The Time Trials by Jon and Dayna McConnell launches Sep. 21

Jon McConnell graduated from Atascadero High School in 2000, and Dayna McConnell graduated from Morro Bay High School in 2005. Each ended up working at Mervyn’s Department Store, Dayna in the shoe department, and John in the men’s department. Little did they know that less than a decade later, they would be married with two kids, and both published authors of a YA sci-fi novel.

“We were just friends at first,” said Dayna, “truly just really good friends,” Dayna said that their friendship lasted for about 2-3 years before it became something more special.

Getting through this together, Atascadero

They are now in their sixth year of marriage with two young children and both teachers living in Orcutt. Dayna teaches 3rd grade, and Jon teaches high school.

The idea for The Time Trials was something that the couple had talked about and slowly developed over the years.

“The spark that started it was the idea of competitive teams that travel back in time and accomplish certain tasks,” said Jon.

Jon described writing until he came to a point where he felt stuck, at which point Dayna sat down and decided to give it a shot.

“It happened kind of naturally,” said Jon.

“The experience of having a co-author was really valuable for me,” said Dayna.

“Yeah, it could have been a disaster,” said Jon, “but it worked out really well.”

Jon explained that there were some really great benefits to writing with your partner, including how fun it is to bounce ideas off of someone else who knows the story. For most writers, crafting a novel is a notoriously solitary and isolating process.

“You also have someone to write for,” said Jon. “Instead of trying to write for an audience, I found myself thinking, ‘oh, Dayna’s really gonna like this.”

“There’s a bit of an ‘opposites’ thing happening,” said Dayna. “He’s just a more fun person than I am! Jon is really good with the plot and the world-building, and I tend to be better with the more poignant aspects and character development.”

As far as the actual process goes, Dayna said that she would write the more emotional scenes while Jon would write more of the action scenes, but when it came to the scenes with the actual time trials, the couple spent hours upon hours researching and developing those chapters together.

Jon and Dayna described the book as a PG-13 YA sci-fi novel intended for teens, though many adults would probably enjoy it. It is chock full of nineties throwbacks, heavy on teen angst, and has a YA relationship aspect.

“It’s not hard sci-fi,” Dayna said, “so it’s meant for teens and those who have never read sci-fi before.”

The story revolves around protagonist Finn Mallory, a boy who arrives to the Time Trials on scholarship. He’s dealing with the trauma of losing his parents and ends up at this high-end school, feeling like an outsider in a world of elites, clinging to the image of his parents, who were musicians and deeply involved in the 90’s grunge scene.

“Finn is a bit stuck in the past,” said Jon, “which is one of the major themes of the story.”

“The major themes we deal with are redemption, classism, and found family,” Dayna added.

The two are already finished with the second installment of the series, which is due out in Jul. 2022. They expect there will be four books in this series. Make sure to pick up your copy of The Time Trials by Jon McConnell and Dayna McConnell when it’s released on Sep. 21. For more information on the authors and their work, visit mcconnellwriting.com.