Time Unravellers was born in 2005. But the name of the book came much, much earlier…
In April 1997, a friend and I filmed a very short spoof film – imagine a blend of The Time Tunnel and Plan 9 From Outer Space, and you’re close to what I’m talking about. The original Time Unravellers was conceived as being a hopeless sci-fi series made in the 1970s but styled on the B-movies of the 50s, with two failed actors called Ted Tube and Peter Plank. I think I played Ted. One of them had a girlfriend called Barbara, because all the women in 1950s B movies were called Barbara. All of them. Even the ones that weren’t. The first film ran to just 6 minutes, and most people would probably agree that was excessive. We filmed a longer (9 minutes) sequel a couple of weeks later, in which we introduced an arch nemesis and his golden laser (with which he proposed to melt the earth). But by then the franchise had run its course.
So, that’s how it began. I only began writing the book because Waterstones were running a children’s book contest and I thought it couldn’t hurt to enter. The name Time Unravellers popped back into my head, bringing with it a rough idea for a story. I hurriedly thrashed out a quick synopsis and 2 or 3 chapters. It was dreadful, and not surprisingly, I never heard back. And so the whole concept lay dormant until November 2011.
On November 1, 2011, I sat down at my laptop to begin writing a children’s book which would, I hoped, finally cure me of the writer’s block I’d suffered for probably pushing 3 years. Since I was a teenager, I’d considered myself a writer. I had knocked out a few short stories here and there, I’d written a 6-part ‘TV series on paper’ which documented my personal experiences of lifeguarding between 1996-2000, and I’d been writing a novel for about 15 years. That novel stopped, started, stopped again, and even after a decade and a half, I had very little to show for it. My writer’s block finally came after the grim realisation that for maybe 5 years all I’d really been doing was opening up my existing work on the book and adding/removing the occasional comma. I suffered a massive loss of confidence in myself, and decided simply to stop. Then, sometime in October that year, I happened upon the website for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and thought I might give it a shot. The aim was simple enough – knock out a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Frankly, I felt that if I could manage even 1000 new words in that space of time, it would be a good result.
This is how Time Unravellers began on that cold November night:
Evie writhed out of her dreary grey skirt and wriggled into her bright blue denim jeans – all without ever sitting up. Going from school shirt to tee shirt was going to be more difficult, though, and she felt this would require more energy than she could summon at that moment. She wanted some music, too, but that also meant getting up off her bed. So she lay there, reasonably happy to be a fashion disaster for a few more minutes at least.
More information about my NaNoWriMo experience can be found on the blog of my friend (and fellow author) Sarah Perry. She was crazy enough to want to interview me. And it’s worth rooting around her blog, as she’s interviewed plenty of writers who have more business being interviewed than I do! Suffice to say, I didn’t finish the book within those 30 days. But I did get my confidence back.