Monday, April 20, 2015

Fall Fifteeners Talk Genre: Ryan Dalton, author of THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING

Hello, all! Anna-Marie McLemore here, author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, stopping in with this month’s installment of Fall Fifteeners Talk Genre. In the coming months, I’m chatting with a few of my fellow Fall Fifteeners about their genres, and a little later I’ll be talking about why I what I write. Today I’m chatting with Ryan Dalton, author of THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING.

1. What genre do you write?
I mainly write sci-fi mixed with a bunch of other genre flavors. Almost all of my story ideas end up having some kind of sci-fi element, even if I don’t intend for them to at the beginning. I guess my geekiness comes out eventually! The Year of Lightning, for instance, is a sci-fi mystery.

2. What do you love most about your genre?
Sci-fi can be so many things and mean so many things. It’s such a broad genre that I can write pretty much anything I want, and as long as the story has a few basic identifying markers, it still identifies as sci-fi. As a genre, it doesn’t restrict you to a small range of tropes or structures. Plus, it’s just plain fun to write.

3. What genres does sci-fi sometimes get confused with? Where are lines drawn, and where is there genuine overlap/blurring between genres?
Most people seem to have a basic grasp of what sci-fi is. One common misconception, though, is that they all take place in space, in some alien environment, or at some point in the future. That’s not the case at all. Any setting is fair game. The Year of Lightning is set in present day, in a normal town, but is very much a sci-fi story. The elements that make it sci-fi are actually a big part of the mystery. The line between sci-fi and not-sci-fi can be blurry, even movable at times, but that’s part of what I like about it.
To illustrate, I very rarely start out saying I want to write a sci-fi story. Most of the time, I say I want to write about a character like this or I want to explore what people would do in this situation, or sometimes This idea sounds like a total blast, so let’s try it. Sci-fi may be the wheels, but the engine is still story and characterization.

4. What are some of your favorite sci-fi books?
The Gone-Away World, Nick Harkaway
The Foundation Series, Isaac Asimov
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’engle
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
Dragonriders of Pern, Anne McCaffrey
Ready Player One, Ernie Cline
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Old Man’s War, John Scalzi
Watchmen, Alan Moore (yes, it’s a graphic novel, and an astounding piece of storytelling)

5. How did you come to write sci-fi?
I’m the only uber-geek in my family, but my parents did love Star Trek and Star Wars. I’m sure that played a huge part in my continued love for sci-fi. Those two universes are big and fun and have lots of cool gadgets and action, but underneath all that, their hearts are powered by much more than spectacle. I remember watching as a kid while Spock sacrificed himself to save his friends. I remember listening to Yoda tell me that size matters not, and feeling like I could take on the world.
Star Wars is ultimately about family and friendship and their triumph over great evil. Star Trek is an exploration of the human spirit through the lens of a space adventure. No matter how many space battles or lightsaber duels they give us (which are undeniably cool), those stories are ultimately about the people who live in them.
I love the spectacle of sci-fi, but it’s the characters that keep me coming back.

6. Regardless of whether you write them, what are your favorite genres to read?
I try to read in every genre, at least a little bit. I’m a sucker for old classics like The Count of Monte Cristo, Pride and Prejudice, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Cask of Amontillado.
The first children’s books that I loved were Hardy Boys mysteries, and my passion for good mysteries has only grown with time. From Sherlock Holmes to Jeffrey Deaver’s forensic mysteries, I can’t resist a story that keeps me guessing.

Thanks for talking genre, Ryan!
About Ryan: Ryan Dalton either wears a cape and fights crime abroad, or he writes about it from his red captain’s chair at home. Perhaps he’s a superhero that’s trained with the world’s finest heroes, or he’s a lifelong geek who sings well and makes a decent dish of spaghetti. It’s also plausible that he’s been plotting to take over the world since he was ten, or that he’s since been writing novels to stir the heart and spark the imagination. Either way he lives in an invisible spaceship that’s currently hovering above Phoenix, Arizona.

Anna-Marie McLemore writes from her Mexican-American heritage, and her love both for cultures she grew up in and others she’s learned about along the way. Among her favorite things are fall leaves, Irish dancing, and lesser-known fairy tales. Her YA debut is THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a magical realism story of traveling shows, girls who can make anyone believe in mermaids, and tightrope-walkers who wear wings.

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