The internet can be a magical place.
There’s a website that I frequent—perhaps you’ve heard of it—when I’m bored or procrastinating, called imgur. It’s an image sharing website that equates to sticking your head into a loud room of a thousand screaming conversations. It’s interesting.
Amid the noise, I came across something posted by a fellow imgurian announcing that he had just received a book deal. I sent him a congratulatory message, which led to conversations about comic books, movies, and TV shows.
The author, Ryan Dalton, is scheduled to release “The Year of Lightning” this December as part of “The Time Shift Trilogy”—a young adult sci-fi mystery about two twins who discover a house with no doors or windows that holds a secret machine inside which could destroy their entire town.
Debut Author Ryan Dalton Bursts through the Scene with Trilogy Book Deal
by Anthony Piceno
DARK COMEDY PRODUCTIONS:
“Let’s say you’re a super hero. Tell me your origin story.”
“I remember saying at eight years old that I wanted to write books. As I got closer to growing up, though, life kind of took over and writing slid into the background for a while. It became just a casual hobby, and I began working in the tech industry. In my mid-twenties, though, that old flame rekindled.
So I started working hard to learn my craft better. I wrote everything I could think of. Short stories, online news articles. I wrote for a comedy blog, did some freelance advertising work, even told my friends to let me write all their craigslist sales ads. Anything to get in practice and develop my voice and knowledge.
Finally, at the end of 2010, I figured I was ready. I chose the favorite book idea I had come up with, and began writing it for real in February 2011. That became “The Year of Lightning,” which I sold as a trilogy last December. And here we are!”
“Do you remember what it was that rekindled the fire?”
“Yes, and it's a bit unusual. I had always loved [writing], but just didn't have the energy or focus to dedicate myself to doing it…while also holding down a day job that would pay my bills. In 2010 I got a sleep study done because my fatigue was reaching problematic levels, and it turned out I had an extremely high-risk level of sleep apnea. Essentially, the study revealed that I had never gotten real sleep my entire life. I got a sleep machine that would help me, and it completely changed my life. I went from falling asleep mid-conversation to actually having energy to spare. Then I looked at what I really wanted to do with my life, and the only answer was writing. Since I finally had the energy to do it, I dove in head-first. I had been working on my craft before the sleep study, but that was when I really knew I could do it.”
“How did the idea for Lightning materialize?”
“I tend to think in pictures and movies….For me, Lightning started with a creepy picture that popped into my head one day. I imagined finding an old, abandoned house with no doors. Then I imagined seeing someone's face in the window. It gave me the creeps, and I really wanted to explore that story and find out why they were in there. What were they doing, and why? It's funny, the way I describe the old house in the book is exactly how I envisioned it originally. Tall, faded whitewash, a round window at the top, with no doors anywhere. The story has been described as "Monster House meets Back to the Future.”
“Tell me about your journey in getting the story published.”
“So it took me two years to finish Lightning and about two years to sell it. I definitely had highs and lows...Rejection is part of the game, everyone going into publishing knows that. So you have to have a thick skin and be able to accept that everyone gets rejected, even people with established careers. So yeah, I got plenty of rejections. What disheartened me, though, was that many of them included personal notes that indicated how much the agent had enjoyed the samples I sent. Many said it was good work, but ultimately they didn't know where it fit. The book is a bit of a genre crossover, and I think it was hard for them to envision how they would present it to editors. So they just said no. That was hard because I wasn't getting rejected based on the quality of the work.
Finally, I decided to bypass agents and go for editors myself. That's when I found my publishing house…and submitted to them. They really got what I was doing and loved how different it was. It was refreshing how they embraced that, and they were excited enough by it to offer me a trilogy deal, which is extremely rare for a debut author these days.
I had always planned this story as a trilogy, and I was so excited, and still am, to get to tell the rest of the story. So it's a long two-year tale with a very happy ending.”
“Without giving too much away, what kinds of struggles can we expect your characters to face?”
“It's a YA book, so the main characters are teens. They're fifteen year old twins, a boy and a girl named Malcolm and Valentine. They're somewhat geeky, very smart, which I needed because this book is a sci-fi mystery and I needed characters who would be able to figure stuff out. They're dealing with some personal pain…there are reasons they've moved into this new town, which I won't reveal because it's part of the unfolding of the plot. They deal with older family members, the challenges of a new town/school/friends, and an array of teachers that range from quirky to cool. There's also a bit of romance in there for one of the twins, and they meet some friends that end up adding a lot to the story. They all end up involved in figuring out this mystery of the person inside the house, and when they figure out that it's all connected to these rogue lightning storms that keep breaking out, the danger ramps up.”
“How has the next installment been coming along?”
“Going great, actually. I'm charging toward the end. I'm about 90% finished, and will be 100% by the end of the month. That's first draft. Then I'll edit and send it out to beta readers, and I'll do more revision once the editor gets me his notes back. I am so happy with how book two is turning out…I feel like it avoids a lot of the problems that middle books encounter.”
“What kinds of problems, and how were you able to avoid them?”
“Some second books suffer from "mushy middle" or middle child syndrome. The first book was great, but [the writer] has to save the big story climax for book three, so they struggle to have something compelling for book two. I think that often comes when a publisher asks for three books when an author didn't necessarily plan a story as three. Then they have to stretch and add and add, and that doesn't always work out. There are plenty of great, strong trilogies, but I do see some of them having this issue.
I started out envisioning this series as three books, and I saw it as having two major layers. The first layer was the individual story for each book. Each book had its own challenges, its own plot, its own arc, its own villain, and its own conclusion. The second layer was the "series" layer, wherein you weave threads that connect through all three books and build toward the conclusion of book three. I was very determined to give each book a satisfying story without relying on the other two books, while still being part of the series and continuing its growth.”
“The Year of Lightning” will be available December 8th, 2015. Find Ryan online: