Getting Into Character
One of the really scary things about publishing a novel is having friends and family read it. My worst fear: that my nearest and dearest are looking at Time Runs Away With Her like a high school yearbook, searching for that cool shot of themselves in the 11th grade. After all, the main setting is 1970. And we’re all prone to nostalgia. I keep writing emails and Facebook postings: No, dear high school friend! The heroine’s BFF is NOT YOU. You were MUCH cooler (and my high school BFF totally was).
Or no, we were buddies in college and I did use your first name, but the male romantic lead is NOT YOU. (He does get lucky, though. Oh, so you like that. Thought you would.)
I worry that they all think I doth protest too much.
I doth not, though. I know just how the story came to be. Time travel because I wanted to be able to do it. Who wouldn’t? 1970 because it was an amazing year: the Woman’s Movement gathering steam, a bloody war in Vietnam, and all-out-nuclear-heck still pretty darn possible. The world was dark and glittering. Stephen King has said that he knows he’s onto a good narrative when he finds himself putting himself to sleep thinking about it. I did that while I was drafting Time Runs Away With Her, so I really hope he’s right!
But the characters. Yeah, Juuulia, the heroine’s mother, shares some stuff with my own mom. She’s smart and strong and frustrated. She should have had a music career. Juuulia was a tiger mother before the term existed—and my mom was, too. My mom gave me her best and her best was fierce. But when I see Juuulia sitting in her mid-century modern furniture in her drafty Victorian house with all the woodwork painted a severe charcoal grey, that’s not the woman who bore and raised me. That’s Juuulia. Juuulia showed up when I was writing the book. Oh—the extra “u’s” in her name? That’s because you have to say it like Julia Child would have. Read the book. You’ll find out why.
Likewise my heroine, Bean Donohue. Her hair’s red as a shout-out to Anne of Green Gables, but she finds herself at a Grateful Dead Concert in February of 1970. OK, so I WAS at that show, but I didn’t attempt to time travel out of the Fillmore East ladies’ room that night. And I did (still do) sing and play guitar, but Bean’s better than I was. Like, a LOT. And I think she’s a bunch cooler than I would have been about developing what amounts to a super power at age 16. Thing is, I believe in Bean maybe more than I believe in me. That’s what kept me revising and workshopping and submitting until I found Time Runs Away With Her a home at Evernight Teen. Bean is real. She’s just not Christine Potter.
There’s a setting that’s so powerful in my book that’s it’s almost a character itself: The too-gothic-for-words-and-very- haunted Deerwood Main. It’s a huge mansion built by an 19th century industrialist for his family and his second wife in a mish-mash of crazy architecture and Hudson River views. The place has a real-world inspiration: Estherwood at Master’s School in Dobbs Ferry, NY. But I’ll tell you a secret. I don’t think I’ve ever been inside Estherwood. Like Bean, I was a townie and went to public school. The interiors just kind of showed up when I was writing. Like Juuulia. And Bean. I don’t know much about Master’s School, outside of the fact that some of us swore it was haunted back in my high school years. But Deerwood? I’ve spent tons of time there, both in 1970 and the late 19th century.
That’s because writing about time travel is about as good as actually getting to do it. And I hope like crazy that holds true for READING about time travel in Time Runs Away With Her. You’ll be the judge of that! So why not find out right now?
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Time Runs Away with Her
Time Travel Romantic Suspense, 74k
Time Travel Romantic Suspense, 74k
It’s not easy being Bean. Bean Donohue lives for her guitar, but her mom threw her out of the house during a snowstorm for singing. No way she’s going to get permission to go see The Grateful Dead at the Fillmore East.
Zak, her almost-boyfriend, will get drafted if he doesn’t get into art school, pot makes Bean paranoid, and her best friend can’t stop talking about sex. 1970’s not for wimps—but neither was 1885...or 1945. So why does Bean keep sliding backwards in time?
…Suzanne’s black turtleneck was pulled all the way up to her nose, and her shoulders were hunched. She was memorizing French vocabulary words and twirling a strand of her stick-straight, chestnut-colored hair around a finger. Bean began to fold the corner of a loose-leaf page back and forth so that she could tear it off without making any noise: a note.
That’s when the library’s double doors banged open hard enough to bounce on the wall behind them. Bean heard Miss Webber draw her breath in––not quite a gasp, but almost––all the way across the room.
It was Zak. Bean put a hand over her mouth to hide an instant grin. Miss Webber, maybe a little embarrassed at being startled, set down the paperwork she had been doing and looked over her gold-rimmed glasses at him.
On Zak’s head was an old-fashioned fedora, an index card with the word PRESS handwritten in big letters in its hatband: a press pass, like a black and white movie’s newspaper reporter. His long hair looked silly and wonderful underneath it.
“Mr. Grant,” said Miss Webber. “Do you have a pass?” That’s when the laughing started. Not hard, nasty laughter, like when a dumb teacher gets taken in by a prank, but happy laughter. Kids liked Miss Webber, even though she was so old that no one could guess her real age. She wore a bun at the back of her neck the way you’d expect a librarian to. Her hair was a brownish, grayish no-color. But Bean bet it went all the way down her back when she brushed it out at night.
“Touché, Madame,” said Zak. Then, without speaking, he took the fedora off his head, and set it before her on the desk. He pointed at the hand-lettered PRESS card in the hatband, and pantomimed taking pictures of Miss Webber with an imaginary camera. Miss Webber laughed, which was not something that happened incredibly often.
“A hall pass, Mr. Grant,” she said. He pulled a small pink piece of paper out of his army jacket. She examined it. She still looked amused. She stretched her arm out before her, the hall pass between two fingers, and Zak retrieved it, bowing deeply. Instead of putting it back in his jacket, he tucked it into his hatband with the PRESS pass, and put the hat back on his head, adjusting its brim low on his forehead.
He spun around dramatically and scanned the library. Bean put her head down and stared at her book to protect herself from disappointment if she was wrong, but she suspected he was looking for her. She held her breath for a minute, looked up, and Zak was halfway to her table.
“Grant,” said someone in a low voice as he walked by. Zak ignored it and dropped into the chair next to Bean. Suzanne snuck a quick glance at Bean over the top of her French book. Zak’s army jacket smelled like the outdoors: winter air and fireplace smoke.
“Hi,” he whispered to Bean.
“Hi,” she whispered back. She wanted to giggle so much that her face hurt. She turned a few pages, looking for another Scarlet Letter quotation. When she’d finished writing one down, she peeked back at Zak. His Algebra Two book was in front of him, and he was unfolding a piece of paper. He produced a Rapidograph, used it to jot down an equation, and began to solve it.
Bean felt giddy. She reread what she’d just written in her notebook, but then a shadow fell across the page: Zak’s arm.
“Was stuff at home okay?” he wrote on the page across from her English notes. He began to doodle a shining sun face wearing a fedora next to what he had written.
“Sort of,” wrote Bean. “My mother is a...”
“Big Mamma!” wrote Zak, and drew a plump woman in a bikini reclining under the sun face. Bean’s mom wasn’t especially fat, but the picture was funny. Bean laughed silently and glanced up at Zak, not meaning to stare straight into his eyes. How had she not noticed the color of his eyes before? They were steely blue. Suzanne closed her French book to watch. Bean felt herself blush, and tried to go back to The Scarlet Letter.
A few minutes later, Bean heard more fine-point pen scratching. She pretended not to notice. On the back of his algebra homework, Zak had dashed off a sketch of a girl (Bean? Hard to say) with a guitar (Okay, so maybe it was Bean).
He showed Bean the sketch, and flipped the page back over. Then, he was scribbling numbers again, quickly enough that it surprised her. At the edge of her vision, the light over the river brightened, and the water sparkled. Bean looked up.
That’s when she saw the dinosaurs. Brontosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus rex. What were the names of the others? Was that a steg ... a stegosaurus, maybe? She couldn’t remember.
The dinosaurs were huge, at least life-sized, and on a barge in the river, being towed by a tugboat. The playground of the elementary school next door to Stormkill High was filling with children in double rows, walking toward the riverbank, led by their teachers.
Bean remembered her third grade teacher’s explanation: “The dinosaur models are for the Sinclair Oil Exhibit, at the World’s Fair they’re building in The City. The whole school’s going outside to watch the dinosaurs sail down the River.”
Bean stared out the library window. She remembered how she’d put on her itchy blue mohair sweater and lined up with her class. She hadn’t wanted to be Alice Turton’s partner, but she’d had to hold someone’s hand when they walked outside the building together: the buddy rule. The hall had been echoing with the sound of everyone in it all at once and then they were out on the playground.
Eleventh-grade Bean got up from the table, leaned her arms on the windowsill, and looked down. Outside, the elementary school classes walked toward the Hudson. And there: there was a little girl toward the front of one line of children with a blue sweater and long, red hair.
What Bean saw was herself, in the past, and so she pushed the window up and leaned out. The dinosaur barge was right in the middle of the mercury-colored river...
...And then it wasn’t. It had blinked out––gone. There was nothing, nothing but the glitter of sun on water and the rough cliffs on the other side of the Hudson. The playground next door was empty, unless you counted a couple of squirrels and a few canvas-seat swings, moving in the wind. Bean pulled her head back inside. Zak was at her side, looking either concerned or amused. She couldn’t tell. Mrs. Webber was on her way across the room.
“Heavens! You’ll freeze all of us, Rebecca! Next time, just tell me if you’re too warm!” Mrs. Webber said, as soon as she got close enough so she didn’t have to raise her voice. Kids from the tables near Bean stared. There was a little laughter, a buzz of whispered conversations. She managed to shrug her shoulders, and heard Zak chuckle.
The pages of Bean’s open notebook were moving in the cold breeze, but then Mrs. Webber closed the window and they were still. There was a bit more laughter, then it was quiet again.
Christine Potter lives in a small town not far from the setting of Time Runs Away With Her, near the mighty Hudson River, in a very old (1740) house with two ghosts. According to a local ghost investigator, the ghosts are harmless, “just very old spirits who don’t want to leave.” She doesn’t want them to.
Christine’s house contains two pipe organs (her husband is a choir director/organist), two spoiled tom cats, and too many books. She’s also a poet, and the author of two collections of verse, Zero Degrees at First Light, and Sheltering in Place. Christine taught English and Creative Writing for years in the Clarkstown Schools. She DJ’s free form rock and roll weekly on Area24radio.com, and plays guitar, dulcimer, and tower chimes.
Facebook book page for Time Runs Away: * https://www.facebook.com/beanstravels?fref=ts