Last week J.L. Gribble talked to Girl Meets Monster about time machines and cats. This week we have another gifted writer here to talk about time travel. Lana Ayers is another member of my Tribe from Seton Hill University and if you haven’t had the chance to read her fiction, you’re in for a real treat. If fact, Lana was kind enough to share a sneak peek from the sequel to Time Flash: Another Me. Enjoy!
Lana Ayers is a poet, novelist, publisher, and time travel enthusiast. She facilitates Write Away™ generative writing workshops, leads private salons for book groups, and teaches at writers’ conferences. Born and raised in New York City, Lana cemented her night-owl nature there. She lived in New England for several years before relocating to the Pacific Northwest, where she enjoys the near-perpetual plink of rain on the roof. The sea’s steady whoosh and clear-night-sky stars are pretty cool, too. Lana holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, as well as degrees in Poetry, Psychology, and Mathematics. She is obsessed with exotic flavors of ice cream, Little Red Riding Hood, TV shows about house hunting, amateur detective stories, and black & white cats and dogs. Her favorite color is the swirl of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Visit Lana online at http://lanaayers.com/TimeFlashAnotherMe.htm
Girl Meets Monster: Welcome back, Lana! The last time you were here we featured your amazing horror poem, Alice’s Blind Date With Frankenstein’s Monster. How has poetry influenced your fiction writing, and vice versa?
Lana: Thanks for hosting me again, Michelle. That poem is very dear to my heart. Poetry is akin to a spiritual practice for me. I’m much better at sorting myself out on paper, then I ever have been speaking. In making poems, I can explore my connections, thoughts, and feelings, and make new discoveries. With fiction, my characters need to find their own best ways of communicating. In my romantic, time travel adventure novel, Time Flash: Another Me (Volume 1), the character of Jon Garcia is a man who is not always able to speak his feelings to his wife Sara. He expresses his emotions best through reciting lines from his favorite book-length poem, Piedra del Sol by Mexican poet Octavio Paz.
In truth, likely all my novels will contain a character or two who relate to poetry in some way. Poetry is such an important part of how I move through the world, it would be difficult to leave it out.
Girl Meets Monster: Time travel has always been one of my favorite tropes in genre fiction, but it often presents challenges for writers because of reader expectations and a backlog of fiction that informs those expectations. What challenges did you face while writing Time Flash?
Lana: A major hurdle with writing time travel was claiming authority as a woman writing a Science Fiction trope. Even though two of my favorite time travel novels were authored by women—Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy (1976) and Kindred by Octavia Butler (1979)—women are still often given short shrift by male peers. Much of the criticism from males in workshops I attended had more to do with my gender and thereby, a presumed lack of authority on the subject, than the content of the story or the quality of the writing. That fact that I have a Science and Math background didn’t seem to matter.
The challenge you mention, of reader expectation, is a huge one as well. There are really two basic approaches to time travel – you can affect changes in the past and future, or you can only observe and change nothing. From movie examples, this is the difference between Back to the Future and The Time Traveler’s Wife. In order to ground the reader, the writer must present their own specific system—changes possible or not—pretty much right away and remain logically consistent throughout the story. If the approach is not presented early enough in the story, you run the risk of thwarting reader expectation. In Time Flash, protagonist Sara changes the past, often inadvertently, screwing up so much, she gets her husband killed—twice.
Girl Meets Monster: Writing a series can seem a little overwhelming to some writers. What advice would you give other writers for planning a series and how to follow through with that plan?
Lana: I honestly didn’t start out thinking Time Flash was going to be a series. This is the book I’ve wanted to write my whole life, and I didn’t know if I had another one in me. But in the course of writing the novel, I fell in love with one of the minor characters—Murray—an antagonist who only appears in a couple of scenes. I realized Murray has quite a lot of complicated backstory that wouldn’t be appropriate to include. So that’s where the fiction fragment here comes from. Murray deserves his happy ending and I want to give it him.
When I realized I was going to have to write Murray’s story, I went back into Time Flash: Another Me and made sure there was just enough substance and uniqueness to his character that readers would be curious to learn more about him.
I believe to write a series, the author must remain passionate about the characters and the world she created. If the writer is passionate, readers will be too. Allow the series plan to evolve out of that passion. Don’t worry about anything else.
EXCERPT FROM: Time Flash: A Better Me (book 2 of Time Flash Series), by Lana Ayers
Chapter 1 Murray, age 39
Thursday, August 31, 2000, 4:30 AM
Murray O’Keefe’s apartment, Bedford Falls, NY
My goldfish Carl looks at me funny from his round bowl on the tiny kitchen table, like he knows something bad just happened. He floats in place staring, blowing bubbles, and waving his orange-gold fins. He must a heard me screaming before I woke up on the sofa bed and turned on the lamp.
My twin brother Mal says, Fish can’t hear because they got no ears, dumbass.
But I know Carl can hear ‘cause he nods at me a lot when I tell him about my workday delivering people to the lab.
I want to call Mal, tell him I just had the most awful dream of my life.
Worse than the nightmares I have all the time about the car crash that killed our folks when we was in high school.
But it’s 3 AM and waking Mal now would be like poking a lion.
I nurse a cola on the rocks and wait for the sun to come up. I don’t feel like watching TV, so I go look at the pictures hanging on the wall. I tore two of ‘em out of magazines.
I stand in front of the picture of breakfast that’s up over the stove in my postage stamp of a kitchen. It’s my favorite.
The glass in the frame is pretty smudged with grease, but that should add to it. Two rippled reddish-brown pieces of bacon all cozy with a couple of sunny-side up eggs. The yolks are like twin suns.
I know it’s only paper, but I sniff real hard and close my eyes. I want to remember the smell, but nothing comes.
I could whip a pan out, drop a couple of slices in, and turn the heat up. But it wouldn’t do any good. No better than the paper.
The best smells are gone. Not just the good ones. All smells.
Probably forever, Aunt Clare says. Happens in brain injury cases like yours.
But I keep hoping to get those good smells back.
Even in my dreams, I can’t smell nothing.
Next, I go over to photo of the wide green lawn hanging opposite my kitchen chair at the table. It’s half a step away. My whole studio apartment isn’t more than a couple dozen steps all around.
Fresh mowed grass is my second favorite smell. It used to make me feel full of energy, I think. At the far end of the lawn are bushes full of pink roses like the Georgetown Tea roses my mother used to grow. She won a couple of prizes for ‘em too. Those flowers sure smelled pretty. Like my mom and her perfume, Shalimar. I keep a bottle of the stuff in my bathroom medicine cabinet. Even though I can’t smell it, it makes me feel like she’s near, watching over me.
I have a photo on the wall I can see from my sofa bed. It’s a real picture of my mom and pop and my brother and me. Old too, back when Mal and I were little. Maybe eight. You can tell which one is me because I’m looking at my feet while Mal is staring straight at the camera. Even at eight, Mal looks angry. And I guess I was always looking the wrong way. Even before my brain was bad.
After I go read a few comics, it’s getting light out, but still too early to call Malcolm. He’s probably got a hangover. He hits the booze pretty hard most nights. Likes to have a good time, he says.
But me, I can’t drink like that. Makes me dumber than I already am.
I wish we still had the twin radar. Then I’d know whether he’s awake. But heck, that would mean he’d dream the same torture I did. Or worse, I’d feel his hangovers.
Used to be we could converse in our heads. Well, not whole conversations exactly, but we knew what the other one wanted. That all changed the day of the car crash.
I was asleep in the hospital a long time after it happened. I didn’t dream then, or if I did, I don’t remember. When I woke it was three months later and Aunt Clare told me the bad news about Mom and Pop being dead.
They didn’t suffer, she said. Died on impact. She told me, Be a big man, Murray, and don’t cry.
But I couldn’t help it. I bawled like a baby even thought I was almost fifteen.
The good news was that Malcolm was fine. Not a scratch on him even though he was sitting right next to me in the Pontiac’s back seat.
Brain trauma, Aunt Clare said to me, and she’s a doctor, so she knew what was what. A piece of the wrecked car lodged in my skull. Did a number on my head. I was never going to be the same.
At the time, listening to all that, ya know, I didn’t worry about my damage. I was too broken up about my folks.
But it turned out, I didn’t have the twin radar no more. I couldn’t hear Malcolm. Plus I didn’t do good in school. It was like all that science and math stuff went in one ear and out the other. I wasn’t any good at baseball no more neither. Couldn’t get a hit or catch and throw the ball to save my life. It made me so mad cause I was gonna be a pitcher for the Yankees when I grew up. That or a hockey player. But I couldn’t hardly keep my balance skating anymore either.
I still felt like me, but not like me. I was me without Malcolm in my head, which was lonely. Still is.
Next week, K.W. Taylor joins Girl Meets Monster to talk about time travel and share a fragment of her speculative fiction. Do you have fiction fragments gathering dust? Do you have a new writing project you’d like to brag about? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you. See you next week!