Author Spotlight: Rysa Walker @RysaWalker

Author-Spotlight

Rysa Walker
Rysa Walker
About the Author:
RYSA WALKER grew up on a cattle ranch in the South. Her options for entertainment were talking to cows and reading books. (Occasionally, she would mix things up a bit and read books to cows.) On the rare occasion that she gained control of the television, she watched Star Trek and imagined living in the future, on distant planets, or at least in a town big enough to have a stop light.

When not writing, she teaches history and government in North Carolina, where she shares an office with her husband, who heroically pays the mortgage each month, and a golden retriever named Lucy. She still doesn’t get control of the TV very often, thanks to two sports-obsessed kids.
Read more at the CHRONOS Files blog: http://www.chronosfiles.com.

Connect with Rysa:
Blog | Website |Facebook | Twitter: @RysaWalker | Goodreads

Interview:

MF: Amazon Publishing’s Editor in Chief, Daphne Durham said, ““Rysa’s novel is one of those up-til-dawn reads that you just can’t put down[.]” Tell us about Timebound and the inspiration behind it.
RW: I started writing Timebound about ten years ago, but it was an on and off thing during breaks between semesters teaching history and government. One big inspiration for the book was the fact that so many of my students viewed history. At some point, I realized that this was partly due to the textbooks out there. The elements of American history that are fun, quirky or that simply make people of the past seem human are all too often ignored. I wanted to write a book that would use real history and make it enjoyable for the reader. And because I’m a sci-fi geek from way back, there was never any doubt that it would be a time travel story.

After I finished writing Timebound (originally titled Time’s Twisted Arrow), I shopped around unsuccessfully for an agent for the better part of a year. There were a few requests for sample chapters and a few requests for the full book, but none of the agents were willing to take a chance on the book. So I took the plunge and self-published in October 2012. Around that time, I also decided to enter the book in the Amazon Breatkthrough Novel Awards, since the contest is open to unpublished and self-published works. And that’s when things began to take off.

MF: Timebound won the grand prize in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. What was that experience like? Has it changed your writing routine?
RW: Entering the contest was the best decision I ever made as a writer. And yes, that’s partly because I won, but it’s also because you really do get excellent feedback along the way and there’s a wonderful online community of writers that helps keep you grounded and entertained while you wait for the results. The contest was several months of tension, and at each stage of the contest I’d tell the kids, “Well, we made it this far, but don’t get your hopes up.” And then the book kept going.

Winning has entirely changed my writing routine. I taught college online for the University of Maryland University College from 2006 until this past summer, which meant writing only when I could squeeze in a few hours between grading papers and discussion posts. I’m now working full-time on the sequels to Timebound and loving it.

MF: The Eternal Scribe said, “I’ve finally found something that fits when I’m in a mood for The Doctor…” As a Whovian, I say that is a compliment of the highest regard. Was Doctor Who anywhere in your mind when you began writing Timebound?
RW: I adore Doctor Who. I have a special fondness for the David Tennant incarnation, so I really enjoyed the recent 50th Anniversary special. And I have a matching coffee mug and blanket emblazoned with the Tardis (in the style of Vincent Van Gogh) that are my writing companions on chilly days, so yes—the review by The Eternal Scribe is definitely one of my favorites.

I suspect Doctor Who may have been somewhere in my mind when I first started writing Timebound, but it was probably near the back, since I began the book in 2004, before the new series began. I did watch some of the old ones in the late 1990s when they came on PBS around midnight on Saturdays, especially if they featured Tom Baker. The bigger influence, however, was probably my interest in history. I really would love to have CHRONOS key to visit historical eras I’ve studied and get the real scoop, because as a historian, I know all too well that what we eventually get in the history books is a pale and, all too often, severely distorted reflection of what actually happened.

MF: Your website shows there will be two more books set in the Timebound world. Will you stop at three? Is there a chance you’ll extend the series?
RW: As currently planned, there will be two additional books in the series and two novellas, although there’s a possibility of a third novella, as well. The first novella should be out in late spring, with Book Two due out in October of this year. The second novella and final book in the series will follow pretty much the same schedule in 2015—novella in the spring, book in the fall.

I don’t have plans to extend The CHRONOS Files beyond that, but I learned a long time ago that my characters are in the driver’s seat, so that could be subject to change. I suspect that it would have to be after I finish up another project, however—there’s a partially finished novel that’s been pushed aside while I work on the Timebound sequels and those characters are getting a bit annoyed. They keep tapping at my brain from time to time, just to remind me that they are waiting, and not very patiently, for their story to be on the front burner.

MF: In your website bio you mention that your grandmother tried to keep you supplied with books, but they were to her tastes. Which science fiction and/or fantasy authors were your favorites while growing up? Was there any particular author(s) you feel influenced your writing?
RW: As you mentioned, I didn’t get a lot of fantasy and science fiction books as a child. As a result, my exposure to the genre was through television. Star Trek was a favorite from the time I was around ten. I also loved reruns of The Twilight Zone, and a show called Night Gallery also was important, mostly because it gave some pretty impressive nightmares and phobias. It came on right at my bedtime and I’d usually see only the first few minutes. The house was small and there was only a thin wall between my bed and the television, so most of what I remember was what I heard while lying in bed in the dark. The monsters you create in your head are always scarier than the ones you see on the screen.

Around age twelve, I encountered Stephen King. Most of my babysitting earnings were spent on his paperbacks throughout my teens and the fat rectangular package under the Christmas tree was usually his long-awaited, most recent hardback. His work has been a big influence, because like King, I really just want to be a storyteller. I hope that people consider my stories reasonably well-written, but I’m not aiming to be considered Great Literature. If people pick up Timebound and get a pleasant break from reality for a few hours, I’m a happy writer. If they learn a little history, I’m even happier. And if they remember the book fondly a few months or years later, that’s icing on the cake.

Other authors that were important: Robert Heinlein, Douglas Adams, John Irving, Margaret Atwood, and Madeleine L’Engle. There are more, but I’ll stop there—although on second thought, I should probably mention Barbara Cartland. Even if they weren’t my favorites, thanks to my grandmother I read a LOT of Barbara Cartland’s historical romances.

MF: What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
RW: Back in October, I signed advanced copies of Timebound at the New York Comic-Con, along with fellow Skyscape authors Sarah Fine and Susan Ee. (Anyone who hasn’t read their work is missing a treat, by the way.) Sarah and I were waiting in the lobby of our hotel for the others so that we could do some sightseeing before heading to Comic-Con. The elevator opened and David Duchovny of The X-Files stepped out. A few minutes later, he was joined by Gillian Anderson. They got into their limo and it pulled away.

Only a few seconds later, the elevator opened again, and this time, it was William Shatner. I’ve been a fan for years, both for his role as Captain Kirk and his later work as Denny Crane in Boston Legal, so I was totally speechless. I just gave him a little hand wave and he smiled and said, “Good morning,” before being whisked away by the second limo. (I didn’t melt, but it was a close call.)

And then the rest of our party joined us and we got into the third limo that was waiting behind Shatner’s.

Totally surreal.

MF: What is something that your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
RW: I’ve held a wide range of jobs, some of them kind of quirky. I was a lifeguard at a waterslide—could there be a better summer job in high school? I also acted at a melodrama theater when I lived in Colorado, playing the wide-eyed heroine running from the villain with a long curlicue moustache. (It hadn’t occurred to me until now, but this may have influenced Kate’s adventures in 1893.) I also worked as a telephone solicitor for one soul-sucking week in my early twenties because I was flat broke. To anyone whose dinner I interrupted, I apologize, and I promise that you couldn’t have hated getting those calls anymore than I hated making them.

MF: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as a writer? What has been the best compliment?
RW: I have an in-house review group as mother of ten and twelve year old boys, both of whom read a bit above their age group. So the toughest criticisms come from my kids—or at any rate, they’re the ones that I tend to remember. The best compliments tend to come from them as well, although I’ve had a few tweets and emails lately that were truly wonderful. As someone who has lost many nights of sleep to good books, I love hearing that Timebound made someone stay up until the wee hours of the morning, although I remember the next day well enough to feel a bit guilty about that as well. Another reader said that Timebound helped her mind escape on the anniversary of the day that a loved one died, and having used books as an escape on many occasions, I consider it a high compliment that Timebound kept her mind away from a very sad reality.

And I truly love it when readers screech on Twitter or in a review about having to wait for the next book. That’s one of my favorite types of waiting—in fact, it might be the only one I don’t hate—but I swear I’m writing as fast as I can!

MF: Aside from polished and engaging writing, what three things do you think every new writer must do in order to succeed in this highly competitive and ever-changing industry?
RW: 1) Develop thick skin. Some people won’t like your book for the very reasons that other people will love it. I still read most of my reviews, despite other authors advising me to skip them. It’s partly due to the fact that my kids or my sister will probably tell me if there’s a one or two-star clunker in the mix and I’d rather see it for myself. I’m gradually learning to take bad reviews somewhat philosophically. My kids and my sister, not so much. 😉

2) Write what you KNOW. Yes, this is an old piece of advice, but too many writers seem to ignore it. Obviously, if you’re writing fantasy or science fiction, a lot of your writing will be sheer imagination, but that makes it even more important to fully ground the parts that aren’t taking place on Mars or in some alternate reality. Don’t set your work in a city where you’ve never lived. Don’t write characters who talk in a dialect unless you have a pretty firm grip on the way the people from that region actually speak. And if you’re writing young adult characters, think back to when you were a young adult. Did you always make wise decisions, or did you tend to react more with heart than with head? Were you always on task or did your mind constantly stray away to the guy or girl you were crazy about? You don’t want a whiny, ditzy teen protagonist, but you also don’t want a teen who will seem foreign to those who are actually in the middle of those really, really difficult years.

3) Ignore the old rules. You can make it without an agent, so if you’ve tried to get past the Royal Gatekeepers for a while with no success, don’t assume that your writing sucks. Agents aren’t always the best arbiter of what will sell, especially given the rapid changes in publishing over the past decade. Self-publishing isn’t the kiss of death, especially if you get a decent editor and cover designer and are willing to invest a bit in strategic advertising at Goodreads and other sites. There are a lot of self-published authors who are doing extraordinarily well.

MF: If you could jump into a book, and live in that world … which would it be?
RW: Harry Potter, as long as I don’t get stuck being a Muggle again. I want to release my inner Hermione.


Timebound When Kate Pierce-Keller’s grandmother gives her a strange blue medallion and speaks of time travel, sixteen-year-old Kate assumes the old woman is delusional. But it all becomes horrifyingly real when a murder in the past destroys the foundation of Kate’s present-day life. Suddenly, that medallion is the only thing protecting Kate from blinking out of existence.

Kate learns that the 1893 killing is part of something much more sinister, and Kate’s genetic ability to time-travel makes her the only one who can stop him. Risking everything, she travels to the Chicago World’s Fair to try to prevent the killing and the chain of events that follows.

Changing the timeline comes with a personal cost, however—if Kate succeeds, the boy she loves will have no memory of her existence. And regardless of her motives, does she have the right to manipulate the fate of the entire world?

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