Last week, I had the pleasure of joining a select group of fellow bloggers to chat with Wayfarer author Alexandra Bracken on her book’s release day to discuss time travel, romance, and how her college experience inspired the entire series.
Today, I’m delighted to bring you our highlights from that Q&A session! And in case you missed it, check out our review of Wayfarer here, and find a copy wherever books are sold. We LOVED this sequel to Passenger!
Ms. Alexandra Bracken: This book duology is actually inspired by my college experience. I went to school at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. It’s at one end of colonial Williamsburg. I don’t know if you’ve ever been before, but it’s like an 18th century living reenactment. People are dressed in costumes.
If you go running down Duke of Gloucester Street, you’re dodging oxen carts and horse poo. It’s the real deal. But you’re meant to feel like a time traveler when you walk through, and you’re constantly juxtaposing your modern sensibilities and beliefs against the 18th century ones. And the 18th century reenactors don’t break character until they’re down the street at Wawa eating their lunch.
It’s really interesting to have conversations with them and see where you meet and where you diverge in terms of beliefs. I wanted to try to capture that feeling. I’ve had an idea about this story pretty much from the time I was in college, and it took a really long time to develop the kind of story I wanted to tell.
YABibliophile: I love both Passenger and Wayfarer, and my students are also very much fans of Passenger. I polled them to get some questions to ask on their behalf, and the number one question they all wanted to know: how did you decide which places to go to and which time periods to be there?
Ms. Alexandra Bracken: The answer to this question is mostly that I’m just selfish. Originally Passenger was just going to be set in 1776 in New York. I studied Revolutionary War history and 18th century America in college, so I felt very comfortable writing in that time period. I had a really good grip on what the different concerns were, what the economy was like, what the atmosphere was like. That’s why I felt weirdly comfortable writing in Nicholas’ voice, then I decided I’ve got to push myself and expand the story so I could make it more inclusive.
I can have it be more of an actual treasure hunt, and include other continents, because it seems to me that a lot of time travel books are very North American and Euro-centric. I did not want that to be case in this book. I really wanted to push myself to research other countries and other time periods that I was interested in but never really had the chance to study in-detail in college.
For example, Luxembourg Garden in Paris is one of my favorite places in the world, so I very selfishly included that for a brief moment in Passenger. For the places that I’d never visited, I never expected this to actually be the case, but tourists, when they walk through places, will actually record themselves walking through the entire site. It made it very easy to write about the layout of all of those different places.
From there I started filling out in my mind what I thought those places would look like inhabited, and in certain cases not inhabited at all. It was mostly combinations of my having studied that place or visited that place, but also, places that I was interested in. I included Damascus in Passenger because of the Syrian civil war.
I started writing Passenger when I still had my day job, and I was listening to NPR Morning Edition first thing every morning when I sat down to eat my bagel and drink my coffee. The Syrian civil war had just broken out at the time, and I didn’t know anything about Syria. So I started researching that region and researching that history, because I was just curious about what was at stake aside from colossal loss of human life. So a lot of the time it was a natural decision, but I was very overwhelmed at multiple points in writing in terms of time periods to choose from, the continents, all that stuff.
Ms. Alexandra Bracken: Oh! I’m trying to think of a way to explain the original alternate timeline that would not bore you guys to tears. So in this alternate timeline that’s in Wayfarer, it turns out that San Francisco is in much better shape and was not nearly as destroyed by the great earthquake because someone wasn’t there to start the fire. Like I was saying before, it’s just a crazy butterfly effect throughout the timeline.
But in the original timeline that I’d brainstormed, Texas and California never became states and they were independent, so the earthquake in California still happened, but they didn’t have the national resources to then go in and repair the city so it was in much worse shape. It was almost completely destroyed. That’s just one example.
I even considered having the British win the war, but then that doesn’t work because I wrote myself into a corner in terms of the time travel rules. I’m really at the mercy of my own rules, which is the most frustrating experience in the world. It’s really like hitting a wall. I brainstormed a bunch of different alternate outcomes to World War One and World War Two. I toyed with the idea of doing something with the Civil War. I went through everything at a certain point. What we landed on with Victoria’s amazing brainstorming help ended up being the least complicated, so I wouldn’t completely overwhelm everyone with historical details. I didn’t want it to feel like a history lesson, but I was hoping people would maybe learn a little something. All the other alternate timelines were so complicated that in the end I think this was the right way to go, and hopefully it’s clear and interesting if not a little scary.
ReadingTeen: As you were writing Wayfarer, I know that there is an alternate timeline that as you said was pretty nefarious. Did you prefer writing the actual real history timeline or exploring the alternate one?
Ms. Alexandra Bracken: It’s funny because in the series, our timeline is technically Ironwoods’ timeline, so it’s technically an alternate timeline too and in some ways, it requires just as much research. When I was trying to figure out the alternate timeline, there’s a lot of butterfly effects that happen with very small decisions and certain lynchpin people and moments.
I sort of wrote myself in a corner and I was so mad at myself. For example, I gave Sophia’s birth year in Passenger, and then I realized the original alternate timeline I came up with would have meant that Sophia would have been orphaned at the end of Passenger too. So, I had to go back and completely in a panic brainstorm an entirely new alternate timeline.
My friend Victoria Aveyard was up until three o’clock in the morning brainstorming this new timeline with me. I did have fun writing it just because Victoria was there, and we were constantly bouncing ideas back and forth to each other. The alternate timeline is just so sad, so I feel weird saying that I preferred writing it. It was exciting to explore that different timeline overall.
SuperSpaceChick: If you were able to write another full-length novel that was set in the world of Passenger and Wayfarer, is there a specific character that you would want to explore more, and do you have any idea of what you would do with them?
Ms. Alexandra Bracken: Yeah, I actually do. These books are so hard and time-consuming to write, just from the technical time travel standpoint. They’re a little emotionally exhausting, I’m not going to lie, but I love them to death. I always thought if I wrote another book set in this world, it would probably be about Julian because he doesn’t get as much page time as Sophia and Li Min do.
I sort of have a concept – and sorry, this is a spoiler for the end. At the end of the book, their way of life has sort of been dissolved, and they’re starting to reestablish rules and reestablish a way of life. And, so Julian I think, would be at sea – not literally, but figuratively – in terms of what to do with himself. I had this image that he would go and work for the Belladonna and go do an errand for her, and kind of have a love story of his own. I hope I get to write it one day, and rope Sophia and Le Min in as well.
Let me just say, I’d be ALL IN for a book featuring Julian! I adored him in WAYFARER.
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The timeline has changed.
My future is gone.
Etta Spencer didn’t know she was a traveler until the day she emerged both miles and years from her home. Now, robbed of the powerful object that was her only hope of saving her mother, Etta finds herself stranded once more, cut off from Nicholas—the eighteenth century privateer she loves—and her natural time.
When Etta inadvertently stumbles into the heart of the Thorns, the renegade travelers who stole the astrolabe from her, she vows to finish what she started and destroy the astrolabe once and for all. Instead, she’s blindsided by a bombshell revelation from their leader, Henry Hemlock: he is her father. Suddenly questioning everything she’s been fighting for, Etta must choose a path, one that could transform her future.
Still devastated by Etta’s disappearance, Nicholas has enlisted the unlikely help of Sophia Ironwood and a cheeky mercenary-for-hire to track both her and the missing astrolabe down. But as the tremors of change to the timeline grow stronger and the stakes for recovering the astrolabe mount, they discover an ancient power far more frightening than the rival travelers currently locked in a battle for control. . . a power that threatens to eradicate the timeline altogether.
From colonial Nassau to New York City, San Francisco to Roman Carthage, imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, New York Times #1 best-selling author Alexandra Bracken charts a gorgeously detailed, thrilling course through time in this stunning conclusion to the Passenger series.
Alexandra Bracken is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Passenger series and The Darkest Minds series. Born and raised in Arizona, she moved East to study history and English at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. After working in publishing for several years, Alex now writes full-time and can be found hard at work on her next novel in a charming little apartment that’s perpetually overflowing with books.