Today we have author Joanne Renaud on the blog, chatting about her new release, A QUESTION OF TIME. Make sure you read all the way to the end, peeps, for there is A Giveaway 🙂
Cassandra Dean: Congratulations on the release of A QUESTION OF TIME! Would you tell us a little about it?
Joanne Renaud: Thanks, Cassandra! It’s about a sci-fi author, Celia—I guess you’d call her a Successful Nerdy Everywoman—who still grieves for her beloved high school English teacher, Alan Forrest, who died in a tragic car accident back in 1989. During a car accident of her own, she’s mysteriously flung back in time to the late ‘80s, where she has the chance to meet Alan for the first time as an adult. Attraction sparks between them—but Celia struggles with the impulse to save his life, as well her tenuous grip on time itself.
CD: What inspired you to write A QUESTION OF TIME?
JR: A couple of years ago, I was mired in the middle of one of my huge historical novels, when I had the overwhelming urge to write something quick and contemporary. I thought, “aha! I know the late ‘80s, as I lived through them!” I also wanted to write time travel, as I have always been obsessed with time travel stories since I was a kid.
In A QUESTION OF TIME, Celia comes back to her old hometown, searching for a book that Alan recommended to her when she was fifteen. I based this on something that happened to me when I was a kid. My fifth grade teacher (a woman) recommended a fun, pulpy SF novel to me in 1985. I found it, read it quickly, and enjoyed it greatly—but I remember NOTHING about it. Except perhaps a vague idea of the cover, which was airbrushed and had lots of shiny spacesuits and rocks. I used to think that the only way I could find this book again, was to time travel back to my own library, and look in the paperback section. This little tiny embryonic idea—where I imagined my modern, 2010-era self wandering around a library in the 1980s– grew into what became A QUESTION OF TIME.
CD: A QUESTION OF TIME is a time travel romance. How do you go about writing in this genre?
JR: Very carefully! My influences tend to be more on the SF side of things, I think—I love authors like Tanith Lee, Connie Willis, Charlie Jane Anders, and Ted Chiang. On the romance side of things, I love Jude Deveraux’s A KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR, which is epic timey-wimey romance at its best.
Personally, I don’t like to use the usual time travel ‘fantasy’ method of time travel, though I don’t use time machines or gizmos either. I can’t say too much, but I’ll explain the method of time travel more in the sequel, which I’m writing right now.
CD: Do you have plans to write a book in any other another genre?
JR: I have a few ideas for a few fantasy/fairy tale/romance crossovers, but let’s see if they actually get written. My brain births more plot bunnies than I can actually keep up with.
CD: What is your writing process?
JR: Man, I wish I knew. I write in a frenzy sometimes, trying to get something out of my head; sometimes I write in pained dribs and drabs. Usually I outline stories to death, though I have been known to be a pantser. It’s hard for me to say.
CD: What do you believe to be the most important factor in portraying a believable romantic relationship?
JR: I think mutual respect and an ability to be friends is very important. Years ago, I tried writing the standard romance novel love/hate relationship, but I found it difficult and tiring. Once I started imagining a hero and heroine as friends, it made things much easier. This is why I love beta heroes; I don’t have to deal with the usual “alpha asshole” nonsense.
CD: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
JR: “To thine own self be true”? “Don’t take any wooden nickels”? I’m not sure, honestly.
CD: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
JR: In the words of the late Susan Garrett, “butt in chair.” Or: “Get it done.” Yup. Yup. YUP. Nothing I can add to that, really.
CD: Who is your greatest writing influence?
JR: Tanith Lee (in her less purple moments). Gillian Bradshaw. L. Sprague de Camp. Sylvia Baumgarten (aka Louisa Rawlings and Sylvia Halliday). Kathleen Duey, Lois Duncan and Mary Stewart. Lesser known noir authors like Katherine Tomlinson. Jacqueline Susann (should I be admitting this?)
CD: What do you enjoy reading?
JR: Romance, SF, fantasy, occasionally some YA (though usually the older titles at this point—the new wave of YA is leaving me a bit cold). Undefinable cross-genre work is usually my favorite, though. “Slipstream” is probably my favorite genre name ever.
CD: What’s your favourite television show? Favourite movie?
JR: Well, you know how much I love “Spartacus: Blood and Sand”! I also love “Game of Thrones,” “Burn Notice,” and “Quantum Leap,” as well as new shows like “Revenge,” “Nikita,” and “Continuum,” the hottest dystopian time travel show to hit the small screen since “Journeyman.” Like Alan Sepinwall says, we really do live in a Golden Age of TV, and it’s wonderful to behold.
CD: You also create wonderful illustrations. Would you tell us a little about this side of your life?
JR: I’ve been a commercial artist forever, though I didn’t start doing illustration professionally per se until 2005-2006. As they say, practice makes perfect—I look at my early work now and I cringe! I work usually in children’s or educational publishing, though I also do editorial, promotional and concept work. I love historical costume, and I often get hired because of my knowledge in this field.
CD: If you were stranded in the 1980s, what three things would you wish were with you?
JR: I would definitely want to have a few grand in 1980s currency on hand, so I can invest in companies like Apple; I would also want something like “Gray’s Sports Almanac” (the MacGuffin from Back to the Future II) to make savvy bets as to increase my wealth. I think I’d also want my Macbook and a power cord. I wouldn’t be able to chat, surf the web or download anything, but it would be nice to have Office on hand. Going back to the paleolithic word processing programs from MS-DOS days would drive me nuts.
I would enjoy jumping onto a Commodore and playing old Sierra games like King’s Quest and Leisure Suit Larry though…
CD: Where can readers find you?
JR: My main portfolio site is www.joannerenaud.com. I used to have a blog attached to it, but it is down due to technical problems. My other sites are my deviantART page and my Tumblr.
Years later, successful author Celia Cavalotti is still mourning the death of her favorite teacher, who died in a car crash in 1989. But when a car accident of her own hurtles her back in time to the week of his death, she has a chance to change the future.
Finding herself in the 1980s is a shock to the extremely modern Celia– but even more shocking is seeing her dead English teacher, Alan Forrest, alive and well before her very eyes. Alan is far more handsome than she remembers, and she can’t resist the urge to flirt. After all, they have so much in common, like writing and a shared love of science fiction. Celia knows she’s falling in love with him– but can she use this opportunity to prevent his tragic death? What is happening to her? And why can’t she seem to stay in one place and time?
~ Excerpt ~
As she walked into the library, her eyes wide, she could feel her gloom and lassitude quickly dissipating. In fact, her pulse sped up as if she’d just downed several shots of espresso. It was just a library, but Celia felt as amazed as if she were entering Rivendell. It looked just as she remembered it, although it had seemed like a veritable palace of books when she was little. Now it seemed rather ordinary. But compared to many of the cramped brownstone libraries in Manhattan, it was spacious. It was quite modern for the time, having only been built in the late ‘70s. There were large skylights, aqua-blue decorative girders, deep windowed alcoves filled with aqua-upholstered chairs, and carpets where little pink rectangles floated in a sea of gray.
Somewhat dazed, she wandered about, looking at the people sitting around quietly reading. Wow, her subconscious was quite detailed. She saw a boy with a quiff as tall as Rick Astley’s, in a hideously blue leaf-print camp shirt, a black kid with unlaced high-tops, wearing a gold Africa chain and a baseball cap turned sideways, and a girl with big blonde hair and dressed in a garish orange and yellow Benetton ensemble.
So… the late ‘80s or the early ‘90s, by the look of everyone. The very sight made her want to rub her chin and say, “Fascinating, Captain,” in her best Spock imitation. But again she restrained herself. The girl with the big hair did give her an odd glance, her eyes skimming over her boots.
Celia also noticed the bins of records, the VHS tapes in clamshell cases up in front near the new books, the ancient card catalog collecting dust off to the side, while people browsed the brand-new computer VAC terminals for catalog information. As she walked by, she observed the green type flickering against the black screens.
Interesting. I dream that I go back in time to… what is this? 1988? 1989? 1990? Goddamnit, I’m a science fiction writer. You’d think my imagination would be more… imaginative. Where are the laser guns? The faster-than-light spaceships? Bizarre aliens in Bedouin robes riding lizard horses? Instead of that… I have women in high-waisted mom jeans reading magazines with Barbara Bush on the cover. Clearly, my imagination sucks.
She glanced at an open copy of the Washington Post, lying on a nearby table. Saturday, June 10, 1989, it said. Well, that settled it. One of the headlines read, “Soviet Jet Fighter Pilot Defects to the United States.” Heh, the Soviets. She smirked, remembering when the Soviet Union actually existed.
But wait a second. Celia frowned. What was she doing, actually reading in a dream? She didn’t think that was possible—or at least, not possible for her. She used to have nightmares where she was stuck in a room, about to die unless she actually read this manual that would allow her to free herself. And of course she could never do it. The text would get all blurry, and although she’d try to escape, she’d feel like she was stuck in a tub of molasses, and just as she knew she was about to die—
She would always wake up. But here she was, reading without a hitch.
Just to check herself, Celia reread the headline, but it was still the same. She shook her head. This was clearly a highly unusual dream.
Well, if there was nothing stopping her from reading, then she might as well head over to her usual hangout. She made a beeline to the science fiction and fantasy paperbacks, all shelved on white industrial shelves, right near the biographies. Leaning down, she peered at the books, wondering how detailed her subconscious would get. Would there be any modern authors, like JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer?
Nope. It was all books, written 1989 and before. Isaac Asimov, Harry Harrison, David Eddings, Robert Silverberg, Rose Estes, Simon Hawke, Alan Dean Foster, and a pile of Dragonlance novels. There was nothing photo-shopped on the covers; it was either delightfully fussy (or hideous) paintings, airbrushed or painted traditionally. Not only that, but these books were clearly new; the paper was still white. They didn’t have the yellowed, dusty look of books from a used bookstore. Man, this is sure an astonishing glimpse into the utter banality of my subconscious.
But wait a second. She snapped her fingers. Maybe her subconscious was trying to tell her something. Shouldn’t the book Mr. Forrest had recommended be here?
She examined the spines of the books more carefully—bingo. She pulled out a fat paperback depicting a sultry brunette in a gold spacesuit against a rocky moonscape, a blond man glowering at her in the background. In a bold font, the title read: Medra.
She flipped through the pages excitedly. She remembered now. The woman on the cover, who called herself Medra, was a mysterious psychic off-worlder who’d come to this isolated war-torn colony on the edge of the Galactic Republic. The blond man was the head of the rebels, and he didn’t know whether she was a spy or not—and he had to fight his growing attraction to her, while violence grew and the localized rebellion increasingly destabilized the region.
“Awesome,” she breathed. She’d been looking for this book for so long—and here it was, in her hot little hands! God, she couldn’t wait to read it. It felt like Christmas or something—
“That’s a great book,” a voice said behind her.
She was so startled she almost jumped. Whirling around, a bespectacled young man stood behind her.
Could it be? As her eyes grew huge, the blood drained from her face. “Uh, miss,” he said, clearly concerned. “Is everything all right?” “I—uh—yeah, sorry. I’m all right,” she managed to say, but still continued to stare. He was hardly as fashionable as the metrosexuals and neo-preppies back in New York. With his gray corduroy sports coat, pressed blue shirt, and belted brown high-cut trousers, he looked very much like a teacher from twenty-one years ago. He wore his dark blond hair mid-length and feathered, in a left side part; and he had a serious, earnest sort of face, narrow, but with a firm jaw, defined chin, and a long, straight nose.
But the most noticeable thing about him was his glasses. His huge brown-tinted plastic frames seemed to cover half his face. They looked ridiculous, but they somehow intensified his eyes, which were very blue.
It was him. It was definitely him. Mr. Forrest. Her knees weakened.
Joanne is giving away an ebook copy of A QUESTION OF TIME. Comment below, leave your email address and you’ll go in the running!
# The small print: Comment before midnight on 24 December 2012 (Australian Central Standard Time) to be entered to win an ebook copy of A QUESTION OF TIME by Joanne Renaude. Winner will be selected via random.org, with winner’s name posted on this blog within three days of the close of the giveaway. Joanne will also contact the winner by e-mail.
Only one entry per ISP address. Entrants must be over 18 years of age. By entering, you agree Cassandra and Joanne can use your name when announcing the winner if you should win. If potential prize winner forfeits or does not claim the prize, prize will be re-awarded, in Sponsor’s sole discretion. All prizes will be awarded. International entries are welcome. No purchase necessary to enter. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Void where prohibited by law.