Monday, November 16, 2015

Time Hopping with James Penn, Time-Travel Enthusiast and Writer

Can we talk about time travel for a second? Really. I love the idea of time travel, and the many scientific (and not-so-scientific) theories that surround it. 

When I picture time travel, I envision a wild-eyed professor, a Dolorian and a boy on a skateboard with a red puffer vest. 
Okay. So maybe I just picture Back to the Future. But you can't blame me - it's a great movie! 

Over the years, many books have been written and movies have been made about the idea (Kate and Leopold, anyone? How about the time-turner from Prisoner of Azkaban?

James Penn is the author of Emperors of Time, a book about four teenagers who risk it all to save their world from a group of villains from the future. Spoiler alert: TIME TRAVEL IS INVOLVED. 

James graciously agreed to visit with us today at Writing Belle. Here, in his words, are his thoughts on breaking the time barrier, his favorite movies and how exactly he became the mind-bending author that he is. 


Welcome to Writing Belle! You are one of the few authors here who has written a book based on the premise of TIME TRAVEL. Tell us about how you got into that? 

I've always been really into history, so I think it makes sense that I would write a series where the characters get to go and visit it.  I've usually been a little more in to pre-modern history than American History, but this series is based on the characters traveling back into American History.  In Emperors of Time, the characters witness part of the Civil War, see John Wilkes Booth on his way to assassinate Lincoln, and spend quite a bit of time in 1916 San Francisco where villains from the future are trying to change the future by altering the outcome of a presidential election.  The characters don't just go back in time, though, they visit the future as well, though it's a future they're trying to stop from happening.

Where did you get the idea for Emperors of Time? 

The idea randomly came to me of having the essence of an object be able to carry people back to any time and place where the object had been.  From there, I figured that someone would have had to have done something to capture that essence and make it work for them...  someone who created time travel.  From there, I had to figure out why they would want to create time travel, and the whole story kind of evolved from there.  

How much research did you have to do to write the book - how long did it take you to write it? 

The idea came to me years before, and I've had some of the ideas, scenes, and characters floating around in my head for almost that long.  But for whatever reason, after a failed attempt at starting to write it down, the story languished until about 2 years ago.  Once it was brought back, Emperors of Time took me about 4 months to write, from the time I started working on the version that eventually made it out into the world, to the end of the first draft.  Editing took another 2 months.  I had to do a fair amount research.  The idea to have a lot of the setting in 1916 San Francisco, like some of the other historical parts of the book, developed organically, so I didn't know I'd be writing about it until I had fleshed out some other parts of the book.  Once I found out the book was happening at that time and place, I naturally had to find out a lot about it.  What buildings were there in 1916 San Francisco?  What parts of the city would my characters walk through?  What did things cost at the time?  I think I came up with a pretty convincing picture of 1916 San Francisco, and the other parts of my book that I researched, but it did take a bit of work.

Why did you decide to make your main characters teenagers? 

I think that teenagers are the most fun characters to write and read about.  I got to use a lot of witty, awkward, teenager-y dialogue that just wouldn't work with adults.  Besides, as anyone who reads the book will find out, adults really shouldn't be trusted with time travel anyway.  Neither should just any teenager, of course, but the teenagers in this book are special.  

What are some of your favorite time travel movies/books? 

Hmmm....  I liked Back to the Future A Swiftly Tilting Planet (for any Madeline L'Engle fans out there).  You didn't ask about TV shows, but my favorite Time Travel series is definitely Doctor Who.

Why is writing special to you? What advice do you have to aspiring authors? 

I like the idea of reaching other people through my writing...  making someone think, making them laugh, making them, for whatever reason, hungry for that next page.  
Advice for aspiring authors would be:  The internet is a really awesome tool for getting your writing out there and getting other people to look at it and talk to you about it.  Back when I was in high school and college, I wrote a good bit of Harry Potter fanfiction, and it was really cool to have people read, review, and care about things that I was writing.  It was much later that I found online publishing, but that has also been great.  A lot of this stuff was much harder 15 years ago when you had to print out the whole story and try to make your friends and relatives read it just to get an idea of whether it was any good or not.  

Is there a sequel to Emperors of Time? Any other writing projects in the works?

Yep:  The sequel, Fugitives of Time is available on amazon at
A third book in the series should be coming out hopefully in Summer 2016.

Where can readers connect with you online? 

twitter:  @JWilsonPenn

Thank you for stopping by! 
Happy Reading! 

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Get fictional - it's fun! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you again soon!