1. How did you come up with the title?
The title grew out of the incident in the opening scene. Cooper McKinnon is out with his three friends, and he made a commitment to be home before dark. But things go tragically wrong when one of them gets abducted. Cooper feels as though his best friend was somehow swallowed by the darkness itself.
But the title did more than work for the start of the book; it really describes the entire story. The abduction sets in motion a desperate search to find Cooper’s friend, but things keep getting darker as the hours and hope slip away. Cooper takes increasing risks to find him, to get him back before he is lost forever.
Originally I planned on Home Before Dark, but a quick title search showed there were too many books with that title already. Back Before Dark was the next logical choice, and I grew to like it even better.
The tagline, Sometimes Rescuing a Friend From Darkness Means Going in After Them was inspired by a quote from N. Paul Williams. I loved the way it compounds the suspense of the title. I think any time the word “dark” or “darkness” appears in a title or tagline it automatically increases the “grab factor” with readers. And in this case, we used both.
2. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes. I think the book is really about friendship. It’s about how far a person would go to help a friend. Thankfully, not many of us will ever have a friend who gets abducted, but we will see many get lured into darkness of one type or another. I hope Back Before Dark will encourage readers to be the type of person who will take risks to help a friend when they see a them making bad decisions or heading in a dangerous direction.
3. How much of the book is realistic?
Quite a bit as far as location is concerned. I live in Rolling Meadows—the hometown of the characters in Code of Silence and Back Before Dark. Most of the scenes take place in real places.
I was contacted by a parent who drove their daughter to Rolling Meadows after reading Code of Silence. They just wanted to get a feel for the location in the story. I like setting the story in a real location where people could actually see the places described in the book.
The kids in the story are very real as well. They’re regular kids. None of them has any special ability—which can make the story all the more realistic to the reader. The characters aren’t particularly heroic, but they end up doing heroic things.
4. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
Thankfully, no. But give the book a year or so and I may see something I’ll wish I could change. We worked hard editing and polishing it, so I’m hoping I’ll never look back on the book with regrets.
I’m actually happy for the things I didn’t change, but could have. Back Before Dark is a bit longer than Code of Silence—and I’m so happy the publisher was okay with that. I’m so glad we didn’t have to cut it down to match the page count of Code of Silence. I think the extra length in Back Before Dark was needed. It strengthened the book.
I was advised to make some other changes, too. Some I jumped on, while others I felt we needed to be kept the way they were. Thankfully my editor agreed with where we were going with the book, understood what we needed to do, and supported it. That was huge. So, when I read Back Before Dark, I’m so glad for the way it turned out. I’m glad we didn’t change it.
5. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Getting enough time to write. That’s usually the challenge. I do a lot of speaking engagements, so there’s a lot of prep and travel. And, hey, with all other things involved in life, getting time to just work on your story can be difficult.
6. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I think your skills as a writer always increase when you write a book. It was no different with Back Before Dark. But I also was able to really think about what it means to be a friend. And how sometimes we need to care enough to come alongside and help our friends change direction or break free from something that would hurt them in the long run.
7. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I loved telling stories to my nieces, nephews, and my own three sons. The fun was getting it just right and seeing them become totally absorbed in the story. Just watching their eyes get widen fueled me on.
Often they’d encouraged me to write the stories down. Eventually I started doing that and coming up with new ones. When I read them to the kids, they loved them (which made me feel pretty good, too). And one of my boys struggled with reading. Writing stories that totally captured his interest—at his reading level—was a challenge. But his enthusiastic reaction provided a powerful incentive to keep going.
As time went on, I wanted to take the fiction to the next level, so I attended a writing conference. That ended up being a turning point for me. My desire to write began to grow even further.
8. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
It’s always changing. The truth is, I find something to love about almost everything I pick up to read. I especially admire authors who can make flawed characters real and likeable. And I love when an author says something in a way that I’ve never heard it said before. I just stop reading and think, wow… that was great.
9. Tell us your latest news.
I’m working on the third book in the series right now. It will take place while the kids are on vacation at a deep freshwater lake in Wisconsin. It’s called Below the Surface, and the tag line is “Fear Can Be Buried, But That Doesn’t Mean It’s Dead.” Doesn’t that start to grab you right there? It will be the grand finale for the three-book series. After that, I have an idea for another middle-grade series that sounds really promising!
10. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I’d like to tell them that I like good endings in books. Redemptive endings. I think readers like that, too, and they’ll find that in every book and short story I’ve written.
I like taking an ordinary character, putting him in extraordinary circumstances, and letting him find his way out of the darkness and into the light. I want my readers to say That could be me. I want to be like that. I could do that. And they’re right. They can.
I believe stories can do so much. They can entertain, sure. But they can teach, convict, offer insight and wisdom. They can warn, inspire, and motivate us. They can introduce the reader to new friends and new ways of thinking. Good stories are powerful. I want my stories to do powerful good in the hearts and lives of the readers.
I write a lot for middle grade, especially in a way that will hold the attention of boys. I really want to help them grow up to become men of integrity and character.
Oh, and I guess there’s one more thing I’d like to tell my readers: Tell all your friends to read my books!
About the Book
A detour through the park leads Cooper, Gordy, Hiro, and Lunk straight into a trap, and Gordy is abducted!
For the kidnapper, it’s all a game, a way to settle an old score, with no one getting hurt. But evil has a way of escalating, and once his identity is discovered, the rules change.
Despite the best of police efforts, the hours tick by without a clue or a ransom call, leaving everyone to their own fears. Gordy is gone. Cooper descends deeper into a living nightmare, imagining the worst for his best friend and cousin. Hours stretch into days, and talks of a memorial service begin to surface. But Cooper still feels his cousin is alive and develops a reckless plan, changing all the rules. Now the one who set out to rescue his friend needs to be rescued himself. Sometimes rescuing a friend from darkness means going in after them.
Prices/Formats: $14.99 paperback, $9.99 ebook
Genre: Middle Grade / Mystery
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Buy Links: Zondervan paperback, Zondervan ebook, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christian Books
About the Author
Tim Shoemaker is a speaker and author of several books, including 2012’s The Code of Silence. He has three grown sons and has been happily married for more than 32 years. His popular fictional stories are often inspired by his experience with kids as a volunteer youth leader for more than sixteen years. He lives in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.
Links to Connect with Tim:
Tribute Books Blog Tours
Put our promotional experience to work for your book.