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Ask the Author

Dustin Thomason on His Novel 12.21, a Maya Calendar Doomsday Thriller

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Mon, Oct 1, 2012 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge 1221.jpg
L.A. author Dustin Thomason wrote the bestseller The Rule of Four with Ian Caldwell. He's now going solo with 12.21, published in August, about a doctor trying to save civilization from destruction on Dec. 21, 2012, which is when the world will supposedly end, according to the Maya calendar. Publishers Weekly wrote, "Michael Crichton fans will find a lot to like."

Here's our "Ask the Author" Q&A with Thomason about his new book, literary likes and dislikes, and his writing process.

Where do you live?

The amazing, sun-drenched, Venice, California, where art meets crime.

Where did you grow up?

The bucolic, soccer-field-rich, Northern Virginia, where art is a kind of crime when certain political parties are in power.

Favorite book of all time:

Painful choice. In the end, if I could only take one to a desert island, The Stand. After I had the whole thing memorized, I'd rearrange some of Stephen King's masterful, complex character narratives and I bet I could create like five new books out of it.

Least favorite book of all time:

Revelations. 'Nuff said.

Favorite book from your childhood:

The book I read and reread as a kid was Daniel Pinkwater's Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy From Mars.

Favorite line from literature:

From Camus's The Plague. "Naturally they don't eschew such simpler pleasures such as love-making, sea-bathing, going to the pictures."

Book, Kindle, Nook, audiobook or other, and why?

Books, e-books, audiobooks. I'll never be able to surrender the feel of paper in my hands, and when I'm at home, pretty much only the real thing. But for travel, it's a lot better to have a library in the palm of your hands then to use up all your carry-on space with tomes. I once brought a hard copy of Shantaram with me to New York, and I swear it put me over the weight limit. Audiobooks are a pleasure all to themselves-- what could be better than walking along the ocean and listening to a great recording of a book you love?

Favorite literary hangout spot:

If weekday matinees at the Grove -- where half the audience is writers procrastinating and convincing themselves it's "research" -- then there.

The trailer for the movie version of your new book would go:

In a world headed for the end that Mayans predicted on December 21, 2012, only one doctor and one...other kind of doctor...can save it from destruction.

(note: they would incorrectly call them "Mayans" instead of "Maya")

Describe the moment when you first got the idea for your new book:

Lying in bed, struggling with the insomnia I've been fighting my whole life. Time to monetize and exorcize this, I thought. Five years later...

Most helpful epiphany while writing the book:

Six drafts are enough.

Dream casting for your protagonist in the movie version, and why:

Matt Damon. Versatility. Likability. Acting ability.

Dream audiobook reader for your book, and why:

Love the peeps who did it. But I wouldn't have minded hearing Christopher Walken read it because that would just be hilarious.

Typical writing schedule:

10-5 weekdays. A bit on the weekends. And whenever I need an excuse to get out of doing something else.

Office, home, Starbucks, or elsewhere?

Home and Abbot's Habit on Abbot Kinney in Venice.

Favorite piece of music to listen to while writing, if any:

These days, anything Bon Iver.

Procrastination technique:

Filling out author Q&As.

Do writers need to drink to be good writers? What kind of drink?

I doooon't...waaht? Do drinkers need to write to be good drinkers? That doesn't make any...Bartender! I'll have another dirty martini on the rocks.

How you got your first agent or book contract:

Mass mailing to agents. Rejection by agents. Begging everyone I knew of to put me in touch with any they knew. Someone willing to take a chance. Submission to editors. Total rejection. Rewriting. Rewriting. Rewriting. Glimmer of hope.

Sentence, line of dialogue, or other aspect of a book or story you most regret writing:

When one of my favorite writers and frequent collaborators read an early draft of 12.21 and gave me notes, he said "I am still in awe of these sentences" referring to the following. He didn't mean it in a good way, believe me.

"She felt something pressing down on the dampness of her shirt, and she felt sure it was the disease itself. But when she turned, it was only Gabriel."

Book or other work that you'd like to parody, and how you'd do it:

A comic version of the The Passion. Jonah Hill would make a great Jesus, and the thieves on the crosses around him would be Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd. Totally self-contained and we could make it for a song. It would be all about the jokes they told while they were up there.

What book or other piece of media you've been consuming lately:

The Hour on the BBC.

What book or other piece of media you've been feeling guilty for not consuming lately:

Finishing Steve Jobs. And The Good Wife Season 1.

What you would do if you weren't a writer:

Psychologist. Closest thing there is to being a writer.

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