Monday, June 20, 2016

Author Interview: R.A.Carter-Squire, Author of An Altered Course

Is Time Travel possible?
Well the short answer is; no. However, it depends on your point of view and how much time is involved. I believe that situations like finding your lost keys could be considered time travel because you have to put yourself back to that moment when you lost them. Jumping forward or backward five, ten, fifty, or a hundred years is definitely not possible—yet.
What made you write this book?
My best friend came to visit me one day in 1986 and that was the last time I saw or heard from him. We were inseparable during high school and for a few years after. Once I got married, he didn’t hang around much. A year ago, I wondered where he was and the idea struck me; ‘What if I could go back in time to find out what happened to him?’ The rest as they say is history. There is one more remarkable note to add to this story. On the day this story was first published as Dancing to a Different Tune, my friend contacted me. It turns out he was living in the same city as my family and I for the past fifteen years and I didn’t know it. Now when I talk to him, it’s as if we just picked up where we left off, for me anyway.
Another detail, the main character’s father having Alzheimer’s, I experienced with my own father. There were days when I’d go to visit him and he was experiencing the world as he lived it in his thirties. It was tough on the whole family, especially my mother.
Can you tell us what An Altered Course is about?
Sure, it begins with the main character, Michael Eldridge, as a young boy. He’s living through the day his best friend, Joe disappears in 1957. Then we jump ahead thirty years to find Michael as head of the largest computer manufacturer in the world. He’s devoted his life to developing technology. The motivation; his consuming desire to find a way back in time to learn the truth about how and why his best friend disappeared. Now, on the verge of completing a project for NASA that will allow them to communicate instantly through space and gives him the power to jump back in time; however, life conspires to thwart his most cherished desire. His father becomes ill, the woman of his desires wants him, and a competitor is planning to steal his discovery.
In a deeper sense though, it is a story about relationships and how we prioritise them against our work. We’ve all lost someone and most of us would give anything to have them back in our lives. Michael has excluded emotional contacts with people except for his remaining best friend. Now, the impending loss of his father and the growing need to be with a woman are distracting him. He’s learning to be inclusive, something most people learn by the time they become adults.
It’s also about being in control of our lives. Michael has controlled everything in his life for the last twenty years, but now he feels like a leaf blowing in the wind or a man drowning in a raging river. Nothing makes sense and he has to make decisions without any experience.
Are the characters based on anyone in particular?
Well no because then I’d have to pay them royalties. The truth is that Michael might be a little like me. History, science, and computers fascinate me. I’m happy being alone, but I enjoy my life with my wife and family. Yes, I’ve been in situations that made me feel like I had no control and I came through them. I’d like to go into space and if I could move through time, I’d be willing to see what happens next in my life.
The other characters are loosely based on people I know. Their actions, attitudes, and other characteristics I used to make them seem human. The research scientist in the story has a habit of scratching his head when he’s nervous. That trait was a habit my son had when he was younger. I’ve never known a woman with red hair, personally. Heather’s actions are built on movie characters and hearsay.
Is this book going to have a sequel?
No, sorry. I just finished the first draft of another book that will have a sequel or two, but you’ll have to wait.
Do you use an outline or write by the seat of your pants?
You know, I’ve tried to use an outline and I can’t form a whole story at the beginning. I usually start out with an idea—like going back in time to find out what happened to your best friend—and then imagine an ending. Call that an outline if you like, but I call it the trip.
I know the start—roughly. The main character becomes clear in my mind and what his/her motivation is in relation to the ending. Then I’ll start writing. Other people come along to populate the world, helping or hindering, but always driving toward the finish. A road map.
I never edit until after the draft is finished. Well, that’s not true. Usually, at the beginning of my writing day, I’ll read the last paragraph or two from the previous day to get the story in my mind again and if I find errors, I’ll fix them.
And before you ask, no I don’t have a set time for writing each day. I try to spend eight to ten hours a week, average. My work, wife, family, and friends (not in that order) have first claim on my time. This way, I never feel guilty about not writing on any given day.I never have a deadline either.
What made you write your first book?
That’s actually a funny moment for me. I read many books, especially horror and thriller. I’ll read non-fiction books about anything that fascinates me at the moment too. Having said that, one day I was reading a book published in 1968, I think. It was about the most haunted places in England. Non-fiction, it said, but the narrative read like the phone book. Boring!
I decided then that if someone published those words, then someone out there would certainly be willing to publish a story of mine. Four months later, after much grumbling from my wife and family, and I had a novel.
I didn’t know about editing. I thought the publisher would do all of the heavy lifting. I didn’t know about rejection.After half a dozen no’s,I threw the book in a drawer for twenty years.
A new idea came to me, but this time I was prepared. I wrote the new story over three years, two of them researching the historic details. This was fiction, but I wanted/ needed to be true to history. Editing, revising, and designing a cover and I finally published my first book.

Hot on the heels of that triumph, I dug out the original manuscript from twenty years earlier. It was awful. I’ll rewrite it, I said. After six months, I published my second book. And now comes the third, with a fourth on the way.