D. J. Williams was born and raised in Hong Kong, igniting an adventurous spirit as he ventured into the jungles of the Amazon, the bush of Africa, and the ancient cities of the Far East. His global travels submerged him in a myriad of cultures, providing a unique perspective that fuels his creativity. As an executive producer and director, Williams has produced and directed over 500 episodes of broadcast television syndicated worldwide. Residing in Los Angeles, he continues to develop new projects for television, film, and print which are being pitched to major studios, streaming companies, and publishing houses.
In this interview, D.J. talks about the first book in his new Beacon Hill Series, titled Hunt for Eden’s Star.
FF: What inspired you to write Hunt for Eden’s Star? Can you tell us about the research that went into writing this novel?
For over a decade the Beacon Hill Series has lingered in my mind and haunted my imagination. Spending many years overseas, I’ve always been drawn to different cultures and have found myself amongst people from all walks of life. I was inspired to write the series because the story wouldn’t let go. The storylines, characters, and locations are inspired by places I’ve been or people I’ve met. And in Hunt for Eden’s Star the inspiration led me back to my roots of growing up in Hong Kong and traveling through Asia as a teenager.
FF: As a missionary kid who spent your childhood and teen years in Hong Kong, what was that experience like? How did it shape who you are today?
Growing up in Hong Kong was an incredible experience. Looking back now, I realize exactly how special those years were in shaping me into who I am today. Most of my childhood was a melting pot of friends of all nationalities and backgrounds. Those years rooted my values and enabled me to find my footing no matter where I might land traveling the world. And the life lessons I’ve learned and friendships from those years still guide me today.
FF: You based several settings in this novel on places you have visited or lived. Why did you choose to include these locations? Why are they important to you?
I wanted to ground the world of Beacon Hill in Hong Kong, then build out from there in the world we see today and other supernatural realms. When I’m writing based on places I’ve been, the characters and settings become more alive. While Hunt for Eden’s Star primarily takes place throughout Asia, the entire series will lead readers on a global adventure to many places around the world.
FF: You have traveled to many places in the world. What did you learn from living in a variety of different cultures?
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that while we may have our differences such as ethnicity, economies, and addresses, there are aspects of our lives that bring us together. Friendship. Faith. Family. When you are surrounded by others who are unique from you, you can still find common ground instead of holding on to what divides us. And when you’re speaking of a common faith, there is only one that bonds us together for eternity.
FF: Tell us about some of the core themes explored in your book. How do you hope readers might relate these themes to their own lives and real-world experiences?
The value of friendship is a big one in Hunt for Eden’s Star and grows stronger throughout the series as those friendships are tested. Several themes that are woven into the story are addiction and revenge, which many have faced at one time or another from teenagers to adults. Of course, themes of faith are rooted from the first page—the challenge of walking out one’s faith and the victories when faith grows. My hope is readers will be inspired to embrace the adventures and challenges of life no matter what they might face and discover a deeper faith and purpose for their lives.
FF: Why is it important to explore these topics in our current culture?
With the craziness of the world around us constantly challenging our values, or even attempting to shape our values, rooting our lives in friendship, family, and faith guides our path instead of chasing after the next hashtag trend. Believe me, it’s not easy and oftentimes we fail, but what I’ve discovered is it’s worth the adventure to discover who we are created to be without compromise.
FF: Your novel discusses serious themes such as addiction and death. Why is it important for novels to tackle these issues?
For a story to leave the reader guessing, you need to constantly be raising the stakes for the characters in the world. Addiction and death are two major forces that alter the trajectory of a story, whether it be supernatural YA or real life. When I think of the YA readers who are facing many challenges in front of them, I wanted to approach these themes in a way that was real without preaching at them.
FF: What is the value of fiction and storytelling (and the fantasy genre, in particular) in today’s culture?
Most readers are looking for an escape from the highly charged culture around us, so I think a big part of the value is pure entertainment. There’s a bonus if we take entertainment to the next level with an underlying message driving the narrative. From the point of view of faith, the fantasy genre offers a unique opportunity to dive deeper into not only the supernatural but the spiritual.
FF: What has been the greatest challenge to living out your faith in today’s culture as a storyteller?
One of the challenges is to write a page-turner that appeals to a broad audience while remaining rooted to my values. Temptation has a way of pushing you beyond the boundaries, to cross the line, to make the story more edgy or socially acceptable. Believe me, I’ll push to the very edge but there are limits. When I think more about the characters and world that inspire me, I’ve found the challenges are less daunting. You’ll never please everyone, but you can entertain and inspire someone.
FF: What has been the greatest challenge in writing a YA fantasy series?
Honestly, the characters have jumped off the page while I’ve been writing, but probably the greatest challenge is going deeper into the world building so Beacon Hill stands out from other YA fantasy series. I’ve been writing the Beacon Hill Series over the last year and a half and have been relentless to not watch or read any other YA series. Of course, I did break that rule to watch Rings of Power.
FF: What role does faith play in this story?
Faith definitely plays a role in the character’s evolution and the story arcs, however, I’ve worked hard to keep the faith thread as an underlying driver instead of making it the Holy Grail. As an author and believer, my hope is anyone who picks up Hunt for Eden’s Star or future books in the Beacon Hill Series will be captured by the characters and the world, then discover the message along the way.
FF: How has writing Hunt for Eden’s Star influenced your faith?
Writing Hunt for Eden’s Star has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I’ve ever undertaken, especially when writing the books back-to-back-to-back-to…You get the idea. As the characters have revealed themselves, I’ve been challenged to pursue my faith in an authentic way amidst the highs and lows of life. Even after all these years, I’m still learning how to go beyond religious rules toward a deeper relationship with my Creator.
FF: What are some of the life lessons you’ve learned as a producer, director, and writer in the entertainment industry?
The main ones are to keep relationships the priority, to treat everyone around me as an equal, to harness the creativity of others to inspire the great adventures of life, and to never allow an ounce of success to define who I am whether it be in my past, present, or future.
FF: How has writing Hunt for Eden’s Star changed you as a storyteller?
Since I’ve been writing the series over the last year and a half, I’ve seen my storytelling instincts and skills sharpen with each chapter. When you’re writing with multiple deadlines you realize every writing session needs to move the story forward. Deadlines are good, even for those of us who shred the outlines and allow the characters to take us where they need to go.
FF: Which part of Hunt for Eden’s Star did you most enjoy writing?
I’ve enjoyed every aspect of writing Hunt for Eden’s Star because it’s been a dream of mine for so long to have the opportunity. One piece in particular that has been really fun has been writing the banter between Jack and his cast of misfits. And, the last chapter, that one was a blast to write. Everything led to this one moment where the world of Beacon Hill changed forever.
FF: As you were crafting the characters featured in Hunt for Eden’s Star, which one did you personally relate to the most? Which character surprised you the most?
I would say the one character who I related to the most would be Jack Reynolds, and probably Timothy Lloyd. The one character who surprised me the most is Areum Ho.
FF: This book emphasizes how friendships shape us. How have your own friendships impacted your characters and their relationships?
I can honestly say the characters in Beacon Hill are shaped by all of my friendships throughout the years from growing up in Hong Kong to present day. I’m sure my friends will read the series and try to figure out who’s who. There are pieces of my friends woven into each of the characters which has brought the world of Beacon Hill even more alive.
FF: Which authors inspired you most when writing this story?
Hands down the authors who have inspired me the most are C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and J. K. Rowling, especially within the YA genre. Each one for different reasons, and that’s been the challenge for me—to chase after them by creating my own world in Beacon Hill.
FF: If you could tell your teenage self one thing, what would it be?
Never be afraid to chase after your dreams, and never allow anyone to tell you those dreams are impossible. Fear has a way of keeping us from discovering what it is we’ve been called to do in this life. The longer we are paralyzed by fear, the less courage we have to chase after who God has called us to be. When in doubt, choose courage over fear.
FF: What are some future projects you’re working on?
I’m in the middle of edits for book two in the Beacon Hill Series, and I’m also writing book three in the series as well. Hunt for Eden’s Star is currently under consideration for film and television optioning by the producers, production companies, and studios who have created the most successful YA franchises of all time. We will also be releasing an episodic web series in January 2023, Chasing Lewis, Tolkien & Rowling, for the YA audience to follow along behind the scenes of the Beacon Hill Series. And I’m beginning to develop a new adult fiction series.
Hunt for Eden’s Star
Beacon Hill Series #1
D. J. Williams
Genres: YA/Teen, Fantasy Action/Adventure
Release Date: April 4, 2023
A coming-of-age teen is thrown into a world of ancient secrets when he discovers a supernatural artifact that protects a weapon of mass destruction. With the help of a diverse group of friends, he embarks on a global adventure, seeking the truth about his sister’s death, and uncovers two clandestine, supernatural societies waging an epic, hidden war that threatens the future of civilization.
D. J. Williams’s suspenseful, page-turning style whisks readers into a wildly exciting, supernatural adventure that grabs hold of the imagination and never lets go. As Jack races to collect ancient artifacts critical to the survival of the world, readers are transported to incredible locales across Asia, including the lush jungles of the Philippines and the high-energy streets of Hong Kong. Themes of addiction, revenge, faith, and friendship emerge as Jack battles literal and psychological demons, and even his own friends and family members, on his quest to thwart the forces of evil.
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