The Vanity of Hope (Author Interview)

The Vanity of Hope looks like a fantastic science fiction adventure. Can you tell us a little about the main character Thomas Ryder?
Thomas Ryder is the best example of a medieval man – physically superior to those around him and highly capable. Outwardly, he appears to have drawn the luckiest “hand.” However, internally he is tormented by the burning question of where he belongs in the world of nature and wishes for the peace of his fellow villagers. He was chosen by the alien pirates for his “self-reliance” score, which includes his physical attributes, to be resold for his gene pool. However, he was chosen long before for a higher purpose connected to his internal quest for a peaceful mind.
Although Thomas Ryder is medieval, his dilemma is that of a thoroughly modern man. A fast-approaching world of hyper-technology will bring endless wonders, buthe still has to deal with his inner world – who is he really? What is left of us when everything is stripped away by pandemic, economic and social irrelevance, genetic enhancement, and superior technology that acts and thinks more efficiently than we ever can. Ultimately, Thomas Ryder is a character, who after one-by-one discarding the core qualities he once thought made him human, seeks salvation in the one thing that the outside world will never surpass.

How did you come up with story in The Vanity of Hope?
I can’t say I came up with the story, rather the story just kept growing the more I fed it with knowledge and imagination. The Vanity of Hope went through many changes - morphing, twisting and turning along the way through revelation, or the result of an editor pointing out flaws in the main character and storyline. The themes of identity, awareness vs. distraction, simplicity vs. complexity and the inherent wonder in nature, are issues dear to my heart. I was born with a natural talent for accumulating “general knowledge” and being an avid watcher of the original Star Trek as a child, you could say writing science fiction was almost preordained. The Vanity of Hope is the first book of the Apostle series that has been part of my life, more or less every day for the last twenty years. Apostle is a cautionary tale of humanity’s hubris. Somehow, after Covid-19 it’s not so hard to be a naysayer. At least there’s less ridicule.

How many books do you have planned for the series?
The are five books in the Apostle series. Originally, it was to be a trilogy, but by the time I finished Book One in 2012 it was 110,000 words of plot. I cut the story 60/40 and went to work on the first part. The more I wrote the more the story expanded. Worlds had to be built, back-stories invented, and most challenging and rewarding, the motivations of the characters needed to be fleshed out and given action and voice. After some valuable suggestions from various editors, I was able to get the story to where I felt I had “turned the corner” and had something tangible to work with.  Rewrite after rewrite later, I was busy adding details – a line of dialogue here; an adjective there, right up to publication, (after the proofread – do not do this).
The bonus is that Book Two —“The Veins of God,” (the true end of Part One) is already half-written and the third act unchanged. I have a completely new act two that I’m quite excited with the possibilities for new story worlds and age-old conflicts. The original Book two is now going to be Books Three and Four for the same reason of too much plot. The old Book Three will be Book Five.
The last line of the Apostle series remains the same after all these years. Having the entire series plotted helps enormously because I know where it’s all heading. Fortunately, as the ideas keep coming there’s plenty of room for imagination and revelation.

What inspired you when writing The Vanity of Hope?
I believed very deep down that I had something important to say. After I finally settled on the title, “The Vanity of Hope,” I thought it might describe my situation. Maybe. Call it faith, because that’s all you have when there’s no reason or “realistic” hope that thousands and thousands of hours won’t be in vain. Starting the writing craft with nothing but a firm command of words then slowly learning how stories come together is a continual source of inspiration to keep going until I can emulate what I consider great writing. (Graham Green and John LeCarre.)
The next ten years will be a golden age for real (true life) science fiction. Artificial intelligence, CRISPR gene editing, and virtual reality will break-free from the imagination into the real world and people can see for themselves what we’ve been saying all along. Hold onto your hats because there’s a hurricane coming.

When did you decide to become a writer?
I photocopied an interview of John Grisham in 1994. I dabbled for a while and had 50,000 words together by 2001. Somewhat unusually, I guess, I have just worked on just the one story. In hindsight, I should have sought professional advice earlier and applied this to short stories to build up my craftsmanship, but the story just kept calling for attention. Like most writers, I was a big reader when I was young.

When writing The Vanity of Hope did anything stand out as particularly challenging?
Yes, dealing with the sheer number of ideas and what to do with them. Evaluate, enhance, discard, or elevate. I wrote the beginning of the Vanity of Hope more times than I care to remember. A few years ago, the first 3 chapters – maybe 6000 words, were done and I was suitably convinced of their quality and overall worth to the story. Only to be (rightly) told by a story editor they added nothing meaningful. Not all was lost. I can use some of this material for a scene in book two.
Another editor queried the scene structure of another chapter 1. A quick rewrite and…then I realized I needed to totally rewrite chapter 3, (now the longest chapter in the book).
There were times when I wondered if I’d ever get ahead of the story. Friends and colleagues wondered too. Year after year, I was always “writing.” When I did get finished and told people I’d put the ebook on Amazon they sort of said, “and,” but when I showed them the paperback then it was, “Oh you’ve written a book.” It’s all invisible. This might be the most challenging part of the whole process. A carpenter builds a house. “Look, see.” I spend hundreds of hours writing (as well as work a day job), and I get…?

What do you like to do when not writing?
Learning - watching long-form interviews on YouTube or something that I’ve downloaded. Good movies, (none of that superhero rubbish). Casablanca, Blade Runner, The Matrix, Predator. Recently, The Gentlemen, and the 1960 film, The Apartment.
Documentaries – some good ones are: The Gene Revolution about CRISPR,” “The Serengeti Rules, about how nature works,” and “Stuxnet - The Digital Weapon.”
I am currently reading: “Stoner” by John Williams and “How Fiction Works” by James Woods.
A few beers at the local.

Where can readers find out more about your work?
I have a website,, which is in the early stages. Not much to see there yet, but will blog updates on Book Two – The Veins of God – as I progress towards publication in mid-January 2021. I will also be posting video clips from documentaries and movies. I also have Pinterst, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube social media, but the website will be the best place to start from and then fan out. My aim is to be entertaining, informative and interesting.