D. L. Orton – Darkly Comedic Dystopian Love Story
Author D.L Orton conceived the idea for her epic time travelling novel, Crossing In Time, after a chance encounter with her husband’s ex-girlfriend at a wedding reception. It is a book that is both action-packed and darkly comedic, with some edge-of-your seat plot twists as well. Today we talk to D.L. about what it is that fascinates her about science fiction, which character was the most challenging to create and what fans can expect from her next.
Please give us a short introduction to Crossing in Time
I met and fell in love with the man I'm married to when we were twenty-eight, and one of the first trips we took together was to attend the wedding of his best buddy from college. At the reception, I ended up seated next to my husband's ex-girlfriend (!), but we hit if off, and ended up chatting and comparing notes on him (you should have seen his face when he realized what we were talking about.) At the end of the evening, she said something that stuck with me: I wish I would have met him at a different time in my life.
It was a very poignant moment for me: How would my life be different if she had held on to him? And if I had met him earlier, would I have let him go and then been the one to leave alone that night?
I don't know the answers to those questions, but the possibilities began to fill my head, and a time travel book was born.
Why Sci-Fi? What fascinates you about the genre?
For instance, take a shower curtain, an ant, and a bowling ball.
Start with a shower curtain: a two-dimensional object in a 3-dimensional world. Imagine that you are an ant, walking, talking, and shagging other ants on a thin, flexible membrane (or a "brane" in physics-speak). Layered beneath you are a million other shower curtains, all of them with their own allotment of ants (some of which get paid 78 cents on the dollar due to slight differences in their copulatory organs). In a very real sense, those other ant universes are close to you in space (and time), but still seemingly undetectable—until someone drops a red-hot bowling ball on those piled up rubber sheets and makes the real-world equivalent of a black hole. Mind the gap.
If you had a time machine, where would you go and why?
I'd like to say that I'd warn Abraham Lincoln, or save the people on the Titanic, or peek into the future to see if we manage to save our planet, but I'd probably just end up using it to go back a couple of days so I could do the laundry and walk the dog.
What inspired you to make Iz her own worst enemy when it came to competing for love?
Women today have more life choices than ever before (as do men!): marriage, career, motherhood? If she chooses to have children, there are even more decisions: stay-at-home, work part-time, pay for a nanny, send them to daycare, support a stay-at-home spouse?
Having options is good, but here's the rub: At least in my universe, it's NOT possible to "have it all." Time spent building a career is time away from children and husband, and years spent raising the sort of children you are incredibly proud of, equals lost opportunities for promotions and raises at work. No one wants to choose between a sick child and a one-on-one with the boss, but anyone who's tried to balance work and family has had to. There's no escaping the "what if I could go back and do things differently" self-doubts.
Isabel made different life choices than I did, but she struggles with the same questions, the same worries, the same needs. I think we are all our own worst enemies. Isabel's just happens to be a bit more tangible.
What are your three favorite sci-fi movies of all time?
Alien: I was terrified. I loved that they brought a cat along. I wanted to be badass like Ripley.
2001: A Space Odyssey: The movie is full of good science. HAL was awesome. We are not alone.
ET and Avatar: The universe may be a vast, cold, dark, and forbidding place, but it holds great wonders.
Star Trek: We humans manage to upend the Fermi Paradox, save the Earth, and make friends with other intelligent life.
Crossing in Time is your debut work. What was the experience like? What surprised you most about the readers' reactions?
I'm still surprised by the depth of emotion people pour into their reviews: anger that the story ends on a cliffhanger, disgust that an innocent animal dies, condemnation of a character who makes what they consider to be a bad choice. But there are also the readers who adore the characters, appreciate all the carefully crafted hints and details, and take the time to send me an email telling me they loved the book. In the end, I write the best story I can—and then try to let it speak for itself.
The writing-publishing-promoting journey was (and continues to be) a madcap mix of challenging, frustrating, and exhilarating—somewhat like surviving an incurable disease, I imagine.
Did you plot out all of the events in your book ahead of time to make them fit together? Or are you a bit of a pantser?
I try to be stubborn about my characters' goals but flexible about how they achieve them.
You use different points of view to tell the story. Why did you pick this approach?
I prefer to do rather than watch.
(And I suck at writing in 3rd person, past tense.)
Which character did you find the most challenging to create?
Tough call. Each one is handcrafted to be unique, compelling, and believable. I write pages and pages of character background info before I start a book. For instance:
Picasso – Marine officer, head of project, classical pianist, black, straight, covered in tattoos, takes control, playful, on edge, contradictory, awkward about showing emotion, past is dark, swears often and colorfully, likes classical music (“complex”, “deep”) and heavy metal (“because the guitar work is so good”).
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent and refuse to do what you had planned for them?
All the effing time. It's like herding cats.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
if (self.toldYouThat == true) then self.skills.secret = false;
Are there any books or writers that have influenced your work?
I grew up reading Asimov, Heinlein, Le Guin, Clarke, and the rest of the sci-fi greats. I loved their world building and the glimpse they gave me of possible futures, both good and bad. But what I loved most were the characters: Lazarus Long, Meg & Charles Wallace, Ender, HAL, the list goes on and on.
I can never remember book titles, and I struggle to recall all the plot twists a year or two after I read a book, but the good characters stick with you. They teach you, change you, became a part of you. I aspire to that with my own writing.
How does Book 2 tie in with Crossing in Time?
It sort of sticks out from the side like a long-sword impaled in an oak tree.
What are you working on now?
I'm finishing the final edits on a short story collection coming out September 15th, writing book 3 (should be out this winter), and trying to ship a new iPad app (day job). Occasionally, I run into my husband in the laundry room and re-introduce myself.
Where can our readers interact with you or discover more of your work?
Chat with me on Twitter:
Follow me on Facebook:
Or ask me questions on Goodreads:
I also have a book series website where you can find out more about what's coming next, or sign up for free advance copies: http://BetweenTwoEvils.com
Or visit my publisher at http://RockyMtPress.com