Guest post by Sean McMullen: Changing Yesterday

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A guest post from Sean McMullen about the research process for his novel Changing Yesterday!

People keep asking me where I did my research for Changing Yesterday, and this is fair enough as a question. It is set in Australia in 1901, and while Australia became a nation in this year, that's not great material for an adventure. But that's okay, I just added a couple of changes to history.
Before Changing Yesterday even starts, the opening of parliament is bombed. The roof collapses, killing most of Australia's politicians and some British royals. Germany gets the blame, and this starts a world war that lasts more than a century. Finally, after billions have died, the cadets Liore and Fox travel back through time prevent the war from starting. Helped by the Melbourne teenagers, Daniel, Emily, Barry and Muriel, they steal the bombs and change history. They also discover that British terrorists, the Lionhearts, were responsible. The Lionhearts oppose the founding of Australia, and want a war to pull the British Empire back together.

Changing Yesterday shows that things can change pretty quickly between friends. Muriel dumps Daniel and runs off with Fox. Daniel falls apart, and his parents send him to an English boarding school to get some sense beaten into him. Barry steals Liore's hyper-powerful plasma weapon from the future, and sneaks onto Daniel's ship. He wants to sell the weapon to the king. Liore goes after Barry on the next ship. So do the Lionhearts. They think her weapon would be great for their next attempt to start a war.

I did a lot of research on the Internet and in libraries, but when you're writing a book it's also a good idea to write about what you are good at. I teach karate, so I tried out the action scenes with my students. This showed what is possible, and even gave me some new ideas on how the action could happen.

Life aboard ships was pretty important too. Today a trip to England is twenty four hours of being bored senseless in a 747. Back then it was six weeks on a ship, so the crew had to work hard to stop the passengers going stir crazy. There were lots of concerts, dances, parties and deck games, and quite a bit of flirting and romance, too. Daniel is still pining for Muriel, but nearly every girl on the ship interested in him because he is good looking and his family is rich. Barry is pretty clueless about good manners, so he spends a lot of time in the brig.

When the ship reaches Colombo, Liore and her new friend Madeline come aboard, along with several Lionhearts. Now the story becomes a bit like Terminator on the Titanic. Although the ship does not sink, it's a pretty near thing. Daniel, Madeline and Barry manage to save the world, but they end the book on the run from the police. No good deed ever goes unpunished.

While Changing Yesterday and Before the Storm are pretty exciting, you can learn a lot from them about life in Australia and Australians in 1901, the year we became a nation. This is the great thing about retro science fiction (also known as steampunk). Even if the original history was pretty quiet, you can write a great story by adding the excitement and alternative history yourself.

Thanks, Sean! Changing Yesterday was released by Ford Street Publishing on 1 July 2011. Check it out on the publisher's website.
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