I am honored to have the author of one of my favorite books Cristin Terrill with me on the blog. Cristin’s debut, All Our Yesterdays, is part one of a two-book series focusing on time travel that will be released by Disney-Hyperion September 3rd. This book entranced and moved me from the first sentence.
Time travel is an important aspect of All Our Yesterdays. How did you decide on which scientific constructs you would adhere too?
I’m kind of an amateur physics geek, so figuring out how time travel would work in this book was really fun for me. Time travel is actually possible, even now, albeit in very limited ways. Brace for some geekery: Einstein’s theory of general relativity says that time slows for you if you’re moving extremely fast. If you take a plane trip from New York to Hong Kong, you will actually have aged slightly less than the people who have stayed stationary on Earth. This effect doesn’t become pronounced, though, unless you’re moving very fast, like near the speed of light. If a fifteen-year-old boy were to travel in a spaceship going 99.5% of the speed of light for five years, he would be twenty when he returned back to Earth but all of his former tenth-grade classmates would be sixty-five.
The basic premise of the time machine Cassandra is based on Einstein’s other major theory, the theory of special relativity. It says that time becomes distorted around areas of heavy mass because of the strong gravitational fields that mass creates. Cassandra is an advanced particle collider than hyper-condenses particles until they’re extremely dense and heavy, thereby warping time enough to allow time travel.
But ultimately, the science of the book is all more-or-less nonsense. It’s like the sonic screw-driver from Doctor Who, something plausible enough (hopefully!) to help you your suspend your disbelief but ultimately just a device that allows the story to exist. For one thing, most physicists agree that time travel to the past, especially the past before the time machine was created, is impossible, which would make my book very short if I was being strictly scientific!
One of your main characters, Marina, starts with low self-esteem and a somewhat distorted self-view. I love that she grows throughout the book. To me, loving ourselves seemed to be one of the themes within AOY, what were the major themes you wanted to communicate to your reading audience?
I didn’t really think in terms of themes as I was writing; I was just writing the story. But I did consciously want to address this idea of self-love being something that comes mostly in retrospect because it was a big part of my own teenage and young adult years. What ended up being the other major theme, I think, is about human capacity for both good and bad and how one ends up becoming one or the other. What does “good” even mean, and is it morally right to hurt a few for the benefit of the many? I didn’t realize this was a theme of the book until after I’d written it, though, and I definitely didn’t have a particular stance I was trying to communicate.
Did your characters appear first or did the crux of the story?
The story came to me first and helped me figure out who the characters had to be.
I have to ask it because of the time travel theme, what would you tell a younger version of yourself if you traveled back?
In a lot of ways, this novel is like my little love letter to my younger self. Em gets to tell Marina exactly what I would want to tell me at twelve or fourteen or sixteen. That she’s a lot cooler than she thinks and that she should be kinder to herself.
Often times when I think of time travel I fail to consider the impacts a time machine would have with the wrong people in charge. What drew you to the idea of a corrupt government utilizing it for what they alone saw as the greater good?
I love conspiracy theories. I find them fascinating and get so many story ideas from them (including several different elements of All Our Yesterdays) and almost all of them are about abuses of power by a shadowy government or highly-placed person in the government. And I also prefer villains who think they’re actually the hero, who really believe that they’re doing good. For instance, look at the recent revelations about the scope of the NSA’s spying on Americans. They’re doing it because they think it will help keep Americans safe; many Americans feel they’re abusing the great power they have. There’s so much tension in that to me.
Have you always been a science fiction fan?
You know, I didn’t realize how much of a fan I was for a long time. When I got the idea for All Our Yesterdays, I had a contemporary novel out on submission, and I felt like I shouldn’t write this crazy time travel story because I needed to stick with contemporary. Then I happened to look over at my DVDs and saw things like Battlestar Galactica, The X-Files, Firefly, and Doctor Who. (I went on a lot of TV-on-DVD binges in college, don’t judge!). Like half of my DVDs were sci-fi, and that’s when I realize, duh, I love sci-fi!
I love that you were able to show your reader the driving force behind even your villain’s motivations, have you considered writing in more detail from other character’s point of view?
As you are writing I’m sure your characters take on a life of their own, do they ever surprise you with their actions or desires?
My characters definitely evolve as I’m writing them, and occasionally I discover partway through a draft that the way I’m trying to write them is wrong. For instance, I initially tried to write Marina as much sweeter, and she didn’t really click for me as a character until I figured out that she actually had a very hard shell. Until I had that realization, I felt like I was forcing her thoughts and actions, and that’s how it read too. But rarely does a character run off out of my control when I’m writing. I always have my stories very well figured out before I put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard), so that discovery process usually happens while the story is still in my head.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished rereading Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series, which I end up reading about once a year. Next in my queue are several non-fiction books, because I have a hard time reading fiction when I’m trying to write. I’ve got a book about Ebola, one about the commercialization of Mt. Everest, and one about a conspiracy theory (see!) regarding the death of Marilyn Monroe.
Can you tell us anything about the follow-up to All Our Yesterdays?
Em and Finn were wrong about something very important. Dun dun duuuuuun.
Thank you Cristin for answering my questions.
I thought it would be fun to offer a giveaway for a pre-order of All Our Yesterdays. Enter below