Timeboundauthor and Grand Prize winner of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, Rysa Walker, discusses her obsession with the 1893 World's Fair and the nation's first serial killer, both of which make appearances in Timebound.
I am obsessed with the fair. Not the local type that comes around yearly. I enjoyed those as a kid, but the rides make me queasy these days and I don't trust myself not to pig out on funnel cakes. No, my obsession is with a very specific fair that I can never actually visit because it happened over a century ago—the 1893 World's Fair, also known as the Columbian Exposition or the Chicago World's Fair.
The Columbian Exposition first piqued my imagination in college and then kind of faded into the background until I read Erik Larson's incredibly rich history, The Devil in the White City. Mainstream history books on the Expo noted the many new inventions that debuted, such as the Ferris wheel (each car could hold 60 people), the dishwasher, and the zipper, along with products like Cracker Jacks and a beer from Pabst, which won the Fair's Blue Ribbon. They also described various celebrities who attended—ranging from writers like Mark Twain and L. Frank Baum to European royalty and historical icons like Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.
Those books failed, however, to mention that the nation's first serial killer, Dr. H. H. Holmes, also roamed the Expo. His World's Fair Hotel catered to women travelers, and many of those who checked in never checked out. No one is certain how many women he killed. Holmes disposed of their bodies in a lye pit in the hotel's basement, or in his incinerator, or in a few cases, sold their skeletons to medical colleges.
I'm a history geek, but I've also been reading Stephen King since I was in my teens. Tossing in a serial killer took my obsession to the next level, so when I started writing Timebound a few years back, there was never any question where Kate would travel first with her CHRONOS key. I spent several glorious months "visiting" the Expo through photographs, tourist's guides, maps, and newspaper accounts of the Fair and of the murderous exploits of Dr. Holmes. Incredible work by the Urban Simulation Team at UCLA allowed me to feel like I'd actually taken a gondola ride and strolled along the Midway Plaisance.
I hope readers have a similar experience when reading Timebound. I'll probably never get the Expo entirely out of my system unless I get my own CHRONOS key and can travel back in person. I have, however, moved on to a new city and time for the upcoming Timebound sequel: turn-of-the-century Boston. By 1905, there are actual movies to help you imagine walking through the city, like this 1903 trolley ride, with cinematography that rivals The Blair Witch Project. And if you make it through that entire ride without losing your funnel cakes, you're way ahead of me.