Interview with Continuum author Wendy Nikel

I know I haven’t blogged in ages — which is unlikely to change much this close to the end of the year, with major family commitments — but today, I have a special treat for you, a guest post by Wendy Nikel, whose debut The Continuum comes out in late January (just about a month away). If you’re looking for ideas to spend holiday gift certificates on, The Continuum is available for pre-order.

The sales copy on Amazon says, “For years, Elise has been donning corsets, sneaking into castles, and lying through her teeth to enforce the Place in Time Travel Agency’s ten essential rules of time travel.” This immediately makes me ask two things — why is there only one agency that deals with this, and how did you decide on the ten essential rules?

At the time of my story, time travel is a recent invention, and the inventor has done all he can to limit the number of people who know it’s possible — while still making a tidy profit by sending a select clientele back to “vacations in the past.”

In order to keep this enterprise a secret and keep his clients safe, he’s developed the Ten Essential Rules of Time Travel.

Do you list all ten rules and discuss the reasons behind them? And if you do have them listed, do you have a favorite (as a restriction on what your characters can do, for example)?

The Ten Essential Rules of Time Travel are listed at the beginning of the book. My favorite would have to be #4 – “Travel within the Black Dates is prohibited.” These are periods of time that are too dangerous or too pivotal in history to risk traveling. Linchpins, one might say, and it’s the breaking of this rule that sets Elise on her journey in this story.

Is Elise Morley an expert on a particular era in the past, or is she more of a generalist historian? What kind of training did she have before the Agency recruited (or hired, as the case may be) her?

Elise has to have a working knowledge of all the places where her clients travel, so although she knows a lot about history in general, she has more hands-on experience in some eras than others. The turn of the twentieth century, for instance, is a very popular travel destination and the one that Elise specializes in. As you may be able to tell from the cover, this era plays an important role in this story.

When you were developing Elise as a character, what sort of impact did Elise’s family and friends have on her decision to work for the Agency?
At the time of THE CONTINUUM, Elise is a loner. Keeping the truth of her job a secret and being away in the past for lengthy periods of time make it difficult for her to develop or maintain meaningful relationships in the present.

I tend to think of time travel as having two primary flavors: the past is immutable, or the past can be changed. Since you have an agency that works to be sure the past isn’t abused, I’m assuming THE CONTINUUM falls into the second category. Why did you make that choice? Conversely, if there’s a single future that Elise gets sent to, I have to wonder why they can’t just make changes in Elise’s present to prevent that future. Can you talk about that, or would that involve spoilers for the book? Also, a single future seems to ignore the Many Worlds hypothesis. Was this a deliberate choice on your part? Is it something your characters care about?

Without getting too spoilery, I think it’s safe to say that different people in the story have different ideas about how time travel works and their assumptions change throughout the story. Because time travel is such a new development, at the beginning of the story, the Place in Time Travel agency operates based on the assumption that the past could be changed, and this definitely influences how Elise approaches her assignments.

If you could travel to the past or the future, what time period would you choose?
Like Elise (and many of her clients), I’m fascinated with the turn of the twentieth century. There were so important events, especially in the United States, between the 1860s and the 1920s, that I’d love to jump around in those decades, seeing what the world was like then.

Wendy Nikel is a speculative fiction author with a degree in elementary education, a fondness for road trips, and a terrible habit of forgetting where she’s left her cup of tea. Her short fiction has been published by Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Daily Science Fiction, Nature: Futures, and elsewhere. For more info, visit or sign up for her newsletter HERE and receive a FREE short story ebook.

THE CONTINUUM is available for pre-order via World Weaver Press! Release date: January 23, 2018. (LINK)

Midnight at Spanish Gardens

This is one of two reviews I’ll be posting this week. I mentioned this book last month, as well as the author, Alma Alexander. If you’ve never read anything by her before, do yourself a favor and do so. I first read Secrets of Jin-Shei, which is one place to start with her work. Midnight at Spanish Gardens, her latest book, is another.

This book starts with college friends gathering for an informal reunion at a restaurant they used to frequent on the eve of “the end of the world” — December 20, 2012. There are tensions between them, things left unsaid as well as perhaps some things that would have been better left unsaid. During the course of their evening, they discover an unusual feature of the restaurant: a way to go back to the past and live a different life. A chance at a do-over.

The characters are people I felt I could know, and my heart ached for their pains, for Olivia, uncertain she wanted to show up at Spanish Gardens; for Simon as a child; for Quincey’s experience of love; for John, learning to define himself without referring to his father; for Ellen feeling trapped by her sex. The details of each life are believable, making each one fully realized, and some of the prose is simply beautiful. Alexander also has one of the best descriptions I’ve read of the mental life of a writer, with the internal editor who sees every flaw. Her mention of the problem with going into science when one has a soul of a poet is something I understand as well, and as for the comment about watching the stars go out overhead — I laughed. I won’t spoil anything by telling you of individual decisions, but I will say that I can understand how hard such a choice might be.

There are some things that nagged me about the writing — I couldn’t decide whether some elements (like the girl with green and purple streaks in her hair) were there for resonance between stories, or if they were accidental duplications of description. Similarly, I found “apprising” occurred frequently enough for me to notice it (especially as it should have been “appraising” in each case). The discussion of Ellen’s background threw me a bit because I was under the impression that naming someone for a relative, while a traditional thing to do, did not usually mean giving them the same name in Jewish culture, but rather something else starting with the same letter. (I could be wrong, or this could vary in different groups. I’m just saying that it threw me.) So it’s not perfect, but it’s still such an enjoyable read that I finished it in the span of a day.

Remember this before you decide. Here, you change the world around you; there, you have to change to fit the world. Both are harder than you think. Choose wisely.

When it comes down to it, that’s what this book is about: choice, how our choices shape our lives, and how we always have a choice. We may not have the choice to go back, to relive our lives from an earlier point, no matter how common of a refrain “If I had it to do over again” is, but we do make choices for what we’re doing all the time.

I can understand why people might want a second chance. I don’t think I’d do anything differently; I like where my life has placed me. If you had the chance to go back and alter a major turning point in your life, would you? If you’re interested in seeing what others might do, in a sympathetic and well-thought-out manner, pick up this book. It’s time well spent.