From the book's Afterword
To borrow a line from The Grateful Dead’s song, Trucking, “lately, it occurs to me, what a long strange trip it’s been.” And it has…
When I started with the conclusion to this story, I was immediately rocked by the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic. My employer of 29 years was undergoing a corporate buyout putting my career in question, and the world seemed to be in a chaotic place. Throughout my creative process, there were several starts and stops, and I found the story harder to conceptualize. Much more difficult than the first book.
What kept me coming back to it were my readers. I received such positive feedback from many different people, which gave me the willpower to ignore the craziness of the world around me and push on.
With the devastation of the pandemic and my own challenges to my personal life, I just did not have it in me. I kept putting the project down and just watched in horror as the death toll from the pandemic rose and at the same time, dealt with the bittersweet loss of my career.
Like all phases of life, however, resilience kicked in. I learned to accept the new reality. I found another career equally as challenging as the last and learned to adapt to a new world of social isolation, masking, and washing my hands fifty times a day.
What makes writing a sequel to a story easier is the existing foundational material of characters and settings all too familiar to the reader. A writer writing a sequel can introduce characters with confidence that the readers will pick up where the previous book left off.
Much to my surprise, several readers wrote to me asking to develop the character of Eloise, Agent Nadeau’s girlfriend. This came as a bit of a surprise to me as I felt she was more of a background part, but once I started to imagine her role in the story, I found I could make it work. It added an element to Nadeau that was not evident in “A Question of Time.”
Keeping Nadeau front and centre, I wanted to ensure that his sense of loss was felt as his world was changing around him due to the constant tinkering of Lambert in the past. The French Empire became more and more oppressive, and when it came to Eloise, Nadeau felt the changes personally. It drove him to react like he did in the last few chapters, and I think Eloise had much to do with how he pressed on.
Jonathan, as well, was a changed man. Despite his initial apprehensions about changing history, he did a rapid about-face with the illness of his young son. Sanitation became a topic front and centre, and I put myself in his shoes when I imagined the need to drink unpurified well water. He suspected it was Cholera but was it? It could have been one of many pathogens found in unsanitary drinking water.
On the topic of Cholera, I needed to take a little bit of poetic licence with its introduction in this story. Although Cholera was around and documented in the 1600s, it did not really ravage Europe until the 1800s. I needed the mechanism of Cholera and so needed to imagine a local outbreak in the late 1700s. Savvy historians might nitpick at this paradox, and I’d like to say to them, “I’m aware of it.”
This sequel needed to go off the rails of history more than in the first book. I was introducing concepts that were radically changing the timeline of Nadeau. Cartridge munitions and rifling, and a machine gun are the main technical factors affecting change. These introductions caused more ‘action’ than in the previous novel. On the economic front, the train was the principal agent of change. One can rapidly see the advantages of a national rail network and how it changed the United Kingdom in the 1800s. Had it been widespread in the pre-revolutionary days of France, it could have helped keep people well-fed and satiated. Hence potentially avoiding the revolution to begin with.
And finally, I had to consider the concept of a timeline. Some people like to call it the Butterfly effect or the space-time continuum. I prefer to point out that every day in the history of humanity, a decision is made that can change the world. Even a minute change that might seem inconsequential, and the consequences can be massive. Technological innovations have transformed the human race throughout the years in ways our ancestors could have never imagined. The sum of all human knowledge is available in our pockets, in our cars, and in our home appliances at the touch of a button. Information is spreading about at a blazing speed, and light is being shined in very dark places. Wars that are fought are fought in the clear light of millions of cameras in real-time.
Do I imagine an apocalyptic world like the one envisioned in this book? I hope not. Only our children and children’s children can ensure that we do not descend into an autocratic, technologically oppressive world that Nadeau bore witness to.
Thus ends the story of Johnathan Lambert and Laurent Nadeau. There will not be another. I hope it has been a project worthy of your attention, and I hope you have found it entertaining.
Such an apropos statement for today, January the 20th, 2021.
Change is in the air, and I borrow this phrase, commonly found in literature, songs and taglines to apply it as the title of book 2 from 'A Question of Time'.
Johnathan Lambert's story will come to a close in this second volume of a definitive two volume set.
The story of Agent Nadeau's quest to discover the mystery of Lambert's disappearance from the TGV and reappearance in the 18th Century will continue. The story will evolve with a thought provoking conclusion to the idea of time, paradox and the effects of small decisions made every day that can affect the future of humanity for decades.
To you, the reader who has been patient, It's in progress. The storyboard is laid out to my satisfaction, the appropriate research is now complete, and now comes the hard work...
It was highly motivating to work on a pure fiction story, without having to back check historical facts. Fiction writing, as opposed to non-fiction, can be liberating and fast. I am committed to continuing the Talwin story.
I have always been a fan of the Star Wars franchise, even with the modern iterations and spin-offs cluttering the lore, it is, and will remain the benchmark for a Space Opera epic story, spanning multi generational characters and multifaceted story lines that paint life into the worlds and plots of the grand story.
Another favorite story that influenced me to write 'The Chronicles of Talwin' was a series of books written by Piers Anthony. - 'Bio of a Space Tyrant' is an epic Space Opera following the life and times of Hope Hubris. Its a classic story, full of action and a fascinating edgy novel that delves into human nature in ways reminiscent of Lord of the Flies.
I have enjoyed this project immensely, and have already started thinking of the next three books that will paint a grand story in the style of Anthony and Lucas.
I hope I can live up to their wonderful world building and storytelling.
So, I've been working on a manuscript for almost two years now.
I don't wish to give away too much on the plot. Suffice to say it's a story of a man thrust at the dusk of the French Bourbon regime, about 15 years before the start of the French Revolution. His account of survival explores how a modern man can pick himself up with only the clothes on his back and survive in an era where life was brutally harsh, and the existence of social safety nets was non-existent.
I have always been a fan of L. Sprague de Camp's story 'Lest Darkness Fall' - A story of a relatively modern man, from 1938, who inexplicably finds himself transported back in time to 535 AD (or for those of you who prefer CE) in the Eastern Roman Empire. Many stories have sprung from De Camp's initial foray into this form of alternative history writing. Notable writers who were influenced include Harry Turtledove, who writes many offshoots of alternative history. Examples include ideas such as the Byzantine Empire survives the Fall of Rome or how, in the middle of World War Two, the earth is invaded by a hostile alien species.
Other writers influenced by De Camp include Frederik Pohl who wrote "The Deadly Mission of Phineas Snodgrass", a thought-provoking story of a man that travels back to 1 BC and teaches modern medicine, causing a population explosion. It ends with the fantastically overpopulated alternate timeline sending someone back to assassinate the title character, allowing darkness to fall for thankful billions.
A similar story style to De Camp is "Outlander" written by Diana Gabaldon and now adapted for television by Ronald D. Moore. A story of Claire Randall, a married World War II nurse who, in 1945, finds herself transported back to 1743 Scotland, where she encounters the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser and becomes embroiled in the Jacobite risings of Scotland.
It was this most recent story that convinced me that a similar tale could be told with a focus on the 'Ancien Regime' era of France.
I spent about 6 months researching the era of 1775 France, gathered up all my research notes and put together a story arc. Excited, I began banging away and put together a rough draft in the span of a couple of weeks. The story arc and the research helped give birth to the characters and the plot early on. Always a stickler for accuracy, I realised in the first rereading that I had missed some key dates in my storyline and certain characters were not historically accurately portrayed. There were glaring holes that I plugged, and there were events in the background of the story that were misplaced historically. Once they were analysed correctly, and following more historical research, I decided to change the starting date of the story to the 11th of May, 1774, the first day of the reign of Louis XVI, the last Absolute monarch of France. This date fused well with the other events, and characters I wished to introduce to the plot and subplot, so I had to go back and rewrite all the changes to take this new date into consideration. All in all a rather monumental task. No one ever said that writing was easy.
Rereading the manuscript and getting feedback from those in my immediate circle who I trust, I quickly realised that the story could be improved by the introduction of a character in the 'modern era' tasked with determining the cause of the disappearance of the protagonist. Naturally, as the main character introduced changes to the timeline of the 18th century, the character tasked with the hunt for the truth finds himself in an ever-evolving world that reflects amplification of the changes wrought in the 18th Century.
Another Beta reader (Thanks Nicky!) reminded me that my main character wasn't a monk, and needed a love interest. So a love interest was introduced. I had to research how a man 'courted' a bourgeoisie woman in this era, because naturally, how we do it in the modern world is entirely different.
It's been quite a ride over these past two years. I'm almost ready to release it. If you want to learn a little something about France under the 'Ancien Regime' Id like to think you might pick up some historical knowledge while at the same time be entertained. Available wherever you buy books on October 29th, 2019.
Available for pre order here
- Steven Lazaroff
Steven Lazaroff is an extensive traveller with a passion for history. Able to root out the backstory of a building, an architectural ruin or battlefield, he seeks the humorous side of the story and attempts to convey a scene with sarcasm, humour, and style.