Writing in a Time Machine

When I began The Time Seekers, my knowledge of the Edsel and Jack Benny was good but not great. I'd grown up watching Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy reruns, and had access to a small town not much different than the one depicted on the aforementioned shows. But we all know those things are not enough to base a book on. What I needed was an innate knowledge of the setting and the people who lived in it. Basically, I had to create a time machine in my head so I could quickly imagine myself in a 1950s world. First was learning the little details of everyday life—the true foundation of any era or decade.

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I read magazines. Every Look and Life and Saturday Evening Post I could get my hands on. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the whole process. Give me a vintage magazine and I'm the happiest girl on earth. All those glossy, full color ads of lipsticks and Jell-o; huge cars swallowed in gleaming chrome, and Lark cigarettes. Everything NEW! And NOW! Newspapers. I found an online cache from a small Michigan town which had archived every print since the late 1800s, and read and read and read. I think I must have been an adman in a past life; I practically salivate over those vintage full-page spreads. Even butter. Have you ever seen a butter ad from 1956? Run to your refrigerator now and spread a good dollop on a wedge of freshly toasted wheat. That's what an ad is supposed to do. However, the trick wasn't to show these fine details directly in the book—I didn't want my main character spouting off the price of butter and real estate in 1956. For me it was important to show it more than state it. With my saturation came an ease of story. I could now have Emma wander through this landscape without a flinch. At times, my 2000's world became a little hard to bear.

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They didn't have social media back then, they were social media. People had a sense of community. They said hello to each other on the street. They tapped their horns, tipped their hats, chewed the fat and walked the extra mile. John Wayne was their hero, not Justin Beiber. But that's not to say society in the 50s was perfect. Racism was an undercurrent ready to explode and everyone knew it: some were ready to fight for it, some against it. Anti-sexism and the rise of the feminist was burgeoning as well. Man, who had risen from the rations and horrors of WWII, was ready to sit in his favorite easy chair and live a happy, unmarred existence. But the unbalance was there and Man would never quite get his rest. I did try to show this in The Time Seekers, because I felt that it—far more than any car or TV show—was the most interesting part of the decade. Anyone progressive enough to rise above the fray seemed to befriend Emma. There's something about that which made me very happy.

Since reading Time and Again by Jack Finney I've had the desire to write a time-travel romance. It's yet to be said if I managed to write it successfully. My fear is that I've written an Edsel. If so, then at least the process was fun and, well, time to go watch Howdy Doody.




Comments

  1. I haven't taken Emma past Soul Seekers yet, but you've certainly done your homework, and I shall.

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    1. I hope you enjoy it when you do get a chance to read it, Joanne!

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  2. Some people look back at the 50's and think it was the best of times, but as you pointed out, every time has its troubles.

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    1. So true. I've heard from a few people that the 1950s hold no appeal to them because of the role women were stuck in and such. I do understand that. But there was also so much to enjoy about the time. I think people were more innocent and that's something I love. People these days tend to be cynical about life.

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  3. No virtual reality, just actual reality. I did live through the 50's, but life didn't get really fun until the 60's.

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    1. See? I need a real time machine! Sounds awesome.

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  4. Like Cro, I lived through the 50's too. I suppose life was very different depending on where you lived. There were no supermarkets. Groceries were delivered in a travelling van once a week. Most things were either home grown or home made. We lived on a farm and all my cousins used to come to stay with us all through the summer holidays so their mams didn't have to feed them. You have got a lot of the era right in your book and I'm loving reading it xx

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