Michelle: The idea came from a very wise piece of advice about gambling: “Don’t bet what you can’t afford to lose.” I think it’s typical of writers to take any idea to its worst-case extreme, so I ended up with a story about a woman gambling with something she’s very nearly run out of: time.
And yes, I do indeed love time travel stories! Robert Heinlein’s classic short “All You Zombies” is mind-bending in the best kind of way (you kind of need to draw a flowchart as you read, to follow the mechanics of it), and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wifeis a wonderful (but heartbreaking!) look at the emotional and psychological effects.
Michelle: I thought I must have, but my records say no. Clearly, I need to get on that! Although I’ve written about immortality, which is kind of at the other end of the spectrum to this story – what do you do when you have too much time, as opposed to not enough?
LSQ: The reader becomes sympathetic to Disa’s view, that of leaving it all to chance in the Time Pocket, yet the reader can understand her daughter Claudie’s standpoint as well. Did Disa’s situation lend itself easily to the plot? Which character, Disa or Claudie, was easier to write? Does one represent your own outlook more than the other or someone you know?
Michelle: Disa’s situation highlights the inherent risk involved in this. If you use the Time Pocket you are literally gambling with your life – and if Disa loses, she dies. The thought of taking that kind of chance makes me feel ill, but I can understand the choice to do it. I can also understand trying to influence the process – the rituals, the systems, the personally energized crystals – even if you know, as Claudie does, that it can’t really be done.
Claudie has a far more pragmatic attitude, and a lot of her anger at her mother is coming from fear, frustration, and grief, which is equally understandable. So I don’t think she’s entirely wrong, but there’s also a mercenary angle – the thought of that insurance payout -– to her thinking. I wanted to emphasize the financial aspect because I do believe that if something like the Time Pocket actually existed, this is exactly what would happen: it would be commercialized and monetized – turned into an industry – in a heartbeat.
Michelle: The commercial setup was fun to do -– the First Class Lounge style of the place itself, and the story of Jaclyn Castleton and her rise to celebrity – but I needed to fit that rather light-hearted vibe within the darker, weightier core of a story that is, fantasy elements aside, about someone making an end-of-life decision. I hope I got the balance right.
LSQ: What have you been up to since 2014? Can you tell us about any of your current projects?
Michelle: I’ve been trying, on and off, to write a novel, but so far they’ve all crashed and burned at about 25,000 words. Some day I will break that barrier! But short stories are my main love, and I have just released my second collection, Possibly Nefarious Purposes and Other Stories.
LSQ: Who are some authors you admire and why?
Michelle: Oh God, so many! Sara Gran has written a couple of glorious mysteries about Claire DeWitt, a marvelously strange, unorthodox PI, that I have re-read countless times. Ditto for Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, which also tend to have an element of strangeness that lifts them above standard procedurals. Victoria Schwab writes marvelous fantasy novels (Vicious is one of my favorite books of all time and I am very excited about the sequel coming out this year) and for short stories, I think one of the best has to be Kelly Link. Oh, and Michelle Paver for ghost stories: Dark Matter terrified the absolute life out of me.