brotherhood when there is no trust?”
Answer: There certainly is a sense of brotherhood within their respective hives and alliances. Also, if there is a common foe (ie. The Ancients) they’ll certainly come together. Finally, I’m not sure what you’re paralleling in your comparison of Common Ground and Broken Ties. In Broken Ties, the wraith is referring to not showing mercy to their fallen enemies.