Today Amalie Jahn visits Author Wednesday to talk about her young adult time travel series The Clay Lion. Amalie also writes adult fiction, and I’m proud to share a slot with her and other authors in the box set At Odds With Destiny. In this set, Amalie’s Among the Shrouded, where an ancient prophesy foretells the birth of seven psychics destined to change the world. I think you’ll enjoy hearing from this multi-talented author who explores the concept of time travel. In the first book in The Clay Lion, she sets up the dilemma for the main character: What if you could go back in time to save the person you love the most? The rules are simple. If you want to travel back in time, you need to be at least eighteen years old. You can only travel within your own lifespan for a maximum of six months. And above all else, you must never, ever, change the past. But that’s exactly what Brooke Wallace, the main character, plans to do.
Welcome, Amalie. Your concept for The Clay Lion is intriguing. How did you come up with the idea for the first in the series, The Clay Lion?
The idea was born of two converging ideas. The time travel element came to me in a dream. My sister and I were some type of superheroes, and we were traveling through time saving people’s lives. When I woke up, I wrote down as much as I could remember. As I was writing down my ideas, I began thinking about a little girl named Lauren who happened to be one of my daughter’s good friends. She had recently been hospitalized with leukemia for the second time and was searching for a bone marrow donor. I couldn’t help but wonder how her older sister would react if she should die, knowing that she had been her first bone marrow donor. The two were probably the closest sisters I’d ever had the privilege of knowing. The idea of a sister going back in time to save the life of her beloved brother was born and The Clay Lion is a testament to the power of sibling love. Lauren passed away in October of 2013 – tragic ending to a beautiful and very short life. I hope that The Clay Lion brings solace to grieving families everywhere and honors Lauren’s memory.
So lovely and sad–truly bittersweet. It’s wonderful you were able to capture that in your novel. I’ve never attempted to write about time travel, although the subject interests me. What is the most difficult part with regard to writing about time travel?
I began writing the book with only a skeleton idea of how the time travel portion of the story was going to work out. About a third of the way through the original manuscript, I realized that how I envisioned the time travel working would be impossible for Brooke to do in real life. I had planned on her family and everyone around her remembering what had happened to her before her first trip, but as I continued writing, I determined that it would be impossible for them to remember if her timeline was reset to account for the changes she was making. It would have to be reset over the origin of the trip, thereby erasing the memories of everyone but the traveler, in this case, Brooke.
Another issue I encountered with the time travel was whether or not the travelers were gone in the present for the same amount of time they were spending in the past. For example, during her first trip, Brooke traveled into the past for six months. In the original manuscript, Brooke returned to the present having missed six months of her own life because of the trip. Knowing that Brooke would be traveling several times throughout the course of the novel, I knew that this was going to be an impossibility, not only because it would have taken years of her life away, but also because then every traveler would end up with large spans of time within their lives that they would not be present for. This would be a huge problem for many travelers, so it was something I needed to rectify. I finally decided that in the present day, no time would be lost for the traveler. You leave and return in the same day, effectively missing nothing of your present life.
Both of these issues, along with several others, required a significant amount of editing and revisions as I wrote. There were many days (and nights) that I was unable to write any of the storyline because I was bogged down in the intricacies of the time travel. Strangely, most of my inspiration was given to me in the middle of the night, and I was forced awake by bursts of inspiration regarding the time travel that needed my immediate attention. I was never so glad for my overactive subconscious!
In the end, I believe that I was able to work out many of the details regarding the time travel that exists in Brooke and Branson’s world. Having grappled for so many months with the difficulties that it involves, I firmly believe that I will never experience time travel in my own life. I believe it may very well be an impossibility in our world. But if it isn’t, just in case, I’m already making my list of what things I would like to do with my trip.
I’ve written novels where I’ve switched time periods in the telling of the story, and know how difficult that can be. I can only imagine how difficult it was keeping it all straight. I don’t find it at all unusual that your ideas came to you when you were in a sort of twilight time–perhaps your own form of time travel. What do you feel is the greatest strength of The Clay Lion?
As I was writing, I felt a strong connection to Brooke and hoped the readers would share that same closeness. I was pleased to discover when readers started weighing in that they bonded with her as well. The story’s subject matter helped me develop her character fully, and I believe readers relate to her because of the depth of her loss. We’ve all loved and lost – it’s a part of the human experience. It’s something we can all relate to which is why Brooke’s character resonates with so many readers. They feel her emotion and pull for her. I believe her character is the strength of the book.
With such a complicated plot, what was your writing process like for The Clay Lion?
When I began writing I had an outline of the plot but didn’t know how I was going to end the story. It was as if I was going on vacation, map in hand, knowing only where I was starting out and a few places to stop off along the way. What I didn’t know, however, was where the ultimate destination was going to be. After the first few chapters, I thought I knew where I was headed, but the more I got to know Brooke, the more she began taking over the direction of the story. Places I wanted to go were not necessarily the places Brooke wanted to take me, so instead of fighting her, I surrendered to her. At one point in the story, I was writing at the kitchen counter and my husband was baking brownies. I started crying, and he asked me what in the world had set me off. I told him I was upset because I didn’t know that what I had just written was going to happen, which of course made me sound as though I’d officially gone off the deep end. “If you’re the one writing the book, how do you not know what’s about to happen?” he asked. “I didn’t do it,” I replied. “Brooke did.” And that’s how it was for the remainder of the manuscript. Brooke was in control. I just wrote what she told me.
What an amazing process, Amalie. I thank you for stopping by today to share.
About Amalie Jahn: “I spent my childhood writing journals about the boys I loved, especially the ones who never loved me back. I never imagined I’d be channeling those emotions into full-length novels later on in my life.” – Amalie Jahn
Undeterred by fickle teenage boys, Amalie won her first literary award in seventh grade for a fictional short story about a girl struggling with accident-induced hearing loss. She’s been writing ever since. The Clay Lion‘s Best-Selling March 2013 release was followed by the publication of Tin Men and A Straw Man, the second and third books in the critically-acclaimed series. Among the Shrouded is the first in a series of novels exploring real-world issues under the umbrella of paranormal suspense, and Amalie is currently working on the second installment of the series entitled Gather the Sentient.
When she’s not at the computer coaxing characters into submission, you can find Amalie swimming laps, cycling, or running on the treadmill, probably training for her next triathlon. She hates pairing socks and loves avocados. Amalie lives in the United States with her husband, two children, and three extremely overfed cats.
She is also very happy time travel does not yet exist. You can find her right here in the present day at these social media sites:
Twitter – @AmalieJahn