July 1st saw the official release of Sean McMullen's book Changing Yesterday and to celebrate the release, Sean is visiting my blog to participate in an interview. Thanks Sean!
CHANGING YESTERDAY - An Interview with Sean McMullen
• How was your current book, Changing Yesterday, inspired?
I was on a United Airlines flight returning to Australia during the S11 attacks, so terrorism was brought into pretty sharp focus for me. A couple of years later I was looking at a painting of the opening of the first Australian parliament in 1901, and I wondered how history might have changed if someone had bombed the building with so many leaders and royals inside.
Britain would have been pretty annoyed, and declared war on someone. In my novels, this was the aim of the British conspirators, the Lionhearts: they wanted to start a war that would unify the increasingly shaky British Empire. I then imagined a world war that lasted a hundred years, and that was the basis for the novels. I added two idealistic cadets from the future, Liore and Fox, who travel back through time to stop the bombing and so prevent the war.
• What sort of characters are needed to save the world in 1901?
Resourceful characters from diverse backgrounds. Changing Yesterday follows Before the Storm, where Liore and Fox come back through time to stop the bombing of parliament. Four teenages from 1901, Daniel, Emily, Barry and Muriel help them. Fox and Liore are like machines, they are sort of human Terminators with a bit of social responsibility added. Daniel and Emily are from a rich family and are very respectable, but Barry is a school dropout who is sort of training to be a petty criminal. Muriel wants to be an artist, and she does wild and bohemian things like hanging out in coffee shops and posing nude for art classes. Daniel and Muriel fall in love, which scandalises his sister Emily. Emily is that ageless type of character who likes nothing better than ordering other people about.
• So does the world get saved from a century of war?
In this timeline of history, yes. The six teenagers stop the bombing in Before the Storm, but in Changing Yesterday things go seriously wrong. Muriel dumps Daniel and runs off to Paris with Fox to become an artist. Daniel loses interest in life, so his parents send him to an English school to learn a bit of discipline. Barry steals the plasma weapon that Liore brought with her from the future, then boards the same ship as Daniel. He hopes to sell it to the king in return for a knighthood. Liore chases after Barry on another ship. The Lionhearts sail after Barry too. The weapon he has stolen would be ideal for another attempt at starting a war.
• It sounds like a lot of the book is set on ships.
Oh yes, quite a lot of action takes place on ships sailing from Australia to England. Not many authors have used the Australia-England voyage in their novels, which is a pity. It's a wonderful setting, a bit like the movie Titanic, but without the iceberg. The down side was that I had to do a lot of original research to get the details right.
• Changing Yesterday sounds like an exciting adventure, but is it more than that?
Definitely. There are lots of other threads woven into the story. At one level Changing Yesterday is about growing up. While aboard the ship Daniel changes from an awkward, overgrown boy into quite a suave adult over a few weeks. By contrast, Barry is so good at being a streetwise kid that he can't let go of that lifestyle. Liore, the commander from the future, was never really a child, and she remains a machine warrior, neither teenager nor adult. I suppose the book shows teenage readers that they have to leave some of their life behind them as they get older, but also that there are lots of new things to look forward to.
The book is also a cleverly disguised history lesson. A lot of young readers can't really imagine living in a world without iphones, movies, cable television and computer games, but the passenger ships of 1901 didn't even have radios or telegraphs. And it gets worse. Today the trip to London is just a 24 hour flight, but try to imagine six weeks in a floating hotel with a thousand other totally bored people, and you have the 1901 trip to England. I have included a lot of material on the concerts, dances, costume parties and deck games that were meant to amuse the passengers on these voyages, and have also shown how some people just went along in search of romance.
At a deeper level, the characters are faced with a lot of really big issues, like saving the future. Currently, all of us have a few concerns about saving the future. Climate change may not have the drama of a world war, but the two problems have a lot in common. They are both really big issues, seemingly far too big for kids to handle, but by working together it's possible to handle big issues. This is the ultimate message from Changing Yesterday.
Changing Yesterday was released on the 1st of July, and will be distributed by Macmillan for Ford Street.
About Changing Yesterday
It’s 1901, and Battle Commander Liore has travelled back in time to stop a war that will rage for over a hundred years. But time itself is against her. Whenever she changes history, a new beginning to the war emerges and the world once again teeters on the brink of disaster. To make matters worse, Barry the Bag has stolen Liore’s plasma rifle, the most dangerous weapon in the world. The owner is on his trail, and she doesn’t take prisoners. Can anything prevent Liore from risking the world’s future for the sake of revenge?
'... his action sequences splendid, his comic timing impeccable’ Locus
'... fans of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams will appreciate McMullen’s dry wit ...’ Romantic Times
'... one of the star names of Australian SF’ Interzone
About the Author
Sean McMullen is one of Australia’s leading SF and fantasy authors, with fifteen books and sixty stories published, for which he has won over a dozen awards. His most recent novels are and The Time Engine (2008), The Iron Warlock (2010) and Before the Storm (2007). In the late 1990s he established himself in the American market, and his work has been translated into Polish, French, Japanese and other languages. The settings for Sean’s work range from the Roman Empire, through Medieval Europe, to cities of the distant future. His work is a mixture of romance, invention and adventure, while populated by dynamic, strange and often hilarious characters. When not writing he is a computer training manager, and when not at a keyboard he is a karate instructor.
Also by Sean McMullen
Souls in the Great Machine
The Miocene Arrow
Eyes of the Calculor
Voyage of the Shadowmoon
The Ancient Hero (The Quentaris Chronicles)