JD: I've always been fascinated by storytelling. My dad is a natural storyteller, and ever since I was a boy, I loved hearing his stories about "the old days." When I was just four or five years old, I discovered a black-and-white TV show called Space Patrol, and I was instantly hooked on science fiction. When I started elementary school, I looked for time travel and space travel books in the school library. There wasn't much, but I did discover a book called A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. When I read that book, I knew I wanted to write stories about adventures on other worlds. That's what really lit my fire to write.
JD: My son, who was in kindergarten at the time, deserves credit for the Timebenders series. He knew I wrote books for a living, and he asked me to help him write a book. I said, "What kind of book do you want to write?" He said, "A book about kids who build a time machine. I want to have dinosaurs in it." And that's the premise of the first book in the series, Battle Before Time. My son and I only worked on it for week or two before he lost interest, but a few years after he first suggested it, I pitched the concept to a major publisher, and they bought it. The series first came out in 2002, and I recently revised and updated the series for reissue by Greenbrier Books.
JD: Someone once said that when you set out to write a children's book, you should not write for children, you should write from the child within. In some ways, Max McCrane is my inner child, my idealized self. He's the math whiz, science whiz, and inventor I wish I could be.
Allie is red-haired, wears braces, has her share of insecurities, yet dreams of becoming an actress. She has compassion for people who are bullied or who don't fit in, and she's fiercely loyal to her friends.
Grady is based on several people I knew growing up. He's tough on the outside, but deeply wounded on the inside. He's bold, athletic, and ready to take on any challenge. He undergoes a major transformation in the first book.
Toby is a bully, a troublemaker, and a major pain for the other three time travelers. When trouble happens, Toby is always at the bottom of it. Over the course of the series, we come to understand why Toby is the way he is. We feel empathy for him and root for him to overcome his dark side. He's based on a troubled boy I met at a science camp my son attended. Part of the reason I tell Toby's story is because I want the reader to discover that even someone as mean as Toby is redeemable and worth getting to know.
JD: The four books currently available in the Timebenders series are Battle Before Time, Doorway to Doom, Invasion of the Time Troopers, and Lost in Cydonia. The target audience is middle graders.
JD: The emails I get from young readers often mention the "thrill ride" feel of the books. My goal in writing the Timebenders series was to produce stories for young readers that read like a roller coaster ride. That's why I chose titles that have an exciting "pulp science fiction" sound. I send these four time travelers out to Mars, back to the beginning of the universe, out into the far future, and across the galaxy. They get thrown into a dungeon by a medieval wizard, shaken up in the jaws of a tyrannosaurus rex, and chased through time and space by marauding robots. This is the kind of straight-ahead adventure I loved to read when I was a boy. My readers seem to love it, too.
I've heard from parents who say their kids are captivated by these stories, and captured by a love of reading. Parents also like it that the characters exemplify values of courage, loyalty, and standing up for the weak and defenseless. I remember how A Wrinkle in Time impacted my life as a boy, and I want to give my readers a similar experience.
BBB: Are you currently working on another book in the series?
JD: Yes, I have a new Timebenders book in the works. The working title is War of the Electronic Brain. I'm having a lot of fun writing it.
To find out more about Jim Denney and his books visit Timebenders blogsite: http://jimdenney.wordpress.com/