I absolutely love when I receive e-mails from new authors asking me to review their books. It breaks me out of my normal shell, and forces me to pick up books I usually would not. John A. Heldt contacted me to not only read one, but THREE of his books about time travel- a subject I do not read all that often. And when I have three books regarding the same topic, it’s a little daunting for me, as my mind likes to wander (I usually have to break up series with other books).
Luckily, I did not struggle with Heldt’s books at all. Not only is he an articulate writer, but his books have a way of pulling in the reader, and never letting go. Heldt currently has two separate series published:
- The Northwest Passage
- The American Journey
I had the pleasure of reading the first book in the Northwest Passage series, and two books apart of the American Journey series. In my opinion, these books could be standalone adventures, however characters are mentioned in more than one book.
John graciously agreed to let me interview him. I hope you enjoy his answers as much as I did!
What inspired you to write a series on time travel?
I have been drawn to time travel for as long as I can remember. I read H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Jack Finney’s Time and Again, and Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” in school and watched movies like Somewhere in Time and Back to the Future as a young adult, but it wasn’t until recently that I considered writing about time travel. When I read The Time Traveler’s Wife in June of 2011, I became fascinated by time travel to the recent past — not the past of the Old West or Ancient Rome or 1700s Scotland but rather the past of America in the 1900s. I loved the idea of taking a modern man and throwing him back to a time that was different, but not so different that he couldn’t cope or even thrive in it.
When I considered possible settings for a novel, I immediately thought of the United States on the eve of World War II. I had wanted to write about 1941, in fact, almost from the start, but I wanted to approach that historic year from a different angle. I wanted to cover the months leading up to Pearl Harbor and cover them from the perspective of a civilian time traveler who knew war was coming and wasn’t all that thrilled about jumping into it. I winnowed the setting to my native Pacific Northwest and started writing. A few months later, I published The Mine as a Kindle book and checked off an item on my bucket list.
I did not plan to write more books at that time, much less a series, but I changed my mind after getting several positive reviews — reviews, quite frankly, I did not expect. Within a few weeks, I decided to write another novel, The Journey, and build a series. That series, in turn, inspired another and will probably lead to at least one more before I’m through. I keep writing time travel books because I can’t get enough of them.
Do any of your books contain personal experiences?
They all do to a certain degree. In writing nine novels, I have drawn upon my experience as a high school student, a college student, a journalist, a librarian, an author, and the husband of a teacher. Journalists, librarians, and teachers are common in my works. On occasion, I will describe an event as it actually happened — or at least as I remember it. A terrifying drag-race scene in The Journey, for example, is based on a true experience. I will also draw upon my personal experiences — as an adoptive father — in my next book, Hannah’s Moon. I hope to publish that novel, the last in the American Journey series, in March or April.
If you could time travel, where (and when) would you go? And why?
I would go to Southern California in the late 1950s or early 1960s. I love the music, fashion, and culture of that place and time, which is why I had so much fun writing Class of ’59. That novel, published in September, is set mostly in Los Angeles and South Pasadena in the spring of 1959. I would not want to go to a time or a place where I might run into trouble or have a tough time adjusting to my surroundings. Time travel should be fun — not stressful!
Will you branch out into another series, or can we anticipate more time travel adventures?
I will make that decision after I publish Hannah’s Moon, but I’m leaning toward starting a time-travel trilogy that begins in the 1880s.
Which author(s) have been most influential to you? And why?
I am partial to many authors. I like how Stephen King, John Grisham, and Nelson DeMille turn phrases; how Clive Cussler and James Patterson construct their chapters; how Nicholas Sparks tackles romance; and how John Jakes approaches history. I was also a fan of the late Vince Flynn and admired, among other things, his efficiency and pacing.
What is your best advice for budding authors?
Give your book the consideration it deserves. Read it, reread it, and revise it until you want to run away from your laptop. Enlist the help of competent editors, beta readers, and illustrators. Be patient. Set reasonable goals. Take marketing seriously. It’s one thing to write a book. It’s another thing to sell it in a market where several hundred thousand new titles are released each year. Do what you can to stand out in the crowd.
What are you top book recommendations?
When it comes to fiction, I would recommend almost anything by Ken Follett, Vince Flynn, and Nelson DeMille. As for non-fiction, I have to go with Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, and Robert Kurson’s Shadow Divers. The Pillars of the Earth, by Follett, and Unbroken, a biography of Olympic distance runner and prisoner of war Louis “Louie” Zamperini, are the best books I have ever read.
What was your most anticipated read of 2016?
Without a doubt, it was The Martian, by Andy Weir.
As a fellow reader, be open minded to new genre’s and subjects. You never know what new adventure you could get caught up in! Thanks again John A Heldt! I’m looking forward to reading your entire series!