January 29, 2016

Bon Voyage: 3 Questions with Alexandra Bracken

I'm so excited to be dedicating an entire week on the blog to celebrate the fabulous novel Passenger by Alexandra Bracken. It's a time travel novel like nothing I've ever read before, written with Alex's fabulous storytelling skills, and I'm head over heels in love with it! Rachel of Hello Chelly and I are going to be sharing posts inspired by the novel all week. Today, we're incredibly honored to have Alex herself answering a few questions on both of our blogs. So, check out the three questions Alex answered here, and then go and visit Rachel's post! (You still have time to enter our awesome giveaway.)

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1. Etta and Nicholas come from two different times, and have different views of society and relationship dynamics. Was this something you deliberately chose to do?

Definitely! I love fish-out-of-water stories in general, which, luckily for me, is an inherent part of most time travel stories. I realized there was the potential for double the action on that front in picking their native centuries and then selecting periods and places I knew would be completely foreign to them. Needless to say, these two are thrown in the deep end and have to sink or swim. This made for a little bit of humor when wires get crossed with Etta using a modern phrase, or a word that’s changed meaning from the 18th century to the 21st, and when Nicholas is confronted with technology he doesn’t have all that much experience with. (Thankfully he has experience time traveling and exposure to travelers from other centuries, so Nicholas isn’t totally flummoxed and curled up in the fetal position from sensory overload.)

More than anything, though, I wanted to show that despite their very different upbringings, they were, as Nicholas’s friend Chase says in the book, equals in spirit. Meaning that they’re both forward-thinking people who are incredibly driven and prone to doing the right thing. There’s a little bit of a gray area, especially where Nicholas is concerned as he has had exposure to other centuries, but both of them are very much products of their time. The people around them and their personal experiences have informed their world view, and it was always very interesting to me to see where those value sets clashes and what they chose to put aside, or compromise on, to move ahead with their journey.

2. How did you choose the locations that Nicholas and Etta travel to?

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In the original proposal I sent my editor, Etta only ever traveled to 1776 Manhattan and stayed there, dealing with the repercussions of the American Revolutionary War and trying to figure out how to get back home. I honestly cannot begin to explain how or why this happened, but my junior year of high school, I became obsessed—and I mean obsessed—with reading about the American colonies. I have four or five George Washington biographies on the shelf of my childhood bedroom alone. I was just… I don’t know, really intrigued by the passionate revolutionary personalities and picking apart all of the different hypocrisies. But, man, let me tell you, this was not even a remotely cool or normal thing to be into… so thank you, Hamilton, for proving to everyone that I’m not a crazy person for writing a college admissions essay on George Washington. (Here comes the General!)

Anyway, I went to school in Colonial Williamsburg at the College of William & Mary (more on this in a bit!), which is the perfect place to study 18th century America. I felt really comfortable writing in that era and getting into Nicholas’s head, and doubly comfortable writing Etta as a modern New Yorker, having lived there for about six years. But I really wanted the story to expand, to be more inclusive, and to feel very immersive. It didn’t sit right with me to have the story be so wholly euro-centric, so I picked places I was curious about and wanted to visit. Places that would also tell a story about Etta's family, as that's the unifying thread between them. One of my goals with this duology is making sure the whole, vast world is represented, both because there are SO many fascinating cultures and historical events, and because I wanted to drive home the enormity of their world and how much possibility is inherent in it.

3. We both chose a time period we'd love to time travel to if we had the chance. What time period would you want to visit and why?

I used to say that I wanted to visit the 18th century—specifically 1781 after the Siege of Yorktown—just to see what it was like to be alive during that time, when our country was still very much like a fawn trying to find steady footing. I’d like to see Ancient Athens, the Renaissance, the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean. But, like Etta, I think I would have a lot of problems letting intolerance and prejudice and suffering slide—I’d want to try to fix things instead of blending in, and I would probably manage to destroy the world in the process. So I think a safer bet for me is to travel into the far future and see what’s happening on planet Earth (or… space colonies?).

And with that, my friends, we have finally come to the end of Bon Voyage: A Passenger Celebration. *sobs* It's been really fun to get to talk more about this amazing novel, and we sincerely hope we've inspired you to give the book a shot yourself if you haven't read it! (And if you have, we hope that you've enjoyed following along with our posts.) (Don't forget that there's still time to enter the giveaway!

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