YEM Author Interview: DJ Williams chats about creating the Beacon Hill universe for his book Hunt For Eden’s Star

DJ Williams is the author of Hunt For Eden’s Star. Hunt For Eden’s Star follows a coming-of-age teen that is thrown into a world of ancient secrets when he discovers a supernatural artifact that protects a weapon of mass destruction. The novel explores addiction, revenge, faith, and friendship. YEM was able to speak with DJ about his favorite part of writing for a young adult audience, what he hopes his audience takes away from reading his books, and what author inspires him the most.

Young Entertainment Mag: When did you know you first wanted to be an author?

DJ Williams: I was standing on the banks of the Zambezi River after filming a documentary and producing a live record, knowing my career was going to change. A spark of a story struck during those three days on the Zambezi and the only way to share that story was to write it on my own. I challenged myself to write my first novel, and not tell a soul. When it was done, I shared it with a friend of mine in the entertainment business and she encouraged me to press on. I’ve always been a storyteller at heart whether it be through music, television, or through my novels.

YEM: How does it feel to have your new book Hunt For Eden’s Star coming out?

DJ: I’ve spent the last year and a half writing the series, and now the first book will be released to the world in the coming weeks. While I’ve spent countless hours dreaming and writing, it is much more than my creativity that is bringing the series to life. I’ve partnered with a great publisher, Wander, and we’ve worked as one team to create a series we believe will reach a global audience. Of course, I’m nervous and excited all at the same time. My hope is the story will grab readers from the first page with characters and a world that leaves everyone guessing what happens next.

YEM: Was any part of the book inspired by your real life?

DJ: I grew up in Hong Kong until I was fifteen, so grounding the world of Beacon Hill there was always the plan. Looking back, I realize exactly how special those years were in shaping my approach to storytelling. The characters within the pages have been inspired by the melting pot of friends I grew up with overseas and help guide the story of Hunt For Eden’s Star and the Beacon Hill series as a whole.

YEM: What is your favorite part of writing for a young adult audience?

DJ: For me to write the Beacon Hill series for YA readers has been a total blast. I’m not sure I’ve ever grown older than sixteen! I wasn’t the most popular student in school, and I wasn’t the most confident either. But I was always surrounded by great friends who accepted me for who I was, and that’s never changed. As readers dive into the series they’ll discover Jack and his friends may not know what the future holds, but they are certain each will stand by the other when they’re needed most. My hope and my favorite part of writing the series is to inspire teens everywhere to value friendship, family, and faith in one another.

YEM: What is it like to create such fascinating worlds like the one in Hunt For Eden’s Star?

DJ: World building has brought the greatest surprises and challenges in the series. I’m in the process of edits on book two, and I’m currently writing book three, so the world has expanded beyond Hunt For Eden’s Star. I’m constantly evolving the world and pushing myself harder to take the characters deeper with each page into not only this world but other realms. I’ve had a ton of fun creating the Beacon Hill universe, and I’m not done yet.

YEM: Your book transports its readers to places all across Asia, where did that decision come from?

DJ: Since I was four years old, I’ve traveled the world. When I grew up in Hong Kong there were opportunities to travel to other countries in Asia, and later when I began my career in the entertainment industry there were many years where I was on the road across Asia, Africa, and the U.S. While Hunt For Eden’s Star opens in Hong Kong, the series takes readers around the globe in an epic adventure as they search for ancient artifacts to stop a war that is already waging. Many of the locations in the series are places where I’ve been which brings another level of authenticity since I’ve walked those same roads.

YEM: What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author one day?

DJ: What I’ve learned along this journey is to work hard, remain humble, and value relationships over everything else. My advice to storytellers who wish to become an author is to write, write, write. Finish the stories that are swirling in your imagination. And when the story keeps you flipping the page and you write that last line, embrace the process of marketing the story to the world. Far too many writers who wish to be authors believe their days will be filled with writing in solitude, but the life of an author involves much more if your goal is to build a career. Everyone is at a different point in the process, but it all comes down to writing a great story that keeps readers imagining beyond the last page. If you find yourself with a story you and others love, then that’s the true reward. 

YEM: What do you hope your audience takes away from reading your books?

DJ: Of course, I hope the series is entertaining, but the value of friendship is also a big takeaway I’m hoping the audience embraces. We see in Hunt For Eden’s Star how friendships are challenged, evolve under difficult circumstances, are bonded even stronger, and new friends are welcomed along the way. Also, if the story can inspire teens to embrace the adventures and challenges of life with courage instead of fear, then that would be an invaluable bonus! 

YEM: What does your writing process look like?

DJ: I’m what you might call a binge writer with a plan. I’ve never been able to stick to an outline, and I’ve found the best twists and turns happen when I’m writing by the seat of my pants. But writing a series is a different animal. What happens in book one, will affect book two, three, and so on. With each book I’m searching to visualize each chapter before I sit down to write. If I can play the scene out in my imagination, then I can write it. My writing spot changes, and the amount of time I write each day does as well. But when I’m hooked on the story then the chase is on. I don’t worry about word count, hours passed, or even deadlines. All I’m thinking about is chasing the characters and the plot until I find out what happens next. With the series, once I finish a manuscript I go back and outline the book so that I can use it as a reference moving forward.

YEM: With Hunt For Eden’s Star being part of a series, do you have the rest of it already planned out, or do you think of it as you write?

DJ: I’m constantly thinking about the story arcs and characters in Beacon Hill. Even though Hunt For Eden’s Star releases soon, I’ve been working on edits for book two while writing book three. As the series has progressed, the story lines and characters remain fluid as I write — which means the series isn’t mapped out completely. However, I do know how the series will end.

YEM: Who is an author that inspires you the most?

DJ: In the YA space, I would have to say my greatest inspirations are C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and JK Rowling. I know it’s quite a mix, but I’ve learned so much from reading each one.

YEM: What is your favorite line or quote from the book?

DJ: “Dreams are reflections of our imagination, but visions are rooted and inspired by truth.”

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