What is the most difficult part with regard to writing about time travel?
I began writing the book with only a skeleton idea of how the time travel portion of the story was going to work out. About a third of the way through the original manuscript, I realized that how I envisioned the time travel working would be impossible for Brooke to do in real life. I had planned on her family and everyone around her remembering what had happened to her before her first trip, but as I continued writing, I determined that it would be impossible for them to remember if her timeline was reset to account for the changes she was making. It would have to be reset over the origin of the trip, thereby erasing the memories of everyone but the traveler, in this case, Brooke.
Another issue I encountered with the time travel was whether or not the travelers were gone in the present for the same amount of time they were spending in the past. For example, during her first trip, Brooke traveled into the past for six months. In the original manuscript, Brooke returned to the present having missed six months of her own life because of the trip. Knowing that Brooke would be traveling several times throughout the course of the novel, I knew that this was going to be an impossibility, not only because it would have taken years of her life away, but also because than every traveler would end up with large spans of time within their lives that they would not be present for. This would be a huge problem for many travelers, so it was something I needed to rectify. I finally decided that in the present day, no time would be lost for the traveler. You leave and return in the same day, effectively missing nothing of your present life.
Both of these issues, along with several others, required a significant amount of editing and revisions as I wrote. There were many days (and nights) that I was unable to write any of the storyline because I was bogged down in the intricacies of the time travel. Strangely, most of my inspiration was given to me in the middle of the night and I was forced awake by bursts of inspiration regarding the time travel that needed my immediate attention. I was never so glad for my overactive subconscious!
In the end, I believe that I was able to work out many of the details regarding the time travel that exists in Brooke and Branson’s world. Having grappled for so many months with the difficulties that it involves, I firmly believe that I will never experience time travel in my own life. I believe it may very well be an impossibility in our world. But if it isn’t, just in case, I’m already making my list of what things I would like to do with my trip.
What was your writing process like for The Clay Lion?
When I began writing I had an outline of the plot but didn’t know how I was going to end the story. It was as if I was going on vacation, map in hand, knowing only where I was starting out and a few places to stop off along the way. What I didn’t know, however, was where the ultimate destination was going to be. After the first few chapters I thought I knew where I was headed, but the more I got to know Brooke, the more she began taking over the direction of the story. Places I wanted to go were not necessarily the places Brooke wanted to take me, so instead of fighting her, I surrendered to her. At one point in the story, I was writing at the kitchen counter and my husband was baking brownies. I started crying and he asked me what in the world had set me off. I told him I was upset because I didn’t know that what I had just written was going to happen, which of course made me sound as though I’d officially gone off the deep end. “If you’re the one writing the book, how do you not know what’s about to happen?” he asked. “I didn’t do it,” I replied. “Brooke did.” And that’s how it was for the remainder of the manuscript. Brooke was in control. I just wrote what she told me.
Do you model any characters after people you know?
Any author who tells you no is lying to you. My children were, quite indirectly, the inspiration for Brooke and Branson personalities. They are the children I am most familiar with so suffice it to say that more than a few of their character traits make an appearance in the book. There are others as well. I like to think that Charlie is a conglomeration of the best characteristics of a few of the boys I dated at Brooke’s age. His name, Charlie Johnson, I realized long after the book’s publication, was the name of my father’s barber when I was growing up. It’s funny what your brain stores away. If I’m being honest there’s also a lot of myself in the book – my beliefs and philosophies on life. You can’t take yourself out of your work. I don’t know that I would want to even if I could.
How did you come up with the idea for The Clay Lion?
The idea was born of two converging ideas. The time travel element came to me in a dream. My sister and I were some type of superheroes and we were traveling through time saving people’s lives. When I woke up, I wrote down as much as I could remember. As I was writing down my ideas, I began thinking about a little girl named Lauren who happened to be one of my daughter’s good friends. She had recently been hospitalized with leukemia for the second time and was searching for a bone marrow donor. I couldn’t help but wonder how her older sister would react if she should die, knowing that she had been her first bone marrow donor. The two were probably the closest sisters I’d ever had the privilege of knowing. The idea of a sister going back in time to save the life of her beloved brother was born and The Clay Lion is a testament to the power of sibling love. Lauren passed away in October of 2013 - tragic ending to a beautiful and very short life. I hope that The Clay Lion brings solace to grieving families everywhere and honors Lauren’s memory.
What do you feel is the greatest strength of The Clay Lion?
As I was writing, I felt a strong connection to Brooke and hoped the readers would share that same closeness. I was pleased to discover when readers started weighing in that they bonded with her as well. The story’s subject matter helped me develop her character fully and I believe readers relate to her because of the depth of her loss. We’ve all loved and lost – it’s a part of the human experience. It’s something we can all relate to which is why Brooke’s character resonates with so many readers. They feel her emotion and pull for her. I believe her character is the strength of the book.
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