The Penmen Profile: YA Sci-fi Author Ryan Dalton

by Rebecca LeBoeuf

dalton-headshotRyan Dalton’s second book from the “Time Shift Trilogy” hits shelves in April, so there’s still time to read his debut novel and book one, “The Year of Lightning.” This young adult science fiction trilogy follows not-so-normal teenage twins as they encounter and solve mysteries and often find themselves in dangerous situations. Dalton writes in Phoenix, Ariz., and made time to answer some questions with The Penmen Review.

Have you always written?
I started writing between eight and ten years old, mostly poetry and little funny stories. I remember very clearly telling a group of adults that I was going to write a book and then being confused about why they were laughing. Even at that age, it was a real thing to me and I knew I’d do it eventually.

What’s your process in developing your storyline and characters?
The seed of a story idea usually comes to me in a flash. Sometimes it’ll be triggered by a song, other times by random thoughts, or just something I see or hear during my daily routine. Once I have an idea that interests me enough to stick, my brain will start chipping away at ideas about the world and the characters that would inhabit that world. I’ll start asking myself questions about plot and character development. It’s fun to figure out answers to those questions, and if I keep going, eventually I have a pretty workable skeleton. From there I’ll move forward more deliberately. The story, world and characters tend to grow organically together as I figure them all out.

What challenges do you face in your writing, and how do you overcome them? 
Especially since I’m newly published, it’s been a challenge to learn how to balance the business with the artistic. I enjoy both­ – and I especially like doing public events where authors can interact with readers – but finding the right balance can be tricky. I’m still learning to compartmentalize writing and promotion. Also, I got my book deal without an agent, but I’d really like to have a partner, so the search for the right one continues.

What has the road to publication been like for you?
It took me a few years and multiple rejections before signing the deal for my trilogy. But I don’t feel like that’s necessarily a bad thing, even though it was often disheartening and frustrating. During that process, I grew as a writer and learned a ton about the industry. Traditional publication is tough and it will definitely test your resolve. That can be a good thing because once you’re published there are just as many (if not more) tests of your strength and determination.

How do you market your work?dalton-book
I’m active on social media, but mainly I like doing in-person events where I can connect with readers face-to-face. Pop culture conventions, library and school visits, book store appearances, etc. I also do Skype sessions with book clubs and writing groups.

What do you wish you knew when you first started writing?
I learned a lot about the publishing industry before I started writing professionally, so I feel like I went in with my eyes open. I have been pleasantly surprised, though, by the amazing reception I received by fellow authors when I entered the ranks. When I got my book deal, I was instantly a peer and welcomed into the community. The YA community is super awesome and supportive, and the local community here in Phoenix is especially amazing. My only real regret is that I wasn’t able to start doing this sooner. I had some medical issues in my teens and twenties that prevented me from being very productive with my writing, so for the last six years I’ve been running full-speed and making up for lost time, and totally having a blast.

Who are the authors that have inspired you most, and how have they inspired you?
The first book series I loved were “The Hardy Boys” and “A Wrinkle in Time.” My love for mystery and sci-fi has endured to this day, so those authors had a lasting influence on me. Isaac Asimov was also a big inspiration. His approach to science fiction was so different than I’d seen before (as in the “Foundation” series), and it taught me that science fiction is a huge canvas and it can be anything we want it to be.

If you could keep just three books in your library, which would you choose and why?
The three novels I would choose:

“The Count of Monte Cristo” – it’s my favorite book, an absolute masterpiece and it offers amazing lessons on how to build to truly epic moments.

“The Gone-Away World” – my second favorite book, by Nick Harkaway. This book is almost impossible to define or describe. It just swept me into a journey and then blew me away.

“Pride and Prejudice” – my third favorite book. This one definitely earns its status as a revered classic. Whimsical, insightful, beautifully phrased, with a story that still holds up and rings true today.

I’m going to cheat and add a fourth book – “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. Pure fun, unabashedly geeky, and a joyful page-turner. It’s also a great lesson to authors. Find your own unique voice, embrace it and show it to the world. Many people thought this book would never find an audience, but here it is now, on book shelves across the world.


For more information about Dalton, visit his website.