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TEMPEST: The Time Traveller's Wife meets The Bourne Series (Or, Time-Travel, Intrigue and Action: An Interview With Debut Author Julie Cross)

Julie Cross is incredible. Her debut novel TEMPEST, about a time-travelling boy who tries to save his girlfriend, fronts a trilogy, and is set to be published by Thomas Dunne Books in January next year. Today, I'm lucky enough to have her here for some questions. So, I give you, Julie Cross.

TEMPEST is your upcoming debut novel and it sounds absolutely phenomenal! So, what can we expect from it?

What to expect from TEMPEST? Expect to hone your inner 19 year old guy because you’ll spend the entire three hundred and something pages looking at the world through Jackson Meyer’s eyes. He’s about to have his whole life turned over, shaken up, and twisted into knots. It’s a wild ride of action, romance, friendship and mystery.

I’ve been told the pace is fast and that the last one hundred pages are almost always read in one sitting. Since I wrote it, it’s harder for me to judge, but I remember throwing down those last 10,000 words in one day and feeling like I had held my breath the entire time I wrote the ending.

My writing style, in general, is light on description and back story and heavy on dialogue and character development. That’s the type of stories I usually like to read and I’ve heard a number of readers say the same thing, but I’m sure there are some who prefer a different style.

You've described TEMPEST as THE TIME-TRAVELLER'S WIFE meets THE BOURNE SERIES, but for teenagers. What elements did you integrate into your novel, or find inspiration in?

I can’t pin point exactly what inspired the plot of TEMPEST, though I’m sure people will have their opinions on where they think I got my idea from. Honestly, TEMPEST is just a big melting pot of the thousands of books, movies, and TV shows I’ve been exposed to over the years and then a little bit of my own crazy creative mind, combined with my editor’s vision for the book.

What I knew for sure that I wanted to do from the very beginning, was create a story with supernatural elements, but one that rides so close to that line of “reality” even the most reluctant fiction readers would have no problem slipping comfortable into the TEMPEST world for a little while.

From what I hear, the process of creating TEMPEST was rather unconventional, that it developed in phases with your editor? What can you tell us about that?

Yes, it is a very unique story. Basically, I had a manuscript with this same premise…teen boy witnesses his girlfriend’s death and has to jump back in time two years and meet her all over again and of course, prevent her future death. The two main characters even had the same names, but that’s where the similarities end. It wasn’t until a very nice editor at St. Martin’s Press rejected that manuscript…twice…and told me why he didn’t like it that I even thought publication was possible. Then, a month after rejecting my book, that same editor emailed me again and said he liked my premise and asked if I was up for tweaking. He and I started tossing ideas around, back and forth for days, which was the most fun I’ve ever had in my entire life. Then TEMPEST, as it is now, was born.

Through the excerpt I read through Entertainment Weekly, Jackson's voice was very authentic and I can only imagine the difficulty you must have faced in writing it. Did the male POV ever inhibit your writing along the way?

Yes, it’s very difficult writing from the male POV and I’ll be the first to admit that I had some failed attempts before perfecting Jackson’s voice. Knowing as much about his back story as I can helps a lot. Now, after all these months together, I feel like I know exactly what Jackson would do in any given situation. Sometimes I wonder how I’d do writing a guy that wasn’t Jackson. I think, with the opposite sex POV, I have to spend more time getting to know the character then if I were writing a female character. That comes more naturally to me. Either way, I’m thirty one now, so it will always take a good amount of effort to find my inner teen—boy or girl.

Your concept of time-travel is definitely unique. I was wondering if you were inspired by any other examples of time travel in fiction, or if it was more of a progression of ideas and your own perception? Did you do any research into the science of it, and if you did, did it better any struggle you had with maintaining the consistency of this power?

Well, I’m a big fan of Back To The Future, but my concept of time-travel is not exactly like that. First of all, time-travel in TEMPEST is biologically based meaning there’s no phone booth or sports car to help Jackson hop to another year.

I think the inspiration came from wanting to create a more relatable science fiction type story. Jackson isn’t using time-travel to jump back to the dinosaur age or see a World War live and up close, he’s only revisiting short distances. Because his abilities change and evolve over time the rules of time-travel can get really hard to keep track of and make sure I’m not creating plot holes. I have lists, charts, and tables that I use constantly as reference. The hardest part is keeping straight what Jackson knows versus what I know.

Most of the research I’ve done relates to the day, month, and year Jackson travels to. For example, I have to be careful with small things such as having Jackson jump back to a year when tokens were still being used on Subway and having him swipe a card in a machine that hasn’t been invented yet.

From what I understand of your road to publication, it was very topsy-turvy. Can you share what that was like for you in terms of pressure to perform?

Right now, I’m feeling some pressure for the first time mostly because St. Martin’s Press is awesome and is getting the book into lots of hands before the January 3rd release date. I’ve had such tremendous feedback and positive encouragement from early readers and now I feel the pressure to deliver an awesome second and third book. I’m determined to tell the best and most amazing story I can. I don’t want to let any fans down. That will always be the root of any pressure I feel.

I stumbled across your Dear Teen Me letter, and it really did make me think of time-travel. The perks and the consequences. Do you have any standing on how you view time-travel and how, if you were gifted with it, you would use it?

That is the question of all questions. I think writing that letter to my younger self helped me see that everything happens for a reason. Since I can’t change things, I have to assume everything that has happened in my life has led me to this point. And I think any change that time-travel may have on my main characters’ lives is also meant to be. But, of course there’s always those tiny little things that I’d love to fix instantly with super powers…like leaving the house five minutes earlier so I don’t get stuck behind that train, or choosing the fast lane at the super market…hmm…maybe I would use time-travel to help me get more time to write about it.

It is absolutely crazy that TEMPEST has been optioned for film by Summit before its release! Can you talk at all about this process and what your involvement may be?

The people at Summit Entertainment are so awesome and they’ve read all the notes I’ve given them and poured over several drafts and returned emailed questions I’ve had. There’s a very open line of communication flowing between all of us and I’m sure this will continue if the movie does actually go into production. But, despite what you might come across online or anywhere else, I won’t be writing the script, casting the characters, holding the camera, dying my hair blonde to audition for the role of Holly, or performing Jackson’s time-travel stunts (I’ve asked to be considered for this one but apparently others are more qualified). I’m just the author, but if they need me for anything, I’m always happy to help as much as I can. It’s still in the very early stages and finding a screenwriter and getting a script is the next step in the process before any other decisions can be made.

And I'm going to have to make you play the cast-your-characters game. On top of that, who would be your dream director?

I’m a MEGA fan of Glee so, Dianna Agron was the first actress to come to mind when picking a “Holly.” I love MTV’s top pick for Jackson, Logan Lerman. Since becoming semi-addicted to the TNT new summer show, Falling Skies I have to say, Drew Roy could also be a great Jackson.

Alright. Now, some rapid fire:

Favourite film? the Departed and Shawshank Redemption
Favourite novel? LITTLE WOMEN 
Character that you'd like to insert into your world? Hermione Granger. She always knows the answer and a whole lot of useful spells.
What keyword or theme in a blurb will immediately hook you? Probably that a book will make me laugh and cry. I'm a sucker for humour and emotional depth. If you can give me both, I'm sold.
Two features of a book that are most important. Complex characters. Strong voice.
Best title you've heard? THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger. Stands for "Designated, Ugly, Fat, Friend. When I first heard that title sometime in 2010 before the release, I had to read the book. It made so much sense and yet was so original at the same time.
The book concept you always wanted to read about as a kid? You can't make fun of me for this, but I LOVED stories like ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT'S ME MARGARET by Judy Blume. Anything that helped me figure out what the next few years would be like. When it came to puberty and growing up, I didn't really like the "wait and see" method. I wanted to read about someone going through those changes before I ever had to myself. As a middle child, I was never bold enough to ask questions. I'd rather just read it in a book.

And now I've just scared off any potential male audience I might have had for TEMPEST, haven't I? I promise there's no mention of menstrual cycles or training bras in TEMPEST.
Books you're dying to read this year? THE FUTURE OF US by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler!

Fortunately, I've been lucky enough to get my hands on early copies of most of the other 2011 books I've wanted to read...but coming up next year in young adult fiction: FRACTURE by Megan Miranda, Ally Carter's 5th book in the Gallagher Girl series, THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summer (my favourite contemporary YA author), A MILLION SUNS by Beth Revis, GONE, GONE, GONE by Hannah Moskowitz. Just to name a few notables.
Favourite guilty pleasure? Glee.
What scenes do you enjoy writing the most: action, suspense or romance? Romance! But don't worry, guys, there's all kinds of action and suspense.
Favourite superhero? Does the little girl in the movie Kick Ass count? If not, then I'd have to say Spiderman because I love the geeky guy characters and Peter Parker is exactly that.

Thanks so much, Julie! I'm dying to get my hands on TEMPEST and wish you all the success in your career. Have you got some last words of wisdom for writers out there?

Wisdom for writers? I’d have to say: love it. Love writing and let that be enough, no matter what the end results are. As Albus Dumbledore so wisely said, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” And by that, I mean, don’t obsess over the market, reading agent blogs, going over every single rejection letter. Follow this model: Write. Read books in your genre. Edit. Revise. Submit. Listen to feedback. Move on to the next project. Write. Read. Edit. Revise. Submit…

I am so bloody excited for TEMPEST, and I'm sure that has gotten you all pumped or at least intrigued. So, why don't you check out some of the links below, including Entertainment Weekly's sneak preview.

Julie on
Julie's Blog
Julie on Twitter
Julie and TEMPEST on Facebook
TEMPEST preview on EW (First four chapters)


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