I love time travel, be it in books or films. There’s so much you can do with it, and it’s so interesting to consider. But there are challenges for the author when writing in this genre. This post discusses some of the issues I had to overcome in The Other Times of Caroline Tangent. (Oh, and if you haven’t read it yet, don’t worry, there are no spoilers here!)
If you are going to send people back in time and you don’t want to leave them there, then the first question is how you bring them back to their original time! I didn’t want Caroline and Jon to use a ‘large vehicle’ to travel in (for example, as in HG Wells’ Time Machine, or the wonderful Back to the Future), but that meant that they still needed to be able to return when they wanted – hence my invention of a small hand held device they call a ‘time-pen’ which connected them with their real time. Once I’d thought of that, it also gave me several further ideas for incorporating it into the plot.
I decided that although I did want the science to be as believable as it can be, and therefore Jon explains early on in the story how he uses Einstein’s theories of wormholes, that isn’t what the book is about. So that is explained and then, hopefully, simply accepted by the reader.
For a book like Caroline Tangent, where you’re taking characters to specific historical events, some which the readers may well have been to themselves, it was important to me to be as accurate as possible. The dates of the gigs, the bands, the songs played at a specific concert and so on, they all needed to be factual. Even the weather as it was on those days. I suspect that some of the people who read this book will be far more expert than me about some of the acts, so I hope I’ve done history justice.
In terms of Caroline and Jon’s trips, they had some very specific challenges: where to get clothes which were right for a particular time – not so difficult because in 2021, we can buy or make retro clothing quite easily; how to get tickets for a gig – that was fun and depended each time on the concert they were going to; but the biggest challenge was how they could get cash for a particular era, whether it was old British coins or US dollar bills – you can’t use your twenty-first century credit card in the 1960s! I went round in circles a lot over that while I was thinking about it. In the end, I decided they needed to be slightly devious…
Of course, there is always the question of the butterfly effect. I wanted to avoid some of the more usual sci-fi tropes, but you can’t avoid the question of how time might change in the future if someone does something in the past. For me, that turned out to be a bonus in terms of developing the plot and the characters…
And there were additional challenges which I had to overcome which I can’t discuss here without introducing a spoiler or two! I’m sure you’ll spot them when you do read the book!