Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Guest Post with Christine Potter


Photo Content from Christine Potter

Christine Potter is a writer and poet who lives in a very old (haunted) house on a creek in Rockland County. She has an organist/choirdirector husband (Ken) and two spoiled tom cats. One of the house's two ghosts lives in the room behind her office.

Christine's newest book is a YA time travel novel, What Time Is It There? (The Bean Books, Book 3), newly released by Evernight Teen. The first book in the series is Time Runs Away With Her, and the second is In Her Own Time.

Her two poetry collections are Zero Degrees at First Light (2006) and Sheltering in Place (2013). She has also had poems published in Rattle, Fugue, The Irish Examiner, HOOT, Eclectica, and The Pedestal, among other magazines. Her third book of poems, Unforgetting, is due out this spring from Kelsay Books.

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Series: The Bean Books
Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: Evernight Teen (January 15, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1773395335
ISBN-13: 978-1773395333


TOUR SCHEDULE: Chapter by Chapter

From early in the book. Bean has lost track of Zak at the beginning of the story. They’re both in college, him in Seattle, she in upstate NY. The year is 1972; Bean’s a sophomore. She can only see Zak by time traveling back to high school.

EXCERPT 

I will never, ever forgive myself, thought Bean, and allowed herself to daydream once more about the gorgeous guy’s shirt she’d seen at Constant Karma in Stormkill. It was green and blue and printed with elephants walking trunk to tail. Zak would have loved it…but she had absolutely no idea where he was. There were rumors he’d dropped out of college, like Sam. Call his mother and ask? She simply couldn’t!

I bet he found someone else, Bean thought. I went silent and didn’t say why. He’ll never want to hear from me again. Ever. Downstairs, Tone and Julia were listening to opera. She shut her door.

She pulled the stack of Zak’s unopened letters out of her suitcase, and even though they might contain a hint of what had happened, she couldn’t bear to open even one. Instead, she got out her guitar and began dropping it into an open D tuning for Joni Mitchell’s Marcie. There was probably a no less Christmas-y song in the world.

As for Zak’s letters, Bean brought them back to college with her. And home again at the end of the year. And then back to school for her sophomore year: still sealed, every last one.




THE GREATEST THING I LEARNED IN SCHOOL

I hated grade school with the fire of a million suns. I was a child of the late fifties and early sixties, and much of what we did in class felt useless: memorizing times tables and spelling words. Calculating worksheet after worksheet of long division problems. And all the while, the teacher would be droning on at the front of the classroom about…what? Ugh!

See, I already knew how to do the thing that would become the center of my life. I’d somehow taught myself to read before kindergarten. My parents have told me I started recognizing brand logos on our black and white TV when I was a toddler. I have a clear memory of reading the New York Times weather report to my father when I was about four. When I read in To Kill A Mockingbird that Scout Finch couldn’t remember a time when she didn’t know how to read, I thought, “Oh, my God. That’s me!”

When I first went to school, my teacher said I wasn’t really reading because I couldn’t “sound out” words phonetically; I only knew what they meant. She put me in the slowest reading group, even though my nose was constantly in a book at home. Bored silly and heartbroken, I refused to read aloud in school until third grade, when we all took an aptitude test--which showed me to be understanding books at a college level.

Of course, the principal called me up at the awards ceremony at the end of that year and gave me the award for “most improved.” My prize? A book I would have found silly at five. (I devoured it anyway. Hey, it was a book!)

Do you see where I’m going with this? The most important thing I learned in school was to rely on my own brains first, and to question everything. The folks around me when I was little turned out to be either lying or wrong about almost everything. My teachers told us that if there was a nuclear war, we’d be safe in the halls of our school if we curled up and put our hands over our heads. My parents told me the truth. My mom used to send me out to play during the take-shelter drills they had in the sixties. She said they were pointless, and I might as well enjoy the sunshine. She was right.

Incredibly (or predictably when you think about it), I ended up being a teacher myself—a quietly subversive one. I taught high school English and creative writing. I tried to help my kids find their own truth. I worked them hard, but I never made them do something for no good reason, and I hope I never lied to them. I used to teach my students how to “make it look like school” in case we were all laughing too much and an administrator dropped by unexpectedly.

I hope that my students learned in joy what I learned in sorrow: trust your own truth, even if no one else can see it. When I “graduated” from teaching a few years back, I decided to write stories about that for young people. Hence, the Bean Books.

YOUR FAVORITE SCENES FROM WHAT TIME IS IT THERE?

First, some context: This third book in the time traveling Bean Books series is set mostly in the year 1972. Bean and her high school boyfriend Zak have agreed to see other people when they go to different colleges, and Bean does (very briefly) have a fling and doesn’t have the heart to answer Zak’s letters to her—or even open them. Shortly after that, Zak seemingly falls off the planet! Bean regrets the fling, and What Time Is It There? opens with her yearning for Zak. Tone and Julia are Bean’s stepfather and her mom. This scene takes place on Christmas night of her freshman year.

I will never, ever forgive myself, thought Bean, and allowed herself to daydream once more about the gorgeous guy’s shirt she’d seen at Constant Karma in Stormkill. It was green and blue and printed with elephants walking trunk to tail. Zak would have loved it…but she had absolutely no idea where he was. There were rumors he’d dropped out of college, like Sam. Call his mother and ask? She simply couldn’t!

I bet he found someone else, Bean thought. I went silent and didn’t say why. He’ll never want to hear from me again. Ever. Downstairs, Tone and Julia were listening to opera. She shut her door.

She pulled the stack of Zak’s unopened letters out of her suitcase, and even though they might contain a hint of what had happened, she couldn’t bear to open even one. Instead, she got out her guitar and began dropping it into an open D tuning for Joni Mitchell’s Marcie. There was probably a no less Christmas-y song in the world.

As for Zak’s letters, Bean brought them back to college with her. And home again at the end of the year. And then back to school for her sophomore year: still sealed, every last one.

TEN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT WHAT TIME IS IT THERE?

1. My favorite new character in the series is in this book. He’s a God-obsessed hippie named Amp, and Bean’s best friend in college. I really wanted to write a book with a guy-girl friendship AND a romance.

2. I needed the advice of a former student of mine who has become a professional astrologer and reader of Tarot cards for a number of plot points in this book.

3. Like Bean, I play guitar and dulcimer, but she’s a lot better than I am.

4. Stormkill, Bean’s home town, is based on Dobbs Ferry, NY, and is on the Hudson River.

5. There’s a college radio station in this book. I think DJing is about the most fun you can have on this planet. I advise you learn how to do it right away.

6. I actually kind of scared myself writing the climax of this book. Felt like I was messing with dark powers beyond my control. Gave me nightmares.

7. Most of this book was written in a month, over a National Novel Writing Month challenge, but I wrote the opening chapter in the coolest place I have ever plugged in my laptop: the windy top of a hill in Nova Scotia, in the loft of a vacation cottage with so many windows that it felt like I was inside a bubble.

8. Because of Bean’s guitar and singing and DJing, music is everything in the Bean Books! After all, the book is set mostly in 1972. Here’s a YouTube playlist for all the music mentioned in What Time Is It There? https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAKQW65NESOHAQHHzi5hBs-C2BkswjgLX

9. The Pizza Rhymes in the Bean Books are based on The Pizza Cheers that a bunch of my friends used to chant back in the day. One Pizza Cheer I didn’t use: “Bake ‘em, Eat ‘em—Reheat ‘em!”

10. And this is actually really important to know: in 1972, the legal drinking age in NY State, where this book is set, was 18. Bean and her friends aren’t big drinkers, but what they do in the book was totally legal at the time.

WRITING BEHIND THE SCENES
The Bean Books are full of music. My characters are constantly singing, playing music (Bean has a band, and also plays solo gigs) or listening to it. But I can’t write fiction with music on. It completely ruins my flow because I pay attention to the music instead of the words in front of me. The quieter it is in my house, the better I write.

I love to write early in the morning, especially when it’s snowing outside, because it’s super-silent then. I don’t get a lot of super-silence in my life. My husband is a church organist, and we have not one but two actual pipe organs in the house. When Ken gets hired to play a wedding, he has to practice the Pachelbel Canon, which is only the most annoying piece of classical music written in about the last million years. Sometimes I have to write with a set of headphones on, plugged into nothing!

WHAT'S ON YOUR DESK?
I try to keep my desk pretty clear, but stuff collects there. I just did a blog entry about my book cover for someone else, so I’ve got a paperback copy of What Time Is It There? propped up next to my keyboard, a mug from Evernight, (the main branch of Evernight Teen, my publishers), a really gross stress ball labeled “Smallpox”—it makes a squishy sound when you squeeze it—and a pretty blue and green glass paperweight that is barely keeping a pile of literary magazines and documents from tipping over. In the pile: papers left over from renewing my passport, a copy of the Anglican Theological Review with a poem by me in it (I’m also a poet), printouts of playlists from my weekly internet radio show, and a CD by a friend of mine which I just reviewed. Also, computer speakers, a Jane Austen action figure, a small weather station, and my Evernight Teen Reader’s Choice Award for Bean 2, In Her Own Time.


MEET THE CHARACTERS

Bean Donohue is nineteen years old in 1972, but she time travels to the past. She’s studying English in an upstate New York college, and is in process of deciding what she wants to do with her life. For years she’s dreamed of being a folk-rock musician, but she’s discovering she may have a future working in radio. She’s got long red hair, and is still in love with her high school boyfriend, Zak, who seems to have fallen off the planet. Bean keeps being drawn back to a 19th century woman composer named Edwina Moreson-Bright…but most recently her time traveling has centered around her own past in high school, back when she and Zak were still together.

Zak Grant is MIA during the opening of this book. He’s nineteen, too, and he was last seen studying art at the University of Washington in Seattle. There are rumors that he’s dropped out. He’s got long, silvery-blonde hair, and a goofy sense of humor. His favorite word is “bizarre,” and he often signs his drawings with a comic-strip version of himself with that word in a speech bubble coming out of his mouth.

Samantha Thorne is one of Bean’s best friends from high school. She’s from a very wealthy family in Manhattan, but she has dropped out of Skidmore and unexpectedly turns up at Bean’s college with a secret she hasn’t been able to share with anyone.

Amp—whose real name is actually Briggs Higbee—is from a Mormon family in Utah. He goes to college with Bean and is her best friend there. He’s the only one at college who knows she time travels. Is he interested in more than friendship? Could be. He runs the campus station with Bean, loves to DJ rock and roll as much as she does, and although he’s questioning the religion he was brought up in, is obsessed with God. He’s got a full beard, glasses, and is small and slender.

DELETED SCENE FROM WHAT TIME IS IT THERE?

I will be honest with you. I did not delete any whole scenes from this book. I trimmed in places, but this book came together pretty neatly. So I wrote, just for you, a bit of an expansion on one scene fairly early in the book, when Bean is wondering whether her best buddy Amp is just a friend—or something more. She’s just gotten back to her dorm room after the coolest Thanksgiving dinner ever, spent with Amp and other friends who stayed at school over break to keep the college radio station going:

The turkey sandwich was none the worse for wear. Bean congratulated herself on having remembered to add some cranberry sauce and just a little mayo before she’d wrapped it up. A turkey sandwich and some Sleepytime herb tea: the perfect midnight snack when you’ve just had your mind blown.

She thought again about calling Sam. Sam would be able to reassure her about the nineteenth century music manuscript now hidden in Bean’s desk drawer, under Zak’s letters. I’d wake up her parents, and it’ll totally suck for her if I do that. Tomorrow’s soon enough—I hope. God, I hope I haven’t changed anything by taking that music!

She decided not to put on anything at all on her stereo for a change, and sat in silence, eating the sandwich. The wind blew outside and the radiator in her room made a ticking noise. There had been a few other lights on in Bean’s dorm when Amp had walked her up the hill, but now it was so quiet that she could have been alone in that big building—which was a little creepy. School really had emptied out for Thanksgiving. Amp would be back at his own room by now. At least he had company! There were quite a few guys still at The Freak Frat.

It’s not like I stole that music…not really…Edwina’s brother really was kind of a jerk, she decided. Kind of a sexist. Poor Edwina.

And then there was Amp, sweet, kind Amp. Maybe I’m playing with him. But I couldn’t bear not having a best friend! At least Claire knows about the time-traveling, now… Bean licked a little cranberry-mayo off her thumb, and thought about Zak appearing in the ruined church, almost a hundred years before the time where he belonged. Missing Zak sometimes felt so heavy she could hardly breathe. What was he doing back in time? She knew the answer: breaking the Rules!

Then she remembered Amp smiling at her. He always had time to listen—and at least she knew where he was! Suppose I’d let Amp kiss me. What would have happened then?

Bean remembered the few flannel-PJ nights she’d curled up beside Amp in his room at The Freak Frat. Those had been like seventh grade pajama parties—utterly innocent. Or maybe she’d been the only one who had thought so. We’d agreed a year ago to be heartbroken together...

TEN FACTS—ABOUT TIME TRAVELFROM WHAT TIME IS IT THERE?

1. Time travel has its own set of laws in The Bean Books, and In What Time Is It There because when you think about it, careless time travel could blow up the world. What would happen if a character kept her own parents from meeting, for example? Hmm….

2. So: Time travelers in The Bean Books are supposed to only observe what goes on in the past. They can travel only to the past, not the future. They cannot meddle in the things they are observing unless opening that door or picking up that paper would have no effect on the world to come.

3. Also: Time travelers in The Bean Books and in What Time Is It There are invisible to the people in the past as they observe it…almost always. (No spoilers)

4. In The Bean Books so far, Bean Donohue is the main time traveler. Bean’s friends do not (usually) travel with her, although there are a few noted exceptions. Bean also meets some morally lax time travelers in the course of this series who use their gift for selfish and evil reasons. Bean does have a time traveling guardian (again, no spoilers).

5. There is a time traveling demon in this book, and there is someone who seems to be demonic in Bean 2, In Her Own Time. (You’ll have to read Bean 2 to find out!)

6. When Bean Donohue time travels, she does not need a portal or a time machine, although some places draw her back in time more powerfully than others. Usually the reason she is drawn back in time is because there is something she needs to understand. Linking all three books is a single ghost story Bean needs to get to the bottom of. Bean also time travels to better understand her relationship with her mother, and the beginning of her relationship with her high school boyfriend Zak.

7. When Bean steps into the past, she seems to disappear. People in her time lose track of her. This makes trouble.

8. Bean does not usually know before it happens when she is going on a journey in time. She simply flashes back.

9. There is always a slight danger of Bean getting caught between worlds—and a more than slight danger as Book 3, What Time Is It There? goes on.

10. Time travelers, like all of us, have a responsibility to use the gift they have been given for good and not selfishly. Time travelers who break these rules put themselves in almost unimaginable peril.




Just over a year ago, Bean and Zak headed for colleges two thousand miles apart, promising to write, but to see other people … until Bean fell for the wrong guy and Zak fell off the planet.

Now, Bean’s got two weeks’ worth of Zak’s year-old letters that she still can’t bear to open—and a broken heart. Her new best friend, a guy named Amp, wants her to read the letters and be done with it, but he may have his own reasons for that.

When Sam shows up at Bean’s school unexpectedly and Bean tumbles into the 19th century from the cellar of a ruined church, things start making a bizarre kind of sense. That is, if she can just fit all the pieces together again…let's see--there's a cult...and the Flying Singing Angel With No Feet...and of course, The Grateful Dead...


You can purchase What Time Is It There? at the following Retailers:
        
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6 comments:

  1. Thanks for hosting us today! This blog looks great, and it was super-fun writing the pieces you asked for!

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  2. Time travel books are so much fun. Thanks for hosting these books--this is the first I've read about them.

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  3. I play the flute, piccolo, and alto flute. I love the bass flute also. I have to check out the flute books for myself.

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  4. Sounds like good reads. Thanks for hosting today.

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  5. I like time travel stories. This one sounds good.

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