I stumbled upon TIMEBOUND this April, 2014 and immediately fell in love with the story. I listened to the audiobook during my daily commute and found myself so immersed in the story that I would sometimes linger in my car long after I’ve gotten to my destination just to listen to it a little longer.
As soon as I finished TIMEBOUND, I immediately contacted the author Rysa Walker, to let her know how much I loved her book and to invite her to be featured on my blog’s Spotlight Week series. Knowing how busy authors are, I didn’t expect her to respond until way later. To my delight, Rysa responded the very same day and we began our e-mail correspondence. She not only agreed to do an author interview, and offered to provide the awesome giveaways to end the Spotlight Week, she also sent me a signed copy of TIMEBOUND and an audible credit to listen to TIME’S ECHO. Sufficed to say, Rysa Walker is one of my favorite authors–not just because of her generosity, but because of her amazing writing style. I simply love her stories and am more than happy to recommend the CHRONOS FILES series to anyone!
Without further ado, I present the generous and amazing Rysa Walker!
The Amazing and Generous Rysa Walker
1. Tell us three random, unique, or weird facts about yourself.
- I once worked in a melodrama theater, playing the role of the heroine running from the mustache-twirling villain. It was a fun summer!
- I am a reformed college professor. When a character in my books chides Katherine for slipping in “professor mode,” they’re reminding me that (most) readers really don’t want to hear every single historical detail about the Chicago World’s Fair.
- As a teenager, I worked on the family cattle ranch, where my primary chores were bottle-feeding baby calves and scrubbing their milk buckets once they graduated from the bottle. The knowledge that those cute little babies were only a year or so away from the butcher block is a huge part of the reason I don’t eat beef.
2. What inspired you to write TIMEBOUND? Did you always know it would be a part of a series?
One inspiration was the fact that so many of my college students started out with a strong dislike for history, only to discover an interest in the subject once they connected with some of the quirkier, real-life stories from past eras. I thought that if younger readers could be introduced to that type of history in a fictional setting, they might be less inclined to shun the subject as a whole.
And yes, The CHRONOS Files was planned from the beginning as a three-book series, with novellas in between.
3. TIMEBOUND, TIME’S ECHO and TIME’S EDGE are all exciting, action-packed, character-driven novels. Which of the three books did you enjoy writing the most? Which one gave you the most trouble?
That’s a difficult question for me. In each case, there were parts that I really enjoyed writing and others where the words were a struggle. Time’s Echo, the novella from Kiernan’s perspective, was fun because I’d been spending a lot of time inside Kate’s head, and it was nice to go visit with someone else for a while. In terms of which gave me the most trouble, I’d have to say the final, still-untitled third book is by far the most difficult. That’s partly because there are more timelines to address by this point, and partly because I know that this is the final book and I’ll need to wrap everything up with a nice, neat bow. And the final novella, which I’ll be writing after the final book due to the stricter publishing deadlines for the longer works, will be a special challenge, since it’s from the point-of-view of someone who is gradually going crazy. My family will probably be ready to pack me off to a hotel when I’m writing that one!
4. The CHRONOS FILES series features characters with the Chronos gene, who are able to time-travel with the use of a Chronos Key. How did you come up with the (very cool) time-travel concept?
I knew from the beginning that the events would be set in motion by time travelers from the future, who end up stranded in the past. I also wanted a scenario where Kate had an ability she didn’t know about that was shared with those future historians. The most logical method that fit the storyline was to have Kate inherit that ability from her grandparents.
5. Some time-travel stories leave my mind reeling with the constant time-jumps and setting changes, but TIMEBOUND, TIME’S ECHO and TIME’S EDGE were all easy to follow (and very, very exciting to read). How do you keep the chronology of the whole series straight? What methods or tools do you employ to keep the various timelines and events in order?
I frequently joke about “time travel headaches” in the books, and that’s the author’s voice coming through loud and clear. Having a storyline where younger and older versions of characters can overlap with other characters at different times, and even with different version of themselves, can sometimes result in conundrums that hurt the brain. It sometimes feels like trying to untangle lights for the Christmas tree, something that I’ve always found a bit frustrating.
A timeline helps, and I do have several of those on my computer. I also have a family tree for the Cyrists, although it’s a very misshapen tree, since you have individuals from the 2030s having children in the early 1900s.
6. In TIMEBOUND, you make use of actual events such as the 1893 World’s Fair, and real people such as famous serial killer H.H. Holmes. What made you decide to include them in your novels, and how much research did you have to do for your books?
One of my key goals from the beginning was to entertain with real history. I do a lot of research for my books, but some of it was done long before I began writing. One of the key reasons that I set most of the time travel in the United States after 1860 is that my Ph.D. focused on modern political history and that’s what I usually taught. So the vast majority of the real characters in my books are ones that I pulled into lectures as a professor or included in my academic writing.
One key exception was the Koreshan Unity group, led by Cyrus Teed. Even though I grew up in Florida, I’d never heard of this odd little commune that eventually settled down near Fort Meyers. I first noticed the group in a newspaper article when I was researching the World’s Fair for Timebound, since they initially formed in Chicago in the 1890s. The fact that they were led by someone named Cyrus caught my eye, and I couldn’t resist pulling them into the story, since they are exactly the type of small religious cult that Saul’s Cyrists would have gobbled up in order to form a base for their new religion.
If readers are ever wondering which elements in my books are factual and which are not, I give a general overview in the Acknowledgements at the end.
7. If your books were to be made into a movie, which scene would you be most interested in seeing live on the big screen? Do you have any actors in mind who might portray your main characters Kate, Kiernan and Trey?
The scenes in Timebound that are set in 1893, both at the Exposition and at H. H. Holmes’s hotel, have always played out in my mind almost like a movie. The same is true for the scenes in Time’s Edge that is set in the village of God’s Hollow.
In terms of actors, it’s kind of tough for me to cast, especially those key roles. I’ve had very vivid images in my head of each of those characters, especially Kate, for nearly a decade now, so none of the current batch of teen actors come to mind.
If, however, I had a CHRONOS key, I can tell you who I’d cast as Kiernan and Trey. When I was writing Timebound, I watched a lot of the series Chuck, because my youngest son is a huge, huge fan and we have binge watched that show more than once. Trey is very much linked in my mind with a teenage version of the character of Devin, played by Ryan McPartlin, so I’d probably go back and cast him around age 18. And Kiernan would be Robert Downey, Jr. from the early 1990s.
8. If you could use a Chronos Key, where and when you like to travel to? Is there a famous person, or a favorite author you’d like to visit perhaps, or an event in history you’d like to witness?
Definitely 1893 Chicago. I’ve a World’s Fair geek for many years. I’d just set up camp for the full nine months so that I could meet many of my favorite late 1800s authors (like Mark Twain and L. Frank Baum) and reformers (such as Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, and Ida B. Wells) when they visited. I would not, however, be staying at H. H. Holmes’s World’s Fair Hotel.
9. Tell us about your path to publication. What is the coolest thing about being a published author?
My path to publication started out with the typical hunt for an agent to open the magic gates and let me into the kingdom. I’m not very patient, however, and after about six months of that special sort of hell, I decide that I’d just skip the gates and take my story straight to the readers. It was going fairly well—I had about sixty reviews, mostly strong, about six months in, when I won the ABNA and got a traditional publishing contract with Skyscape.
One of the very best things about being a writer is talking to readers about my books or just books in general. It’s really cool to hear their different perspectives on stories that I’ve written.
10. You were the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award winner. Can you tell us a little bit more about that experience?
Surreal, to say the least. I entered with the goal of making it to the quarterfinals, where the prize is a Publisher’s Weekly review of the manuscript. My hope was that there would be a nice, tweetable tagline. I got that – “Kate is the Katniss Everdeen of time travel”—and then the book kept going, taking the YA prize and then winning the votes of readers to take the Grand Prize, which was a $50K advance on royalties and the contract with Skyscape. That allowed me to quit teaching and focus on writing the sequels, which were also contracted by Skyscape, so it was a real game-changer for me. And I’ve been really, really happy with Skyscape as a publisher.
11. What’s your typical day as a writer like? Do you have any writing-related rituals or quirks?
My day varies a LOT, depending on what’s going on with the kids. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t need sleep, or else the kids would go to school from 10pm to around 4am, because I am, by nature, a night-owl. But here in the real world, they have to be at school at 7:15 and my brain doesn’t get moving until around the time they walk in the door in the afternoon.
I do try to maintain a daily word count, but reality has pushed me toward making it a weekly count. That way, if I get sideswiped a few days, I can go into the writing cave (no social media, no email, noise-canceling headphones) until I catch up.
12. What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies, sports, or crafts you like to spend time on?
Reading. Binge-watching my favorite TV shows. My life would also be a lot calmer if I managed yoga every day, instead of only several times a week.
13. Are you a plotter or pantser? Are there any specific writing tools (books, software, a specific pen ) you use to work on your novels?
I am a pantser. Some things, obviously, must be plotted when you’re dealing with multiple timelines and even multiple versions of the same character. But my best writing comes when I get my characters in a room and just let them have at it. They often go in directions that I never expected, and usually I find that they are right.
I’m using Scribner for book 3, but haven’t decided whether I like it better or worse than plain old MS World. (It has a lot of tools that would probably be more useful for a plotter than a pantser.)
One odd tool that I use is my old Kindle with the keyboard, which I use for editing, often while riding my exercise bike. It helps me to envision the manuscript as a book, and since I usually read on the Kindle, sending the pages there to jot down notes, catch errors, etc., seems to work for me.
14. Are you currently working on any other projects?
I have a book for another potential series partially written. It has been waiting not-so-patiently in the “drawer” until this series is completed, and I’m looking forward to diving back into that world. I also have two other ideas for series in various stages of “hatching.” I suspect that I will always lean toward series, rather than stand-alones, both because I like the larger canvas to tell the story and because I generally prefer to read series.
Finally, I’ve been putting the finishing touches on setting up The CHRONOS Files as a Kindle World—creating a “world guide,” fleshing out the descriptions of minor characters that have been mentioned, etc. I’m looking forward to seeing what sorts of stories other writers will tell within my “sandbox” when they come to play.
15. What advice would you like to give to writers on the road to publication?
My advice would be that you have to make it happen. Success can occasionally be based on luck, but no matter how lucky you get, it won’t matter unless you’re in position to capitalize on that luck. Get the book written, and then get started on the next one.
Most of all, don’t assume that agents and publishing houses are the only way to reach readers. If you’ve written a book that you believe in and it’s not happening on the traditional route, invest a little money in it. (You wouldn’t expect to start any other career without a financial investment.) Get a good editor and a professionally-designed cover. Study the self-published writers who’ve “made it” to see what they did when they were where you are now.
And then take the plunge and get that book that you believe in out to the only people who really matter—the readers. You don’t need the validation of an agent or a publishing house to say you’re “good enough.” They pick authors all the time whose books bomb. Readers are the final arbiter, and we now have a system that lets writers skip the middle-men.
16. What would you like to say to your young readers? Is there any advice that you would like to give them?
Follow your dreams. Don’t think that you can’t accomplish your goals, even if others around you aren’t offering much encouragement. If they are too discouraging, seek out people who won’t drag you down and who will believe in you. Most of all, don’t give up.
Thank you, Rysa for sharing your wisdom with us!
Tune in this Friday, as we end our Spotlight Week with a CHRONOS FILES GIVEAWAY!
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