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Today’s featured interview is with author Rysa Walker, whose book Timebound won the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. Rysa is currently working on her second series, The Delphi Project. Rysa Walker grew up more than 10 miles from the closest library, where all the books she wanted weren’t available, and when she grew up she may or may not have made a deal with the devil to make Kindle’s a thing. Her love of science fiction has been with her since childhood, and both her grandmothers fed this reading obsession.
Like many other writers today, she’s held multiple jobs, in various different industries including lifegaurding, acting, web and multimedia development and professor of history and government. Join us in welcoming her to the Women in SciFi series!
P.K. Tyler – CHRONOS is on Kindle Worlds and open for others to write in the universe you created. What has your experience been like with that program?
Rysa Walker – I’ve really enjoyed having The CHRONOS Files in Kindle Worlds, and would love to work with more authors. I think this particular Kindle World can be a little daunting for some authors because there are multiple timelines and some fairly complicated rules for who can and can’t use the CHRONOS keys. But I’ve put together an extensive “World Guide” for authors that’s posted on my website and I’m always willing to beta read! 🙂
PKT – You write pretty heavy science fiction, and sometimes it’s even placed in the past. What’s different about writing sci-fi based in the past as opposed to sci-fi of the near or distant future?
RW – There are pros and cons to writing time travel to the past. The advantage is that I can vicariously visit all of the places and events that I taught about when I was a history prof. The disadvantage is that I often become so immersed in getting the details right that I end up spending way too much time on research. In Time’s Mirror and Time’s Divide, the last two works in the CHRONOS series, I was finally able to have sections set in the 24th century and I found that very liberating. It was painting on a blank canvas and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.
Near-future, however, is a bigger challenge in some ways. The Delphi Effect, which is the first book in my next series, will debut this coming October, and my developmental editor was saying that things don’t seem futuristic enough. But that’s just three years from now, and technology rarely takes quantum leaps in that short of a period. My challenge has been finding ways to make it clear that we’re in the future, without making gaffes that are going to be painfully obvious to the readers who will actually pick up the book in 2019 and beyond.
PKT – Your series CHRONOS is part of Kindle Worlds, and has a fan fiction element to it. How has fan fiction helped you as an author, and can you tell us a about the first time you read fan fiction inspired by one of your books?
RW – I enjoy reading fan-fiction, mostly for the many sci-fi and fantasy series that I fall in love with that often get canceled far too soon. And I’ve truly enjoyed having other authors play in “my” sandbox and how they interpret characters and events.
The experience that has been most interesting was with E.B. Brown’s Viking Sagas. I first “met” Beth on the community boards when we were both in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest in 2013 and went on to read her Timewalkers series. There are Vikings in her books, and when I began writing Time’s Mirror and Time’s Divide, it occurred to me that she’d be the perfect person to provide some backstory for one of the characters, a Viking historian named Tate Poulsen. So I sent her Tate’s basic details and the drafts of sections that included him, and she created this wonderful, detailed series of novellas that synch up beautifully with the CHRONOS books.
PKT – Is Chronos inspired by the Klingnon home world on Star Trek?
RW – I am a devout Trekker, but no–although I kind of wish now that I’d added a few people with genetically-altered foreheads in the scenes set in the 24th century as an in-joke. CHRONOS stands for the Chrono-Historical Research Organization and Natural Observation Society, and it just seemed like the type of “backronym” someone would create for a time travel organization that focuses on observing the past in person.
The name Rysa, however, is most definitely taken from the pleasure planet on Star Trek.
PKT – A couple of your books deal with time shifts. Can you tell us how you use time in your books as a writing device? What are the pros and cons of time travel in books?
RW – The pros are many. I love time travel as a reader and it gave me an opportunity to pull together my inner history geek and scifi geek for a collaboration. It also gave me the ability to explore worlds that are essentially the same as our own with slight variations, much like alternate history.
The cons are that it can become really, really complicated, especially in a long series with several different protagonists. (There’s one protagonist for the books in the series, but the three novellas and several of the short stories explore events from other characters’ perspectives.) Staying true to the rules you’ve created is very important in science fiction, and that becomes harder to do when you have different timelines and, in a few cases, multiple versions of people from those timelines interacting. My main character, Kate, often complains of time travel headaches, and she was very much the author’s voice in this case. That’s one reason that my next series is not time travel–the brain needed a break!
PKT – Some of your fiction includes religious themes. Do you think it is easier to talk about tough topics such as religion in science fiction, fantasy and novels that are not set in ‘real life’?
RW – Yes, definitely. It’s one of the things that I love best about Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry did a wonderful job of tackling topics that were considered off-limits for TV in his era, and he was able to do that because he set the stories in the future, on other planets, and within different cultures.
The Cyrist religion that is manufactured by one of my characters encapsulates many of the things that trouble me about various religions. I’m often asked if it’s based on any particular religion, and it really isn’t–it just pulls together the most predatory elements of a wide array of them. But I also wanted to make it clear that there are good people within pretty much every religious group out there. That the problem often isn’t the religion itself, but how it’s practiced.
PKT – You write for a young adult audience, what does this mean for you, and how is it different from ‘adult’ books?
RW – I do have teen protagonists in most of my works, so that means the books are classified as young adult. But I’ve never really considered myself to be writing “for” a YA audience. For one thing, I’ve learned over the past few years that the vast majority (at least 75%) of my readers are adults. That doesn’t really surprise me, since I read mostly YA fiction, not just to keep up with the market, but because I enjoy those stories. It’s a period of life in which people actually grow and change significantly, and some of the biggest decisions of our lives are made when we are young adults.
I write the story that I want to tell and the story that I would want to read. I don’t simplify concepts and characters, because I think that would come across to my readers–adult and teen–as “writing down” to them. If that means that some teens don’t find the books accessible, then they’ll find other books that work for them. Most teens who like science fiction are already reading adult scifi, so I doubt I’ll leave many of them behind. Pretty much the only concession I’ve made is that I try to avoid too many F-bombs and excessively detailed sex. I have 12 and 14 year-old boys and my test for that is my own comfort level–if I’d feel icky listening to the audio version in the car with them, then it probably shouldn’t be YA. Note that I didn’t say if they would feel icky…they are far more prudish than I am. 😉
PKT – Tell us about your upcoming work The Delphi project. What can readers expect from you in 2016?
RW – The first book in the series, The Delphi Effect, will debut in October. My current “elevator pitch” is X-Men meets X-Files, although there’s a dash of Men Who Stare at Goats in the mix, as well. The story follows a girl who can unwillingly pick up “mental hitchhikers.” When she seeks to bring the men who murdered of one of her “hitchers” to justice, she winds up at the center of a government conspiracy.
In addition, the first CHRONOS Files comic will be coming out this summer, and I’ll have a CHRONOS short story in the upcoming Clones: The Anthology. And my brain is not happy with me for the latter, given the aforementioned promise of a break from time travel. I’ll just have to think of it as mental calisthenics…
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PKT – If you could pick a universe to live in, would it be the Star Trek Universe, or Star Wars?
RW: Star Trek. Deep Space Nine, if we’re picking a subuniverse. Yeah, it’s darker than the others, but I’d love hanging out in a holosuite with some of those characters and I think I’d play a mean game of Tongo. I like Star Wars, too, but I’ve been a Trekker since elementary school, so it’s really no contest.
PKT – Name the first Science Fiction book you ever read.
RW – It was an anthology of short stories that I read when I was nine. As I remember, it included Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, and “Flowers for Algernon,” by Daniel Keyes. My uncle (who was seven years older than me) hated reading and hated writing book reports, so he conned me into picking out a story and writing the assignment for him. Only, I read all the stories, and nearly didn’t get the report into his hands on time. He didn’t get the book back until I’d read them all a second time…and I really wish I could find that anthology, because I’d love to have a copy.
PKT – What is your favorite food to eat while writing?
RW – Very, very, very dark barely-sweet chocolate.
PKT – Do you ever dream about your current writing projects?
RW – Yes. I’m very much a “pantser,” and frequently a plot point will work itself out in my subconscious. Usually it’s when I’m almost asleep, but occasionally I’ll wake up and have to hurry to the computer to get it down before it vanishes.
PKT – If you were a time traveller, where would you go first?
RW – To the same place I sent Kate in Timebound–the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. If I timed the trip well, I might actually be able to get a definitive answer to a question about the suffrage movement that has bugged me since graduate school. Plus, so many fascinating people walked through those gates. I’d be in history geek heaven.
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About Rysa Walker
RYSA WALKER is the author of the bestselling CHRONOS Files series. Timebound, the first book in the series, was the Young Adult and Grand Prize winner in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards.
Rysa grew up on a cattle ranch in the South, where she read every chance she got. 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.
She currently lives in North Carolina, where she is working on her next series, The Delphi Project. If you see her on social media, please tell her to get back into the writing cave.
For news and updates, subscribe to the newsletter at rysa.com/contact
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Rysa is giving away a signed copy of any CHRONOS book or a 3D printed CHRONOS medallion to one random commenter.