How does being a video game programmer/designer help you in writing novels?
As a serial creator (having made over a dozen major video games) it was interesting how similar the process was to any other complex creative project. Video games and novel writing are both very iterative and detail oriented. They use a lot of the same mental muscles.
|Charlie. From All Things Andy Gavin|
I don’t really write to a demographic. I probably should, but it just isn’t me. The characters take on a life of their own and fantastic elements aside, demand a certain level of realism.
Untimed might have been easier to sell to publishers if I had kept the basic plot but targeted it at Middle Schoolers. Instead, it’s a 13+ book and I tried to make Charlie’s voice authentically 15, which means it has a bit of an edge. Teen boys think about shit and sex. Sorry, but it’s true. I rub up on issues that make some squirm, even if I deal with the lightly: teen pregnancy, drinking, slavery, etc. But to sweep these under the carpet wouldn’t do justice to the 18th century – or our own.
In the time travel novels I've read, the story world is a mix of contemporary and historical. The two story worlds are more or less as realistic as they could get. Why did you decide to mix contemporary, historical and a bit of steampunk into the time travel equation?
First of all, I’m a pantser, and so the story and characters largely determine where they go. Untimed began with this concept of a modern teenage narrator who was unstuck in time and went from there.
Somehow, I always imagined Charlie in Philadelphia, and that led me quickly to Ben Franklin, who is a favorite of mine. In an alternate dimension there exists a simpler Untimed, woven between modern and 18th century Philly. No London. No France. No China. That book would have been more like a Hollywood story, all packaged up neat and clean, but neat and clean isn’t the Andy Gavin style.
I often like to speculate on much individual people and events shape history, so it was natural to play with this idea of a future (or present?) gone wrong.
When you were writing Untimed, how did you draw the line between facts and fantasy?
I didn’t want the book to be too tame and neat. Despite being a fantasist, I strive for human realism in my books. I like to deal with real issues when they come up, which I feel makes for better drama.
Fundamentally, while the central two conceits of Untimed are fanciful (time travel and Tick-Tocks), I tried to keep everything else realistic (if sometimes comic). Teens do have sex. They do drink. The past was a dangerous place, justice was more an abstract concept than a practical reality. A pair of teenagers stranded without resources or any real clue as to what is going on would find it tough going.
I wanted to show people that the past didn’t have to be boring, and that while situations and society changes, people stay the same. I also wanted to illustrate that while people in the past are just as human, things really have improved in many ways. By having Charlie, who as a contemporary kid is our representative, experience different times first hand, it’s easy to contrast them.
From the blurb: "there’s the simple fact that boys only travel into the past and girls only into the future."
So why does this time travel rule exist?
First of all, I had to come up with a unique new system that allowed multiple visits to the same time period, but wasn’t too overpowered. If your characters are too powerful, there is no jeopardy. So I had to invent all the restrictions and deal with the issues of paradox (and I think I have a crafty new solution there). Then I had to figure out how to make returning to the SAME action actually interesting for the reader. That was even harder.
I also wanted some kind of mechanic that created emotional intensity. I hit on the forward/backward thing early on and it really clicked with me. I liked the idea that due to the rules, and the rarity of travelers, Charlie and Yvaine were really stuck together. One wrong hop without the other and they might never see each other again!
Paperback, 325 pages
December 17, 2012, Mascherato
Charlie’s the kind of boy that no one notices. Hell, even his own mother can’t remember his name. And girls? The invisible man gets more dates.
As if that weren’t enough, when a mysterious clockwork man tries to kill him in modern day Philadelphia, and they tumble through a hole into 1725 London, Charlie realizes even the laws of time don’t take him seriously.
Still, this isn’t all bad. In fact, there’s this girl, another time traveler, who not only remembers his name, but might even like him! Unfortunately, Yvaine carries more than her share of baggage: like a baby boy and at least two ex-boyfriends! One’s famous, the other’s murderous, and Charlie doesn’t know who is the bigger problem.
When one kills the other — and the other is nineteen year-old Ben Franklin — things get really crazy. Can their relationship survive? Can the future? Charlie and Yvaine are time travelers, they can fix this — theoretically — but the rules are complicated and the stakes are history as we know it.
And there's one more wrinkle: he can only travel into the past, and she can only travel into the future!
About the Author:
Andy Gavin is a serial creative, polymath, novelist, entrepreneur, computer programmer, author, foodie, and video game creator. He co-founded video game developer Naughty Dog and co-created Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter. He started numerous companies, has been lead programmer on video games that have sold more than forty million copies, and has written two novels.
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Thanks to Andy and Mascherato, we have one signed copy of Untimed to giveaway! You guys know the drill. Fill out the form. :)
You should be at least 13 years old.
Ends April 30, 2013.
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