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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Interview with Paranormal Romance Writer, Marlene Dotterer, author of The Time Travel Journals

Let’s talk about your current book, The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder. First off, I have to ask you about the cover which I think is very eye catching. How much input did you have in the design?
Thank you. I love the cover! It was done by Laura Shinn, who is a graphic artist specializing in book covers. She used a public domain photo of Titanic and she added the clasped hands from another photo. I'm clueless about how to do this kind of thing, but I thought the cover captured the feel of the book.

There's a scene in the book when Tom finds out that Casey and Sam are from the future, using their cell phones and a calculator as proof. He gets dizzy and Casey grabs his hand to steady him. The cover reminds me of that scene. As a self-publisher, I had the final say in the book cover. Laura sent me several suggestions, and the final cover was a favorite for both of us.

What got you interested in writing a paranormal romance on the topic of the Titanic?
I became curious about Thomas Andrews while re-watching a video of James Cameron's movie, Titanic. I wondered, "What kind of man builds a ship like that? Where did he learn how to do it?" I began to research him, and simply fell in love with him.

All the documentation on him talks about what a kind, compassionate man he was. Everyone loved him. He was one of the most respected shipbuilders in the world.  It sounds melodramatic, but I had to write a book that would give him a second chance at life. I really mean that I "had" to. I would have been miserable if I had not written this book.

What made you decide on having as you say an Edwardian English gentleman and a Generation Y female as your leads?  
I knew it would be a time travel story, because I love time travel stories. I had some debate with myself about having Tom fall in love with Casey. After all, the real Thomas Andrews was married, and very much in love with his wife, Helen. They had a young daughter, too. But in my book, Sam and Casey go back to 1906, which was just before (or around the same time) Tom met Helen in real life. So when Casey meets him, he is single.

In my book, Tom's natural compassion draws him to Casey, whose life was turned upside-down when she was thrown back to 1906. He is attracted to her because of that, and also because of her strength and independence. In the end, I felt it best to simply leave Helen out of the story, and let Casey win her man. I don't ignore Helen - Sam knows about her, and he and Casey discuss the situation. But Casey feels if they are going to try and change history, then she has a right to change that, too.

When did you actually start writing this novel?
I started researching and writing in 2007. It took about a year to finish the first draft.

I see that this book takes place in Ireland and you have a sequel in the works as well as two other books with an Irish link. Why the interest in Ireland? 
I'm Irish/Italian, and although my looks favor my Italian side, I think my soul is all Irish. I feel like I belong there. I know I romanticize it, which probably drives true Irish citizens crazy. I'm drawn to the pagan aspects of Ireland's history, and in my other books (not the Time Travel Journals), I tend to include these aspects in the stories.

In your blog, you let your readers view cut scenes from the novel. What made you decide to show the discards from the book? 
Part of it is straight promotion. It's a way to provoke interest in the book. I really like these scenes, but they don't quite carry the plot forward. The book was originally 153,000 words, which is just too long for a debut novel. But these scenes show interesting parts of the world or the characters, so I thought it would be a fun way to let the readers learn more about the history of Titanic or Thomas Andrews, as we approach the centenary.

Your blog also shows that the book was a Semi Finalist in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel. Yet the publish date for CreateSpace shows 2011? Could you explain that for me? 
I finished the book in 2008. I spent a few years shopping it around to agents and publishers. The Amazon contest was part of that, and I was really pleased that it did so well. 

Did you try to get the book published through traditional publishers? If so how many did you send it out to for review? What made you decide to go with CreateSpace? 
Oh, gosh yes. A few years worth, as I said. I have about a hundred rejections. Several agents/publishers asked to see the full manuscript, and I had four offers. These all fell through for one reason or another. But none of the offers fell through because of problems with the story, so I felt it was truly good enough to publish. I wanted it out in time for the hundredth anniversary of Titanic's sinking, so I decided to go ahead and self-publish.

What are some of the most productive things you have done to promote your book? Marketing is not easy for me. It's hard to know what has worked best. I think it's having a variety of approaches that can feed off each other. For instance, I published a SF short story as an eBook, The Farm, on Smashwords and Amazon. At the end of that story, I include a blurb and the first chapter of Shipbuilder, along with links to where it could be bought. Then I put the story up for free. During the time it was free, and for a while after - downloads and sales of Shipbuilder spiked. 

What has surprised you the most (in a good or bad way) about the publishing process?
What surprised me about traditional publishing is how slow it is. Sending a query to an agent is fast, but it takes weeks or months before you get a response. Even once a book is bought by a publisher it takes about two years before it's actually published. 

What is some of the best advice you’ve been given on writing? Do you have any special advice you’d like to give other writers
Something I learned early, was about point of view. My first attempts were full of head-hopping, and this was immediately pointed out to me by critiquers. When I first joined the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, my learning curve shot up. I learned more in two months than I ever did in a writing course. 

So my advice to new writers is to join a critique group. Join two. Find people who will tell you the truth about your work. 

I also understand you will be going on a cruise will trace the path of Titanic as they celebrate the 100th anniversary of the sinking. And the cruise will have the same number of passengers that sailed on Titanic. Are you tempting fate? Would you be willing to come back and do another post for me about the cruise? 
I absolutely do not think we're tempting fate. The universe just does not work that way. In my book, Casey tells Sam that "the universe does not have it in for Titanic." I really believe that.

I think the cruise will be, by turns, a huge learning experience, a lot of fun, and a solemn memorial. Many of the passengers have already been in touch with each other through Facebook pages, and we are all looking forward to finally meeting. I hope to meet people who will remain friends for the rest of our lives. 

Would you be willing to come back and do another post for me about the cruise? 
I'd be happy to come back and post about it on your blog. I will also be posting about it during the trip as much as I can.

That's all for today's interview. If you would like to learn more about Marlene's writing and her books just click here. This book is the first in the series. You can read the first chapter of the second book, The Time Travel Journals: Bridgebuilders on her blog.  Or contact her on Facebook.

You can buy her book, by clicking on Amazon or Smashwords for a direct link


  1. Well now I know what happens between Casey and Tom. :P

  2. A follow up on the anniversary cruise would be awesome. I, too, would enjoy that.

    This was an enjoyable interview. Thank you.

    1. Yes, I can't wait to hear about the cruise as well.

  3. Thank you, Chris. This was a great interview. I'll certainly let everyone know what happens on the cruise.

    Darke: The fun is in the details!

  4. This sounds interesting. I am a big fan of time travel. I may have to add this book to my ever-growing 'to read' list.