Living the last hour in a high-budget documentary has made me a time travel believer, so I’ll take her word for it.
“How do you know?”
“Boys always be from the future. What’s me name?”
“Yvaine?” I say.
Her smile is so genuine it startles me.
“There you go. I haven’t never heared that since I was a wee bit.”
I know how she feels even if I only mostly understand what she says.
“Help a lady up, Charlie.”
I take the hand she extends, pull her upright, then kick my feet into the dirty pair of shoes I took off when I ran after her. Her scruffy outline stands out with unnatural clarity.
This cinches it. I know how to spot the historically homeless!
Dad’s history books, all his lessons, swirl in my head. He totally knew! If us extra-in-focus-no-names are time travelers, and he and Sophie have been off visiting the Crusades or whenever, why’d they wait till right before the clockwork cop showed up before trying to tell me?
“Are you from the future too?” I ask.
“You know nothin’, dinna you?” Yvaine cuffs me on the arm. “Boys are from the future, girls are from the past.”
“Where? I mean when? And when is now?”
“Let’s cosy someplace warm.” She tugs me toward the alley entrance. “We’ll be lucky not t’catch cold.”
“That’s what my mother would say.”
“I’m not your mother.”
Synopsis: Untimed is an action-packed time travel novel by Andy Gavin, author of The Darkening Dream and creator of Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter.
Charlie's the kind of boy that no one notices. Hell, his own mother can't remember his name. So 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. Who needs school when you can learn about history first hand, like from Ben Franklin himself. And there's this girl... Yvaine... another time traveler. All good. Except for the rules: boys only travel into the past and girls only into the future. And the baggage: Yvaine's got a baby boy and more than her share of ex-boyfriends. Still, even if they screw up history -- like accidentally let the founding father be killed -- they can just time travel and fix it, right? But the future they return to is nothing like Charlie remembers. To set things right, he and his scrappy new girlfriend will have to race across the centuries, battling murderous machines from the future, jealous lovers, reluctant parents, and time itself.
"A twisty-turny, swashbuckling adventure through time and history. I can't wait for the next book in the series!." -- R.J. Cavender
"What a super-engaging and exciting time travel romp!" -- Bookish Whimsy
"Like science class in Las Vegas!" -- Fantasy Literature
"Highly recommended to anyone who appreciates a well-written, suspenseful tale packed with colorful characters, witty dialogue, and interesting and well-researched settings." -- Amazon reviewer
DWED: First, tell us a little about yourself.
I’m an unstoppable storyteller who studied for his Ph.D. at M.I.T. and founded video game developer Naughty Dog, Inc. at the age of fifteen, serving as co-president for two decades. There I created, produced, and directed over a dozen video games, including the award winning and best selling Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter franchises, selling over 40 million units worldwide. I sleep little, read novels and histories, watch media obsessively, travel, blog (a million hits last year!), and of course, write.
DWED: Have you always aspired to publish a novel?
I’m a lifelong creator and explorer of worlds. As far back as first grade I remember spending most of the school day in one day dream or another. I had a huge notebook stuffed with drawings, story bits, and concepts for an elaborate Sci-Fi/Fantasy world I cobbled together from bits of Star Wars, Narnia, and Battlestar Galactica. By fourth or fifth grade not only was I loosing myself in every fantasy or Sci-Fi novel I could, but I was building Dungeons & Dragons castles and caverns on paper. Then from 1980 on the computer.
Since third grade I’ve read rather obsessively, so I was naturally interested in writing. I began fairly seriously in ninth grade. In high school, I won several national literary awards for my short stories and I was an editor and contributor to our high school literary magazine. In college, despite being a diehard science guy, I took creative writing classes (sometimes I was the only guy) and submitted stories to Science Fiction and Fantasy magazines (not that they ever bought any!). I co-wrote the stories for many of my best selling video games. But video games aren’t as story driven as novels, so don’t judge these in the same light J.
DWED: Would you say the journey to publishing was easy or hard? Why?
I never do anything halfway. So in 2010 I read about 20 books on publishing and query writing and spent hundreds of hours researching and querying agents. But the return on time investment was horrible. You wait and wait and barely get any feedback at all. The process is entirely structured on the assumption that there are vast supplies of manuscripts and so the agents maximize their own time investment. If they miss some good ones because of it… there will always be more. And while this makes sense for them, it doesn’t for me.
And then I kept reading about publishing.
I’ve published dozens of projects myself (40+ million games sold!) and the overall process isn’t so dissimilar. Nor is the role of publisher. But as bad as game developer / publisher relations and contracts sometimes are… they are paradise compared to their literary equivalents. Book publishers prefer to preserve the status quo and monopolistic collusion over profits. They always offer the same basic deal and are not generally open to new structures.
Now indie-publishing isn’t necessarily easy or anything. For me, the production part was fairly straightforward after having done so many previous projects. I hired great contractors and the result looks fantastic. The book was line edited by two world class pros. Proofread extensively. Typeset by New York talent. The cover by award-winning fantasy artist Cliff Nielsen is gorgeous and looks every bit as good as the best New York books. The whole package appeals. When I ran a free day on Amazon it surged rapidly to number 4 on the whole Amazon store, number 2 in fiction, and sat there for nearly 24 hours. Reviews have been stellar too. But marketing in this new world of online publishing is a black art and very time consuming. For each thing I try that works, there are five that don’t.
DWED: Who or what would you say inspired “Untimed”?
Typically, Untimed began from a fusion of ideas. Lingering in my mind for over twenty years was a time travel story about people from the future who fell “downtime” to relive exciting moments in history (until things go wrong). I worked out a time travel system but had no plot or characters. Separately, in 2010, as a break from editing The Darkening Dream, I experimented with new voice techniques, especially first person present. I also read various “competition.” One of these was The Lightning Thief (the first Percy Jackson novel), which has an amazing series concept (if a slightly limp execution). I love mythology and history, and liked the notion of something with a rich body of material to mine. I wanted an open ended high concept that drew on my strengths, which brought me back to time travel.
Some of the mechanics from my earlier concept merged well with a younger protagonist, voiced in a visceral first person present style. I started thinking about it, and his voice popped into my head. I pounded out a chapter not too dissimilar from the first chapter of the final novel. Then the most awesome villain teleported into the situation. I can’t remember how or why, but it happened quickly and spontaneously. Tick-Tocks were born (or forged).
DWED: How does “Untimed” stand out? What does it offer and more importantly what can viewers find within it pages?
Untimed is aimed at anyone who likes a rip roaring adventure in the tradition of the great 80s adventure films like Raiders of the Lost Arc. I wanted a lightning paced romp that showed unfamiliar takes on familiar places, times, and people. Charlie is 15, but slightly younger readers will probably appreciate the action, and adult readers enjoy the well thought out time travel system and carefully worked historical implications. Charlie’s voice is frank and compelling, but light hearted with an edge, and I dance across serious themes without getting too heavy. It’s PG-13, no racier than today’s network teen shows.
One of my major agenda’s was to show the past in a fun but accurate manner. History doesn’t have to be boring, and while situations and society changes, people stay the same. People in the past are just as human, but things really have improved in many ways. Charlie, as a contemporary kid, serves as our representative, experiencing different times first hand –up close and personal with chamber pots.
DWED: At length how would you describe the feedback for “Untimed”?
Reviews for Untimed have been fabulous. It has a 4.6 average on Amazon with 128 reviews! It’s not at all uncommon for book bloggers to call it “the best book I’ve read in years” or something similar.
DWED: Would you say you have a unique style of writing?
I’m a very visual writer. I see each scene in my head like a movie and I try to paint it for the reader. I also like to think that my style is very descriptive, yet rapid and compact. I’m very conscious of all the things that need to be conveyed coming into a scene, and I try to dole them out in rapid splashes. I don’t open with a big block of description, but jump right into things and tease out the information and descriptions bit by bit as part of the action. In editing, I try to remove anything non-essential or redundant. Untimed is only 75,000 words, yet a tremendous amount of stuff happens. It’s very spare and efficient.
I like dialogue and action, and I think I’m very good at both. I try to keep the banter snappy and rapid fire, and I like to think I can handle pretty complex action scenes with multiple simultaneous goings on.
DWED: what kind of messages do you try to instill in your writing?
I wanted to show people that the past didn’t have to be boring, and that while situations and society changes, people stay the same. I also wanted to illustrate that while people in the past are just as human, things really have improved in many ways. By having Charlie, who as a contemporary kid is our representative, experience different times first hand, it’s easy to contrast them.
DWED: Who is your favorite character in “Untimed” and why?
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.
DWED: Who is your least favorite character in “Untimed” and why?
There are two ways to take that question, but I’ll choose who is the most “despicable” (as opposed to which character do I think I failed at). Donnie, as the human villain, is a nasty bastard, very self centered and temperamental, but at the same time I wanted to make him likeable, or at least charismatic. Guys like him would have been charming – some of the time. But the Tick-Tocks are cool tool in their more archetypal way. Rapier is like a kind of Boogie-man. He’s always in the wrong place at the right time (for him!).
DWED: What can we look forward to seeing from you throughout 2013?
Right now, I’m writing two more and adapting Untimed into a screenplay.
DWED: What would you say to all aspiring authors like yourself?
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.
DWED: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like your readers and potential readers to know about both your work and yourself?
I’ll just throw in the blurb for Untimed:
Charlie’s the kind of boy that no one notices. Hell, his own mother can’t remember his name. So 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. Who needs school when you can learn about history first hand, like from Ben Franklin himself. And there’s this girl… Yvaine… another time traveler. All good. Except for the rules: boys only travel into the past and girls only into the future. And the baggage: Yvaine’s got a baby boy and more than her share of ex-boyfriends. Still, even if they screw up history — like accidentally let the founding father be killed — they can just time travel and fix it, right? But the future they return to is nothing like Charlie remembers. To set things right, he and his scrappy new girlfriend will have to race across the centuries, battling murderous machines from the future, jealous lovers, reluctant parents, and time itself.