Two weeks ago this day, I had my very first author appearance, and it was quite the stage for a debut: the vendors’ Emporium at the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting. Meeting my fellow JASNA members (JASNA-ites? JASNA-ians? I’m going to figure that out eventually) and the extremely talented and kind Amanda Root was most exciting, and I can’t wait, God-willing, to be in Colonial Williamsburg next fall to celebrate one of my favorite Jane Austen novels, Northanger Abbey. Until then, to keep the 2018 AGM festivities going for a little while longer, here’s Part 2 of my “Making of Time & Tenacity” series! (Here’s Part 1 if you’re just joining in the Timely fun.)
Please note: From this post on, it will get increasingly harder to discuss the process of writing Time without revealing major spoilers. If you have not read the book yet, I recommend skipping over these making-of posts, getting the book, and joining in on these discussion once you’ve read and (I hope!) enjoyed it!
Previously on Hannah’s Blog: Time & Tenacity was initially the story of a Mary/Kitty Bennet composite, Jane, abandoning her boring and obnoxious family after the events of Pride and Prejudice and travelling in time with a dashing time traveler named Riley Granger. But as I quickly found out, leaving Lizzy, Darcy, Jane Bennet-Bingley, Mr. Bingley, and even Lydia behind in 1815 made for a very weak story. So the time machine picked up a few more travelers!
It was also around this point that I decided an episodic “hopping around in time” plot wouldn’t be sustainable. Each “episode” would have needed some kind of recurring central conflict, like a monster the Doctor needed to fight or an irrevocably damaged life Dr. Sam Beckett needed to fix. Since there were no monsters nor was there the ability to change history, I instead decided to center most of the action in 2015 with a few side trips, focusing the conflict on trying to get “un-stranded” in time instead.
After deciding Jane (Bennet-Bingley, whom I’ll refer to from here on as P&P Jane to avoid confusion), Elizabeth, and Lydia would come along, I had to decide what their plots, and the plots of their respective husbands, would look like. P&P Jane, I decided, would come with Mr. Bingley, and their major conflict would be that one of them would want to stay and one of them wouldn’t. I also knew fairly early on that my P&P Jane counterpart would be heavily pregnant, which would play a part in the couple’s final decision. Childbirth mortality rates in the 21st century United States are nowhere near the ideal zero percent, but they still are miles ahead of where they were in 19th century England when Jane Austen lost three sisters-in-law in childbirth.
As much as “Fitzwilliam Darcy reacts to microwaves” scenes would have been priceless, Darcy coming along with Elizabeth would just fall into too much of a repeat of the P&P Jane/Bingley plot. I wondered instead what it would have been like if one of my Jane’s sisters fell in love with a 21st-century man, since my Jane’s wrapped up in her enamorment with Riley for most of the story. It only took about two minutes after wondering that to realize “Of course Darcy is the 21st century guy!” Since using thinly-veiled counterparts of Pride and Prejudice characters instead of the characters themselves gave me more freedom to change certain circumstances around, I decided that in this version of events, Elizabeth had had to marry Mr. Collins (ew), but he had left her a young widow with two small sons after less than three years. This also gave me the opportunity to add a child’s perspective to all the time travel with Fly.
That left poor dear silly Lydia. Like P&P Jane, I knew her plot fairly right away would be that she was separated from her most treasured Wickham, and that the rest of our crew would never hear the end of it. I knew fairly quickly from that point that much like the climax of Pride centers around needing to rescue Lydia in a sense from social disgrace, the climax of Time would center around everyone needing to rescue Lydia’s counterpart from her husband who was really an evil time traveler. This also gave me a chance to work in a Persuasion reference, since like Wentworth and Benwick, the character who marries Lydia’s counterpart is a Naval captain who has made an even bigger fortune in the Napoleonic Wars (by knowing exactly what ships to capture!)
Deciding Jane’s sisters were coming along also led to the most game-changing decision of Time & Tenacity. In the original version, Jane and Riley were the only two consistent characters, which got old fast. I added another time traveler, Isabella’s great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter Gillian who, thanks to time travel, would be old enough to be a motherly figure to Jane and help her realize Riley’s treachery. (Yes, I used the time-tested Jane Austen formula of “never trust the superficially charming guy” from the start!)
At the same time, I was playing around with the idea that part of the reason Jane had so much trouble fitting in with early 19th century genteel society was that she, unknowingly, was the daughter of a time traveler who had been placed Harry Potter-like on the Farnsworth family’s doorstep. Well, guess what, I almost instantly hated this idea because I hated the idea of further making her sisters bland and ordinary to make Jane “the Special One”. I revisited this when her sisters came along for the ride, when I came up with the idea that Riley had told everyone Gillian stranded him, and… bam. Not only Riley had stranded Gillian in the late 18th century, but Gillian went on to become Jane’s (and Cassandra, Eleanor, and Isabella’s) mother!
I probably could have come up with a halfway decent novel in the end had I stuck with Jane and Riley hopping around time by themselves, but I’m so grateful that even with the loads and loads of characters that ended up in the final product, Jane’s family came along in the end. There were, and are, many stories it seems where cruel words and actions are celebrated or even rewarded, so I’m proud Time celebrates sticking close to the ones who give us the encouragement, love, and kindness we all need to thrive.
Next time: naming my characters!