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Bookish Inspiration Behind Marking Time: A Guest Post from April White

There’s a law somewhere that says readers will invariably get hooked on a series the minute they don’t have time to read it. Especially a really substantial, meaty fantasy series with complicated world-building that doesn’t lend itself to anything other than full-immersion.

Those kinds of books make a very lasting impression. And in my case, the fantasies I plowed through starting in college, invariably during dead-week and finals when I’d have to claw my way to the surface, gasping for air, just to stumble to class, were the ones that stayed with me and helped shape my very strong opinions about things like the rules of time travel and how vampires and shifters should behave. You know, the important things.

So when I talk to high school English classes full of teenagers waiting for me to dazzle them about being an author, the really intriguing parts of the conversation are about other people’s books, starting with the ones that influenced me as I wrote Marking Time.

“The rest of the journey passed uneventfully, if you consider it uneventful to ride fifteen miles on horseback through rough country at night, frequently without benefit of roads, in company with kilted men armed to the teeth, and sharing a horse with a wounded man. At least we were not set upon by highwaymen, we encountered no wild beasts, and it didn't rain. By the standards I was becoming used to, it was quite dull.” ― Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
 Outlander is constantly shelved in the wrong section of nearly every bookstore I’ve ever browsed. The exception being a small, independent bookstore in Northern California that kept Outlander stocked in the fantasy section, not among the bodice-rippers.

 Don’t get me wrong, the love story between Claire and Jamie is, well… steamy, and whole discussions have happened over wine about who could play Jamie in the movie. But actually, Outlander is one of the very best time travel novels EVER!

Diana Gabaldon researched the hell out of 1743 Scotland and it’s the details that really make this an extraordinary story. The thing that has always really resonated with me was how it felt to be a “modern” woman thrown into the past with no warning and no real survival skills beyond whatever knowledge she brought with her.

 “Lucas Priest, Sergeant Major, United States Army Temporal Corps, was trying to figure out how to stop a charging bull elephant with nothing but a Roman short sword. Scipio had given the order to advance and Lucas wondered if the legion commander really believed that Rome's famed phalanx formations would intimidate a berserker like Hannibal. Sending foot soldiers against his pachyderms was not unlike attempting to stop a Panzer column with tricycles.”
– Simon Hawke, The Ivanhoe Gambit

 The Ivanhoe Gambit is a book one in a twelve-book fantasy series, and the one that cemented the “rules” of time travel firmly in my brain.

It explains the Grandfather Paradox (if a person goes back in time and kills their grandfather before he has met their grandmother, how can he exist to go back in time?) in a way that makes it perfectly impossible for a person to ever meet themselves in the past.

 And the series explores the idea of time as like a river, with small anomalies behaving like pebbles thrown in the water and causing ripples that are easily absorbed by inertia. But big anomalies, say like going back in time to kill Hitler before he could start a war, would be more like throwing a boulder into the river and causing the water to divert around it. What, then, would happen when those two streams re-join? Would one entire timeline suddenly cease to exist?

Simon Hawke’s device of setting each book around an established historical event and playing with what might happen inspired me to dance with the known history of Jack the Ripper and then put my own spin on it. Because solving historical mysteries with fantastical resolutions is so much fun!

 “Zane looked. The death’s-head gaped back at him, encased in its hood. His hands in the gloves were skeletal, and his ankles above the shoes were fleshless bones. He had assumed the visage of Death.” – Piers Anthony, On a Pale Horse

On a Pale Horse is book one of Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony, and plays with the brilliant device that Death is an office. And if, like the hero of the book, you accidentally kill death, you get the job. I love the idea of concepts personified, and I borrowed very liberally from that idea for Marking Time when I made Time, Fate, Nature, War and Death into Immortals with long family lines full of descendants with skills they inherited from their powerful ancestors.

“It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.” ― Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
 Patrick Rothfuss is a genius. Totally irreverent, deeply committed, unapologetically geeky and incredibly well-read, he has joined the ranks of my favorite authors EVER.

 And although I can’t claim that The Name of the Wind influenced Marking Time in any discernible way, everything about Pat’s brilliant writing makes me want to be better. Just… better. That is all.

“I snuck a look to see how Eric was taking this, and he was staring at me the same way the Monroe vampires had. Thoughtful. Hungry. "That's interesting," he said. "I had a psychic once. It was incredible." "Did the psychic think so?” ― Charlaine Harris, Dead Until Dark
 Okay, to be fair, Dead Until Dark and any of the other Sookie Stackhouse novels from Charlaine Harris had very little to do with the Vampire mythology I created in Marking Time.

I’ve actually never come across mythology like mine – with Vampires as the Descendants of Death – made, not born, since it’s an oxymoron for Death to be born.

But I’ve been reading about Vampires since Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat (not bad, except for the Rock Star stuff), and some of that mythology just doesn’t work for me.

Sorry, sparkly Vampires? Really? But Charlaine Harris brought Vampires back in a funny, slightly irreverent way, and Sookie’s voice, especially in the early books, has enough sass to bring Vampires out of the dark and creepy realm and turn them into real characters.

These are just the books I start with.

Invariably, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card comes up (“What? You haven’t read it? Get it RIGHT NOW and read it before the movie comes out in November!”), Blood Song by Anthony Ryan (cheap on kindle, with a ridiculously high number of five-star reviews), and anything by Robin Hobb or Neil Gaiman.

Among my YA recommendations are some amazing books like Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, and a new (to me) find in contemporary fiction, The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay. And that’s not even counting anything by Suzanne Collins and J.K. Rowling.

Stephen King said “Books are uniquely portable magic,” and Alice Hoffman believes that “Books may well be the only true magic.” And of course Lemony Snicket never trusts a person who has not brought a book with them, but Neil Gaiman said it best:

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

 APRIL WHITE has been variously a film producer, private investigator, bouncer, and screenwriter. 
  She writes in the morning before her chickens wake up, follows her husband to the ends of the earth (the Yukon, the jungle) when his work takes him there, and the rest of the time, lives in Southern California with her family, their dog, and said chickens.

Find April:


Seventeen-year-old tagger Saira Elian can handle anything... a mother who mysteriously disappears, a stranger who stalks her around London, and even the noble English Grandmother who kicked Saira and her mother out of the family. But when an old graffiti tag in a tube station transports Saira to the 19th Century and she comes face-to-face with Jack the Ripper, she realizes she needs help after all.

Saira meets Archer, a charming student who helps her blend in as much as a tall, modern American teen can in Victorian England. He reveals the existence of the Immortals: Time, Nature, Fate, War and Death, and explains to Saira that it is possible to move between
centuries – if you are a Descendant of Time.

Saira finds unexpected friendships at a boarding school for Immortal Descendants and a complicated love with a young man from the past. But time is running out for her mother, and Saira must embrace her new identity as she hides from Archer a devastating secret about his future that may cost him his life.

 Goodreads | Amazon US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | Smashwords

Thank you for being my guest, April! I am definitely checking out some of your books and I totally agree with you on Outlander, because I'm a rabid fan who is just waiting for the newest book to be released :) 


Bea's Book Nook said...

I haven't read any of those books though I do have the first Outlander on my kindle. This was an interesting post, thanks!

Blodeuedd said...

I want to start Outlander but then I look at them and realize it would take a month to finish all

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

i have wanted to read the outlander for such a long time!

Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...

Patrick Rothfuss is brilliant and Outlander is on my list of books to read. I love time travel and need to read it before the new year. Marking Time sounds fascinating and I thank you for sharing it with us.

Hannah @ Dragons and Whimsy said...

LOVELY post. So glad you included Pat Rothfuss, I adore his books. :D Wishlisting Making Time now!

Mel@Thedailyprophecy said...

The Outlander series is really good! It's a shame I stopped reading after a couple of books, but I hope to re-read it soon so I can continue the story.

I can't wait to read Patrick Rothfuss :)

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