In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.
It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. When Danny is assigned to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems, his new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.
But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.
Tara Sim is the author of TIMEKEEPER and writer of all things magic. She can often be found in the wilds of the Bay Area, California.
When she’s not writing about mischievous boys in clock towers, Tara spends her time drinking tea, wrangling cats, and occasionally singing opera. Despite her bio-luminescent skin, she is half-Indian and eats way too many samosas.
Linsey & Axie: At what point when writing TIMEKEEPER did you begin feeling like it was a book, and how has your writing and how you think about the process changed now that you’re working on the next two books?
Tara: When I first began writing, it definitely felt like a story, but the first draft was much smaller and leaner and wasn’t quite sure what it wanted to do. I wrote the first draft in the second half of 2013, and started to seriously revise it in early 2014. I think, after a couple of really intense revisions, it felt more like a book. It was longer, the plot was more filled out, the character arcs were evolving, and I discovered more about the world.
The process of writing TIMEKEEPER was really strenuous. Lots and lots of revision. Lots of internal debate. Lots of trying to figure out what exactly I was trying to do—and if the story and characters would let me do those things. During that time, I also realized that this story wasn’t done, and that this was only the first step in a much bigger story waiting to be revealed. I actually wrote both sequels before the trilogy sold, but although the process for writing those was a little easier in some ways because I already knew the world and the characters, they were still really hard because story lines and more worldbuilding and Emotions.
Linsey & Axie: How did you juggle what aspects of the worldbuilding to include, and how did you work toward the balance between magic and technology?
Tara: This was perhaps the most difficult thing about the book. It’s our world, but not. It’s historical, but…not. I ended up developing the world in layers. The first conception was mostly just the clock towers, and then subsequent revisions revealed more about the Mechanics Union, the mythology, the Victorian climate, etc. I included what I thought the reader needed to know most—especially when moving on to the sequels. Lots of groundwork needs to be laid in book one, but hopefully that pays off!
The advanced technology is mostly a chain reaction from the building of the clock towers, and I needed to take certain liberties. I wanted more magic than technology, though, because that’s where I feel most at home. But I love the little steampunk flair of the world.
Linsey & Axie: Having gone through the publishing process, what are three things you think writers at any step in the process should know? Or need to hear?
1: It’s a lot of waiting. That part never changes. Whether it’s waiting on an email, a cover, an edit letter, you will be waiting for long periods of time until BOOM suddenly all the things are happening! And then it’s back to waiting.
2: Write the strange, exciting story that resides in your heart. People will read it, I promise.
3: Not everyone is going to like or appreciate your story—subjectivity!—but it’ll find the people who need it, and who’ll love it.
Linsey & Axie: How did aspects of your own life/culture/background inform your story?
It’s actually a very different story than the kind I’m used to writing, especially since it takes place in our world (or…close enough). I studied abroad in London, which is how the setting formed. I have a low-key obsession with Big Ben. Also, there is a character in Timekeeper who is part Indian. Although she’s a quarter and I’m half, I drew on personal experience to shape her character. I feel like most of the Timekeeper characters are in some ways outcasts in society, and though I don’t necessarily consider myself an outcast, I do know how it feels to be The Weird One in a crowd.
What’s the weirdest thing that happened to you while in London?
Hahaha an answer to this would be a novel in itself. One of the weirdest things was the following encounter between me, my roommate, and a drunken man on a bus:
Man: *squints at us* Hey. Hey. You want some wine?
Roommate: No thank you.
Me: Dude don’t talk to him.
Man: Do you…want some beer?
Roommate: No, that’s all right.
Me: Dude shut up.
Man: You want some candy?
Roommate: No thanks.
Man: Oh…*pause* Are you all right??
He literally could not handle the fact that we did not want drinks and candy.
Which character from another book would you ship with Danny?
Actually, I think Danny/Wylan (from Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom) would be adorable. They would be nerdy and cute together, and Danny would appreciate Wylan’s flute playing.
If Danny and Colton ran a bakery, what would be their favorite things to make?
Since people keep referring to them as this, I’ll say cinnamon rolls. (Also, oh my god, someone please write this bakery AU fanfic.)
What three things couldn’t you live without on an airship?
My laptop, my cat, and a fully functioning (and stocked) kitchen.
The end is here. Unicorns are evil and they are determined to wipe out humanity. Which two TIMEKEEPER characters do you pick to fight at your side?
Daphne and Cassie! Daphne has a super fast motorbike, Cassie knows how to throw a wrench, and frankly I’m pretty sure they both know how to kick someone’s ass.
What other YA book world would you love to see Danny and Colton in (for example, if they were teleported to the world of LEVIATHAN or THE READER)?
Hmm…does shonen manga count as YA books? Because I would LOVE a Timekeeper x Fullmetal Alchemist crossover (I actually drew a lot of inspiration from FMA). Danny Hart as the youngest state Alchemist or an automail mechanic? Yes please. As for Colton…er, soul trapped in a suit of armor?
About the interviewers
A wayward biology student from Arkansas, Linsey Miller has previously worked as a crime lab intern, freelance science writer, and pharmacy technician. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Fiction and can be found writing about science and magic anywhere there is coffee. Her debut novel, MASK OF SHADOWS, is the first in a fantasy duology coming in September 2017 from Sourcebooks Fire.
A gender fluid pickpocket auditions to become a replacement member of the Left Hand–the queen’s quartet of assassins–but must survive the competition while also putting their true reason for auditioning into motion.
Axie Oh is a graduate of the University of California-San Diego where she studied Korean history and creative writing. She was the recipient of Tu Books’ 2015 New Visions Award, awarded to an unpublished author of color. She is currently pursuing an MFA at Lesley University. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. More importantly, she loves K-pop. Her debut novel, THE AMATERASU PROJECT, is coming 2017 from Tu Books.
THE AMATERASU PROJECT is a YA science fiction/action novel set in a futuristic Korea about a former gangster who is recruited into the military over a secret prototype weapons project–which turns out to be a genetically modified girl.