Welcome to the blog tour for Strange Days by Constantine Singer! We chatted with Constantine about where the idea for Strange Days came from, his writing process, and time travel. Check out our interview below:
Where did the idea for Strange Days come from?
Strange Days grew out of an idea I had on my “seed” list – the list I keep of ideas, characters, and high concept moments that come to me which I might want to deal with later. The original “seed” for STRANGE DAYS read: “A kid gets in trouble when a picture of him is found in a time capsule buried 50 years before he was born.”
Around the time I pulled that seed off the list I was obsessed with theoretical physics and with time itself, so the seed spoke to me and I began to ask myself how the photo could get in the time capsule, why it might have been placed there, and who would want to do this to an unsuspecting average kid. The answers to those questions became STRANGE DAYS.
Do you consider yourself a pantser, plotter, or something in between? What was your process while writing Strange Days?
I am a partial plotter. Once I develop the world and the rules for how things happen in it I think a little about plot, but not too much. Instead, I spend most of my time on character. Before I start writing I only plan through the inciting incident and then I vision the conclusion so that I always know where I’m coming from and where I’m going, but I intentionally don’t think too much about what happens in between. If I know too much I end up forcing my characters to follow my plot instead of letting my characters’ decisions, reactions and intentions drive the action.
For STRANGE DAYS, before I started writing I knew about the letter, the voice, the photo, the guitars, and the murder of Alex’s parents, and I knew where I wanted the series to end up, but I wasn’t even completely sure who The Voice was until I wrote that part of the book, and I certainly didn’t know who would live and who would die save for Alex himself.
Strange Days features sci-fi elements including time travel. What did you find most challenging while building the world of Strange Days and what did you enjoy most?
Time itself is fun because there’s no way to wrap one’s mind around it without some of what you need to think about squeezing out the sides. It’s big and it’s abstract, and even the base concepts of time and space like Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity are mind-bending enough for the smartest of us to get permanently lost.
I absolutely loved creating a time-and-universe theory which was internally consistent, science-adjacent if not science-accurate, and which avoided most of the basic paradox traps that plague time-fiction.
Once I’d done that, there’s no doubt that the hardest part of the process was making the rules of the universe clear enough to be understood by the reader without boring everybody to death. When Jason, my agent, and I began refining the draft I sent him there was a forty-page section which we just called “the info dump” and it took us, working together, nearly two months to figure out how to simplify the rules and explain them without it being terrible.
If you could spend a day with a character from Strange Days, who would it be and why?
This question was hard for me because there’re elements of each character which I absolutely love. I suspect I’d have the most to say to Calvin or Paul, but that I would probably enjoy Cassandra’s humor more than the others. If there were trouble brewing, I’d want Corina with me, though, and I feel like I could learn the most from Jordan, just like Alex did.
Alex would be hard for me to spend time with because he’s too much like me and that would make me uncomfortable.
What is the strangest thing you Googled while writing Strange Days?
One of the things I really like about writing reality-plus is that I don’t have to spend very much time on Google while I’m writing. I know the locations, the people, the roads, the restaurants – all of it – because I live there. Mostly what I end up Googling is things like travel times because even though it’s science fiction, I want the small things to be believable.
I did spend a lot of time in the pre-writing phase googling things like “Quantum Theory and Time,” “Imaginary Time,” and “The Anthropic Principle,” but those aren’t strange in and of themselves.
And I always google my character’s names to make sure they are who I want them to be.
About the book:
Contemporary fiction with a sci-fi edge, perfect for fans of Ernest Cline and Marie Lu.
Alex Mata doesn’t want to worry about rumors of alien incursions–he’d rather just skate and tag and play guitar. But when he comes home to find an alien has murdered his parents, he’s forced to confront a new reality: aliens are real, his parents are dead, and nobody will believe him if he tells. On the run, Alex finds himself led to the compound of tech guru Jeffrey Sabazios, the only public figure who stands firm in his belief that aliens are coming.
At Sabazios’s invitation, Alex becomes a Witness, one of a special group of teens gifted with an ability that could save the Earth: they can glide through time and witness futures. When a Witness sees a future, that guarantees it will happen the way it’s been seen, making their work humanity’s best hope for stopping the alien threat. Guided by Sabazios, befriended by his fellow time travelers, and maybe even falling in love, Alex starts feeling like the compound is a real home–until a rogue glide shows him the dangerous truth about his new situation.
Now in a race against time, Alex is forced to reevaluate who he can love, who he can trust, and who he needs to leave behind.
Debut author Constantine Singer’s fresh-voiced protagonist leaps off the page in this captivating novel that weaves sci-fi and contemporary fiction.
About the author:
Constantine Singer grew up in Seattle, then earned his BA from Earlham College and his Masters from Seattle University. He currently lives in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles with his family, and teaches history at a high school in South LA. He is of the opinion that all foods are better eaten as a sandwich or a taco. This is his first novel.
Strange Days will be for sale on December 4, 2018!