Eight Questions: Interview with Rysa Walker

RYSA WALKERRysa Walker grew up on a cattle ranch in the South, where she read every chance she got. On the rare occasion that she gained control of the television, she watched Star Trek and imagined living in the future, on distant planets, or at least in a town big enough to have a stop light. Timebound, the first book in the CHRONOS Files series, was the Young Adult and Grand Prize winner in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. A CHRONOS Files novella, Time’s Echo, is now available exclusively on Kindle and Audible. Time’s Edge, the second book in the series, will debut October 21st.

 For news and updates, visit Rysa at http://www.rysa.com. She’s on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/Timebound) and she tweets @RysaWalker. The best place to find her books is http://www.amazon.com/author/rysawalker.

What is your daily creative routine like?

My routine isn’t very routine. I’d probably be more productive if it was, but a lot depends on the rest of the household. I share an office with my husband, a computer programmer who works from home most days. He’s the type who likes to take frequent brain breaks and our other office mate, Lucy, likes to bark. If I, on the other hand, actually manage to get in the zone, I need to stay there until the damned scene is finished. I’m also much more creative at night, by nature, but my kids have to be at school at seven. They’re on an odd school schedule—nine weeks in, three weeks out—which means I have pockets during the year when whatever routine I do have is interrupted.

There are many days when I simply have to accept that it just isn’t going to happen. I’m fully caffeinated, my behind is parked in the chair and my fingers are on the keyboard, but there’s too much chaos for the little voices in my head to cooperate. On those days, I answer emails and handle other correspondence, take care of marketing tasks, and the myriad other things writers have to do that don’t require that part of my brain. I try not to get too freaked out if there’s a day or two like that each week. Timebound was, after all, written in short bursts between semesters and the occasional times when I was pissed at my employer.

Of course, when there’s a deadline, I freak out.

What does your writing space look like? What are some of the must-have devices and apps that make up your writer’s toolbox?

I can’t work with a clean desk. It’s like all of that space is taunting me, in the same way that a blank page might. About once a month, I do a purge because I can’t see my monitors over the junk. The fact that you can currently see some of the wood in the picture of my workspace indicates that a purge happened recently.

Headphones are a must for me. Not only are they necessary to shut out (most of the) noise in the house, but they also serve as a visual signal. If the headphones are on, the kids know that they should’t interrupt me unless there is a lot of blood or broken bones. (Doesn’t mean they always abide by it…but we’re working on it!) The dual monitors are necessary when I do graphics for marketing, but I often shut one down on writing days. Otherwise, there’s a temptation to check the email, or track down some stray historical fact. That can lead to clicking something else, and then something else, and the next thing I know I’m miles away from where I started browsing with very little idea how I got there.

As far as apps, this is the first book where I’ve used Scrivener. Before that, it was MS Word. I’m still debating which I prefer. If I was the type that outlined everything in advance, Scrivener would be more beneficial, but as it is, I don’t use a lot of the features. On the other hand, it’s much better about backing up my work. I’m really bad about remembering to save once I get going, so that’s a plus for me. I should also give a shout-out to Pandora. I have an alt-rock channel that is now nicely trained to give me a mix of instrumentals and songs that I know well enough that I’m not yanked out of the writing by the need to go track down a lyric.

Rysa Walker's writing space

Are you a plotter or pantser, or some combination?

Ninety percent pantser. I do have to plot things out to some extent. I wrote a nice detailed synopsis to sell the last two books in The CHRONOS Files series to my editor, and I’ve even stuck to some of it. The best way to put it is that my creative process is a little like mapping out a road trip using a GPS. I’ve keyed in the final destination, and a few via points along the way. My characters play the role of the GPS when I get them together, and quite often the route I end up taking to get to the destination is very different from the one that I imagined.

What are some of your biggest creative challenges and how do you overcome them?

1)  Procrastination. This is usually more of a problem for me if I’m facing a difficult scene or if I’m uncertain where things are going. I’d like to say I handle this one by diligently pounding out my word count each and every day, but that would be a big, fat lie. Sometimes, I give in. And that’s why I tend to go into panic mode as a deadline approaches. That’s always been my work pattern, however—most of my dissertation was written in the final few months, even though I worked on the thing for over two years—so I try not to let it worry me too much.

2)  Painting myself into a corner. This is mostly a time travel challenge, because there have been numerous occasions where I get to a certain point and realize that I have a timeline clash. But it’s also a side-effect of being a 90% pantser. If I was a plotter, I’d have it all mapped out and outlined and wouldn’t have to go back through and paint over the footsteps as I work my way back to the point where I veered off track. Sometimes I have to step away from the computer for a little while to clear my head. In dire cases, a glass of pinot noir or port has been known to help.

3)  Letting negative reviews drag me down. My editor says I shouldn’t even read them. I’m almost to the point where I think she’s right. If one really gets to me, I email it to my sister. She’ll rip into the review and explain why the critic is wrong on multiple levels, question his or her sanity, intelligence, and parentage, and most importantly she’ll make me laugh. And then, once the critic has been totally eviscerated by that not-so-neutral party, I can get back to writing.

Who are some of your strongest influences?

First and foremost, Stephen King. I started reading his work at a very early age (well before I’d let my kids read him) and despite the fact that most of his stories scared the bejeezus out of me, I almost always started over at page one as soon as I closed the book. I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written multiple times, with the exception of some of the shorter works. Not saying I loved all of them—in fact, there are a few, like Pet Sematary, that I hated. Even in those works, however, I admired his unwavering ability to tell a good story. I don’t delve too far into the realm of horror in my own writing because if I did, I’d probably need to sleep with the light on and my husband would boot me into the guest room. But I’d love to have even a fraction of King’s ability to make readers bond with his characters and follow them into the heart of hell in order to find out what happens next.

Others include J.K. Rowling, J.R.R.Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Douglas Adams, Margaret Atwood and Ursula LeGuin. All of these writers pulled me into worlds they created and rendered me totally unwilling to leave. They are writers I’ve introduced to my kids, and eagerly anticipated discussing with them. In many cases, they are also writers who taught me something, and that’s always icing on the cake.

What is the best creative advice you’ve every received? 

Don’t let someone else’s interests determine your path. Agents and publishers don’t necessarily know what readers want and what’s good for them isn’t always going to be good for you. If you have a story that you believe in, put it out there and let the readers decide.

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What’s next for you?

Time’s Edge debuts October 21st and we’ll be launching the series as a Kindle World for fan fiction around the same time. My current work-in-progress is the final, still untitled, third book in The CHRONOS Files series. I hope to finish it by the first of the year, since it’s slated for publication with Skyscape in the fall of 2015. Then I start writing the second CHRONOS Files novella, Time’s Mirror, which I’ll self-publish next summer, before Book 3 comes out.

I have three other ideas in various stages of development, so once this series wraps up, I’ll have to decide which to prioritize. I suspect it will be the one where the first book is mostly written, simply because those characters are very vivid in my mind and they’ve been royally pissed about being shunted aside while I finished up work on the Timebound sequels.

What do you want your legacy to be? 

If people remember me as someone who could spin a good yarn, who could take them outside of their everyday experience and let them live somewhere else for just a little while, I’ll be a happy camper. And if they learned a little something along the way, that’s even better.

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About David Wright

Dave is the co-founder of Collective Inkwell, in which he and Sean Platt re-invented serial fiction. Hailing from the quaint town of [REDACTED], Dave's renown for putting children in jeopardy (in his fiction, anyway) has made him world famous.


  1. Yet another great interview!
    I love to get a glimpse behind the scene 🙂

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