Blog tour: An Ocean of Minutes Q&A

Today you join me on the blog tour for An Ocean of Minutes, think time travel, love and dystopia!

The blurb...
America is in the grip of a deadly flu. When Frank gets sick, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him. She agrees to a radical plan—time travel has been invented in the future to thwart the virus. If she signs up for a one-way-trip into the future to work as a bonded labourer, the company will pay for the life-saving treatment Frank needs. Polly promises to meet Frank again in Galveston, Texas, where she will arrive in twelve years.

But when Polly is re-routed an extra five years into the future, Frank is nowhere to be found. Alone in a changed and divided America, with no status and no money, Polly must navigate a new life and find a way to locate Frank, to discover if he is alive, and if their love has endured.

Sounds brilliant right? For today's post Thea answered some of my questions...

Hi Thea, thanks so much for answering some questions! Firstly, short and sweet, if you had to describe An Ocean of Minutes in only 5 words which would you pick? 

A bookseller in the US made me laugh recently when she described my book as a "really intense long distance relationship," so I'm going to go with that.

 This is your debut novel- how did you find the writing process?
This makes me think of a page from Kafka’s Writing Diaries, that I saw posted once on Twitter. “Complete standstill. Unending torments.” “How time flies; another ten days and I have achieved nothing.” Writing a novel is a very long process of finding a problem, and then fixing it, and then finding another problem, and then fixing it, and then finding another...I'm of the belief that tenacity is just as important as talent (if not more?) when it comes to making art. 

 One of the key elements is time travel. If you could travel anywhere in time where would you go? 
I read once that people are idealistic for the decade preceding the one in which they were born. It's true for me: the 70s always seem idyllic to me -- civil rights were getting better, social mores had loosened up, the fashion was great, and the shackles of smartphones and social media had not been invented. But maybe I just feel that way because of all the TV and movies I watched while researching An Ocean of Minutes: Cactus Flower, Annie Hall, the Americans. 

In An Ocean of Minutes, Polly makes a huge sacrifice for love. Would you have done the same in her shoes?
I think when I would have, when I was her age. Part of what I wanted to explore was how many sacrifices we make for love, we make unknowingly. So much of aging is coming to understand in a very nuanced way what love can cost, or how love and people change; what change truly means. It's impossible to understand these things before we live through them. At the same time, I didn't want to suggest that young people are fools; I also wanted to honour how Polly's belief is poignant and beautiful, and how bittersweet youth is.  

Where there any particular inspirations when creating Polly? What do you like about her the most?
Her determination! My mother used to have a postcard with her family crest and motto, and the motto was "Try." So I guess that inspiration came from somewhere close to home! 

Although the book revolves around time travel it is set in the 80s and 90s, was there any specific reasoning you chose those periods?
Early versions took place in the late 21st century, but that gave my guinea pig readers the impression I was trying to predict what might happen, if our cultures continued to act as we do. Instead, I wanted to talk about how we act now; but set in a way that enabled us to consider our actions in new light. I stole the idea from Never Let Me Go to put the story in an alternate past, because doing so made much clearer to my readers that I was talking about how we already are. My book falls into the category of "dystopic fiction" but because I'm not making predictions as dystopic fiction does, I've been trying to make the term "allegorical fiction" happen.  

You touch on the class system and wealth in a changed future- where these themes you planned on including from the onset? 
Not at all! I published a novella about ten years ago, and for that one I did have lofty ideas about which systems of oppression required critique. Then a writing instructor told me not to worry about theme, arguing that a writer's job is to tell a story, not make an argument, and that if we trusted our stories, theme would creep in. He was completely right. While a book can make an argument, a story becomes a bit bloodless if it's sole goal is to make a point. It was much more fruitful for me to just follow the plot, and to let myself be surprised by what political themes could come in naturally, if I let the story unfold. 

What are you currently reading?
Suicide Club by Rachel Heng.

An Ocean of Minutes is available now in hardback

Huge thanks to Ana at Quercus for arranging the tour and to Thea for answering my questions!

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