When you hear the term time travel, what do you think of? Mad scientists, fancy machinery, and flux capacitors? Or do you think of second chances, rekindling relationships, and personal growth? A lot of fiction involving time travel revolves around the scientific part; the process of time travel and what it means for history and mankind, but time travel can be a fascinating way of creating a story that focuses more on the personal journey of the characters and how their relationships develop and change.
Time travel in romance adds an exciting element to the already challenging situations characters can find themselves in. It allows characters to question who they are, how they got to where they are, and whether they are making the right choices in life. Most importantly, time travel in romance introduces that compelling ‘what if’ scenario… what if I’d said no to that guy instead of yes? What if I’d had the courage to do something I wished I’d done? What if I took a later train on that fateful day? And in the case of the future, what will my life be like in ten, twenty, or thirty years time? Will I be with who I think is Mr Right, or someone else? And even, does that anti-ageing cream I spent a gazillion dollars on really work? 😉
Time travel brings lots of opportunities for highly emotional scenes and romantic development. Time travel can take an ordinary story and make it extraordinary. It can add intrigue, suspense, despair, time sensitivity or that ‘ticking clock’ situation, and force the characters to make important decisions affecting themselves and those around them. Also, time travel in romance can be super fun!
There are only two ways time travel can go – backwards or forwards. Which would you choose?
BACK TO THE GOOD OL’ DAYS
The concept of time travel has fascinated me since I was a seven year old watching Rod Taylor in ‘The Time Machine’ (it was a re-run – I wasn’t around for the original!). The prospect of time travel – either in the past or into the future – fuelled my imagination as I thought about the endless possibilities that come with skipping through time.
As a writer, I am attracted to situations that are exceptional and completely different to anything we can experience in everyday life. I love the ‘what if’ factor because it makes for a story that is not bound by the usual constraints of life. It allows me to really invest my imagination and create a situation that is intense, simply because the main character is already out of her comfort zone – and that’s even before I throw in conflict, fears, relationships, and anything else that she wants to avoid!
Why was HINDSIGHT set in 1961, rather than in the future – perhaps at the end of Juliette’s life so that she could reflect on her choices? Good question! I am going to be completely honest and say that setting Hindsight in the future never occurred to me. I only ever saw it as a retrospective story.
In fact, with the exception of Juliet Madison’s Fast Forward I haven’t read any romantic comedies set in the future. It’s a concept that is fresh and under used enough to still be original. I look forward to reading more rom-coms set in the future.
The main challenge for writing in the past is research. For Hindsight I had to ensure that the names of the characters were appropriate to the era. I also did a lot of research for the setting – architecture, design and decor, fashion, personal products, kitchen appliances, and such.
Language was also challenging because there are many expressions used in the past that have slipped out of our modern vocabulary. Likewise, there are expressions or words that have changed in meaning from 1961 to now – take ‘gay’ for example. In 1961 ‘gay’ meant happy. Now it means homosexual.
Attitudes, morals, and social etiquette have also changed, as have women’s and men’s roles in the family, workplace, and society. Even though it is only a little over 50 years ago, it was a completely different time to live in, and so accurately reflecting these differences was challenging – but fascinating! (I admire writers who delve even further back in time – 1961 was hard enough).
TO INFINITY AND BEYOND
I love time travel stories, but had noticed that not many stories that aren’t sci-fi go into the future. I wanted to create a story of everyday life with everyday people in a slightly different time period: not hundreds of years into the future, but twenty-five. Long enough to have some major change,s but short enough that the world is still recognisable. I loved the movie Suddenly 30 (13 Going On 30 for those in the US), so that was a great inspiration to me… a young person in an older person’s body? Yes please! And so Fast Forward was born.
I knew I wanted the story to focus on the journey of the character rather than the process of time travel itself, and so how Kelli actually gets there isn’t completely apparent, however there are a couple of potential triggers at the start of the story. I figured she would have to be at some kind of transition in her life, with an impending event or situation that could act as a catalyst for her time travel and eventual character growth. I chose her birthday. Because every young woman wants to wake up on her twenty-fifth birthday and find that she’s doubled in age, right?
The challenges to setting a story a quarter of a century into the future were mostly to do with being realistic. I wanted to make sure there were plenty of surprises and amazing technological advancements, but not go overboard. It had to feel at least possible that those things could exist in the future. I chose not to go ahead with flying cars or hoverboards, but added details like a talking and auto-driving function in cars, as well as an in-built coffee machine for those long trips (is anyone working on that I wonder? Mazda? Ford? C’mon guys, we’re waiting).
The benefits of writing a story set in the future were many. Because I didn’t have to worry about being accurate with historical data like Sarah did, I was able to let loose and create the world I wanted. Move over iPhones, the e-pad is on its way (I wish)! Even though I was focused on the future, I did have to think back to the past to see how far things had come in the last couple of decades, and try to replicate that natural progression as realistically as possible.
The most fun in writing a futuristic story was in the characters and how they got to where they were. Kelli had no idea how she ended up married to the high school nerd, so I had a lot of fun with that, and making sure that throughout the story she got to learn more about her husband and what drew her to him in the first place. So travelling to the future was a great way for the character to see what her general life and love life would be like if she’d made different choices. That way if I chose to send her back she could set her future on the right course. It’s hard for a character to realistically change and grow in only one day, but throw some time travel into the mix and you have an extreme situation where anything is possible!
What time travel romance stories have you enjoyed?
If you could choose to go to the past or the future, which would you choose?