Monday, March 18, 2013

Five Questions With: Rysa Walker

Hello Everyone,

Sorry for not updating last week! I am less busy and back to reviewing :)

I recently had the opportunity to interview Rysa Walker, author of Time's Twisted Arrow, which I loved. You can see my review here. Read on to learn more about her and her work!

1. What is your background and how did you become interested in writing?

I've always been a writer in some form. I suspect it's because I lived in the middle of nowhere, ten miles from the nearest library, and had to read the same books over and over again. I loved my books, but when I got bored, I'd start thinking about what happened next. Or what might happen to those same characters in different circumstances. Or what might happen to different characters in similar circumstances. Sometimes the stories just played themselves out in my head, but many made their way to paper. And while I got sidetracked for a number of years writing non-fiction, I eventually made my way back around to writing the type of books I like to read.

2. What was the inspiration behind Time's Twisted Arrow?

I've spent the past few years teaching and writing about history and I think every historian secretly wants a time-machine. We're very much aware that history is often determined by those who write the history books -- George Washington never chopped down a cherry tree, for example, and many other historical events or achievements that get credited to one or two people in history books were more often the work of dozens of people behind the scenes. It's kind of like the line from the song "Wonderful" in my favorite musical, Wicked:

A man's called a traitor - or a liberator.
A rich man's a thief - or philanthropist.
Is one a crusader - or ruthless invader?
It's all in which label
Is able to persist.

So, knowing that things tend to get changed around depending on who is telling the story, it's not too surprising that historians think it would be nice to actually be there and see history in the making. But if we had that power, would we really be able to resist tweaking things just a bit here and there? I'd like to think I could resist, but I'm not especially power-hungry. I'm generally content with my books, my music, family -- as long as I have those things, plus good coffee, tea and dark chocolate, I'm a pretty happy camper. And while there are plenty of injustices I'd love to change in the world, I'd be worried that if you tug too hard at one or two less-than-lovely strings in the tapestry, everything else might come apart as well. But would someone who wanted wealth, power or who was truly unhappy with their society as a whole be able to resist changing things? I'm not so sure -- and that's really the key idea that eventually developed into Time's Twisted Arrow.

3. What's next for Kate?

Kate will be back at the end of 2013 in Pendulum Past, the second book of the CHRONOS Files. That book picks up shortly after the end of Time's Twisted Arrow. Much of the book will be set in the racially-divided South of the 1930s, with Kate taking some side trips to the 1960s and Boston in the early 1900s. She's going to face some difficult choices in her efforts to stop the Cyrists and will have to decide whether she can live with committing "lesser evils" in order to further the "greater good." And, on a personal level, she'll be learning whether you can recreate the mysterious circumstances that cause two people to fall in love.

In the interim, readers will also see Kate briefly in a novella that I have coming out this summer. It's tentatively entitled Time's Echo, and reveals some of the events from Time's Twisted Arrow from Kiernan's perspective, while providing additional backstory on the Cyrists and their motives.

4. Besides the CHRONOS Files series, do you have any other projects coming up?

I have two additional series in various stages of development. The first book for one of the series will likely be published before the CHRONOS files is finished, because it's partially written. It was one of those cases where a story and characters popped into my head and just wouldn't leave me alone until I got something down on paper. The other series is still in that nebulous, embryonic stage where it could go in a couple of different directions-- but I think it will emerge eventually as a pretty cool series of paranormal detective books.

5. I found your website to be a very interesting supplement to the CHRONOS series (it inspired me to write a post on how books have changed with the advent of e-readers and "apps" which allow you to become completely immersed in a story). What are your thoughts on the impact of tablets and e-books on the literary world? Has it helped or harmed?

I'm a huge, huge fan of e-books. That's partly because, as I noted above, I spent way too much of my childhood wanting new books and having to wait for them. Santa brought me a Kindle a few years back and it rarely leaves my side. The fact that I can download a new book at soccer practice or waiting in the carpool line for my kids never ceases to delight me. The e-publishing revolution has also increased the number of stories out there. Some of them are admittedly a bit rough, but there are also some real gems. Several of the best books I've read this year were not "traditionally" published, and I suspect that they would never have been available for me to read if we were still stuck in the era where agents and major publishers were the gatekeepers for all fiction. I do think that traditional publishers serve an important role, but it's nice to see that there are multiple outlets these days. A freer market usually results in more innovation and I think we're just beginning to see the results of these changes.

On a broader scale, the internet makes the writer's job more fascinating, but it also provides distractions. Research is definitely easier. I can find out virtually anything I want to know about 1905 Boston if I dig deep enough into the resources online, and some of this is information that I'd never have had at my disposal a few decades ago. On the other hand, however, it's all too easy to chase an interesting rabbit down the hole and end up miles away from the core bits of information you need to write your story. I have to be careful to avoid spending too much time in the virtual past, otherwise it's tough to get the books written back here in 2012!

As for the CHRONOS Files site, I would love to have the resources (and the time) to do even more with it. One thing I'm really happy with, however, is that it can provide an outlet for young writers. I'm currently working with a number of teachers in middle and high schools to have students use the examples of historical research in the CHRONOS Files as a starting point for their own fiction and I will be showcasing some of their work on the blog. The goal is for them to learn about the historical sources that are now literally at their fingertips and how they can be incorporated into fiction, hopefully in a way that is a little less like "schoolwork" than writing a traditional history report.

Thanks so much for allowing me to visit with you and your readers at ChaiTime!

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