A mindful conversation with Dave Cravens

As the twenty-first century progresses, so does the need for everyone’s need for his or her own voice to be heard. With the expansion of social media and self-publishing being at an all-time high, these voices are becoming a bit overwhelming to the public. Sure, a comment on Facebook will be read by maybe 20 of that person’s closest friends and family, but these 20 are but a mere handful to the seven billion people that populate this planet. Same thing goes for self-published books. Just because the book is out there does not mean everyone will read it and/ or think it is considered good literature. However, this is not the case for everyone. “We live in a day and age where everyone loves to be the star of their own show, whether it’s Facebook or, ‘Hey, I wrote a book, too!’ Anyone can self-publish. You don’t need to be good at it, but I think the ease of it allows for the entrance of a lot of people. And so the trick becomes, ‘How do I get my stuff to stand out against all the other stuff?’” This was said by writer Dave Cravens.

Cravens recently released his newest book, The God Thought, and not only did he self-publish his book, he also wrote it in under two years’ time. Not to mention the story itself is truly fascinating and a lot of fun to read. This makes Cravens’ novel quite a unique masterpiece. But who is Dave Cravens? Cravens currently resides in Southern California with his wife and three children. He has many years of experience in writing, having worked in entertainment media since the early 1990s which includes video games, TV commercials, and more. And, with those years of experience in writing, how did the thought for The God Thought come about? “So, I think, for the overall premise for the book, it actually dates back to 9/11,” Cravens said.

For Cravens and for many people, 9/11 was a crazy, awful thing to witness on television. “It blew my mind that anybody could think 9/11 was a good thing and yet, seeing all of these reports of people around the world who cheered it, that was a really hard thing for me to wrap my head around – how could anyone believe what they were seeing was good?” Cravens said. “It made me think a lot about my own beliefs. And so, I went down this kind of dark tunnel for a couple of years as to just questioning why do I believe what I believe? Why do I think what I think?” To find the answers to his questions, Cravens began to read and research everything about philosophy, religion, and science.

He feels confident now in what he believes and why he believes it, but he also knows that there are many out there who struggle to find their own truths. Cravens thinks being bombarded with so many different types of information, misinformation and opinions masquerading as truths, we, as a society, have lost the skill of thinking about information critically. “The more I thought about it and the more I researched it, the novel just kind of evolved out of that premise and it occurred to me that we’re all searching for a truth in one way or another, a meaning to our lives, and the story’s kind of a metaphor for that. One day, I just had this idea: if we’re all looking for this truth, what if one of us figured it out and there were no secrets left to this person? He or she just knew it all? And this moment of clarity was so powerful that all of the knowledge in the universe just opened to him. And what if it was the least likely person you would ever expect it to be? And for me, that was a farmer. It wasn’t some scholar, it wasn’t some wise man on a mountain, it was just this guy who, for whatever reason, through a combination of life experiences led him to a moment in time where, boom, he was just hit with it. What would that mean for him and what would that do and how would that change the balance of everything and, if you had that kind of power, what would that mean for everyone else?”

“The God Thought” is considered THE thought in Cravens’ writing, the thought everyone ponders over at some point in his or her life: the meaning of life. There is no definite answer to this universal question, yet everyone has his or her own opinion about it. Perhaps even the freedom to decide for oneself what the meaning of life is could be an answer to the question. However, what is great about The God Thought is that Cravens does not express one particular opinion. He said he did not want to come across as preachy and wanted to make the readers think. “It’s meant to entertain and it’s adventure and it’s mystery, first and foremost. I want people to enjoy it,” Cravens said. “What the meaning of life to me is much different than, I’m sure, it is for you, so who am I to dictate anything like that? I think people should just think about it.”

Not only does The God Thought contain riddles to the universal question, it also contains superheroes. Some may wonder, how? This book is considered theology, isn’t it? Well, upon closer inspection, one will see this book is categorized under science fiction and superheroes have always held a special place in Cravens’ heart. “I’ve always been a fan of superheroes and fantastic powers and things like that. It’s a very natural tendency for me to write that, and the idea behind the god thought is that once a person has unlocked it, or even a portion of it – the impossible becomes possible. The challenge is to make it believable for an audience who wouldn’t necessarily go for that. To me, it’s all about making the characters as real and believable as possible so that, when these fantastic crazy things happen, you buy it. And the characters react just as surprised as the reader. I think that’s key. If the characters are thinking what readers might be thinking, there’s some acceptance and you go on for the crazy ride.” Cravens believes the idea of superheroes and superpowers in The God Thought may turn people away; however, with the rising fandom of superheroes due to the many superhero movies coming out as well as comic book series, his story may be better received than originally thought.

As a whole, Cravens said he enjoyed writing his entire novel, but if pressed for which part he enjoyed writing the most, he is quick to answer the transcripts featuring The Zero Hour radio show with Conspiracy Carl. The Zero Hour was inspired by conspiracy talk shows Cravens used to listen to at night when driving home from work. This radio show along with other uses of media such as Facebook, emails, text messages, etc. come up frequently in The God Thought. Using these types of media was actually inspired by his grandmother who, unfortunately, passed away last year. During the end of her life, she had Alzheimer’s and Cravens’ mother would travel from Minnesota to Florida to take care of her. Since the grandchildren could not go to Florida, Cravens’ mother would send emails updating them as to what was happening with their grandmother. “My mom would catalog her experiences with her mother for the rest of us grandkids, who couldn’t be there, through email. And she would write these very elaborate emails (it was very therapeutic for her) about what happened throughout the day and, as I would read these, it occurred to me that what my mom was writing was a journal. And anyone who read this would get an incredible amount of information about my mother, her mother, her family, and you could discern a lot of stuff.”

The uses of these media can give unintended audiences an incredible amount of information for most people put their lives out there for anyone to read. Cravens said one can get a good story from this information. “So, my original idea for the book was to write the entire book through things like that: text messages and all that stuff. And have the reader fill in the blanks of what they think is going on.” The more Cravens thought about it, the move he knew some things would never be able to play through a text message or a radio show. It just wouldn’t come out right. Being a writer for video games, Cravens likes the readers to become a part of the story rather than just tell them the story. “Instead of telling a story to a player, they should feel like they’re part of the story and they’re discovering things. So it becomes this very delicate dance of, ‘hey, there’s a shiny thing over there’ that grabs your attention and you need to walk over there and discover what that is. I try to apply that to my writing in the book. So if I could plant nuggets in these transcripts to give just enough information, but not everything, how far would the reader go to fill in the blanks with their own minds and how far would they want to go to read and find out more?”

The targeted audience for The God Thought reaches out to many age groups and Cravens wants as many people to enjoy it as possible, though not children, for there is a lot of violent and mature things happening throughout the story. Cravens said the youngest test reader he had was 18 years old and the oldest was 72 years old and that over half of the readers were women. He said it was important for his story to appeal to both sexes and he wanted to see how both genders interacted with the story.

After all of the hard work writers put into their stories, it is always a wonderful thing to hold the finished product in one’s hands. “That is always a great moment. Very exciting, and yet scary at the same time,” Cravens said. “Now that I’ve written it, I feel that it’s a good book. But now I have to sell it and promote it. You have all these dreams in your mind before it’s published, that ‘oh, this will be a huge seller and everyone will read it and love it!’ Now that it’s out there, it’s a lot of work. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. That is how I look at it.” And now that The God Thought is out in the world, its sequel may not be far behind, for Cravens had so many ideas for his novel that he could not cram them into just one story. “I want to do [the sequel] right, so I don’t know if that means diving into it soon, especially if I can get any momentum out of this first one, or if it means letting it marinate for a year or two and just work on something else.” Either way, the world will be seeing more of Cravens works in the future.

Since releasing his first novel, Crusaders of a Dying Breed, in the 1990s which, he admitted, he does not like to draw attention to because he views it as an unfinished work, The God Thought is a great way for Cravens to make a comeback in the novel writing world. It has just the right amount of serious philosophical pondering and fun quirky superhero happenings to keep people reading from start to finish. Cravens even said he always wanted to end each chapter leaving the reader with a reason to keep reading and he truly succeeds in that. He is an excellent and down-to-earth writer who tells it like it is. He says any writer is “better and worse than what [they] think.” Writers might think their work is good enough, but why will anyone else care about it? “It’s the hardest thing in the world, but I think it is very important if you’re going to write something, anything, to put out there into the world, you should be able to honestly answer the question: why the hell is anyone going to care about this?” Cravens said when he was younger, it was hard to put his work out there, for if someone did not understand what he was saying, he told himself it was their fault, not his – but of course the opposite was always the case. If a reader does not understand, it is the writer’s fault and the writer needs to change his or her approach. “The sooner you can get over yourself, the farther you’re going to go.”

The God Thought has paved a beautiful writing road for Cravens to tread down. Who knows the possibilities that await him along it? He traveled to New Zealand not too long ago and gave a copy of his book to someone in his hotel. “I gave a copy to the doorman who liked science fiction and I wrote a note in there saying, ‘Hey, this book has traveled halfway across the world. Let’s see if it can go the other half. So, if you read it and like it, give it to somebody else. Maybe 20 years from now, I get that book back.” Every writer dreams of becoming known worldwide and having his or her books read by others who live far, far away. A few lucky writers have achieved that dream; Cravens has a very good chance of achieving it, as well.

 

Leave a Reply