Interview with Ryan Baxter

In your Author’s Note for Terra 12, you speak of a place beyond science and before fiction. Is this the way you would describe your novel? Or how would you label it?
Have you noticed how everything in the world comes back to labels? We hang labels on everyone and everything, as though they are begging to be neatly cataloged, sorted and defined. Somehow, it makes us feel more comfortable, in control.

Normally when I write a story, I give myself over to the adventure without any clear idea of where that story will take me. But for Terra 12, I resolved to be more professional. I would provide structure and be organized enough to create a proper outline unlike the usual notes which I scribble haphazardly in my notebook.

While under the influence of this organizational craze, I sketched a chapter by chapter outline to map out the story. Only … That effort lasted all of four chapters before it sunk under the waters. I went back to my usual method: being surprised as the book unfolded in its own fashion.

Sorry, you’re still waiting for an answer to your question. I would be happy to forgo any label for the book. But since you can’t publish a book without one, I have reluctantly chosen to hang the label Science Fiction around Terra 12’s neck. Please don’t take that category too seriously.

As for this place beyond science and before fiction … That’s a discovery that lies at the heart of this adventure.
Can you say who your target audience is for Terra 12?
That’s an even bigger conundrum. Once you hang a label on a book, you automatically create limitations as to who will read it. Some people wouldn’t be caught dead reading science fiction. They despise the genre. Even if you reassure them that the book contains elements of romance, whimsy and … bubbles, who will take a chance?

I wrote Terra 12 for those individuals who have dared to dream of a world (this one included) that celebrates the human as the highest expression of Life. How’s that for a category!
What do you hope your readers will take away from reading Terra 12?
Of course, I hope they will enjoy the story. Beyond that, I hope there are times when they will laugh out loud. I hope they will have the experience of absolute joy. I hope they will gaze upon this world with a renewed appreciation for everything that Life has brought them. I hope they will hug tight their children and be filled to the overflowing with gratitude. And maybe, just maybe that they will have a taste of paradise for themselves.
Is any part of your life reflected in Terra 12?
If I wasn’t raised in paradise, at least I was one of the lucky ones, fortunate to grow up in a time and a place where having a childhood was still possible. I’ve picked my share of blackberries still warm from the sun, the juice running down my chin and staining my fingers. I’ve spent lazy summer afternoons rowing down the Greenbrier River and caught my share of crawdads (strictly catch and release).

I’ve swum in the sparkling waters of the Cranberry River on warm July afternoons along a favorite stretch which served as the inspiration for the swimming hole on Terra. I’ve chased fireflies and learned to walk on stilts. I lived in a world where there was no fear of strangers. Although sometimes I’ve had to contend with some pretty bad bugs …

But only Life can say why I was allowed a visit to Mother Stella’s garden.
Speaking of Mother Stella … In your dedication, you call her a Healer of Worlds, both great and small. What does this mean in the context of our world?
You should know that the real Mother Stella lives on Earth, not far-off Terra. She is the heart and soul of this book. If I was lucky to have a childhood, I have been truly blessed to have been allowed to be in her presence for so many years. In Terra 12 I have attempted to share something of her essence and provide some indication of who and what a true healer is. Mother Stella is one of Life’s reminders that we have not been forgotten. Please listen closely when she speaks. Listen for the music.

Great souls like Mother Stella are the glue that holds this world together. A true healer makes all this possible.
Your book offers a strong caution against technology. And the dominance of science. But doesn’t technology hold the key to our salvation?
There was a time long ago when I believed in the promises of a brighter future made possible by the miracles of science. It was a more innocent time and people embraced that future without reservation. But time and exposure to the reality of technology have worn those promises thin.

Remember the original Star Trek series where we were wowed by all the gadgets, including communicators? Who could imagine that in twenty years they would become a reality and that eventually every six-year-old would have a cellphone. Unfortunately, we never dreamed how insidiously this technology would change people’s behavior. Now it has reached the point where we had to stop going to the movies because people can’t be bothered to turn their phones off for two hours. Ditto the use of public transportation, the library, restaurants, shopping or wherever you go these days. I don’t even want to think about what it’s like on the road these days. If people cannot be self-governed, technology will be our undoing.

This is key: Science is big on promises. But the mind always promises and never delivers. Technology cannot save us. Full Stop.

Why, you ask? Science believes if it can identify the essential building blocks of Nature, ultimately it will be able to control the world and human destiny. To that end Science dissects, dissects, dissects, searching for that smallest particle. But Science is looking in the wrong direction.

Science trumpets a future that would create some synthesis of man and machine. We might not quite be cyborgs, or even superheroes, but we would be enhanced in some fashion by technology. The real promise, at the end of this rainbow, is immortality: To live forever in a plastic body.

But what’s the price? Because there’s always a price. If you turn your life over to Science, you may be enhanced in some narrow fashion, but you will lose the infinite possibilities of being human. Would you knowingly pay such a price?

What you seek lies inside yourself. Turn off the cellphone, take a break from the gadgets and give Life a chance.
What inspired your cover?
Troy and I were holding an animated discussion about what would make an effective cover. He had already vetoed any conventional cover design showing a spaceship in orbit around Terra. I had a design in mind, but ultimately it proved too complicated. In the end Troy followed his own vision, painted his picture and dropped in the graphics. After one look we knew this was it. As to what inspired Troy …
Will Terra 12 be available in print?
Call me old- … fashioned, but I like the feel of a book in my hands. I like to turn the pages myself. But I have to accept that the best way to distribute Terra 12 to the widest possible audience is electronically. Going the traditional route would add years to the process. We promise to continue the pursuit of print options to make Terra 12 available on the bookshelves.
Do you have a favorite section or chapter of Terra 12?
I do. A dozen in fact. And it’s not just chapters such as Revelations and Glade Springs. There are also those moments captured by The Music of Two Hearts or Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles or Love is the Answer that can bring a smile to my face. And then there is … Thanksgiving. I so enjoyed watching that chapter take wing.

You never know when a chapter or a section may speak to you or cause you to laugh out loud.
How does your first book, The Secret Valley, compare to Terra 12?
On the surface, they appear to be two entirely different books. The Secret Valley is set in 1200 C.E., a time of tremendous upheaval in that part of the world we now call Nepal, Tibet, India and China. It involves a quest for the most famous Buddhist relic of its time. But when you read these two books, which are separated by a thousand years and twelve light-years, you find they echo a similar message.

I wanted both stories to be adventures – granted not on the rip-roaring scale of a Matthew Reilly book – but I also wanted them to be fun and surprising. Why bother to read a story otherwise? Just as important was to create a story that uplifts, that champions our humanness and reveals something of the true mystery of Life.

I understand where most readers will find it easier to relate to Terra 12 whose story and characters are more contemporary, but The Secret Valley holds unexpected rewards for those who are willing to take a chance.
Is reincarnation for real? And do worlds like Terra exist?
Although I would rather avoid this minefield, since you asked, let’s see if we can find a safe path to the other side.

People can be surprisingly adamant when it comes to the idea of reincarnation, whether for or against. How many people are convinced that they were Cleopatra or Julius Caesar in a previous life? Or, if not someone famous, at least almost famous. And then there’s the flip side inhabited by those who are equally insistent that we have only one lifetime. They both can’t be right, can they?

Let’s start with the case for reincarnation. Has anyone ever said to you: Your past is showing? You can see it more readily in a young child under the age of four, but you must have noticed in your own life how you are drawn to certain things: people, foods, cultures, languages, places, ideas.

As a child, I felt a deep and abiding connection to ancient Greece and Egypt. I was fascinated by every detail of those past civilizations and consumed books on Greek and Egyptian history, mythology, sagas. I will never forget the thrill as I rounded the Acropolis to gaze upon the glorious facade of the Parthenon for the … first time.

Nor will I forget a spectacular flight from Bangkok to Kathmandu with its breathtaking views of Mt. Everest and its entourage which towered as high as our airplane. But as we started our descent to the airport outside Kathmandu, I was overwhelmed by this profound sense of coming home. Something in me knew I had lived here before.

The idea of reincarnation makes sense. We come back lifetime after lifetime to have the experiences we need in order to grow until we are ready to embrace the truth about ourselves. If you take a look around you, it’s clear that some people have traveled farther and longer on this path than others.

If reincarnation can exist, why not other worlds? Clearly people have experienced other worlds, including worlds that represent heaven. And yes, hell. Granted, people can visit these different worlds both in their dream states and in other lifetimes.

Still, it isn’t necessary to travel twelve light-years to find other worlds. Worlds can be more than a physical representation. You are familiar with the notion of the World of Art or the World of Science or even Living in Your Own World. There are so many worlds out there, an endless stream.

OK, you say, but what of the argument that you have only one life? From a certain perspective, it’s absolutely true. You only have one life to live. At any given time. So why waste your time pursuing past lives? If you want to know what you have been before, take a look around you. You have had so many different faces, occupations, looks, experiences, forms.

The best advice I can give is to drop the notion of both and move on. Although as long as I’m handing out advice, let me stress again: Don’t get caught up in the nonsense of trying to achieve immortality in a single body, to live forever in your current form. That way leads to madness.

If you are fortunate enough to be here in a human form, live intelligently. Let your heart be your guide on your journey through life. Be grateful and show goodwill to all people. And hold close the truth revealed by Mother Stella: “It’s not so much that you are born in paradise. It’s that paradise is born within you.”

Now we are safely across. And now you have your answer.
We have to ask. Any more books in the works? Perhaps the search for the Holy Grail?
Hasn’t that already been done? OK, all joking aside, it does sound like fun, to undertake another quest. Would it surprise you to know that the search for the Holy Grail is an allegory which represents one of Life’s open secrets? And, I might add, a beautifully simple secret whose truth transcends religion to embrace every living soul. All you need are eyes to see. Once you see … paradise is born within you. So yes, if I were tempted to write another story, this might be the one.
Can we really heal the world just by loving it?
I know. It sounds incredibly simplistic and naive. What … Let’s all hug a tree? The mind scoffs at the notion. Have we not embraced the Age of Science where we worship reason and logic? Has not Science promised to save the world? Just give it sufficient time and resources.

I know it sounds crazy. Absurd. Positively ridiculous … Until you remember the words of Mother Stella. Listen closely as she offers her reminder: “It is simplicity itself. When you love, everything is in harmony, everything is in balance, without any effort on your part. You can see it for yourself. If you shower your children with love, they will bloom and grow before your eyes. If you shower your world with love …” Your personal world will be transformed in ways you never imagined.

I tried to show how this worked on Terra. It can work just as well on Earth. Or any world. Only … Will people have the awareness to choose wisely? To transcend greed and ignorance? To embrace their humanness?

Could it happen? I honestly can’t say. What I can say is that no one person can change the world. But if collectively we loved our own personal worlds – and those around us – we would be surprised to see how that change would ripple through the world.

Living things respond to love because there are no barriers to love. This is one of Life’s most important open secrets. In the end, it is only through love that we can heal our world. And ourselves and our children. Something inside you knows this to be true. That something inside has watched as endless cycles of science and religion have come and gone. Only love remains eternal. Because love is at the heart of everything.
So … Love is the answer?
It has been said so many times, in so many ways. What ever the question, Love is the answer.
Published 2017-05-30.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Terra 12: Paradise Found
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 162,370. Language: English. Published: November 15, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
(5.00 from 1 review)
It is the year 2298. Humanity stands at the threshold as the barrier that has restricted man to his solar system has finally been breached. Twelve vessels are tasked to explore neighboring solar systems, to locate a Terran-like planet. But who expected to find Terra… For Terra is somehow more Earth than Earth, populated by people who are human in the truest sense of the word.
The Secret Valley
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 173,230. Language: English. Published: February 27, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Historical » General
The Secret Valley . . . Rumors of an ancient Buddhist Relic, long thought lost, have emerged from the mists of time. Forces are gathering, each seeking to claim this Relic, reputed to give its possessor dominion over the earth. So starts an unexpected journey that takes us not only to the Secret Valley, but on an inner journey where the real treasure that lives in every heart will be revealed.