The book is called THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING. It’s a sci-fi mystery set in current times, in a fictional Midwestern town. The story idea began with a single picture that popped into my head–someone finds an old, abandoned house with no doors, but then they see a face in the window. That mental picture felt really chilling, so I started exploring it. The end result is a story with creepy mystery, rogue lightning storms, and time travel. There’s also a lot of humor and quirky characters mixed in with the scary stuff. I love creepy stories, but most of them turn out to involve ghosts or other supernatural elements. I wanted to write a creepy story that was driven completely by advanced technology.
2. Is it a standalone book or part of a series?
THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING is the first book of the Time Shift Trilogy, so there will be three books in all. This book will be released on December 8th, 2015, and the first sequel (tentatively titled THE BLACK TEMPEST) will be released Fall 2016.
3. Who inspired your main character?
I don’t typically base my characters on real people. I do mentally “cast” them with actors once I’ve established the characters’ core personalities, but that’s mainly to help me visualize how they move and speak. I have two main characters for THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING–twins named Malcolm and Valentine Gilbert. They’re fifteen-year-old high school freshmen, and each is geeky and brainy in their own way. When I first developed them, I knew one of their most important traits would be intelligence–partly because I like writing smart characters, and partly because the mystery required protagonists who were capable of figuring it out and finding a way to threaten the villain’s plans.
4. Are you a plotter or do you just write whatever is in your head?
While I’m very much a plotter/outliner, it’s not a strict line that I draw. I write more confidently when I have a framework and when I know my ultimate destination. Also, the Time Shift books have large casts of characters and fairly intricate stories, so a road map is a necessity. However, outlines are still living documents. My outlines are continually changing as I write, when I come up with better story ideas or realize something new and pivotal about a character. So the creative process begins with the concept and the outline, but continues all the way through getting those words on the page.
5. Do you require silence when writing or do you need background noise?
I usually like having some noise, but it has to be of a very specific quality. I don’t like to hear talking or song lyrics because that throws off my rhythm. I don’t often listen to aggressive music, either, unless a scene calls for it. Usually I’ll listen to thunderstorm sounds or super chilled out relaxation music. They provide a white noise background that insulates me without taking up brain space. I also like the energy of public places, so I tend to write in coffee shops while wearing noise-cancelling headphones.
6. Are you writing your next book?
The first draft of Book 2 of the Time Shift trilogy is very close to completion. I expect to submit it to my editor within a month. It takes the world that’s established in THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING and expands it, while also keeping the focus on the characters and how they stay ahead of the threats around them. After that, I’ll take a little break and then dive into edits and revisions. While that’s happening, I’ll also begin outlining Book 3. So I have plenty of writing to keep me busy!
7. How long were you writing before getting a publishing contract?
I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was about eight years old. Then when I was ten, a family friend published a novel, and that was the first time I truly realized that the books I saw on shelves were written by actual, normal people. From that day one, I said I wanted to write and publish books. More specifically, THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING took two years to write and two years to sell.
“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.”