|Hitting the keys|
What are you writing?
I am writing my third novel in a time travel series called Students of Jump. The first book In Times Passed chronicled the activities of Brent Garrett as he learned not just how to travel in time but how to manage his own life on terms he can accept and even find joy in. He comes from a time in the not-so-distant future and a society that is separate from most of earth's population. He has lived under the daunting expectation that he is going to invent something or somehow bring about amazing change in his society. Jumping into the past was his way of escaping this expectation, but he learns life always carries expectations hard to live up to. The second book No-time Like the Present follows his daughter Misty Meredith who feels Brent Garrett owes her some explanations. Misty has her own conflicts to resolve and finds jumping through time opens opportunities but cannot by itself fix anything. But the work I am writing now, Next Time We Meet, involves two characters, Mick and Emily Jenkins, and their search for a sense of belonging in a time ahead of their own. That is the simple premise: it's the rest that makes it complicated working with these two.
How does this differ from your last work?
I thought the other two novels were difficult because they had two timelines to deal with and a variety of conflicts between characters. But this book included two demanding additions: one is the fully-developed relationship of Mick and Emily. They are a couple who have lived into their senior years gaining experience, a definite opinion about life and family, and a tight relationship. The experience they bring feels nearly useless to them as it all occurred in another time, their family connections suffered gaps due to the jumps in time taken by the various members, and their opinions don't always apply to current conditions. Their relationship is the only safety line they have. Mick appears to be the dominant character, but he has functioned for so long with Emily in his life, there is little he does that is not influenced by their relationship, and that brings its own conflicts. Emily is the hand that carries Mick's world, and he is the force that keeps them moving forward. But I love writing about relationships so this has been a challenge but not a difficult one. The addition of what Mick decides is their best means of becoming part of the family life in the twenty-third century is what creates all the struggle for me as a writer.
It turns out I am writing a science fiction, time travel, mystery novel. Why didn't I see that coming? Mick, with Emily's agreement, has chosen to spend their time figuring out what caused the unexplained disappearance of Renwick Cray during a simple hop home from Old Garrett Complex. This occupation is meant to help them become part of the society they have joined. Emily christens them time-hop detectives, and the two travel about in time following clues as they search for Renwick. Facing fears and realizing it isn't as easy as just showing up in a new time is a challenge to the characters, but for me it means a lot of research into the events and locations they are searching as well as keeping their actions logical and progressive as they gain understanding of what actually happened to Renwick. Hints I left in book 2 effect the decisions and actions, whether sensible or illogical, that occur in book 3. Technology's limits and advances affect the action as well, and Mick and Emily are learning how to work these new technologies that in many cases are new to everyone in the extended family that makes up the Students of Jump. That is the main difference, making sure all the clues ultimately lineup without seeming obvious, yet I want the reader to look back and see how the confusion was natural while the final result was also logical.
Why do you write?
To see what is going to happen next, of course. I don't think there is an actual reason behind why I write, not one that is a conscious decision, anyway. I mean, I didn't decide to breath, but I do breath every day, rhythmically and regularly. I do decide to eat, but if I don't, my body won't last long. For me writing is a combination of those two normal human conditions. I write because that is what my mind does with the thoughts that pass through it, and if I didn't write, something very destructive would happen to my mind; something would most definitely die. I write because I must, because I feel great when I do it, and I really need to know what is going to happen next.
What is your writing process?
That is a bit tricky to answer. I came up with the idea of the first book when I worked as an assembly line worker many, many years ago. I was listening to the song by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, "I Just Dropped In" and started thinking. Following the storyline as it played out in my mind kept me from going nutty in the brain-stupefying atmosphere of repetitive work. I must have written that book in my head at least three times before I finally wrote it down. The second book just followed the first, like a seedling dropped from the parent into nourishing ground. Now this third book, I used several programs to assist in developing, though I wrote the first draft of it shortly after finishing the rough draft of book 2. I used the brainstorming program Freemind to organize the various conflicts, Microsoft OneNote to organize my research and more recently the online program Padlet (see post on selecting timeline program) to keep track of the timeline as Mick and Em jump through time looking for Renwick or his kidnapper. And all of this ends up in yWriter5 after being drafted in Microsoft Word.
When I get stuck, I lie down and think about where the characters are currently and what they are dealing with. I don't get to lay there long, five to fifteen minutes later, I have to get up and write what must be gotten down. I wake up in the night or find I can't get to sleep when the two of them are struggling with the facts about Renwick's disappearance not fitting together, and sometimes I realize I missed an important hint left in a previous book. Sometimes I work the hint in as a bit of information Mick and Em overlooked, and sometimes I redraft the scene to work more logically with actual events. I use outlines, hand-written notes, recorded voice memos, and other means of keeping track of my ideas and plans for a written piece. I avoid telling anyone my ideas so my writing doesn't lose momentum. I get feedback after a strong draft is written. I am inconsistent when it comes to process, but demanding about outcome. I don't care how my characters get there, just that they get there.
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Twitter handle: @LDarbyGibbs