Ryan Dalton’s book, The Year of Lightning, is set to be released on January 12, 2016 with Jelly Fish Press. I love a good time travel story, so when I was asked if I would be willing to do an interview, I didn’t hesitate. I love to hear about how authors come up with their ideas, their writing process, and their journey to publishing.
- Ryan, tell us about yourself.
My name is Ryan and I am Batman. I’m also a lifelong geek, as you can probably tell by my opening statement. While writing is my first love, I also pursue other creative activities. I like to cook. I’m a musician, having spent a few years taking stage vocal training. I’m trying (and currently failing) to teach myself how to beatbox. I love Monty Python, comic books, driving fast, good scotch, traveling, and making people laugh.
- What inspired you to write The Year of Lightning? Is it the first novel you’ve written?
It all started with a random scene that popped into my head. I pictured walking by an abandoned house with no doors, and then seeing a face staring at me through the window. It felt so creepy and brought up so many interesting questions. I kept asking why the person was there, what they were doing and why, what impact it might have on the town. As I answered the questions for myself, THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING slowly took shape.
- What’s your writing process like? Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Definitely a plotter. Not that I plan 100% of everything–I do leave some things to be created in the moment, and I give myself lots of unstructured brainstorming time–but overall, I write much more confidently with a road map. So I write an early, rough outline with all the concepts and major beats. Then I follow with a physical outline–a timeline made of sticky notes on my office wall. Then I write a detailed outline for blocks of upcoming chapters. I tend to write twisty plots with big casts of characters, and the only way to do them justice (for me, anyway) is to plan ahead.
- From idea to completion, how long did it take you to complete the manuscript? Did you workshop or take classes? Did you use an editor or critique partners to help you get your manuscript query ready?
It took me about two years to finish The Year of Lightning. During that time I went through about six drafts, and I definitely had the help of some awesome critique partners. No writer is an island, and no book is a one-person show. It takes a village to get it where it needs to be. Good crit partners are one of a writer’s most valuable tools for improving their work. I find it especially useful to partner with writers in a wide variety of genres. A contemporary writer will probably give different feedback than a sci-fi writer, and the perspective can help reveal things you might not have noticed otherwise. I haven’t taken writing classes in a long time, but I’m certainly open to them.
- Tell us about your query process for The Year of Lightning? How many agents or editors did you query? Tell us about your journey from querying to “The Call”.
I’m not sure of the exact number, but queried quite a few agents and editors. A frustrating part was that most of the rejections were positive. I received plenty of manuscript requests and good feedback, so I knew the quality of the work wasn’t a problem. The most common response I received was, “Your work is good, but it doesn’t fit our list.” That gave a certain sense of validation, but it also made the rejections sting a little more.
So when I got the call from Jolly Fish Press, it was transcendent. Not only did they love my book and believe in it enough to want to publish it, but they also wanted to publish the two sequels I had planned. Ever since, they’ve been a wonderful partner in publication and have taught me so much about being an author. It’s been a great experience.
- What advice would you give writers who are in the query process?
The query process is a test of endurance. I tried to view it as the industry making sure I had what it took to be a professional author. I also realized something very important. A certain agent or editor may be at the top of your wish list, but if they don’t absolutely love your work and feel like they have to represent you, they’re not the right partner. Publication is a slow process with lots of hills and valleys, and you want to a partner that’s as committed to your success as you are. So respect your own work enough to wait for the right partner. I know that when you’re in the query trenches, hearing the word “wait” again is enough to make you want to scream. But do it. You’ll be glad you did.
- Tell us about The Year of Lightning.
The book has been described as “Monster House meets Back to the Future.” It has time travel, mystery, rogue lightning storms, creepy houses, shadowy villains, lots of fun stuff. You may even notice a few subtle nods to some of my favorite sci-fi stories. It’s the first of a trilogy, and I’m hard at work on the sequels as we speak. So when you get to the end, fear not, there’s lots more to come!
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrbfBF5jFHA
Changing Hands Bookstore: http://www.changinghands.com/book/9781631630507
Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore: http://www.mystgalaxy.com/book/9781631630507
*Praise for The Year of Lightning*
“A rousing mix of science and fantasy that will thrill young and old alike! Dalton blends wit and emotion and adventure seamlessly in a tale that keeps your pulse pounding.” –author Ryne Douglas Pearson (Knowing, Simple Simon, Cloudburst)
“Exciting plot, smart characters, and engaging prose: Dalton’s writing jolts straight to your heart.” –Ellie Ann (The Silver Sickle), New York Times bestseller
“With cheeky winks to classic time travel and a mind-bending central mystery, The Year of Lightning moves at a pace that lives up to its title and will keep your pulse pounding to the last page.” –Karen Akins, author of the LOOP series