BookView Interview with Author Rosalind Tate

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed Rosalind Tate, the author of the bestselling Shorten Chronicles, the romantic time travel series launched in 2020 about her writing and her recently released novel, the second installment in the series Escape: A Time Travel Romance, a finely crafted tale featuring nuanced characters in a unique setting. (Read the review here.)

Rosalind Tate is the author of the bestselling Shorten Chronicles, the romantic time travel series launched in 2020.

Rosalind lives in Gloucestershire, England, and holidays on the Cornish coast. She served in the British military, then worked as a journalist and a lawyer. Rosalind has grown up children, a tolerant husband and two utterly gorgeous dogs.

When she’s not behind her computer, you can find Rosalind reading novels, walking her dogs, swimming, or watching Sci-Fi and Fantasy shows.

What inspired the premise of your first book?

An episode of Downton Abbey in 2016. I wondered how a modern girl would fare in a grand house a century ago. Answer: badly! That question inspired the first two novels in the Shorten Chronicles, but in subsequent books, Sophie, her dog Charlotte, and Sophie’s soul mates, Hugo and Freddy, travel through a mysterious portal to ever more perilous times and places, and if they can’t work out the portal’s most terrifying secret, they’ll never escape its power, and never return home.

The overarching threat in the series, which grows with every book, came from a question asked by an editor at the Jericho Writers Festival of Writing in 2018. ‘How does the portal work?’

At the time, I answered glibly. ‘How do the Narnia portals work or the ancient stones in Outlander? I don’t think it matters.’

Months later, I realised that knowing how the portal worked was key to my series, and the portal wasn’t a portal at all, but a transport vehicle — one that travels between parallel universes. Ultimately, if my main characters can’t defeat the entity that controls that ship, they’ll die.

Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

Sophie — because she’s nothing like me. Many authors create memorable heroes in their own image. For example, Diana Bishop, the protagonist in A Discovery of Witches is a history professor. The author of that novel, Deborah Harness, is a history professor…

But Sophie couldn’t be like me because there would have been no story! I’m not 19, I’ve never been an expert kickboxer, and my parents weren’t killed in a car crash when I was a young teen. Sophie is brave and kind, but she’s too impulsive and has a bit of a saviour complex…

What do you hope readers will take away from this story?

The Shorten Chronicles is a portal fantasy and I hope it transports readers away from reality (if they want to be transported). At its heart, it’s about the importance of friendship, particularly when all seems lost.

A few months ago, a reader emailed me and said that when they got to the end of Stranded (Book 1 of the series), they instantly started from the beginning again because they couldn’t bear to leave the world I’d created (Book 2 wasn’t yet out). Reading that email was really emotional and humbling.

How often do you base your characters on real people?

Only one character in the Shorten Chronicles is based on a real individual: Charlotte the labradoodle. She’s 100% based on my real-life dog, Bella — personality, quirks and looks. That made it easy to write about her in the first two novels, which take place in an alternative 1925 in England, but in the third book, Exile, Charlotte and her human companions find themselves centuries further back in history and must adapt fast to survive. I would never expose the real-life Bella to unnecessary risk just to see how she reacts, so I had to use my imagination.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

One of the most common is publishing a book before it’s ready. If it’s your first novel, how do you know when that is? If you’re independently published, the only way to ensure you avoid this trap is to pay an experienced professional editor to conduct a developmental edit and/or copyedit on your manuscript. Their objective eye will tell you whether it’s ready!

Is it more important to be original or build on other stories or influences?

The best stories are original andalso derivative. They twist myths and words to subconsciously resonate with readers. For example, in Harry Potter, the werewolf teacher’s name – Remus Lupin — suggests the wolf connection twice over:

  • Remus was raised by wolves, and
  • Lupin derives from the Latin word lupinus (meaning wolf) — a plant that ravages the land on which it grows.

Every name in J. K. Rowling’s series is carefully chosen, as are the wording of spells.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

My first novel took five years. The second one took a year. I’m hoping the third book will be ready in around ten months, but we’ll see!

What in particular attracted you to this genre?

I’ve always had a thing about doors and portals. It may have started when I was five with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. My first book began as a straightforward time-travel story, but I couldn’t get my head around the physics and the paradoxes, so I changed it to an adventure in parallel universes, with worlds at different stages of human history. Then it felt real.

Fantasy/science-fiction is supposed to be the most difficult fiction to write because you have to invent believable worlds and sometimes magic rules, but it’s so rewarding. Endless possibilities…

How do you begin a book?

With an idea. And many months or even years later, when you’ve finished the novel, you go back to the first paragraph and the first chapter and rewrite it — because only then do you know the theme and how it ends.

What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?

An early editor who disliked dogs advised me to completely delete Charlotte, the labradoodle. Readers love her so I’m really glad I didn’t take that advice!

What’s next for you?

I’m currently writing the third book in the series, Exile. Creating and honing the plot is the most exciting part of the writing process, and I’m really enjoying it!

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