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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

MSU graduate student releases time-adventure novel

James Tracy | Courtesy Photograph
MSU graduate student releases time-adventure novel

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing”—this quote by Benjamin Franklin resonates with readers and writers alike, and James Tracy, Mississippi State University physics PhD student, has substantiated these words by Franklin with the release of his time-travel adventure novel, “The Time Opener: 1692,” today.

Tracy is not one’s conventional model of an author. Tracy said not only did he hate English classes in middle school, but his current school of study is not affiliated with creative writing in any way.

“I didn’t do much writing before getting my master’s from Auburn in 2010. I am working on my PhD in the Physics department,” he said. “The only writing in my field tends to be academic papers, which as you may guess don’t often (utilize) the dramatic design seen in fiction writing.”

Tracy originally wrote “The Time Opener: 1692” as an amateur screenplay about 10 years ago, and he said after graduating from Auburn, he wanted to write a book composed of a series of short stories following the struggles and successes of students in a physics class.

“I wrote the first two chapters and realized I was a new swimmer trying to swim in the deep end, so I went back to “The Time Opener: 1692” and developed that story into the novel,” Tracy said.

The time-travel adventure story follows three modern-day Salem residents who find themselves on trial during the Salem Witch Trials. Tracy said he thinks of the first half of the novel as the “fun side” of time travel, while the second half emphasizes the perils of such adventures.

Tracy established the idea for his novel by reflecting on George Washington and how the former president would judge the country today. He said he took this concept and found it would be more interesting to ask the same question of an average person from the past.

“After deciding a Witch-Trials-era person would have very intriguing perceptions of today, I started to build the story around that,” Tracy said. “Who do they meet when they arrive in the present? How do they get home? What if someone from today ended up on trial in 1692—how would they react?”

Tracy took a gap year between the completion of his Masters from Auburn and arrived to complete his PhD in nuclear physics at MSU in 2012. It was during this time he was able to write the novelization of the story and finished principal writing in October 2011, while working on edits in his spare time and  taking classes.

Tate Publishing contacted Tracy in December 2014 and offered to publish “The Time Opener: 1692” at no cost. However, Tracy was required to have a final print-ready version available in a month, and he said he had to focus on that during the holiday season.

“Luckily I was already finished with my class load and only taking research hours, which made my schedule much more flexible,” he said

Tracy stressed the difficulty of editing his novel himself, as his book is essentially a self-published novel sans an agent or editor. He said it was imperative he read his book critically in order to find mistakes, weak writing spots and to ensure the writing would be accessible and enjoyable for readers.

“Cutting scenes or rewriting certain interactions was especially difficult because when you write these stories, they are your creation, and when you have to remove scenes for the sake of the story, it’s almost like moving away and saying goodbye to an old friend,” he said.

Tracy said he endeavored to create his novel in a manner which would transcend the typical pulp novel and aspired for the characters to grapple with an array of issues that are sometimes taken for granted.

“I think that this story has elements that people like to find in books—time-travel, humor, historical trial drama, chases and both internal and external conflicts which lead to character growth,” Tracy said. “Plus, it has a good look at a historical period which challenges the popular perception of the Salem Witch Trials. Mostly, however, the story was just so much fun to write, and I think students at MSU would have just as much fun following these characters on their adventures.”

Tracy won second place for the Dothan (AL) Magazine’s writing contest in 2012 and has also written a Halloween short story incorporating three MSU traditions, cowbells, the Bulldog and the maroon and white team colors, titled “The Red Fog of 1935.” Tracy said although everyone may not read his 466 page novel, he invites the public to read his short-story posted for free on 

“Even if MSU students are not inclined to read my book, I invite everyone to visit “The Red Fog of 1935” and enjoy some HailState Halloween storytelling,” he said.

Tracy is holding a book signing and launch event for “The Time Opener: 1692” at The Coffee House On 5th in Columbus, Mississippi, from 2-4 p.m. on September 19 and in Starkville, at the Book Mart & Café, from 2-4 p.m. on October 15.

Tracy has written a book club or homeschool companion for “The Time Opener:1692” which includes a set of discussion questions for organizations or teachers to utilize in order to encourage analysis of the book and the events within. These questions and event details, as well as more information pertaining to Tracy’s novel can be found at

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MSU graduate student releases time-adventure novel