Story Timeline Stress!

(Photo: Unsplash)

Want to know how I have a story set in the future that isn’t a “futuristic” story?

Songs for a Sunday is my first split-time novel. A story set in the 1960s is told alongside a story set in the present day and the two merge to tell a bigger story. In that way, the book is both historical and contemporary, which makes it only my second historical work. 

After writing Where I Was Planted, for a time, I doubted I would do another historical. All books take research, but in my experience, there is much more research time involved for historical (and I only had to go as far back as the 1960s.) While I find it all interesting, it definitely adds another level of complexity to novel-writing.

Another layer of complexity for split-time is aligning the story timelines and keeping them straight. When I wrote Songs for a Sunday, primarily back in 2020, I ran into what seemed like a problem.  One of my characters needed to be born around the time the North Carolina School of the Arts was being planned. But in the present-day story, that same character needed to celebrate a milestone birthday because his party is important to the plot.  For my character to have been celebrating his 60th birthday, it meant my “present day” storyline would begin in Fall of 2023, since I didn’t want to alter the dates of real historical events. But was it okay to tell a story that far in the future and have the heading on the page be “Present Day?”

When I first started pitching the story, an editor told me not to stress over the dates too much because there was no way to know when the story would get published. And she was right. The publication date landed in the same year as the “present day” timeline, even though the book will be published a little over eight months before the story actually begins.

As stressful as nailing down the timeline was, it’s the kind of thing I enjoy about writing books. The planning and the telling are like putting together a puzzle, except you don’t know exactly what the picture will look like until you’re finished. Songs for a Sunday releases February 7, 2023, and I hope you enjoy the final product.