Chess Desalls is the author of the YA time travel series, The Call to Search Everywhen, as well as a wide range of other writing ventures. I first met this fascinating and highly intelligent young woman at the South Bay Writer’s Club in San Jose, where she is a contributing editor to the Club’s newsletter.
Dr. Jac: What drove you to write what I would call fantasy tales?
Chess: I write sci-fi fantasy because that’s what I enjoy reading, particularly books that explore the brush between fantasy and science. In terms of literary value, I believe fantasy elements in a work distance readers just enough from the story so that they can form objective opinions about the characters. Yet, they internalize what that means about themselves and the world around them without feeling overwhelmed or attacked. Although my characters may travel to or live in outside worlds with complex rules and themes, I think readers can learn more about themselves and their own relationships by how they react to the story and its characters.
Dr. Jac: Why do you focus on the YA market?
Chess: Many of the children’s classics that I read as a child and teen, before there was a YA category, are now considered YA. I continue to read and enjoy sci-fi fantasy YA novels because they tend to be family-friendly with themes of self-discovery gained while exploring fantastic worlds. Writing for similar readers seemed a natural fit.
Dr. Jac: Aspiring writers sometimes complain about finding the right time and place to write. Tell us about how you write; where, when, how often?
Chess: I have notebooks and laptops all over the place, so I’ll write anywhere from home to coffee shops, pool halls, and bowling alleys. Deadlines also drive me. Once I decide on a project, which usually means I have a story idea and have come up with a title, I begin scheduling beta readers and editors. Even a goal as simple as wanting to submit a flash fiction piece to the Club’s newsletter by next month’s deadline will get me going. At that point, I decide how I’ll fit the writing around my work schedule.
Dr. Jac: What are the best and worst parts about the craft of writing and about being an author?
Chess: The rewriting process is brutal. I have a lot more fun penning the first draft. But then, I’ll get a surprise Facebook message or email from someone on the other side of the country or world who tells me how much she enjoys my books. That is the best (and makes the rewrites totally worth it).
Dr. Jac: I’m impressed by your marketing skills. Most writers are not good at marketing their books. How do you go about it?
Chess: Marketing is just a form of reaching out and connecting with people. Before publishing anything, I spent time with other writers. From there, I tested various online and social media platforms dedicated to readers and writers. Live meeting groups like South Bay Writers have also provided tremendous support.
In addition, I offer a lot of my creative work for free. Many of my short stories are up on Wattpad (wattpad.com/user/ChessDesalls), and I try to keep my blog and social media sites updated and current. If I’m not present, no one will find me. If I’m not approachable, few will draw near.
Dr. Jac: What’s next for Chess? I presume a continuation of your time travel series, right? What might we expect to see from you and when?
Chess: I’m excited about two upcoming releases. On November 27, 2015, my short story, “Wrapped in the Past,” will release as part of the Echoes of Winter YA anthology. Readers familiar with my time travel series will gain new insights into Shirlyn’s character. And those who haven’t discovered my books hopefully will enjoy their jaunt through the Everywhere and Everywhen. My third book, Time for the Lost, is set to release in February 2016. Please join my mailing list (eepurl.com/bgGzOT) to get a message on launch day!