Blog Tour – An Ocean Of Minutes
Welcome to my spot on the An Ocean Of Minutes blog tour hosted by Quercus Books! I had the excellent opportunity of putting some questions to the very talented Thea Lim to share with you all. I already wanted to read An Ocean Of Minutes but Thea’s answers have made it jump to the top of my reading list. Thea’s work sounds inspired and full of character and I am eager to unravel Polly’s time travel journey. Enjoy the Q&A and make sure you visit all the other blogs that are participating in the tour for reviews, extracts and much more!
28.06.2018 / Quercus Books / Drama-Time Travel / Hardback / 368pp / 978-1786487919
About Thea Lim
Thea Lim’s writing has been published by the Southampton Review, the Guardian, Salon, the Millions, Bitch Magazine, Utne Reader and others, and she has received multiple awards and fellowships for her work, including artists’ grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.
She holds an MFA from the University of Houston and she previously served as nonfiction editor at Gulf Coast.
She grew up in Singapore and lives in Toronto, where she is a professor of creative writing.
About An Ocean Of Minutes
Polly and Frank are young and in love, a lifetime together before them. But one evening in 1980, as the Texas sun sets over their shoulders, the world is suddenly pulled apart by a deadly virus. Within months, Frank is dying. Polly can save him, but only if she agrees to a radical plan: to time travel to 1993 for a corporation who can fund his life-saving treatment. She can only go forward, she cannot go back. And she must leave everything she loves behind, including Frank.
All they have is the promise of a future together: they will find each other again in twelve years’ time, in Galveston, Texas, where the sea begins.
But when something goes wrong and Polly arrives late, Frank is nowhere to be found. Completely alone, Polly must navigate a terrifying new world to find him, and to discover if their love has endured.
Q&A Section w/ Thea Lim
Thank you Thea for taking some time to answer a few questions about your latest novel An Ocean Of Minutes. Could you give us your own personal overview of what we should expect in within?
In September 1981, a young couple arrives at the time travel facility at Houston Intercontinental Airport. One will travel, and one will stay.
There’s been an outbreak of a virulent flu, and Frank gets sick. Frank and his girlfriend Polly have no money to pay for his treatment, and they are stranded far from home as the borders have been closed to keep quarantine. Polly is desperate to save Frank, when she hears that there is a company who will pay for Frank’s medical bills, if she takes a job with them elsewhere. She immediately signs up, but there’s a catch: the job is not in another place, it’s in another time — 12 years in the future. But she makes a plan to meet Frank on the other side, in twelve year’s time. They promise to find each other again. But when she arrives on the other side, something has gone wrong. It’s not 12 years, it’s 17 years, and Frank is nowhere to be found. An Ocean of Minutes tracks her journey to find him.
What was your initial inspiration for An Ocean Of Minutes?
I was thinking about grief — specifically how everyone that we ever love will either leave us or die (so, very cheerful stuff!) — but I was having a lot of trouble making grief interesting enough to form the backbone of a story. After all, grief is necessarily a passive state; bereaved people don’t really do much. But then it crossed my mind that someone in mourning is stuck in time, because they’re unable to move forward. What if I actually stuck someone in time? So it started out as a pun, but then the next thing I knew, I was writing a time travel novel!
Can you give us a few details about the sort of time travel you explore within your novel?
I wanted to imagine what it would be like if time travel really existed, in the most realistic terms possible. So time travelling in my novel isn’t that different from travelling in our world: you have to get visas, you have to fill in lots of paperwork, and when you get to the other side, you have to navigate a new culture with customs you don’t understand, and you’ve lost economic and cultural status, but often in ways you don’t initially fully comprehend. And of course, there’s the initial catch that time travel is one-way only: once you go forward, you can never come back.
Is there a particular element or character in An Ocean Of Minutes that you especially enjoyed writing about?
I really enjoyed writing about Buffalo and Galveston. Though in my novel they are “alternate world” versions of the real cities, I still had to do a lot of research (good excuses to visit both places!) because the history of each places echoes through their fictional counterparts. They both have complex and fraught histories (Galveston has been repeatedly pummeled by hurricanes and yet the people rebuild it each time; before the departure of industry, Buffalo was a thriving metropolis, and today is filled with grand mansions that sit empty) and yet tend to be overlooked in literature. I wanted to give them a bit of attention and love in my own writing, maybe because I’ve lived in lots of cities that are also weird, idiosyncratic and wonderful places (Singapore, Houston) that rarely get their time in the sun.
What sort of challenges did you face when writing about a time travel love story?
Oh goodness. If I had a dollar for every time I wished I’d just wrote a story based in this world, instead of an imaginary world…There are so many challenges to building a world from the ground up. What kind of government system exists? What kind of monetary system? What kind of transportation system? Where does food come from? It was maddening.
Had you always wanted to become an author?
I tried to evade it for many years. I was a grant writer, I worked in restaurants, I thought about becoming a farmer…As of two years ago I was seriously looking into becoming a UX designer. It’s not that I didn’t want to write, it’s just that actually finishing a book, then finding an agent, then finding a publisher, then finding readers, is like winning the lottery. Or winning the lottery four times in a row? So it’s an extremely dicey line of work. To this day, I still have a day job as a creative writing professor!
Are there any authors that influence your writing at all?
So many, but I’m always reluctant to list them, in case readers go to my writing expecting it to be similar to that of my heroes, and then leave disappointed! But here are a few: Louise Erdrich, Jennifer Egan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Edward P Jones.
How long did it take you to plan and write An Ocean Of Minutes?
5 years! Tortoise power.
Can you tell us in five words what being an author/writer means to you?
How about a funny tweet instead:
Did you take the time to celebrate finishing your novel?
I did not, and so my wise and wonderful friends threw me a surprise party.
Have you got a hobby/activity you do to wind down from all the writing?
I’m a rabid TV watcher. Lately I’ve been loving Killing Eve, Atlanta, and (of course) Timeless.
Finally, have you read a book/article recently that you would personally recommend to the readers of this post?
The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu is unbelievably original.
Thanks so much Stuart!!
Thank you Thea Lim for these answers and for including me on this blog tour. I am grateful for the the chance to put questions to authors like Thea Lim who are happy to share insights into their craft and do so with passion. An Ocean Of Minutes sounds full of depth and character and I have high hopes for the high stakes narrative. I hope you enjoyed the Q&A and please make sure you follow the other stops on the tour to show your support for Thea Lim.