I love the dimension-hopping element of Sinéad’s brilliant writing and was delighted to find it featuring in her newest title too. It was so interesting to read Sinéad’s piece about the inspirations behind The Time Tider – have you ever thought about who’s measuring time and why?
‘Mara and her dad have lived in their van for as long as she can remember. Whatever her father does to scrape a living has kept them constantly moving and Mara has never questioned it. That is until she uncovers a collection of notes addressed to ‘the Tider’, an individual responsible for harvesting lost time from people whose lives were cut short.
But before Mara can question her father he is taken by a dangerous group who want to use his power for evil. With the very fabric of time and space at stake, it’s down to Mara and her new friend Jan to find him before it’s too late…’
The Inspirations Behind The Time Tider
The Time Tider, like all the books I’ve written (and the ones I’ve yet to write), is shaped by things I love, and things I loved in childhood. Mostly, the things I love come in book form! I’ve never been a person who was all that interested in travelling far from home – I’m a bit of a hobbit, in that sense. All I need are my home comforts, my books and a quiet nook to read them in, and I’m happy. Sometimes, I wonder why that is. When I was a younger adult most of my friends went abroad, either for a year or two years or ten; some went, and never came home – by which I mean, they’re having wonderful lives in the far corners of the planet, doing things I can’t even dream of. I never felt that call, the call to uproot and go exploring. Where others went to Australia for adventures of a lifetime, or Canada or America, I was content to stay at home. That’s not to say if a dream job, or an irresistible opportunity, had arisen, that I wouldn’t have taken it – I’m sure I would. But my life didn’t work out that way.
Part of the reason, I think, is because I read so much and I spend so much time inside my imagination that I don’t feel the need for travel. Why would I pack my worldly goods into a suitcase and struggle through a departure lounge when I can just open a book instead? I’ve been all over the world, in my mind – and much farther, besides. Of the countries I have been to, naturally I’ve learned and picked things up along the way, and those experiences have made their way into my work, including lending me the setting for part of my third novel, Skyborn, and giving me an insight into the hills of Montmartre in Paris when my characters in The Eye of the North are trudging through it one frosty night. I spent years living in Dublin, both city and county, which gave me the knowledge I needed to write my second book, The Star-Spun Web; it’s set in Dublin, and in a fictional, alternate-reality version of the city, but most of the places mentioned in it are real, and were very concrete in my imagination as I wrote. But mostly, the things I draw on when I’m writing are the books I’ve read, and the ways in which the stories I love have expanded my imagination and given me adventures comparable to anything my better-travelled friends have had.
When it came to creating The Time Tider, I was inspired directly by a book – a history book, not a fictional story. It was called Time, Work and Culture in the Middle Ages, written a long time ago by a historian named Jacques le Goff. It’s not a very fun read, maybe, but it’s very interesting. The book talks about time, and how measuring time isn’t as simple as you might think, and how sometimes it’s important to know who is measuring time, and what their reasons are, and why they might think certain people aren’t worthy of spending their time exactly as they wish to. And it got me thinking about different ways of measuring time, how time measured by the body might be different to time measured by a clock, and who has the authority to decide how time is divided out, and as I was thinking about these things an idea for a story jolted into my mind. I can still remember how it felt – like a tiny lightning bolt had sizzled its way into my head, right between my eyes, lighting up my entire brain with possibility. I imagined a person who had the power to travel back through time, not to change things or to fix mistakes, but whose job it was to gather up wasted time, lost time, unused time, and that they had the ability to bring this time to the present day. What would they do with it? How would they store it? What would the implications be if it was re-released? Why was their job so important? Who was this person?
I didn’t have the answers to any of those questions – and at the time I had the idea, I had nothing to write on besides a tiny piece of card and nothing to write with but a stub of pencil, but I did my best to take note of it, to pin it down before it could flutter away and be lost. (This is good advice if you’re a budding writer – never let an idea get away from you! Stick it on paper as quickly as you can, because ideas are like fish. They’re slippery, and they zip away from you so quickly you’ll never be able to find them again.) All I knew was the person’s job title: he was the Tider. This has since become the Time Tider, but very little else about the role has changed. I began, over the years that followed, to build the character from the ground up. Unlike me, the Time Tider would have to be a seasoned traveller, going from place to place as the job required. They’d have to be secretive, living life on the margins, quietly, unnoticed by others. (I did try to write a version of this story where the Tider was a very wealthy businessman, but it didn’t seem to work, and so I had to go back to the drawing board.) They’d have to be familiar with war zones, with places of upheaval, with sites of disease and places where many lives were cut short, all at once; those are the places where dangerous Time Warps form, and which the Time Tider needs to fix…
And so, from a book – and from my imagination, and all the adventuring I’d done in my dreams and my mind, came the story of the Time Tider. I knew I wanted to tell the story from the perspective of the Time Tider’s child, his daughter, a girl who knows little about his secretive job but who is brave and principled and fair-minded, and who wants to put right all the wrongs that have been done, over the centuries, by previous Time Tiders who may not have used their incredible power in quite the right way. I may not have travelled the world (I wouldn’t be a very good Time Tider…) but through books, I’ve travelled all over – and I’ve gone beyond the limits of my own world, even through space and Time itself. What better adventures are there than the ones between the covers of a book?
And what an adventure The Time Tider is! Readers will love Mara’s fierce independence and determination to set things right. By the end of the book, I was really wishing there was a sequel I could read to find out what happens next. Maybe I need to find a time warp to travel through.
*Many thanks to Stripes Publishing for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour*