CSB Spotlight: J.Y. Harris (Interview)

Today I am welcoming author J.Y. Harris to the blog, author of Timekeepers: A Revolutionary Tale. It’s a MG/YA time travel story that looks like a great find for middle grade/YA children. Welcome J.Y.!

A Little Bit About J.Y.

You’ve lived in both New York and North Carolina. Which do you like the best?

J.Y.: I’m going to be wishy-washy here, and say…  “both.”  I loved growing up in upstate New York, and may one day return there.  But I have to say, I’ve gotten spoiled by the mild winters in North Carolina.  Both states have a lot to offer in terms of history and beauty.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?  

J.Y: I honestly don’t remember having a specific “dream career” when I was a child.  As a teen, I was fascinated by the investigative journalists of the time, breaking important stories about wrongdoing and corruption.  And since I’d always had a creative bent, I assumed I’d work in marketing or advertising, or perhaps be a magazine columnist or reporter.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

J.Y.: I admit I watch WAY too much TV, which I find fun and relaxing.  But I also enjoy walking, and find time almost every day for this activity; it’s a great stress-reliever.  Ditto for working in the yard;  I come up with some great dialogue and scene descriptions when I’m outside, doing something physical.

Share one thing about yourself that not a lot of people know about you.   

J.Y.: I used to work for the federal government (many years ago), and had a Top Secret security clearance.  (Actually that sounds more impressive than it really is.)

J.Y. On Writing

What is it about writing that brings you back to the page for more?

J.Y.: I have to describe the scenes I see in my head, and once I get on a roll, it’s hard to stop.  I like telling stories… it’s literally creating something out of nothing.  What’s not to love?

What are the key influences for you in writing?

J.Y.: Hmm, tough one.  I think the biggest influence I have in writing is other good authors, collectively.  I read all types of books, and I don’t know that I have any specific influence in how I write.  To be honest, I try not to be influenced in my writing, as I don’t think that would be authentic to my voice.

Are any of your characters based on people that you’ve known, or are there situations in your books you’ve encountered in real life?

J.Y.: Many of my characters have some trait or characteristic that can be attributed to people I know in real life.  Ditto for some situations that occur, or ideas/thoughts that the characters express.  Obviously, readers won’t know any of that, nor should they.  But if we can’t use our own experiences in the lives of our characters, then what fun is it??

What is your writing process?  

J.Y.: I write first in long-hand, believe it or not.  Then, when I get a certain number of pages written that way, I type it into the manuscript.  The typing is my first round of rough editing.  When I’m in the midst of writing and I come across a detail that needs further research, I just put a placeholder mark on the page and continue writing, so as not to interrupt my flow.  Later I can do the required research and add the info that I need.

How much research do you find yourself doing?

J.Y.: Since my books are time-travel, I of course have research the period to which my characters travel, as well as the location.  Quite a bit of research takes place before I start writing, and more as I get into the story and need extra detail.  I find research very interesting and fun, and quite enjoy digging for detail that will give my story the authentic touch.  For example, for my current work, I learned that saddles of 200 years ago didn’t look like the saddles that are used today.

What is your best piece of advice for someone looking to write?

J.Y.: Ha ha, I think this is a pretty universal piece of advice, and I have to remind myself of it pretty regularly:  get your butt in the chair and write!!  Someone recently was telling me that he had ideas but didn’t know how to get started, didn’t know how he wanted the book to proceed, etc.  I told him just to start writing.  Get something down on paper, as much as possible.  From there, things can be changed, fine-tuned, deleted, re-worked.  But if it’s not on paper, the story will never get anywhere.

What are you currently working on?

J.Y.: Currently working on the third installment of the Timekeepers series.  I’m probably 2/3 or 3/4 done with the writing, and then of course comes the editing and tweaking.  Also, the 2nd book in the series is soon to be edited, and I’m looking into cover design for that as well.

Who would be the perfect reader for your books?

J.Y.: I think anyone over the age of 11 would enjoy the Timekeepers books.  My books aren’t “edgy,” and unlike a lot of other YA/MG books, they don’t deal with “big” issues like drug abuse, alcoholism, bullying, divorce, abuse, etc.  They’re just fun books with unusual situations and lots of action and adventure.  The main characters, Brad and Kristen, are probably a lot like the readers themselves:  interested in hanging out with friends, what’s going on at school, etc.  They’re siblings, so there’s a lot of snark and attitude between the two of them, just like in real life.  I think–I hope–readers can identify with that.

Do you have a favorite character?

J.Y.: I like both main characters, obviously, but I have to say, it’s fun writing the character of Kristen, because she’s so snarky and full of attitude, and she has a habit of giving people crazy nicknames.  A reader might not understand, but other authors can verify– sometimes a particular character just demands to be written in a certain way, no matter what you have in mind.  Because of that, I couldn’t have written the character of Kristen any differently if I’d wanted to, so I allow her wit and snark come to the fore.


I grew up with stories:  stories told around the campfire each summer while growing up in New York state; stories read to me by older siblings; stories I read while pretending I, too, was old enough to go to school.  And stories I wrote to amuse myself and my family.

Years later, I’m still writing stories.

Since being graduated from college I’ve worked for small business, large corporations, and even the government.  I now live in North Carolina, far from those campfires of my childhood.   Writing is still in my blood, though, because when you have stories to tell, the characters won’t let you rest until you tell them.


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