SBW TalkBooks honored me by choosing Travel Glasses as it’s July group read. Last night, we had a live Q&A about the book and writing in general. It was a lot of fun! The following is a writeup of the event, which will be cross-posted on author Marjorie Bicknell Johnson’s blog.
Travel Glasses is a YA time travel fantasy filled with metafiction and other literary twistiness. This is the first novel in the series, The Call to Search Everywhen.
When Travel Glasses begins, Calla Winston’ mobile devices sit in a corner of her room, covered in dust. Weeks ago, she shared photos and laughs with her best online friend. Now, she equates technology with pain and prefers being hidden and friendless.
Then she meets Valcas, an otherworldly time traveler who traverses time and space with a pair of altered sunglasses. She travels with him to others’ pasts to escape an unknown attacker. The Travel Glasses take Calla’s mistrust of technology to new levels, but without them, she’ll never make it back home.
Questions for the Author
- How did you happen to start your series, The Call to Search Everywhen?
A friend and I had been brainstorming ideas for short stories. One morning an idea popped in my head about sunglasses that could be used for time travel. I thought of both the title of the story and Valcas’ character immediately; although, at the time I thought it would be a short story. I let the book flow, free wrote the first draft, rewrote the entire manuscript from a different point of view, and then worked on playing up the themes. Overall, development of the book spanned five years.
- The travel glasses remind me of Google glasses and virtual reality games, but taken one step further. Did you get any of your ideas for this book from Google glasses?
I’d already known about virtual reality and videogame visors, but at the time I envisioned the story, Google Glass hadn’t come out yet. I suspect that a couple telecommunications and privacy courses I took in 2012 and 2013 impacted later edits regarding some of the glasses’ special features.
- Calla seems to have trouble getting home again, to the place and time where she began. Is this a play upon the idea, you can never go home again?
I didn’t have that theme specifically in mind, although it pairs well with the book’s themes of trust, relationships and self-preservation. Calla’s journey is partly one of self-discovery; she’s not who she was before her travels.
- When the characters travel, their conveyance changes to something from the time and place that they visit. For example, their gondola in Venice morphs into a ship when they arrive in Folkestone Harbour. Do their clothing and hairstyles change as well?
In early drafts of the book, for some reason I had changed Calla’s clothing when she arrived in Venice, but nowhere else. It seemed odd to me, so I scrapped it. I did keep the vehicle changes, though, for when the destination was to a real place rather than a Nowhere.
- How did you create your characters? I could relate to Calla, even though I am well beyond the YA age, because she’s a smart tomboy like I used to be. I had more trouble with Valcas because I couldn’t figure out if he was a good guy or not.
Valcas is socially awkward. His character is ambiguous because a lot of Calla’s fears are in her head. He has a parallel story going on, but sometimes he’s more difficult to relate to because he’s more distant, which is part of the effect of the story being told from Calla’s point of view.
- How do you find time to work, write, blog, and use social media?
My schedule is flexible in that my work assignments have ebbs and flows, for which I’m very grateful. Sometimes I’m so buried that I can’t write fiction for months at a time. Regardless, there are times I get so wrapped up in a story that other things suffer like getting enough sleep, making it to the gym or reading for fun.
- How do you like to work?
I’m an extrovert and get energy from being around other people. I like to write in coffee shops, bowling alleys, and pool halls.
- How many books have you written in your series?
The first two books, Travel Glasses and Insight Kindling, are out now and available as paperbacks, ebooks and audiobooks. I’m still writing and editing the third book, Time for the Lost, which I hope to release in late 2015 or early 2016.
I have more story ideas in my head and tucked away in notes. I’m hoping to have additional books in the series, perhaps with a separate story arc.
Chess Desalls recently authored the first two installments of the YA time travel serial series, The Call to Search Everywhen. She’s a longtime reader of fantasy and sci-fi novels, particularly classics and young adult fiction. When she’s not writing she enjoys traveling, reading and trying to stay in tune on her flute.