Rysa 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 release on October 21st, with the final book and novella coming in 2015.
Tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.
Hi, I’m Rysa Walker, author of Timebound and The CHRONOS Files series. The second book in the series, Time’s Edge will debut on October 21st. I’ve always been a writer in some fashion, but much of my focus was academic and nonfiction writing until a few years back. I wrote Timebound (originally self-published as Time’s Twisted Arrow) in my spare time between teaching history and government online. I’m now a full-time author, currently working on the final book in my series, scheduled for publication with Skyscape in the fall of 2015.
What was/is the hardest thing about balancing writing with everyday life and/or a day job?
It can be hard for me to write when the kids are running about, the dog is barking, or the phone is ringing. And this is still an issue as a full-time writer, except that I now have the other duties of being a writer to distract me as well.
Getting into the “groove” so that I can write. That was never an issue when I was writing lectures or academic articles, although even then, I had better luck writing late at night when there were fewer distractions. It can be hard for me to write when the kids are running about, the dog is barking, or the phone is ringing. And this is still an issue as a full-time writer, except that I now have the other duties of being a writer to distract me as well. I have to “unplug” except for my writing software and music, and go into the “writing cave.” And the kids have almost learned that it’s a very bad idea to interrupt Mom when the headphones are on and her fingers are flying across the keyboard. (The dog, not so much.)
Tell us about your schedule and habits from this time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).
I still write in bursts. I try to get in at least 1000 words a day, but it doesn’t always happen. More likely, I’ll have four days with 500 words and three where I hit 4-5k.
I take care of the side tasks of being a writer — answering emails, posting to social media, interviews, etc. — when my brain is not quite to the point of dealing with time travel conundrums. I’m still more likely to get a lot written if the house is quiet, especially late at night, but the kids have to be at school by 7:15 so I don’t get as many late night sessions as I’d like. As a result, I still write in bursts. I try to get in at least 1000 words a day, but it doesn’t always happen. More likely, I’ll have four days with 500 words and three where I hit 4-5k.
At one point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?
That decision was much easier thanks to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. I entered the contest in December, after self-publishing Time’s Twisted Arrow in October of 2012. My primary hope was to get to the stage where you get the free Publisher’s Weekly review, thinking that maybe there would at least be a nice tagline in the review that I could tweet. There was—”Kate is the Katniss Everdeen of time travel” made me very happy—but then the book kept going. It took the YA prize and then the Grand Prize, which meant a $50K advance on royalties and a contract with Skyscape. That was almost exactly my salary for a year, so it made quitting the day job much easier. I also have a husband with a solid job, so I wasn’t worried about the kids starving or the mortgage going unpaid. It was still a decision that would have been difficult to make if I’d only won the YA Prize, since the advance would have been $15K. That’s still a really nice advance in these days where debut authors often don’t get any advance at all, but I’m not sure I’d have had the courage to leave behind a regular paycheck if I didn’t know that a full year’s salary was in the bank.
What is one thing about your author career that not many people know of? Alternatively, what are some of your other hobbies/interests outside of writing?
That I’m actually a hybrid author—some works self-published, some traditionally published. I had always envisioned The CHRONOS Files as a three-novel series with two shorter novellas in between, written from the perspective of other characters. Skyscape wasn’t too keen on the idea of novellas, having had less-than-stellar luck publishing a few for other series. They contracted only for the two remaining novels (Time’s Edge and the still-untitled third book), but they agreed to let me self-publish the novellas. That’s unusual for publishers, who usually don’t like to give up control. The first novella, Time’s Echo, was self-published for Kindle and Audible earlier this year, and it has been a very nice additional income stream. I also love the fact that it lets me keep one foot in the very supportive world on indie authors, who understand that we really are NOT competitors, but colleagues.
What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?
Find ways of getting your name out there before you publish your first book.
Whether you end up going traditional (increasingly rare for debut authors) or self-publishing, you will need a solid marketing platform. I’m still unagented (and happily so), but many of my colleagues swear their agent earn every bit of the 15% they pay, and most agents will not even look at a new author who doesn’t have a blog and an active presence in social media. Find a social media outlet that works for you and build up a core group of followers. That will, in many cases, be fellow authors at the beginning. That’s okay — remember that authors read, too. In fact, we read a lot.
Also, finding places where you can publish short fiction is still a very good idea. Even though there are few magazines that publish short stories these days, there are online outlets, including a few that pay. One example is Kindle Worlds, which is a paid fan-fiction site that Amazon set up a while back. I’ve been poking around there a good bit lately, since I’m in negotiations to set up a “world” for The CHRONOS Files. They’ve got worlds ranging from Pretty Little Liars and the Vampire Diaries to Kurt Vonnegut, Hugh Howey, and dozens more. Find a world that you want to “play” in and publish a few short works within that universe — and if there is a world similar to the genre you’ll be writing in, that’s even better. There are several advantages for a new author. First, you start making money on your writing, which can be a huge incentive to keep writing. Second, you learn the tricks of the self-publishing trade in terms of formatting, marketing, etc. But most importantly, when you finally get your book into the hands of agents, editors, or straight to the readers, you’ll show up not as a first-time author, but as a seasoned writer, with several works already selling.
Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to touch on?
I’d like to add that it’s important to find a routine that works for you. And don’t give up.
You’ll see a lot of authors who insist that you must have the discipline to meet that minimum word count each and every day. That might work for some, but for those juggling work and family, that advice can be disheartening.
There were occasionally weeks when I managed to crank out a few hundred words each day while writing Timebound, but there were also entire months where my schedule was so hectic that I barely even looked at the manuscript. If you really want to be a writer, you’ll eventually finish that book — and it might even be better for having “marinated” a few years.