December SST: Interview with Ryan Dalton, Author of The Year of Lightning

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Year of Lightning by Ryan Dalton
Series: The Time Shift Trilogy #1
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: December 8, 2015

About The Year of Lightning: 

When 15-year-old twins Malcolm and Valentine Gilbert moved to a new town, they never imagined that the old house across the street could bring them so much trouble. A secret machine has reawakened inside, with the power to pierce time itself.

Meanwhile, lightning storms are breaking out all over town. They’re getting worse every week, and seem to enjoy striking kids who just want to pass science class and mind their own business. When Malcolm and Valentine discover a connection between the house and the storms, their situation goes from mysterious to crazy stupid dangerous. Someone is controlling the great machine, and their purpose is nearly complete.
In a race against time, the twins must uncover the chilling plan, the mastermind behind it, and the force that’s driving the deadly storms. They’ll hunt a powerful enemy that threatens their town’s existence, and the only clues are written in the sky.


1. What was your inspiration for The Year of Lightning?

One day, a picture popped into my head and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I saw an old, abandoned house with no doors, only windows. No way in or out. Then I envisioned walking by that creepy old house and seeing a face in the window, staring right at me.

I kept asking questions about that person, how they got in there, what they were doing, and as I answered those questions the story for The Year of Lightning was born. It's been described as "Monster House meets Back to the Future."

2. Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, do you have a specific playlist for The Year of Lightning?

Music is a huge part of my creative process. I make playlists for every book, and the songs help me develop scenes and find their rhythm. In fact, making a playlist of one of my earliest stages of story building. The playlists consist of all types of music, whatever is speaking to me at the moment, everything from instrumental soundtracks to rock. Even as I type this, I'm listening to music from Doctor Who.

When I do the actual writing, though, I rarely listen to music with lyrics or heavy beats because I find it distracting. So I'll usually listen to very chill relaxation music or thunderstorm sounds. I'm a huge fan of, especially since we don't get much actual rain here in the desert.

3. Without spoilers, what was your favorite scene to write?

Hmm this is a tough one, but there's a scene later in the book where two unlikely side characters gain an unexpected victory. That was probably my favorite scene to write. Second favorite would be a scene at about the midpoint of the book, where two characters have a very open and honest moment with each other.

4. Which character was the most enjoyable to write?

Tough choice again, as they're all rewarding in different ways. The most fun to write, though, is a supporting character named Fred Marshall. He's mouthy and overconfident, but carries more depth than he reveals at first. He often injects much-needed levity and light into tense, emotional situations.

5. Is there a specific reason why you chose twin protagonists?

When I came up with the idea, the characters started talking to each other in my head almost immediately, and that's what sold me on it. I loved their interplay, and it was fun exploring what their similarities and differences might be. While I developed more ideas for the trilogy, they became dependent on that twin dynamic, until I could no longer envision this story through just one protagonist's point of view. Nothing else but twins felt right. As the trilogy progresses, readers will see that connection and all it involves becoming more and more important in the story.

6. Describe your book in five words or less.

Lightning is rarely cooperative.

7. When did you decide to become an author?

I remember saying at seven or eight years old that I was going to write books. I had always loved to read so much that it was never even a question. It always felt natural and inevitableI wanted to write and knew it would happen. Of course, when eight-year-old me announced that to adults, they had a good laugh. I remember being confused and wondering why they thought it was funny. Even at that age, I was serious about it. It took some years to make it to publication, but the road has definitely been worth it, and so far it's been as awesome as I'd hoped for all those years.

8. What is your favorite part about being an author?

Hearing someone say they loved the book is pretty hard to beat. When they get excited about a plot point, or express strong feelings about a character like they're a real person, or even comment on elements of my system of time manipulations, it hits me that I'm doing what I've always wanted to do. Writing books and knowing people enjoy them is a pretty tough feeling to beat.

There's also something I've heard mathematicians talk about. They call it getting a "math high," where the calculations happen so beautifully and the work is so satisfying that it gives them a huge endorphin rush. I think writers experience a "creation high." There are times when everything sings in perfect harmony, when the music and the words and the emotions are all flowing together. It's a rush of being completely in love with and excited and satisfied by what's happening on the page. I love those moments.

9. Are you working on any new projects right now?

The Year of Lightning is the first novel in The Time Shift Trilogy. I recently finished my second draft of the sequel, called The Black Tempest, and that's currently in the hands of a few trusted beta readers. I'm also in the early stages of outlining Book 3, which is going to be super cool.

I always have some side projects happening. Right now I'm working with a playwright friend on some geeky scripts for live table reads. I have a sic-fi board game in development and will hopefully be able to launch it within the next couple years. And right now I'm working with artists and voice actors on the book trailer for The Year of Lightning.

So I've definitely got my hands full!

10. If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?

It's some of the hardest advice to hear, but also some of the most essential. Don't rush learning your craft and finding your voice. Don't be in such a hurry to get published that you cut corners. When you take enough time to learn the tools and discover who you truly are as a creator, that will come across in your work. People will see the quality and authenticity and they will want to support you.

Also, I'm going to cheat and give a second piece of advice. Find your local writing community and make yourself a part of it as early as possible. Get into a writing group. Find beta readers both in and out of the genres you're interested in (they can teach you something). Go to book and author events, comic and pop culture conventions, and offer yourself to the community. As you start contributing, others will contribute back to you. Writers tend to be a pretty close-knit culture, so develop those connections as early as possible.

About the Author:

Ryan Dalton is author of the young adult Time Shift Trilogy. His debut novel THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING will be released on December 8, 2015. Ryan splits his time between writing books during the day, fighting crime at night, and hanging out in his awesome underground lair. Please do not tell anyone he's Batman. It's a secret.

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