Ten Questions for “The Next Big Thing”
A lot of my author friends have been doing the “Blog Hop” tour, in which we all answer the same set of questions about our newest (or future) releases. My thanks to award-winning suspense novelist James L. Rubart, author of Rooms, The Chair, and Soul’s Gate for pointing the way to my blog.
Thanks, also, to Dorothy Love, author of fine Southern historical fiction, for linking to this page. Dorothy is the author of the Hickory Ridge series, including Beauty for Ashes and Every Perfect Gift.
1. What is the working title of your book?
Actually, I want to talk about a series, not just one book. My Timebenders series, first published in 2002, has just been completely revised and updated, with Books 3 and 4 debuting on Christmas Day 2012. Plus, I am currently writing a brand-new book in the series with the working title War of the Electronic Brain.
The first four books in the series are Book 1: Battle before Time, Book 2: Doorway to Doom, Book 3: Invasion of the Time Troopers, and Book 4: Lost in Cydonia. These books are for middle grade readers, ages 9 to 14.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
The idea for the Timebenders series came from my son, who was a kindergartner at the time (he’s now working on his master’s degree!). One day, he came to me and said, “Daddy, would you write a book with me?” I said, “Sure. What kind of book should we write?” He said, “I want to write a book about a time machine and dinosaurs.”
So we started working and we wrote a little each day for a week or two, then we forgot about it for a while. A few years later, I took a fresh look at the pages we had written, and I decided to finish the book. That first book was Battle Before Time, and the publisher asked me to write three more. Last year, I got the rights back from the original publisher, and I updated and rewrote the books, and Greenbrier Books has reissued them with stunning new covers.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
The Timebenders series is science fantasy for young readers. I deliberately chose titles that would have a campy, pulp-science-fiction feel.
I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a science fiction fan. When I was five years old, my favorite TV show was a space opera called Space Patrol. It had spacemen in space suits with fishbowl helmets spouting dialogue like “Smoking rockets! A cosmic storm!” And my favorite cartoon at that age was Popeye, the Ace of Space, in which Popeye battles space aliens on Mars.
In elementary school, I searched for science fiction books in the school library, and was ecstatic when I discovered A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle on the “new arrivals” shelf. I was only nine, but the scientific concepts and appealing characters captured my imagination. (I wrote about the impact of that book on my life in a recent op-ed piece.)
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
My protagonists in the Timbenders series are in their early teens. To play Max McCrane, I’d cast Zach Mills of Super 8 fame (with round-lensed eyeglasses, Zach is Max). The perfect Allie O’Dell would be another Super 8 alum, Elle Fanning (with the addition of red hair and braces). C. J. Sanders, who played a young Ray Charles in Ray, would be well cast as Grady Stubblefield. For villainy, either Max von Sydow or Christopher Plummer would make an excellent Dr. Delyrius, the evil alchemist in Doorway to Doom.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Here’s Book 1: Battle Before Time in one sentence:
“Boy inventor Max McCrane turns a rusty orange Volkswagen into a time machine and takes three friends across time and space to battle a deadly dragon in a place before time began.”
Here’s Book 2: Doorway to Doom:
“Max and friends go back in time to an ancient kingdom ruled by evil King Wyvern and Max must either serve the king or doom his friends to a horrible fate.”
Here’s Book 3: Invasion of the Time Troopers:
“Max McCrane is hijacked into the past by scheming Luna Skyes, and his friends are chased through time by robot warriors of the fourth dimension, the Time Troopers.”
Here’s Book 4: Lost in Cydonia:
“A frightening miscalculation sends Max and friends to Mars, where they encounter an ancient secret guarded by strange blue-skinned creatures, the Timelings.”
Here’s Book 5: (working title of work-in-progress) War of the Electronic Brain
“Max and friends go back in time to Los Angeles in 1942, and must foil a plot to attack America and change the outcome of World War II.”
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
My first four Timebenders books were each first-drafted in about six to eight weeks (each is about 45,000 words long). Once the first draft is written, there’s a lot more work to do—additional drafts, substantive editing, copyediting, first proofs, and second proofs.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I set out to write the kind of books I enjoyed when I was a boy—a wild roller coaster ride through time and space. I wanted my readers to have the same experience I had when I was a boy reading A Wrinkle in Time, The Martian Chronicles, and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.
As time travel fiction, the Timebenders tales are part of a literary tradition going back to Washington Irving, H. G. Wells, and Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. There’s even an echo of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in Lost in Cydonia.
And, of course, there’s a great tradition of adult time travel literature that I’ve enjoyed over the years—classic short stories such as Robert Heinlein’s “All You Zombies—” and “By His Bootstraps,” Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder,” C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner’s “Vintage Season,” and Harlan Ellison’s “Soldier,” to name a few. Great time travel novels include Poul Anderson’s Time Patrol series, Gordon R. Dickson’s Time Storm, Terry Pratchett’s Thief of Time, David Gerrold’s The Man Who Folded Himself, and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My son, who was in kindergarten at the time, inspired the Timebenders series. That’s why the first book in the series is dedicated to him.
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I vividly recall the writing process of the first four Timebenders books, especially Book 2: Doorway to Doom. I was a couple of chapters into the second book when we were attacked on 9/11. At first, the horror of that event disrupted my creative flow. At that time, some of my writer friends actually stopped writing for a few weeks. I had a tight deadline, so I had to keep writing. I wrote with the cable TV news blaring in the background, so I could keep an ear open for news developments.
As I wrote, I kept coming up with new ideas, including a new ending for the book. Later, I realized that most of those new ideas had to do with darkness. My mood was dark, and it showed in the writing. I added a scene where Max, my protagonist, was tossed into a dungeon by the villain, Dr. Delyrius. I added another scene involving Max’s friend, Allie, threading her way through an underground maze by torchlight.
Even though the scenes dealt with darkness, they demonstrated the light of faith, hope, and courage. A number of readers have written to say that those scenes are their favorite passages in the whole series.
I recently gave an extensive interview that provides more background on the writing of the Timebenders series. You can read it at Random Writing Rants.
Thanks for stopping by on the Blog Hop Tour. Check out the Blog Hop interviews by these fine authors:
Southern historical writer Dorothy Love (author of Beauty for Ashes)
Fantasy novelist Jill Williamson (author of By Darkness Hid)
Science fiction writer Steve Rzasa (author of The Word Reclaimed)