What do time travel, Trance music, and Philadelphia have in common? Andy Gavin’s latest novel, Untimed.
Untimed is about time travelers. If you could travel, when and where would you go?
Personally, I’d love to visit the ancient world, mostly the great cities. Rome in different eras (Republican, Imperial, etc.). Egypt during the peak of the New Kingdom. Pericles’ Athens. Justinian’s Constantinople. Alexander in Babylon. All good stuff. We can bet that Charlie will be heading downtime sometime in the future… uh, his meta-future that is.
What inspired you to use Philadelphia as Charlie’s hometown?
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.
Which character was the most fun to write?
Untimed’s single first person POV is Charlie, and he was very fun to write. He calls things as he sees them, and given his basic naiveté, that’s pretty funny. We’re inside his head, and nothing is really sacred there. This can also be contrasted with what he does and says, which is sometimes not as bold as he thinks. Dialog-wise, his love interest, Yvaine, is also a blast because she’s incredibly direct and not afraid to work it.
When you started writing Untimed, did you already have the ending worked out?
Not exactly, but I knew that somehow they’d mess up the Ben Franklin part of the timeline and that I’d have to come back to London again to fix it. I don’t plot that far ahead, although I like to have a rough idea of where I’m going.
Untimed is completely different from your previous book, The Darkening Dream. Did your writing process change at all?
As Untimed is my second novel, I was pleased to find the editing process much quicker than with The Darkening Dream. Untimed had its share of drafts, four major ones, but the fundamental structure remained largely intact from the beginning. After the heavy lifting I went through with TDD this was a surprising, but welcome change. Still, as lean and improved as my newer style is, the line edit of the book had over 12,000 changes! But that was more because the editing was good than because the prose had problems.
I guess I was also surprised how much I’ve come to love the present tense. I’m not sure I want to ever go back to past tense. There’s an immediacy and economy to present that I find rather seductive.
Do you listen to music while writing? What are some of the songs that helped inspire the story?
I’m a very eclectic music listener. 70s and 80s rock. Some new stuff (including Lady Gaga and Katy Perry). Lots of classic Jazz (like Miles Davis), lots of classical. All sorts of weird stuff from Ottoman court music to Tibetan monastic chants to medieval Spanish tunes.
Lyrics interfere with serious writing or editing so trance techno is one of my favorite genres for that. Or something spacy like jazz or Tangerine Dream if I don’t want to pound.
While writing Untimed I listened to a LOT of syntho music, everything from my nearly complete Tangerine Dream collection to the Daft Punk Tron Legacy album and with a lot of Trance in between.
Do you prefer to plot out your story or have the characters lead you?
Personally I find the two different modes: plotting vs. just writing, to use different sides of the brain, and therefore useful to stagger. I can only handle a few days of plotting before I need the release of getting it out there. There really isn’t any rush in writing as good as just pounding out a great scene that’s already gelled in your head, and it’s even better when the scene and characters take on a life of their own and bring something novel to the process. Looking back on it, I realize that as a computer programmer I took this same exact alternating approach (between designing the algorithm and just coding) and that the rush and rhythm were nearly identical.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read, read, write, write, edit, edit, edit. And hire good professional help too. Friends and family can give you a sense of how the book reads, but they can’t usually tell you how to fix anything serious. I’ve read a lot of half-decent Indie books on my Kindle that are at their core good, but just need some serious tightening and polish. Hell, I’ve read plenty of big-six bestsellers you can say this about.
How many books do you read each month?
It really varies. I keep them all in a spreadsheet with start and stop dates too (yes, I’m that organized). Looking back, I’m averaging about 5-6 a month right now. I wish it was more, but it’s hard to find the time to really focus on them. Air travel is great for that! I get more read when I have flights, train rides, business travel without my wife or son (who take up my time in a good way).
What can readers expect from you next?
Right now, I’m writing two more novels and adapting Untimed into a screenplay. The new books are the Untimed sequel and a totally separate short novel that involves old school fairies and iambic pentameter.
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!
Genre: Historical Fiction, Science Ficition, Young Adult
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 including The Darkening Dream, a dark historical fantasy that puts the bite back in vampires.
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