Mel Odom Interview
The newest member of the Left Behind family is Mel Odom, author of Apocalypse Dawn, the first in a series of "military" spin-offs from the Left Behind series. We had a chance to ask Mel about his background and his new involvement with Left Behind.
leftbehind.com: Mel, tell us about your writing background. How did you become a writer? What kinds of writing have you done and what is your favorite genre?
Mel Odom: I've wanted to be a writer all my life. I started writing stories in third grade, mostly prose presentations of comic book stories or reinterpretations of stories I'd read in books in the library. Living in Oklahoma as I did, and coming from a small town background, I really felt I would never get the opportunity to be a writer. So I did other things to make a living for my family. But I never quit writing. Gradually, a way was made for me to start selling my stories. I've been a professional writer for fifteen years. I've written action adventure, suspense, mystery, SF, and fantasy. I best like the stories that I do that have to do with real emotions, real loss, and real gain. I think even my strongest heroes have personalities that are as flawed and struggling to find themselves in the world as most people.
LB: How did you get involved with the Left Behind series?
Mel: I was asked to participate in the project by Denise Little, a brilliant editor with Tekno Books. Then, after meeting with the team from Tyndale, I was greenlighted to write Apocalypse Dawn.
LB: The military series sounds exciting. What can you tell us about it that might whet the appetites of LBS fans?
Mel: Apocalypse Dawn features stories for all readers of Christian fiction. For the men, there are tales of derring-do, nobility, and duty, as well as cutting-edge military hardware. For the women, there are stories of the heart, of the confusion that comes from merely having a family and trying to keep everyone healthy and happy. Sounds really simplistic to put it this way, but there's no easy way.
Sgt. Goose Gander, the male lead, is a strong and savvy military man struggling with his faith in the war-torn landscape of Turkey. He's a regular guy, a military guy, with strong convictions about the how and the why of battle, and he's not hesitant about putting his life on the line for a mission or his men.
Megan Gander, the female lead, is a counselor at Ft. Benning, Georgia. She undertakes the responsibility of the teens that have been left without parents by the Rapture or by the war effort in Turkey, while at the same time trying to figure out how to help her own teenage son who is dealing with problems himself. She's lost one son to the Rapture, her man is off embroiled in a bitter border war against impossible odds, and she's about to go through a military court to defend her hard-won beliefs.
Captain Cal Remington, Goose's friend and commanding officer, is being seduced by the dark side in the form of Nicolae Carpathia and his minions. A lot of men and women are set to lose everything. The Left Behind Universe is in these pages, but Lehaye and Jenkins have told the epic world events. Apocalypse Dawn offers a closer look at the people, the emotions, and the struggle for faith following the Rapture. It's a small corner of that world, but hopefully it's one that is well-imagined, exciting, fresh in its own way, and emotional—a story about a family caught in the eye of the storm that is Nicolae Carpathia.
LB: People are curious about your knowledge of the military. How is that you are able to write with details about the inner working of the various branches of the military?
Mel: I've written in the action adventure field for years. I've had several friends who were in or are currently in the military. The biggest fascination for me was the first Gulf War when all the hardware started showing up on television. The military has reached the point to where the hardware is what I used to consider science fiction as a kid. I'm a techno-nut, love seeing how systems work, as well as what might be coming down the pipe. I've read several books concerning projects advanced by DARPA, the National Security Agency, and other military groups. If you study The Art of War by Sun Tzu, you'll find that the idea of war, the way its waged, and the psychology of it, hasn't changed in 2500 years. I'm ADHD, so my interest changes direction every day, and I'm an armchair historian to a degree (in areas that I enjoy peeking into). But technology is definitely one of my pet interests.
LB: This was your first Christian novel. Tell us about that experience. Was there anything different when incorporating your faith with fiction?
Mel: Writing Apocalypse Dawn was incredible. The book simply grew in the telling. I'm told that the novel is now the longest book (at this time) Tyndale has ever published. I couldn't stop. I was drawn into the emotions, the world, and the drama that hopefully will sweep the readers away. The book turned out much differently than I had thought, more personal and more draining. I think I have a tendency to write about faith, family, and friendship in all my novels to a degree. Those are values that I put above all else. Those things were not always there for me. I've dealt with fears, divorce, and betrayal that probably a number of people have. It's always personal. And the journey back from those things is long and hard, and you never make it by yourself. I guess that's one of my greatest messages: you're never truly alone; God helps you and guides you through the toughest spots.