Q&A with Julie Cross, author of Tempest

24 April 2014

By Pan Macmillan

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
I started writing in May of 2009 and it was just a hobby. I honestly didn’t think of it as a profession or even really call myself a writer until a year later when I got offered a book deal.

How did the concept for Tempest come about?
The story itself came in phases. I always start with characters. If I know them well enough, I can create a plot with almost any subject matter. The first concept that began to evolve in my head was the love story element. Two characters from very different worlds, yet close by (New Jersey/Manhattan), having this breath taking and eye opening summer fling and then, eventually, having to step back into the real world and figure out what just happened and what it meant.

Most of that element of Tempest happens before the book opens, but I had to know how it all went down in order to write the rest. Adding the time-travel element created that ticking clock (literally)…the bomb waiting to happen that gives the story a thriller-type feel.

Personally, I love books or movies where time travel is more subtle. That’s probably where my inspiration came from. Tempest isn’t the story with the caveman getting stuck in the future and trying to work the microwave, it’s a character re-visiting past moments in their life and seeing how that information and that ability alters the way they think and see the world. The movie Donnie Darko is a good example of this…also, The Lake House and Frequency. Of course, I love a good phone booth or DeLorean time machine just as much as anyone, but that wasn’t the kind of story I could create authentically, so I went a different route.

I’m also a bit obsessed with the world of spies and secret agents so, I’ve thrown a little of that in Tempest as well.

Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I love to write diary entries for my characters as a way to build back story and to get to know them better. I’m not big on stopping the writing process to do research or jot down pages of detailed notes. I’d rather create journal entries or “deleted scenes” to get the information and vision that I need to move forward with the story.

Do you ever get writer’s block?
So far, I haven’t *finger crossed* but I’ve had some technical things that took time to work out or something time-travel related that needed careful thought before moving forward.

Was it tricky writing from a male POV?
At first it was really hard to think like a nineteen year old boy. But eventually, I stopped obsessing over whether a guy would say or do this or that and just focused on what I thought Jackson would do and slowly, he came to life. I’m not sure I’d write another boy main character as comfortably as I write Jackson now, but I’d certainly be willing to try. None of my characters are exactly like me, so I’m always going to have to do a good amount of pretending to get the voice just right. Even if that means pretending to be a boy.

How did you map out such an unconventional plot? Did the time travel ever get confusing?
I didn’t intend for Tempest to have such a complicated and unconventional plot. It certainly didn’t begin that way. But something small grew a little more with each draft and now I have so much written that’s not in the book. So much of the “before” details and it really thickened the plot quite a bit.

What helps to eliminate confusion for me and eventually for the reader, is to have most of my brain constantly focused on what Jackson knows at that moment that I’m writing. Having a clueless main character who has to figure out everything on his own and piece the information together himself allows the reader to follow right along with Jackson. And right from the beginning, my editor kept telling me to focus on what’s linear for Jackson while laying down the first draft and we could expand the information later on.

Do you have any advice for young writers?
My best advice would be to fall in love with the process, let that be enough. Do the basic research on publication if that’s your dream, but don’t obsess over it. Obsess over your characters and your story. Finish something and move on to the next project.

What’s next in the series?
In the second book of the Tempest Series, you’re going to see Jackson step up to a whole new role. More secrets about his abilities will be revealed because there’s still a lot that Jackson doesn’t learn in the first book. Books two and three are a wild and intense ride.