Deborah hears often from teachers telling her how riveted their class was when they read from the Time Meddlers books.
"They reach out to me and I often make an appearance in the classroom if they’re located nearby, or I try to Skype a visit. Since the books fit in with the middle school curriculum, they seem to be very popular in schools," she told me. "Some schools send fan mail from the students. For everyone the comments are different. Sometimes the action/adventure draws them in; for others it’s the connection to my main characters, Matt and Sarah. The teachers love the vocabulary and wordplay as much as the story, along with the historical components. I’ve never had a disgruntled email, yet."
This latest release presents the greatest challenge to the main characters: how to prevent their own timeline from being erased. She told me a bit about the research she had to do for Time Meddlers on the Nile.
"In order to write this book, I had to wade through archaeological texts about Nubia and investigate the grandfather paradox. I had to find a link between Nubia and our civilization. It was one of the most challenging Time Meddlers books I’ve written and it explores some deeper themes—the shades of gray to every human being, how even children sometimes have to make impossible choices. But it also has the usual amount of animal encounters, conflict and battles, and tongue-in-cheek humour. You can read the first chapter to get an idea. Disregarding Nubia altogether, it begins with dinosaurs."
Deborah has published four books: the three in the middle grade Time Meddler series and an adult SF mystery/thriller, Ice Tomb, a story that takes place in Antarctica and on the moon. She's working on another thriller, Sinkhole, which is set in a deadly cave—combining nanotechnology and other aspects of science with mysteries of the ancient Mayans.
She's also working on a YA novel that's somewhat of a ghost/pirate story, and she's experimenting with an unusual style. It's a combination of first, second, andthird person along with a fragmented technique which is directly related to the plot and character situation.
"Are you frowning yet?" she asked. "I've been keeping this under wraps because I'm not sure if this technique will work, but once I feel it's ready, I'll release more information."
I asked her what she was currently reading.
"I’m reading The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, a book written in first-person-plural voice (weird style), I just finished Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, another unusual style (you see where I’m going?), and before that I reread Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (and now you’re totally confused). Prior to these I began the fantasy series by George R. R. Martin: The Game of Thrones. I’ll read just about anything, but I’ll always return to fantasy, SF, YA or MG novels."
Her favorite is always the current project she's working on, because her writing improves with every new novel and she falls in love with the characters she's developing. She still feels a deep connection to Sinkhole, however, because she adores cave adventures. In fact, she will probably be spelunking in Kentucky this summer.
I asked her about how she developed her titles.
"Often I just slap a title on to begin with that suits the subject matter, but I generally end up changing it. Ice Tomb was originally called 'Atlantica'—if you read it you’ll know why—but Time Meddlers stayed exactly the same from the beginning. It could have no other title since my main characters are intent on meddling with time, not just traveling through various times. If the original title works, I’ll keep it. Since Time Meddlers Undercover deals with the Special Operations Executive and spies in WWII, the title immediately came to mind. But “Time Meddlers in Nubia” would sound rather dull, so I decided to make the connection with Egypt and the Nile. It immediately evokes images of mummies and they do make a grisly appearance. You’re forewarned."
"You shared a bit about research for your latest book—what about in general? How do you go about researching your books?"
"Ah, you’ve hit upon one of my favourite and most frustrating topics. Imagine stacks and stacks of books, Internet printouts, photographs of locations, and blood seeping from my forehead. I gather as much information as I can through the library first, visit museums—luckily we have the Museum of Civilization, the Museum of Nature, the War Museum and the Aviation Museum in Ottawa—but I like to seek out experiences too. I visited First Nations reserves and replica villages to effectively write about the Algonquin and Iroquois. I studied planes and anecdotes from spies to get the feel of World War II and espionage. I interviewed several people, especially my parents, about their experience in occupied Holland. I drew on my own visit to Europe several years ago too. But sometimes you just have to dive into archaeological texts to understand an ancient culture. If you want more insight into the process, here is a link to my Historical Note for Time Meddlers on the Nile: http://www.deborahjackson.net/timeMeddlersonthenilehistoricalnote.html".
Finally, I asked her about the best fan letter she'd ever received.
"Since she gave me permission, I’ll just post it:
I never had read a book that I’ve liked until this one! Before I read this book, I thought of reading as homework or a chore. I never read for a pastime, I was what you would call a “Couch potato”. Soon after I started reading it, I would stay up WAY past my bedtime to read saying to myself “Ok, just one more page.” I would bring it in the car every were I went. As soon as I finished the book, I went to the beginning and read it again. I am proud to say that this is by far the BEST book that I’ve ever read. And it’s going to stay that way until you make a Time Meddlers 2!”"There is no greater compliment to a children’s writer than to ignite a passion for reading in a reluctant reader."
About the Author:
Find the author online at:
Time Meddlers Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Time-Meddlers/96927270655
Thirteen-year-old Matt Barnes and Sarah Sachs, while attempting to rescue Matt's father from multiple universes, face an even more challenging obstacle: the erasure of their own timeline. What can they do before they, themselves, are erased?
Somewhere along the Nile the two teens must prevent the ultimate meddling during the time of Nubian pharaohs and princes, palaces and temples to rival the ancient Egyptians and fearsome desert raiders. They must puzzle out the moment and event where Matt's father or his arch nemesis, Nadine, interfered with history. If they don't, it could mean the end of time as we know it, or a never-ending loop of time.