We caught up with our old friend Jim Wylder and talented artist Annie Zhu. Find out what this duo had to say about their work on 10,000 Dawns!
BS: It’s been a long time since we talked last. How’ve you been?
Jim: It’s been a roller coaster, but I’m doing pretty well now. I’m now the author of seven books, I’m not even sure how many more that is since we last talked! I’ve been working so much the days and months have blurred together a bit. But writing is what I love, so I can’t complain about that part of my time. I went from single to having a girlfriend who is fantastic, and went from a no name author to a slightly less no name author, so its been great!
BS: You went on a long ‘Con’ tour in support of your work earlier in the year. How did that go for you?
Jim: Fantastic! I got to travel far and wide: Toronto, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Chicago, Des Moines, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Davenport, Galesburg, Elgin, Defiance, Hanover, and of course my hometown of Elkhart. It was a life changing experience. Getting to meet so many different people, and talk to them about my work was a pleasure. I hope I get the chance to do it again soon!
BS: What moments stand out to you as the most memorable?
Jim: In St. Louis my best friend got to come help me sell my books for the weekend, so that was a joy, and in Philadelphia I met my girlfriend– plus I made a whole ton of friends I’ve kept, but aside from personal things, there were other really amazing bits!
I got to meet Alex Kingston, Ellie and Joseph Darcey-Alden, Colin Baker, Jenna Coleman, and Sophie Aldred, all different actors from Doctor Who, which was a dream come true for a life long fan of the show!
One really funny moment was when Ellie Darcey-Alden hit me in the head from across the room with a toy monkey on accident. I mean, no better way to introduce yourself to a celebrity than that! The craziest moment was when Alex Kingston actually started reading my poems, and had to apologize to other people who wanted to talk to her cause she got absorbed into it. That is probably the most flattering moment of my life!
BS: So one of the projects you are currently working on is called 10,000 Dawns. What is 10,000 Dawns exactly?
Jim: 10,000 Dawns is a serialized fiction story about a girl named Graelyn who is an intern in a big experimental lab that accidently sends her, and her friend Archimedes, into an alternate reality where she finds she is a vastly different person. It shows up with a new chapter every thursday on my website, jameswylder.com.
Its also more than that: It’s a big universe (Or rather, group of universes) which is being expanded in short stories, and in the future novels and more! It’s a place being built not just by me, but by a whole team of writers to create an amazing setting to tell stories in together.
BS: How did you come up with this idea?
Jim: Hoo boy. That’s quite the story in itself. So, 10,000 Dawns started when a group of friends and I had been playing a Tabletop Roleplaying Game together at college. This game we did was madcap: tons of players, fan art, and heck we even started writing stories. Eventually, the game and the stories diverge so far from the source material of what we’d started with, it wasn’t even worth calling it the same thing. Later, I ran a weird and different game of that led to a similar level of passion about a group of organized rollerblading cultists that graffitied magic sigils all over a city and opened portals to other realities. I graduated college, and my friends and I went our separate ways: but the stories stuck.
It became clear that the setting the stories were in didn’t matter, we’d created new and creative characters and ideas all on our own, and if we could craft a new setting to fit them in, we could share those stories with the world. However, there was still some doubt about if what we came up with was good enough. After all, it’s an odd origin, and I know very well that not every idea transfers over from one medium to another. Then, I wrote my Doctor Who poetry book.
See, I wrote a story for the back of that book in the spirit of the show Doctor Who as part of the Kickstarter rewards. I was in a rush because I had saved writing it for last, but I wanted it to be good, so I decided to use some characters and ideas I’d already developed, including the heroes of 10kd Graelyn and Arch, in a story that involved Time Travel, alternate realities, and some ideas from the weird rollerblading cult game. It all gelled together perfectly, and the story ended up being a big highlight of the book. I realized that not only were these characters, these stories, worth telling, but that other people loved reading about them. I got the band back together, essentially, and started hatching the ridiculous multi-writer plan that has formed the backbone of 10,000 Dawns.
We’re now working together to create fun and new science fantasy fiction set in this new universe, which an eye on great stories and another on the kind of diversity we always wanted to see in fiction. It’s turning out great so far, and I hope it gets even better.
I suppose a different way of looking at your question would be: “How did I come up with the idea for the specific story I’m telling now?” and the answer to that would probably give a lot away if I told you in full! Ask me again when this story arc is finished… But I will say it involves asking the question, “What if I’m not who I’m supposed to be?”
BS: What type of feedback have you received regarding it?
Jim: It’s been really positive. Our readers have been really excited about the week-to-week drama of the story, and were passionate when we ran a poll about which Bonus stories to create first. The biggest downside is people want to learn more, and I can only write so fast! It’s really fun to see the story connecting with readers though, especially since I considered it to be an oddball thing when I started working on it. Turns out, whatever this oddball is, people seem to like it.
BS: How did the two of you get together on this project?
Jim: I’d been a huge fan of Annie’s art for a long time, starting with her Doctor Who art, and even gotten a Christmas present commission from her. I’d been hoping to get her onboard a project for a while, but I knew it had to be the right one. When 10,000 Dawns came around, I knew Annie’s art which can be both whimsical and emotionally powerful was what the story needed. There is a joy to her lines, but it can harbor a darkness within that light. She has such a talent, and I knew she was the perfect artist to work on this with me. I’m so glad she decided to come onboard, she blew my expectations out of the water!
Annie: James contacted me about the possibility of doing some art for the novel which I thought was interesting! The story contained a lot of my favourite things like science and time travel so I was more than happy to get involved in this project.
BS: How can you best explain your approach for coming up for the style of the illustrations?
Annie: When I first started sketching out the characters for the story, I was trying to go for a simple cartoon style; something that was flexible so that I can tweak the style occasionally for different moments; e.g. when there’s an illustration that’s humorous vs a grim one. Hope it worked out anyways!
BS: What has been the biggest challenge when it comes to drawing the pieces for this project?
Annie: Mainly composition is my biggest challenge; trying to figure out what the best way to showcase the chapter. What’s going on? Whose perspective should it be? I think how a scene is laid out really sets out the tone for the chapter so figuring that out is something that takes me a while to figure out before I can put pencil to paper.
BS: What’s it like being the first people to define a fictional world?
Jim: I agree with Annie. It’s sometimes a bit awe-inspiring. Annie drew a spaceship for one of our recent chapters and I suddenly realized “This is the first spaceship in this universe. All of the other writers and artists will look at this spaceship, and either try to model from it, or make their ship look different, but either way they’ll be going off this beginning.” I feel really lucky to be able to make this!
BS: What is most rewarding about working on 10,000 Dawns?
Annie: Drawing weekly illustrations has been a challenge but an incredibly rewarding one; I really love the depth and emotions that’s in 10,000 Dawns and trying to recreate it in an illustration!
Jim: I really love getting to see these stories that have been in my head come to life, and people reacting to them! I’ve had a few people come to me asking for information about parts of characters’ lives they weren’t familiar with, and it was great to be able to educate people on different aspects of the vast array of people there are in the world! A real honor, as well.
BS: If you could show someone one of the stories to make them want to read the whole series, what one would it be and why?
Jim: “The Adventures of Mister Sprinkles the Cat” is a huge fan favorite, it’s short, it’s funny, and it’s about an adventure a completely ordinary cat has in a Sci-Fi universe. If you like it, you’ll probably like some of the strangeness we have to offer!
The Adventures of Mister Sprinkles the Cat
BS: How do you find the time to keep up with this project along with your other very full schedule?
Annie: I hop into my tardis and make time.
Jim: Ha, well, I have given up sleep as a hobby! But in all seriousness it’s been a challenge. There have been a few delays caused by illness throughout the project when the schedule got tight. Doing so much writing and editing on top of a regular job isn’t easy.
BS: Where can people read this story?
Jim: Every chapter (and some bonus short stories!) are free to read or download as a PDF or epub at: http://www.jameswylder.com/read-every-chapter
You can also get every chapter as a podcast (still for free!) at:
BS: Any big plans coming up for 10,000 Dawns you can reveal?
Jim: There’s a ton of really exciting stuff coming up soon! First off, we’ll have the first of two anthologies I’m editing of 10kd stories that will be building up the backstory of the universe. The first one goes through a ton of things that happen before portals to alternate realities start influencing the setting, and stuff that you might have heard mentioned in the background of the story. The revolution on Mars, the Rim wars, the disaster on Venus… and you’ll get to meet a ton of exciting characters who have populated the history of the setting, but served no purpose in Graelyn and Arch’s story. One exciting thing about these Anthologies is I’m not the only writer who is a part of them! We’ve got some really great people on board for them, including Luther Siler, Josephine Smiley, Evan Forman, Elizabeth Tock, Brianna Stanford, and others! It’s going to be really exciting, and will all still be free to read.
Second, there is a novel I wrote about a kid named Jhe Aladdin who ends up having to confront a creature that can take people’s memories called “10,000 Dawns: Death and Doubling Cubes”. It should be very different, and a lot of fun.
BS: What other projects can people see your work and where?
Annie: I post some of my art on my tumblr, cardinalcapaldi.tumblr.com. Most of the work I post on my tumblr is fan art & random comic ideas I come up with, haha.
Jim: I have seven books in print available at Amazon.com: Three of Poetry, including my Doctor Who Poetry Book “An Eloquence of Time and Space” three books of plays, and a short story collection. You can find most of them here:
I’m also a writer on an upcoming tabletop RPG with Shotgun Angel games, so keep a lookout for that!
BS: Anything else you would like to add?
Jim: I really appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read my work, especially 10kd, and all the writers and artists who have been working their butts off to make this possible. You guys are all amazing, and I love you. If you haven’t read 10,000 Dawns, give it a shot. I mean, hey, it’s free!