We were traveling with our RV along the Mississippi River one trip, and camped at the water’s edge at the Delabar State Park. When we went into the little town of Oquawka, Illinois for supplies, I was enchanted by the small town with its boat dock, charming little churches, and the park where it celebrated the Elephant Graveyard. It was a place small enough to walk around, and as I saw a few high-school aged people doing just that, I realized I needed to set a novel there.
Oquawka was a place where its most important days were long past, and I supposed that’s what led me to tackle a time travel story. I also wanted to explore some ideas about time travel itself. Most stories treat time shifting as a simple magic trick, with little cost or side effects. I’d written a short story “Making It Fit” that dealt with limits on time travel, and I had other ideas as well. I also had fond memories of “The Seesaw”, part of A. E. van Vogt’s Weapon Shop stories, which influenced how this kind of time travel worked.
The title of the novel “Golden Girl” evolved during the writing of the tale, where the main character has to learn how her time travel works and use it in order to save the world from an asteroid impact.
The asteroid sequence is one where I had to create an elaborate spreadsheet to calculate what the characters would be able to see during the event. That was fun as well.
One of my favorite reasons for writing time travel stories is that it touches on a primal question. Are we predestined to act out our lives only one way, or will each and every act cause a new future — does free will control our lives? This story gave me the flexibility to touch on these questions and suggest that there are more ways of looking at this than we’ve considered before.
So, from asteroid calculations to odd side-effects of time travel, all taking place next to the Mississippi River, Golden Girl is my favorite.
Next up — My Favorite Book: Follow That Mouse