John Heldt is the author of the now-finished Northwest Passage series (The Mine, The Journey, The Show, The Fire and The Mirror). This five-book series was his writing debut and they all focus on time travel and romance during some very exciting times in American history. Read on to see our discussion about men writing from women’s points of view, saying goodbye to a series and what he would do differently now that’s he’s finished the series.
1. You’ve lived and breathed the Northwest Passage series for years. What’s it like to say goodbye to the series?
Like other authors who have parted with a series, I have mixed emotions. I’m excited about starting a new series but sad to see this one go. I grew attached to the characters and their stories and believe I could have done more with them. One of the things I enjoyed most about writing The Show and The Mirror, in particular, is that I was able to build on a previous book. I look forward to doing more of the same in future series.
2. Of all of the times you could have set The Mirror, why did you specifically choose 1964?
I chose 1964 because it offered opportunities that other years did not. Like 1941 in The Mine, it was a transitional year that was firmly rooted in two distinctly different decades.
Though music, fashion, and cars from the late fifties were everywhere, so were signs of coming change – particularly social change. With a presidential election, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the Civil Rights Act, the Mississippi Burning tragedy, and the Beatles’ first North American tour, the year was also historically significant.
3. In the series you decided never to go into the nitty-gritty scientific explanation for time travel. Why?
Writing novels involves making choices, setting priorities, and acknowledging limits.
I decided at the start I would treat time travel as fantasy, rather than science fiction, because I wanted to put the focus on people and not machines. The thing I liked best about the Back to the Future series was not the DeLorean or the flux capacitor but rather how Marty McFly interacted with his ancestors. I wanted readers to see themselves not as scientists who volunteered for a highly technical time-travel mission but rather ordinary people who involuntarily traveled back in time by stepping into the wrong gold mine or restroom or haunted house.
4. Three out of five of the books you wrote have predominantly female viewpoints.
As a male writer, was it challenging for you to write from a female POV? What was
challenging about it?
For the most part, it wasn’t challenging at all. I grew up with sisters and female friends. I have a wife and two daughters, including one who is the same age as the twins in The Mirror. I’ve known strong, articulate, and resourceful women my whole life. Writing about such women in the Northwest Passage series was relatively easy. That said, I made a point of enlisting the help of several women in preparing each of the novels. Their assistance in making sure I got things right was invaluable.
5. Can you give us a hint about any future writing projects you’re taking on?
I have already started work on the next project, a five-book series of time-travel novels that will be structured much like the Northwest Passage series. My protagonists will interact with their ancestors in the not-so-distant past of twentieth-century America. The difference is that the protagonists in the new series will pass through a common time portal and travel beyond the Pacific Northwest.
6. Looking back on the series, was there anything you would have done differently either writing-wise or marketing-wise?
Yes. I would have written The Mine, The Show, and The Mirror as a trilogy and written
The Journey and The Fire as a separate series. I would have also paid more attention to point of view and description issues in the early books and perhaps made better use of advertising options in the first year. For the most part, however, I would have done things exactly the same. It’s been fun.