Today I'm talking with science fantasy adventure author Kevin Domenic about his book, KEY TO THE STARS, the first in his Fourth Dimension series.
1) Tell us about your series.
The Fourth Dimension is a story that has dominated my imagination since I was fourteen. It started after playing Final Fantasy III, a video game for the Super Nintendo. It was such an amazing and fantastic story, with themes more in-depth and emotional than most movies. When the game was over, I was disappointed because I wanted more. So I figured I'd make my own story. After writing a brief sequel to the game, I decided to try to write something original. I took the sword and sorcery of Final Fantasy and combined it with the interstellar excitement of Star Wars to write three books: THE FOURTH DIMENSION, THE FOURTH DIMENSION II, and THE FOURTH DIMENSION III (how I came up with such creative titles is anyone's guess). After toiling with other stories for a number of years, I decided to rewrite the original Fourth Dimension back in 2007. The book became the three volumes currently available for sale: KEY TO THE STARS, ALLIANCE OF SERPENTS, and EYE OF THE TORNADO.
More than anything, I wanted to bring back the traditional hero. Over the years, I've noticed a severe decline in the morality and integrity of protagonists in everything from books and movies to video games and anime. I wanted to write a hero that, while not without conflict, knew right from wrong and stood up honor and nobility. That's what The Fourth Dimension is about. It's about growing up, taking responsibility for your mistakes, and doing the right thing for no other reason than it's the right thing to do.
2) What are some of the central themes your series explores?
Responsibility, love, sacrifice, justice, forgiveness, and redemption to name a few. As I said, honor and nobility are a central focus. Eaisan Lurei fights for truth and justice. Kindel Thorus fights for peace no matter what the cost. Sartan Truce fights for the survival of his race and will trample over anyone who stands in his way. Lines of morality are blurred as each side fights to see their agenda succeed.
3) You've said that your series is influenced by anime and manga. A casual review of your cover certainly is reminiscent of anime and manga. That being said, anime and manga are mostly visual media, whereas your work is a prose novel. Could you elaborate a bit on how those sources influenced your work?
Justice and honor have always been big themes in anime. In Dragon Ball Z, for instance, the main character is a hero who wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice his life standing up for what's right. That's the kind of hero I think should be presented to readers. The character you're rooting for should set a positive example for others to follow. I actually wrote a blog entry about this subject on my website last November. Too often, I think we underestimate just how much our characters and stories can affect people's lives. Storytellers have the ability to inspire, uplift, and encourage through their work. Whether it's a movie, a video game, a book, or a cartoon, many people draw strength from watching our characters struggle and grow through the trials set before them. Because of that, it's important to me that I put a positive and uplifting message out there.
4) You've said you were inspired to write your own stories after playing the Japanese role-playing video game, Final Fantasy III (Final Fantasy VI in the Japan). Tell us about that.
Final Fantasy III was amazing for its time. Nowadays, people might look back at that game and feel it was cheesy or poorly translated from the original Japanese, but I still adore the story for what it achieved back then. Remember that this was a time when video games were still seen as nothing more than kids toys. There was no life-like CGI or in-game voice acting to bring the characters and stories to life. But Final Fantasy III managed to be more than that in spite of those limitations. The characters all had distinct personalities, conflicts to overcome, and even musical themes that played during their parts of the story. Each character's journey was woven together with the main plot so perfectly and beautifully that you really felt as though you knew them by the time the game was done.
And Kefka, the game's villain, was far different from any villain I'd ever encountered. You know how most evil-doers are out to destroy the world? Well, in Final Fantasy III, Kefka succeeds. Halfway through the game, he succeeds in unleashing such destruction and devastation upon the planet that when the smoke clears, you don't recognize anything anymore. Continents are spit, mountains crumble, land masses sink, and millions die. For the rest of the game, you travel through the broken world trying to help people pick up the pieces of their cities, towns, families, and lives while preparing for the final confrontation against Kefka. The themes of perseverance, redemption, and brotherly love run strong as the story heads for its final conclusion.
I love the story so much that I wrote a novel version of the game's introduction last year just to see how it would come out. You can read it here if you'd like.
5) People can be leery of series for a variety of reasons. Can your books be enjoyed as stand-alone works? Are the various books separate adventures or episodes in a more tightly linked plot?
The three books that are out now can be read as one stand-alone story. Because the story grew so much from original conception to final manuscript, I split the original one book into three. I took a cue from Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time in that each book ends with a climactic showdown, but the overall story continues. And even though the third book wraps up most storyline threads, the story is left open for future volumes. I'm actually working on the story for Volume IV now. The Fourth Dimension itself, which isn't introduced until the third volume, will play a much larger role in the future.
6) Your book, BUILDING BLOCKS, is extremely different from The Fourth Dimension series. Instead of an anime-influenced science fantasy tale, it is a intense contemporary exploration of personal relationships and Christian theology. What inspired this story?
BUILDING BLOCKS was something completely different for me. It's the first book I've written that is set on Earth, and it's also my first attempt at writing a book in first person. The biggest difference, of course, is that it's the first Christian novel I've ever written.
One of the most frequently asked questions regarding Christianity is "Why does God allow bad things to happen if He's all-powerful and all-knowing?" That became the theme for BUILDING BLOCKS. I wanted to show first and foremost that I COMPLETELY understand this question. The events of my own life have left me asking this question on countless occasions. But with each tragedy comes experience, knowledge, and strength. What would any of us learn if our lives were nothing but sunshine and rainbows? How would we grow? BUILDING BLOCKS attempts to answer those questions by examining the life of Herbert, a fictional character loosely based on myself. Many of the things that happen to Herbert in BUILDING BLOCKS have actually happened to me, so I used my own experiences as a blueprint to show how good can come from bad, how triumph comes through struggle, and how perseverance breeds success.
7) What should we expect to see in your future work?
Right now, I've returned to the universe of The Fourth Dimension. I'm currently writing some short stories set a few years after EYE OF THE TORNADO while I plan Volume IV. As it stands right now, the entire Fourth Dimension series is set to go for nine volumes. That may change depending on how I feel and what I come up with, but my overall ideas span about nine books. I will likely take breaks to do other things; I have a fantasy book on the backburner called THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT that I'm eventually going to rewrite, and several other ideas I'd like to explore. I'll probably stick to the sci-fi/fantasy realm, but I won't rule out anything - including more Christian novels. It all depends on what God calls me to do!
If you want to see more from Kevin, you can find him at