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Elgin author draws on city’s history in time-travel novel

“Author Dennis Higgins front ElgWatch Factory’s Observatory Watch Street overlooking Watch Factory’s former site east bank Fox river.”

“Author Dennis Higgins in front of the Elgin Watch Factory’s Observatory on Watch Street overlooking the Watch Factory’s former site on the east bank of the Fox river.”

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Updated: February 19, 2013 1:56PM

Elgin resident and author Dennis Higgins has published “Katya and Cyrus Time Pilgrims,” the first in a series of young adult novels about time travel. He credits his dog Katie and his wife Trina with starting his writing career.

Eleven years ago, when Higgins and Trina married, she suggested they write a never-ending-story, each writing a chapter and passing it back to the other. “It was awful,” said Higgins, who holds a day job as a technician and a technical writer with a General Electric health care equipment division. But their never-ending-story experiment gave him a start in fiction.

Inspired prose

His dog Katie is the second catalyst in his writing career. “She wakes me every morning at 4 a.m., like clockwork. Before I left for work at 6:15, I used to check message boards, email, read the paper. Then one morning I decided I might as well write something.” He’s tried to write later in the day, “but the writing is darker, so I stick with the morning.”

“Katya and Cyrus Time Pilgrims” features time travelers Katya and Cyrus, who travel back in time to such times and places as the Elgin National Watch Co. factory, the Great Chicago Fire and the Kennedy assassination.

Katya is the most powerful and experienced of the several time pilgrims employed by the time research facility in Elgin. But she has temporal amnesia. She cannot remember what year she is from originally. She has a mind and body of a 21-year old and yet has lived through 90 years of experiences.

Early on in the story, the intrepid Katya, on a date with conservative Cyrus, shows him time travel can be fun. Holding hands outside Gromer’s Charhouse in Elgin, the pair travel back in time to when the restaurant was being built; they time travel to a Blockbuster video store in the ’70s, and then to 1923 to empty farmland that one day would become Elgin.

Reading about Elgin and Chicago history is fun for the reader, too. Higgins’ plot is well structured, and his research solid. He makes it easy to follow the jumps in time. “I have a simple style suitable for young adults,” he said, pointing to the YA sci-fi label on the book’s spine. “Adults love it, too, though.”

This is Higgins’ second novel. Suffering numerous rejections of his first novel, “Parallel Roads,” he self-published it. After submitting the “Katya and Cyrus Time Pilgrims” manuscript to Whiskey Creek Press, he was thrilled that it was immediately accepted. Whiskey Creek Press already has contracted him for a second book in his time travel series. “This is what I want to do with the rest of my life,” he said. “Of course, I hope it has the success of the Harry Potter series.”

Higgins said he often begins his morning writing without knowing what happens next in the story. “Sometimes, by the time I leave for work at 6:15, I’ve written myself into a corner. I dream about my characters. They might come up with the next line. When I finished ‘Katya and Cyrus.’ I had a sad feeling about saying goodbye when I wrote ‘The End.’ ”

Higgins likes his second time travel book better than his first. “I guess I’m honing my craft.”

“Katya and Cyrus Time Pilgrims” is available in paperback from Amazon for $17.95. It’s also available on Amazon in Kindle electronic format for $4.95.

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