Great treat for you today, with a guest post from the lovely author duo Dana Fredsti & David Fitzgerald. Their second novel in the Time Shards series is out now, but this was written on the build up to the release (sorry, I’m trying to catch up)!! So sit back with your cuppa, and enjoy this piece of gold…
Building a Better Marriage by Destroying the Timeline Together
DAVE: So, my wife and I are driving home from the San Diego Comic-Con, and the topic meanders to an idea I had for a role-playing game in college:
Me: “The basic idea was a schizochonolinear cataclysm.”
Dana: “A what?”
“Um, lemme see. Okay, say the timeline is a like a stained-glass window of everything that has happened, is happening and will happen. Now, imagine if that window breaks—”
“And then all the surviving pieces get put back together…”
“Like a jigsaw puzzle.”
“Exactly! Only now in this piece here, it’s 1776. The piece next to it is from the first century. And the one over here is from 5 million B.C., or 50 million B.C., or 500 million B.C….”
“Right? So the characters can be from basically anytime and place you want—a Viking warrior, a Japanese ninja, Benjamin Franklin, the Queen of Sheba, you name it.”
“And they have to cross a post-apocalyptic wilderness that has everything from dinosaurs to cowboys and Indians to robots from the future.”
Her eyes got steadily bigger.
“Oh babe, we have got to turn this into a book.”
She wasn’t kidding. As soon as we got home, we began working together on a story arc, wrote the first fifty pages, and then pitched it to her agent, who loved it. She, in turn, pitched it to Dana’s editor at Titan Books.
And then the real work began.
DANA: Okay, so first of all, I did not say “whoah.” I’m not sure why that’s so important for me to clarify, but it is. That makes me sound like Tara Reid reacting to getting thrown around in the car ride in Sharknado. In fact, other than ask what a schizochonolinear cataclysm is, I didn’t say much of anything while Dave explained the idea to me until he’d finished, and then I did indeed say “Oh babe, we have got to turn this into a book.”
And, while yes, I was very enthusiastic about the idea, my eyes stayed one size during the conversation. I am not an anime character. What did happen is I got chills when he told me about the concept; it’s an amazing idea and talk about an endless playground of times/places to play in!
It took us a few months to do the initial outline and first 50 pages. We knew it was going to be a three-book story arc because there was no way to adequately tell the story we wanted to tell in one book. You get about 90k (give or take a thousand words here or there) per book with publishers like Titan, and while we tried to give both Time Shards and Shatter War (book two in the series) satisfactory endings, there’s no getting around the fact that the series story arc is not going to be finished until book three. This can cause issues with some readers, who feel it’s a marketing ploy. George R.R. Martin probably wishes he could have wrapped up GoT in one book, but that wasn’t gonna happen.
DAVE: Okay, it’s a fair cop. In hindsight, maybe there weren’t quite so many ‘Whoahs.” Maybe none, even. Anyway, I admit it; the thought of co-writing a novel with Dana terrified me a little. Not because we hadn’t co-written together, not because she wasn’t an awesome writer with the most diabolically good ideas, not because I didn’t think we could do it—No, what scared me the most was me. Unlike anything else that we’d previously worked on together, I felt incredibly possessive of this idea, and had very specific ideas of what needed to happen in the storyline, what topics we needed to address (and just as importantly, what ones we needed to ignore!). I also had a long wish list of must-have historical goodies to put in the trilogy.
But I guess all those life lessons from Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers paid off, because once I let go of my inner five-year-old’s possessive streak, we soon realized that having two authors sharing a story brought twice as much to the table. Dana’s wish list was just as crazy and wonderful as mine, and while there were a few moments of “Wait, you want to add what?”, once we ran with the ideas, all of them turned out amazing.
Dana: Luckily I’ve collaborated on several screenplays, stories, a novel (these are before I started working with Dave), and co-founded a theater group back in the day, so I had plenty of experience to draw from. It also helps that I generally enjoy collaborating on creative projects. Writing can be a very solitary pastime so working with a partner can sometimes energize me when I’d rather just stay in bed and read.
Most of my wishlist for the series, btw, involves anything big and nasty and scary that can kill a person in horrifying ways. So… giant sharks, prehistoric crocodiles, dire wolves… these things make me smile.
Our morning beach walks with our dog Pógeen (it means “Little Kiss” in Irish Gaelic) turned into writing salons. We gave birth to a cast of unforgettable heroes and villains,
hammered out plot points, untangled story problems, and brainstormed wonderful and sometimes mind-wrecking craziness to befall our poor characters.
DANA: Walking on the beach also provides a very soothing environment for potentially heated creative discussions. This was especially helpful during the writing of Time Shards when we were still figuring out how to work through any initial possessiveness and I was still working on remembering how to be diplomatic. Because yeah, Time Shards was originally his baby and I needed to remember also to be grateful he was willing to share.
In Book One, we divided the work between our two main protagonists. Dana took one and I the other. Once we were done with a chapter or a section, we handed it over so the co-author could add their tweaks and notes. I had expected this is where the fireworks would be, and to be fair, we did have some good brawls over one scene or another, whether Character A would ever talk like this, whether Character B would ever do that, or even know about X in the first place.
Part of our brawls were over what I refer to as the ‘if we have a female character, we’ll show her emotions by having her bite her lip and speak softly’ phase, and me disagreeing violently with it. And to be fair, once I pointed out that this was not the way I wanted the majority of our female characters to be portrayed, Dave didn’t argue with me.
Other disagreements were because (to greatly simplify this) Dave writes in a way that serves the plot. I write in a way that serves the character arcs. So he works on getting characters from Point A to Point B because they need to get to Point C, and it’s action based. I think about what would need to happen externally and internally to justify their reactions/responses/choices to get them to these various points. Both ways of thinking are necessary to make the character arcs and story arcs believable. Sometimes one interferes with the other, but we always managed to find something that satisfied both of us.
I usually like to switch up working on a fiction project with a non-fiction project, and vice versa, because each has its own challenges. In a non-fiction book, you have to cite your sources, have footnotes, and engage in heavy research. In a fiction book, you don’t have to worry about footnotes and endnotes—but you also have to make everything up.
The problem with doing a series like Time Shards is that now you have to do both: you have to do all the historical research, and you still have to make everything up. It’s the worst of both worlds from a work standpoint, but wow, does it pay off when the book is done. We’re very proud of the series. It’s a fun read with interesting characters to root for, an exciting new world to explore, and a cosmic mystery to solve that only gets deeper as the trilogy unfolds.
Sigh. I’ve come to accept the fact that there will never be a time when our living room is not filled with library books, books we’ve bought, or books we’ve borrowed for research on some project or another. The Time Shards trilogy, however, has taken the piles of books (we could build a bomb shelter out of the books in our living room…) to new and frightening heights. Each section of the book (each ‘time shard,’ if you will) requires a different set of books. From the English Civil War to Hypatia’s Alexandria to Romford, England (several different time periods) to many other times and places… lots of books. And yes, it does pay off for anyone who reads these books and cares whether or not the authors did their best to get things historically correct, but oh my god, if there’s an earthquake in San Francisco, they’re gonna find us buried in books and beach glass. Ah well.
-Dave & Dana
Time Shards, Book Two (“Shatter War”) By Dana Fredsti and David Fitzgerald comes out Sept. 24th, 2019 – at least, in this portion of the timeline… OUT NOW!