Author Interview with Marlene Dotterer
November 15, 2012 2 Comments
Several years ago when I decided to take my writing seriously, one of the first things I did was join an online writing forum. There, I met some wonderful people, some of which I’ve interviewed here. Today I am proud to bring you my interview with Marlene Dotterer. She was one of the first people to read any of my work, and has become a good friend even though we’ve never met in real life. A situation I hope to change in the future.
So let’s begin…
I live in California, in the East San Francisco Bay. I’m not a native – I moved here from Arizona in 1990. Never regretted it for a minute.
I write both science fiction and fantasy. I’ve read both genres all my life and I can’t really imagine myself writing anything else. It’s just how my brain works.
So far, everything I’ve written has a strong romantic element, which is also how my brain works. Relationships are such a big part of our lives, I feel it’s unrealistic to create a world that leaves them out.
2. With all the risks and uncertainty around publishing, what was it that drew you to a career in writing?
I’ve always liked creative writing, and tried a few times to start a novel, but somehow I made it to a grand old age without ever completing anything. Then I found out about Thomas Andrews and that time, when I started writing, I couldn’t stop.
Of course, finishing a novel is only the first step in pursuing a writing career. By the time I’d finished Shipbuilder, I’d learned a lot about the business. I was hanging out with several awesome writers at OWW (including you), and we were all working hard on queries and synopses. It just seemed like the logical thing to do.
But that’s not really why I wanted to publish. The thing is, I’ve had a lifetime of loving to read. Books took me to other worlds and gave me so many different lives to live in my head. I wanted my story to do that for people. That’s still my reason today, with every book I put out there.
3. Tell us a little about your Bridgebuilder.
Bridgebuilders is the sequel to The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder. When my Shipbuilder characters went back in time, they created an alternate universe, which has the same history as ours, but only up to the point of its creation. In this case, that was January 24, 1906. Their futures diverge, so the 20th century is different in the second universe. It’s also important to realize that the second universe is 100 years behind the first one (because the time travel was 100 years back in time.)
In Bridgebuilders, the characters in the second universe figure out how to build a bridge back to the first universe, so of course, they have to go there. Over there (which is actually “here,” it’s our universe), the year is 2080, and climate change has caused all sorts of damage to the planet. So there’s a dystopian element to the book, with totalitarian governments and strict religious laws used to keep control of the masses.
The story has an ensemble cast: we follow the second universe scientists as they are held prisoner in the first universe, and we also follow a young physicist who is helping his even younger student escape from a forced marriage. There is a rebellion underfoot as well, that is trying to overthrow government control. All these paths converge in a desperate attempt to stop an insidious government attack on innocent civilians.
At its heart, Bridgebuilders is about people taking control of their lives and learning to create a just and free society.
4. What was the appeal about the Titanic story that made you want to create this new story around it?
Well, as you can tell from my description, Titanic doesn’t figure into this story at all! That’s the fun thing about time travel and alternate universes. You can do just about anything. Some of the characters in Bridgebuilders are descendants of Casey and Tom from Shipbuilders. And the time travel researcher, Sam Altair, is back as his second universe incarnation. It can be a little confusing, but I’ve tried very hard to make it understandable within the story.
Essentially, seventy years have passed since the story of Shipbuilder took place. If you read Shipbuilder, remember the epilogue, where in 1972, a just-graduated Sam Altair is summoned to Dunallon to talk to a very old Casey Andrews. She tells him about the time travel and asks him to help them research how it happened.
Bridgebuilders picks up the story from there.
5. I read the first book (and can’t wait to dive into the second btw) and with your story being an alternate reality, was it difficult to conceive how the world might be different due to your character’s mingling?
That’s a big question. I can say it was fun to figure out how the world would be different. But yes, it was difficult, too. I’m a big picture kind of person, but the thing about writing a book, is that you have to show how point A becomes point B. The details are important. In Bridgebuilders, there are two worlds and both of them are changed because of the time travel. The second world has a different 20th century because Sam and Casey went back in time. I had to decide what would be different, so I had to think about how much two people could actually change. Not very much, probably.
What if you add Albert Einstein to the mix? Then start with a careful plan, attract investors, and build a strong educational system to back up the changes you make?
In this case, after seventy years, we have a world with advanced technology, an educated populace, and a high standard of living. It’s not a utopia, but we actually don’t spend enough time in this world to really explore it. Bridgebuilders just shows the outlines of it. Most of the action takes place in the first universe.
On that Earth, the year is 2080, so I had to think about what our planet might be like in 68 years. I chose a rather dystopian society, one that has been struggling with famines, wars, and pandemics as a result of climate change.
When the book opens, this world has not been affected by any time travel. But when Sam and Sarah figure out how to bridge the universes, our world is suddenly handed a technology that could really make a difference in their struggles. The question is, will the technology be used to oppress people or set them free?
[This is why you should never mess with the Temporal Prime Directive ~Darke]
6. The Titanic story has many fans, have you many any and did you tell them about your book? What was their reaction?
Bridgebuilders is not really about Titanic, so if anyone is expecting another Titanic story, I’m afraid they’ll be disappointed. But I have met many, many Titanic fans, especially when we went on the Titanic Memorial Cruise earlier this year. Oh yes, I told them about my book! The reaction has been all over the board. There is so much diversity in this group, because there is so very much diversity to the Titanic story. There are historians, scientists and engineers who are interested in the hard facts of the story – what really happened? This involves everything from the first conception of the ship all the way to the bacteria that are currently eating through the steel at the bottom of the ocean, and everything in between.
Sadly, most of these people do not appreciate fiction about the ship. Some of them were a bit defiant about it, too. One otherwise friendly fellow asked if I could go back in time and “never write this book.” Fortunately, no one suggested that I be thrown overboard!
But there were many people who do understand the need to fictionalize, and enjoy reading about the ship. Consider the reaction to James Cameron’s movie. It was huge. Those people love hearing about my book. I really hope they’ll like Bridgebuilders as much!
7.What books (if any) have influenced you over the years?
I’m influenced by books I want to read over and over, with characters I wanted to live with. Some of these are:
The Liaden Universe books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
The Pern books by Anne MacAffrey
The Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon
8. What things influence your writing? And have you ever written them into a story?
Over the years, I’ve tried several times to start a novel. I never succeeded until I found out about Thomas Andrews and his role on Titanic. I was so inspired by him, that book practically wrote itself.
9. Most writers have manuscripts that will never see the light of day. Do you have a few of those or will they eventually come out?
I do have a few. I have them on a thumb drive, which I usually manage to forget about. I doubt they will ever make an appearance. But I still think about some of the characters in those stories, and who knows? Maybe they’ll show up somewhere.
10. What advice would you give to a new author?
Never stop learning. Always hire an editor.
Five for Fun!
1. If you could be any breed of dog, what would it be?
Probably a border collie. They are so smart, and great companions.
2. Is there one food/beverage that you can’t live without?
No, but there are several I don’t want to live without. Coffee. Chocolate. Wine.
3. Bungee jumping: exhilarating hobby or death wish?
4. What is your favourite movie?
I could not possibly narrow it down to one.
5. Question from Sithboy; If you were a Jedi, what colour would your lightsabre be; green, blue, yellow, red, or purple?
Using a lightsaber requires boldness. I’d go with red. [Red is a sign of a Sith. Bold woman! ~Darke]
Where to find Marlene online:
Links to Bridgebuilder and other books: