West of Tomorrow Interview
Blake Martin: Okay. So let’s start with the title, West of Tomorrow. It sounds symbolic?
Dirk Sayers: Very much so. There are several fully developed characters in the story and each in their own way is on the cusp of life-changing decisions, ethical, personal or spiritual. Insofar as the sun “rises” in the east, bringing with it new choices, as we face those choices from somewhere west of the sunrise, they approach us from east to west. We can see them coming, on a clear day, but most of us resist making hard decisions until we must. So it is with the principle characters in West of Tomorrow.
BM: So readers should expect a thought-provoking, spiritual read?
DS: Yes. This is a story with a fair amount of layered symbolism. The unfolding story follows Clay Conover through his own deeply personal decisions and most perceptive readers find themselves reflecting on their own decisions and the collective decisions facing all of us with regard to our society and our place in it.
BM: So what’s the story about?
DS: West of Tomorrow is a contemporary tale of corporate intrigue, betrayal, misplaced love and the phoenix that lives in all of us. It follows six pivotal months in the life of Clay Conover, a re-careered Marine officer turned corporate trainer as he confronts personal and professional issues in a multi-faceted crisis of identity and direction.
BM: Sounds like a comeback tale.
DS: On multiple levels. Clay has unresolved issues from his past and while he’s pretty much figured out where he wants to go from where he is, he has an unexpected distraction that gets in his way that will affect his life at all levels.
BM: Distraction in the form of?
DS: A younger and hyper-ambitious Sheera Prasad, who has been hired by the COO at corporate as another trainer. Clay is tasked with bringing her up to speed, pushing them together in close contact. They hit it off almost immediately, but unfortunately, Sheera has a hidden agenda antithetical to Clay’s own ambitions. And unlike Clay, Sheera has sponsorship in the corporate office and the advantage of surprise.
BM: So it doesn’t go well for Clay?
DS: At first it actually goes quite well, despite leading in an inappropriate relationship between Sheera and Clay.
BM: That misplaced love you referred to earlier?
DS: Yes. A steamy affair grows out their intense mutual attraction, leading inevitably to a growing attachment on both sides. The reader gets a glimpse of both characters’ thoughts, so you’re really not sure how this is going to play out until both Clay and Sheera are cornered by the decisions they’ve been putting off.
BM: With a crisis to follow?
DS: Very much so. And the decisions they make prove fateful for both.
BM: Not an action story, then.
DS: Not in the traditional sense, no. If you’re in the mood for a tale of high adventure, this isn’t your story, at least not now. There are several chapters that are kinetic in that Clay is an accomplished surfer and skier, but most of what’s going on in this story happens at the philosophical and spiritual levels.
BM: Why did you write West of Tomorrow?
DS: It was certainly part self-expression. It’s a Boomer’s story, taking the reader through our times and the ethical, personal and professional dilemmas of our time. It’s almost a cliché today, to suggest that change is the lei motif of our Age, but I think it’s nature is lost on most of us. The Industrial Revolution, for example, was period of similarly great change, but stretched out over a longer period of time. In the second decade of the 21st Century, the rate of change is so compressed, it feels to many of us like it is increasing exponentially. Furthermore, it is distributed unequally. It’s happening faster in some places than others, which has resulted at least in part in the split in perceptions that we see geographically. A perception gap, if you will.
BM: The left and right coasts versus the heartland, you mean?
DS: Well that’s the most stark difference, but it’s present almost everywhere, depending on your access to and interest in advancing technology and scientific discovery. If you’re keeping up with it on a meaningful level, it affects your perception of what you consider moral and what you consider necessary. If you’re not plugged into it, you’re still seeing things in fundamentally different ways. Morally, politically socially, you’re seeing the world more through the lens of binary choices, whereas if you’re plugged in and sensitive to change, nuance is less likely to be lost on you, affecting how you see most everything. From a social perspective, I see this as one of our greatest challenges, going forward.
BM: Even before I read the book, I noticed a decided similarity between the protagonist and the author. Is this a veiled autobiography?
DS: No. The similarities between Clay Conover and Dirk Sayers aren’t accidental, insofar as a lot of the lessons of life I’ve learned are an outgrowth of my experiences. But Clay has had experiences I haven’t and I’ve had experiences Clay hasn’t.
BM: So the reader should not be thinking author’s opinions when they’re in Clay’s head?
DS: Not in all cases. I use several characters as platforms for my thought. West of Tomorrow seeks to angle toward empathy across the board. No one in the book is perfect or even “best,” whatever that means. So the reader gets the benefit of several points of view over the course of the story.
BM:I noticed. Do you have a favorite character?
DS: Aanya Steward, without question. She is a delicious blend of spirituality, sensuality, self-awareness and perceptive kindness that it’s really hard not to fall in love with. She would literally take over the story if she was in it throughout, I think.
BM: Second favorite?
DS: Clay, of course. He is the one who speaks most consistently for me and he’s at the core of the story. West of Tomorrow is definitely Clay’s journey.
BM: Is there a takeaway theme?
DS: Finding your own way in an Age of runaway change. Whether we like it or not, we’re in the midst of changes that are sweeping away most of the comfortable, pat answers we had to the age old problems of our place in society and the universe.
BM: The ending is very satisfying and hopeful. Is this a stand-alone novel or a should we expect something to follow?
DS: I think there’s room for a follow-up. I would definitely like to work with Sheera, some more. She’s not the most admirable character in the story, but she was among the most fun to write and I’d like to develop her a bit more.
BM: But no plans for a follow-on at this point?
DS: No. I have a couple of other series I’m working on.
BM: Oh? What?
DS: I’m currently working on the second volume of the Nyra Westensee series. The first volume is Best Case Scenario, a tale of a millennial woman just out of college working through personal and professional identity issues.
BM: Is Best Case Scenario out?
DS: It is and currently available on Amazon like West of Tomorrow in both Kindle and paperback.
BM: You said you have a couple series you’re working on. What’s the other?
DS: I recently got Tier Zero, Volume I of the Knolan Cycle back from the editor and am in the process of applying my editor’s suggestions.
BM: Tier Zero. Has kind of science fiction sound to it.
DS: You would be right about that. Tier Zero is a tale of first contact between Knola and Earth. The twist, if you will, is that first contact actually happened about 30 years ago and no one other than the Knolans are aware of it. Now their Seed are waking up and the secret will soon be out, with monumental consequences for all.
BM: Are the Knolans good guys or bad guys?
DS: Not quite that simple.
BM: How soon do you expect it out?
DS: I expect to publish it toward the end of this year. If your listeners are curious, they can get the first three chapters in my anthology of short fiction entitled Through the Windshield, Drive-by Lives. It contains stories previously published elsewhere, as well as teases from both West of Tomorrow and Best Case Scenario. It’s really a good way to get an idea of how you’ll like what I write, for anyone on the fence.
BM: All available on Amazon?
DS: All available on Amazon, in paperback and Kindle formats.
BM: Great! Thanks, Dirk. Any other news?
DS: For anyone interested in keeping up to date on writings and readings, they can subscribe to my “Updates” on dirksayers.com.
BM: dirksayers.com. Thanks again, Dirk.
DS: Thank you!