Posted on 08/10/2018 at 11:56 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
The only type of person more qualified to write time-travel novels than John A. Heldt might be an actual time traveler.
Heldt spent years in journalism (as an award-winning sportswriter), then moved on to working as a reference librarian, from which he retired in 2014.
That has allowed him to put most of his energy into his critically acclaimed Northwest Passage, American Journey, and Carson Chronicles series, all of which send modern-day characters into the Wild West, the years surrounding World War II, and other lesser-discussed timeframes.
We caught up with Heldt recently, upon the suggestion of one of his author friends, as he took a quick breather from working on the third Carson Chronicles book.
SADYE: It’s not a surprise that a journalist and librarian sat down to write fiction, but what prompted you to do so?
JOHN: If I had to narrow it to one thing, I would say it was the desire to share the stories I had dreamed up over the years.
As a journalist, I reported the news. I reported events in a factual manner, after they had happened, and within acceptable limits.
With the exception of certain feature stories, I was not able to produce the kind of works I wanted to produce.
So I slowly gravitated toward fiction in general and novel writing in particular.
SADYE: Romance has often been generalized as being written by women, for women. Have you encountered any obstacles while writing and marketing love stories?
JOHN: I haven't, for the most part — for two reasons, I think.
The most important reason is that I don't write romance novels. I write time-travel stories with strong romantic components, stories that don't follow the standard norms.
In many, if not most, romance novels, the hero and the heroine ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. In some of my books, they do not. They face serious hardships, tragedy, and even death.
As Nicholas Sparks has observed, love stories, unlike romance novels, "usually end tragically or, at best, on a bittersweet note."
Because I write love stories rather than romance novels, I think I am judged a bit differently than those who write standard romance.
I think men are also viewed differently when it comes to writing love stories with a time-travel theme.
Some of the best time-travel romances, after all, have been written by men, including Time and Again by Jack Finney and Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson, the novel that was turned into the 1980 film Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.
Two other time-travel classics written by men, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells and 11/22/63 by Stephen King, also have romantic elements.
So I'm not exactly breaking new ground.
SADYE: You’ve set your novels in a variety of times and places — which would you most like to accidentally stumble into?
JOHN: That's a tough question because the period I would most like to visit is also the one I would least like to visit.
I think it would be fascinating to live in the United States before, during, and immediately after World War II, which is why I have set four novels — The Mine, Mercer Street, Hannah's Moon, and the coming third book in the Carson Chronicles series — in that era.
But I would have no desire to be sucked into the violence and destruction of the late 1930s and early 1940s, which claimed between fifty and eighty million lives.
SADYE: Your nominator admired the amount of research you put into your novels. Have you done anything extreme to nail historical accuracy?
JOHN: I haven't done anything crazy or intense to nail historical accuracy, but I have gone to great lengths on numerous occasions.
In The Mine, for example, I contacted a man in Sweden who collected vintage commercial flight schedules.
He happened to possess a 1941 schedule that listed Northwest Airlines flight times between Seattle and Helena, Montana — times I needed to complete the story.
I also routinely enlist the help of librarians, archivists, and experts from around the world and visit the settings of my novels whenever time and circumstances permit.
When I wrote The Fire in 2013, I visited the tiny town of Wallace, Idaho, three times that year just to get a feel of the place.
There is nothing like visiting the site of a historical location to get a sense of what a historic event was like.
SADYE: Beyond writing books that readers love, what has been the most effective way to attract a readership as an indie author?
JOHN: I engage my readers whenever possible. If they send me private emails, I respond within a few days.
If they ask me a question on my blog or Facebook or Goodreads, I attempt to answer it quickly and thoroughly.
Unlike other authors who have developed fairly large followings, I still solicit reviews from book bloggers and participate in interviews such as this.
I do not take my readers for granted because I know they have many other reading options and could exercise those options at any time.
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Categories: Author Interview