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Author-crabber Randy Batten finds ‘Time’ to bring readers in and out of the Middle Ages

Batten and "writer's support dog" Willow, who inspired Knight on Time main character Sir Donnavinne's horse.
Courtesy of Randy Batten
Batten and "writer's support dog" Willow, who inspired Knight on Time main character Sir Donnavinne's horse.

Randy Batten has lived and worked in Dutch Harbor for over 20 years. He’s worn a lot of hats: bar manager, crabber, and licensed deckhand with a marine salvage and rescue company. Now he’s wearing another one: author.

I sat down with Batten in late February to discuss his new book, Knight on Time.

“It starts out during the Crusades in the Holy Land, with a knight named Sir Donnavinne,” Batten said. “During the course of the battle, he meets an entity that sends his life on a little bit of a spiral that he didn't plan on, on a mission where he's pitted against a relative of his greatest rival in his time.”

Batten has been writing stories since he was in grade school. He said he finds time to write even while working full-time as a licensed deckhand with Resolve Pioneer in Dutch Harbor. The original notes for Knight on Time came together during free moments while he worked.

“Everybody here in Dutch Harbor — people who work at sea or anywhere else in this town — they’re working six or seven days a week, nonstop,” he said. “It's really hard to find the time to apply yourself to finish anything, so it took years to compile my notes.”

A mentor gave Batten some crucial advice while he was writing the book: stick to a hard goal of a certain number of words a day, and don’t stop writing until you’ve met that goal. Following this advice kept Batten motivated on tough days. His goal was five hundred words a day, even while working. On his days off, he shot closer to two thousand.

Some coworkers at Resolve helped by reading parts of the book. Batten said he bounced ideas with friends on the job. When those friends asked for more of the story, he felt motivated to up his daily word count.

“Well, that's a sign that maybe I got something going here that kept their interest,” he said.

History has always been Batten’s thing, which is why there are so many historical details in Knight on Time. One he’s particularly fond of is a quote from Pope Clement VIII, who allegedly said of coffee, “Why, this Satan's drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.”

Batten also mined his own life for inspiration while writing the book. He said the occasional isolation that creeps in on the Aleutian Chain shaped a pivotal moment for Sir Donnavinne.

“He leaves the battle scene at the beginning, and he's crossing the desert, trying to find his way to the lake,” Batten said. “I guess I did kind of think of here a bit, especially in the wintertime when it's just all desolate.”

And, having been in Dutch Harbor for more than two decades, Batten knows that quite a few people out here want to publish books of their own. I asked him what advice he has for authors-in-the-making.

“Don't give up,” Batten said. “For years, I was just so busy — especially when I was crab fishing. An idea would pop in my head but I’d be stuck on the deck and couldn't write it down. But in my head I always knew I was going to get the time. It was going to happen.

“I'm getting close to retirement now. Hopefully that means I'm going to have time to finish up a lot of the stuff that I have notes for stacked up around my desk. Just don't give up on it and think that you're not going to have the time to do it. If you have the time, take advantage of it,” he said.

In the meantime, Batten says he’s working on the last chapter of his next book, The Golden Arrow.

Batten will sign and sell copies ($15) of Knight on Time, 1-3 p.m. March 17 in the Unalaska Public Library. The book is also for sale on Amazon.

Born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, Andy Lusk is a writer, travel enthusiast and seafood aficionado who won the jackpot by landing in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. When he's not hiking or working on his latest story, you can find him curled up with his cats and a good book. Andy is a Report for America corps member and an alumnus of New York University.
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