Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Apocalypse Now: An Interview with TIME BETWEEN US Author Tamara Ireland Stone

Anna and Bennett were never supposed to meet: she lives in 1995 Chicago and he lives in 2012 San Francisco. But Bennett’s unique ability to travel through time and space brings him into Anna’s life, and with him, a new world of adventure and possibility. 

As their relationship deepens, they face the reality that time might knock Bennett back where he belongs, even as a devastating crisis throws everything they believe into question. Against a ticking clock, Anna and Bennett are forced to ask themselves how far they can push the bounds of fate—and what consequences they can bear in order to stay together.

Fresh, exciting, and deeply romantic, TIME BETWEEN US is a stunning and spellbinding debut from an extraordinary new talent in YA fiction.

TIME BETWEEN US released yesterday and is available from Hyperion!

MM: On the surface TIME BETWEEN US is about a boy who can travel through time, but the real meat of the book is the love story. You manage to "sell" the idea of a somewhat selective time traveler without ever explaining how this is possible. Well done! Can you tell aspiring writers how you managed it?

TIS: Thank you!

I’ve always loved stories about ordinary people with extraordinary abilities, but they do require a healthy bit of suspension of disbelief.

I didn’t want Bennett’s time travelling skills to be caused by a medical condition. I didn’t want a TARDIS. I didn’t want a magical item, like Hermione’s Time Turner. I wanted Bennett to be a time traveler, simply because he’s special and that’s part of his character. He’s not at all heroic. He’s flawed in a few minor and somewhat endearing ways. And he doesn’t know why he can do what he can do, but he’s come to accept and appreciate it. I’m asking readers to accept it like he does, and let’s get to the fun part!

I think that if you can create characters that are likable and worth rooting for, readers will naturally want to suspend disbelief and enjoy their story.

MM: Bennett is from 2012, Anna is from is from the 90's. Because the focus of the book is on their love story, most of the book takes place in the 1990's. It was a wonderful read for me to be immersed in my own teen years, with the concert and music references. Did you have any worries about writing the 90's for today's teens?

TIS: I’m a big fan of the period piece, and even though the 90s aren’t that far away, I thought that would be cool—to place it in 1995. Back in time, but not too far back.

I have fond memories of 1995. I was in my mid-twenties and I moved to Evanston, Illinois—the first time I’d ever lived outside California—and it became a year of many other firsts for me. It felt right to set this story in that time and place.

Of course, music had to play a role, so I tried to pick bands that today’s teens might like or at least be familiar with.

One day, my friend told me she was thrilled because her fifteen-year-old son had come home the day before and told her all about this CD he’d just heard. Nevermind by Nirvana. Had she heard of them? She marched him over to her CD collection and the two of them spent the rest of the afternoon together, talking about music and ripping everything she owned into his iTunes library. At the time, I hadn’t told her—or anyone but my husband—that I was writing this book, so I just smiled to myself and took it as a sign that I might be on the right track with the music.

MM: We all know time travel can be a tricky thing. Because of the Back to the Future films, the average reader on the street is familiar with the phrase "space-time continuum." Was it difficult while writing to make sure that you had continuity between the "sliding" Bennett and Anna's static life?

TIS: Absolutely. I’ve drawn more timelines on more white boards and in more notebooks and on more scraps of paper than I could ever count.

Here, I dug around on my laptop and found one for you:

This is a pretty simple one but they get a lot more complicated. And some even have stick figures.

One of the things that helped was to establish a clear set of rules for Bennett and make sure I stuck to them. Bennett can only travel within his lifetime. He can’t stay outside his own time indefinitely. He can take people with him. When he travels with Anna, they always stay in her present.

I didn’t want Bennett “sliding” around too much. I wanted to get him to 1995 and let him stay there so readers could focus on the real story—the evolution of the extraordinarily complicated relationship between Bennett and Anna—without constantly wondering “when” the scene was taking place. Hopefully this made the time travel pieces part of the fun, not distracting or confusing.

MM: And lastly, the question all writers get: How did you come up with your idea?

TIS: I wanted to write a love story. I knew it would be contemporary, set in the real world, but I wanted it to have a bit of a supernatural twist as well. I was thinking about writing a story about a long-distance relationship, but I wanted there to be something more than miles in the way. I wanted a gargantuan roadblock that would keep these two people from being together.

One evening, my husband and I got into a funny conversation about superpowers. He said he wished he could fly. I said I wished I could time travel. But then I clarified it, and said that I really just wanted to go back to the mid 90’s for a few hours and see Green Day when they were playing small clubs in Berkeley. He laughed and asked if I’d take him with me.

I didn’t say another word about it, but I knew I’d just found my love story and my roadblock. By the time the sun came up the next day, Bennett Cooper had a name, lived in San Francisco in 2012, and was madly in love with a girl named Anna Greene. A girl he never should have met, because she lived in 1995.

Thank you for taking time to talk with me, Mindy. I’m having a great time watching you Lucky 13s make your way to bookshelves. Keep enjoying the ride!


Tamara Ireland Stone is blissfully married. Occasional superhero in the eyes of two remarkable small people. Animal lover. Avid reader. Gadget freak. Music addict. Dreadful cook. Happily stuck in the mid-90s. Shewrites young adult fiction about fun stuff like travel, music, romance, and normal people with extraordinary talents. You can find her on her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut dystopian, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, will be available from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins Fall, 2013. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and contributes to the group blogs From the Write AngleBook PregnantFriday the Thirteeners and The Lucky 13s. You can also find her on Twitter Facebook.


  1. This book is beautiful in a gazillion ways! Even in its infancy, it was one of the best books I'd ever read. Congrats, Tamara, Anna and Bennett!
    *hugs my copy of TBU*

  2. Sounds like a fascinating book.
    Thanks for visiting my blog.
    It's great to "meet" you and see your blog.

    Be well.

  3. It's such a beautiful book - the cover reflects the beauty of the inside!