We had the pleasure of interviewing D.L. Orton, the author of the Between Two Evils series, earlier this year. It’s a conversation about books, writing, researching, loving, living… and the doors and windows opened by the world of science fiction.
Without further ado…
Infusões d’Alma (I): I read somewhere that the idea for “Crossing in Time” came to you at a wedding. What caused the ‘ripple effect’? What made you choose to explore and write about this idea in particular?
D.L. Orton (DLO): Who hasn’t looked back at a turning point in his or her life and wondered how things might have played out differently?
I met and fell in love with the man I’m married to when we were 28, and one of the first trips we took together was to attend the wedding of his best friend from college. I ended up seated next to my husband’s girlfriend from college (!), and the two of us hit it off right away! She and I were a lot alike, and we started comparing notes on him (to his obvious horror, lol.) By the end of the evening, it was clear that he had matured a bit from the guy she knew (and gave up when they both graduated). Since college, she had been married and divorced, and I think there was a hint of regret in her voice when she said good night to the two of us and left alone.
It was a very poignant moment for all of us: How would our lives have been different if she had held on to him, waiting for him to mature and grow into the man I had fallen in love with? And if I had met him first, perhaps in college, would I have let him go and been the one to leave that wedding alone?
I don’t know the answers to those questions, but the possibilities began to fill my head, and a book was born.
I: When one thinks of Science Fiction the word machine tends to come to mind. “Crossing in Time”, though, seems to lay the roots of the future on humankind, ‘on building and maintaining human relationships’. Is this something you intend to pursue?
DLO: Love is the most powerful force known to mankind: It wrecks kings, breaks down impassible barriers, makes us risk everything for a few stolen moments together. Love is stronger than the instinct to eat, sleep, or survive. It motivates us to kill in cold blood, die to save another, and rail against impossible odds. It brings out the best and the worst in us (and that makes for great stories!)
Having said that, I do think the future of mankind involves machines: intelligent ones that have vast knowledge, compassion, and honor. When we as humans let go of the instinct to fight and kill (and learn to value the unique spark that is intelligent life — biological or otherwise), that will mark the end of our childhood. When we start falling in love with intelligences other than our own, it will be the beginning of something wonderful. The universe is a vast, cold, and empty place. Intelligence — in any form — provides a candle against the darkness.
I: I must confess that my science days are long behind me. However, curiosity happens to be one of my many middle names and one of the many reasons why I loved “Crossing in Time”. How was the research process for writing this book?
DLO: When I first started writing, I used google to search for information: what is the most popular kind of handgun? How long does it take to die from an infection, and what are the symptoms? What happens if you use a negative value for time in a physics equation? How difficult is it to land a single engine plane without an engine (coming in book 2, lol)? What are the biological effects of radiation poisoning?
After a number of those types of searches, I started getting REALLY scary google ads in my browser! I have since switched over to querying “incognito” (and I would definitely advise aspiring writers to do the same).
One of the most difficult parts of the book was balancing the science with the action-adventure. I work with a very talented editor, and we spent a bit of time trying to find that balance. I love science, and like you, I’m naturally curious about all sorts of stuff: physics, medicine, space exploration, swarming insects, and I could easily spend all day chasing new information on the internet. I did end up taking out a couple of chapters that contained more detailed explanations on how the time machine, time travel, and multiple universes work in the book’s universe (and I tried very hard to stick with the real limitations of physics in our universe!) I’m hoping to add them as “deleted scenes” on my website, and if you’re interested in finding out more, sign up for my mailing list (BetweenTwoEvils.com/website/sign-up/), and I’ll let you know when they’re available.
I: I read about your shower curtain, your ant, and your bowling ball. You write about the existence of different realities. What are your thoughts on the “flexible membrane,” if there is one, between reality and fiction?
DLO: I regularly find myself commenting that reality is stranger than fiction. If you’ve been paying any attention to US politics, you’ll know exactly what I mean: even the writers for “House of Cards” or “Game of Thrones” couldn’t have thought up what’s been going on with Trump!
Part of the reason books are so powerful and can change our world view is because we step into those fictional worlds and become those daring (or frightened or defeated) characters. We feel their losses and celebrate their victories. We long for the touch of a lover or despair when he’s been taken away. Good books allow us to learn and experience things that would be too dangerous, expensive, or impossible in the “real” world.
But let me ask you this: five years from now, when you look back at something that happened today, or you recall a great book that changed the way you see the world, which is more real?
I: Science is usually associated with words such as cold, logic and exact. Back in the day, women and romance in Science Fiction were seen as distractions. “Crossing in Time” not only has a female protagonist but also a love interest with a male protagonist that doesn’t erase her brilliance. How are your readers reacting to this?
DLO: The Kirkus reviewer (who must have been expecting hard sci-fi) summarized my book as “two star-crossed lovers attempt to save the world with sex” and “erotic fiction dressed—barely—as sci-fi” (and that “dressed barely” comment after bad-mouthing the wordplay in the book, lol!)
I can’t deny that reviews like the Kirkus one sting a bit (okay, they sting a lot!) because after spending thousands of hours writing the book, thousands of dollars publishing the book (copyediting, proofreading, cover design, typesetting, etc.), and way too many hours trying to get reviews for the book, it’s tough when someone tosses your work off as sordid junk.
But the good news is, most of my readers like the book, and some love it, and when readers say stuff like “it’s the best sci-fi love story of the year” or call it “clever and absolutely hilarious” make it all worthwhile!
After I received the Kirkus review, the book went on to win a couple of awards, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and made the PW “Great Indie Stars of 2015” list (one of only twelve indie novels selected in 2015!)
In the end, whether or not a reader connects with a book is a very personal (and somewhat unpredictable!) thing. My goal is to get the book into the hands of as many readers as possible and hope that some of them will connect with it (and I live to read those reviews!)
I: When asked about time traveling, you seem to be interested in going back to do your laundry (ah! I would go back to read a few books). What do you think about the possibility of visiting the future? Is that something you would go for?
To be honest, if I did go back in time, laundry would be the last thing on my list (just like it is now!). I’m more interested in finding a volunteer to go back and do the laundry. Any takers? 😉
If forced to choose between the past and the future, I’d go forward. I think it’s easy to be romantic about the past (simpler times, more relaxed, etc.), but it would be tough to live without antibiotics, running water, or the internet (and I’m well-aware that there are people TODAY who don’t have those basic necessities. We should fix that.)
I: I don’t have a favorite genre. Still, lately I don’t find myself reading much Science Fiction. However, writers I’ve come across seem to focus on traveling to different planets/galaxies instead of realities. What made you take that step?
DLO: 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 love most are the characters. I can never remember book titles, and a few years down the road I struggle to remember all the plot twists, but the good characters stick with you. They change you, become a part of you. I aspire to that with my writing.
As far as science fiction, I use time travel as a plot device. It allows me to examine the characters at different stages in their lives and twist things up a bit (would you still have fallen in love with your mate if you had met ten years earlier? What about ten years later? How much is love a “timing” thing versus a “meant for each other” sort of thing?)
One of the toughest challenges with marketing the book is that it crosses genres with abandon: sci-fi, action-adventure, romance, literary, mystery, and (yes Kirkus reviewer who hated the book) some explicit sex. Real life is like that: a mingling of different genres, unpredictable but compelling (and great sex is one of the very best pleasures life has to offer.)
Bottom line: I enjoy reading books that don’t stick to some pre-defined formula, so I wrote one that doesn’t.
I: If you could have a famous scientist write herself/himself into your novel, who would you choose?
DLO: Someone who was ahead of his or her time and suffered a bit for following the science: Semmelwise (hand washing), Boltzmann (atoms), or Wegener (continental drift). Illegitimi non carborundum (don’t let the idiots get you down.)
I: This is just the beginning of your Between Two Evils series. Where are we headed next?
DLO: The next book, “Lost Time”, will follow Diego (who you may recall got in the time machine, encountered some sort of targeting problem, and disappeared). I’m hoping to have it out this summer.
Book three will pick up Tego’s story, and by the time we wind our way back to the end of book five, you’ll know who that mysterious man is at the end of “Crossing In Time“.
Lost Time is out NOW. Catch up while waiting for Down Time, the third book of the saga, coming out this winter.
Want to win a copy of the first two books of the Between Two Evils series? Just tell us below whether, if possible, you would prefer to travel to the future, past or perhaps even a different reality. Best of luck! You have until the 26th to participate.