LSQ: Oh my gosh, I can’t even explain how much I loved this story. It starts out as something contemporary, delves into the mildly sordid, throws in time travel and then—FOOM! This is brilliant, and I’d love to know where you came up with the idea.
Jeannine: Well, thank you! That’s so kind of you.
I tend to be a pretty left-brain as a writer, but this story kind of had a life of its own. I got the idea while I was on a long run one day, as I was having thoughts about why some people think of only themselves, and some people put others first. At the same time, I was thinking of a few friends of mine who have incredible talents, but don’t seem to realize how gifted they are. It occurred to me if someone was born with the ability to time travel, they might not appreciate how extraordinary that is—they’d probably use it for their own personal gain. So, I got home from my run, went straight to my computer, and started typing. And that was all I knew about the story at the time—that my main character was an actress, using time travel for her own gain, living a life that was disappointing to her.
And that became my process for writing this story—go for a run or walk, figure more of the story out, go home and type it up. Figuring out stories as I run or walk is a part of my regular process for writing, but this story certainly felt unique in that I was really discovering things as I went. It felt very present in that respect, and also sometimes like the story was happening independent from me.
I remember ending a writing session with the main character seeing a shadow by the river. I wrote “What was that?!” and stopped because I didn’t have an answer–I didn’t know what that shadow was. The next day I went for a walk and figured out Yamato and the WWII connection, which was very exciting, but I was like, two miles from my house. So, I started running and tried to get home fast because I didn’t want to lose what was in my head.
I had also just picked up “The Girls of Atomic City” by Denise Kiernan before I started writing this story, and so of course that was floating in my head at the time too and had a huge impact on the story.
LSQ: How did you decide on the pacing for this story? You take it from small to big to HUGE and back to small again so smoothly. Did this require a lot of drafts?
Jeannine: It was important to me to keep the story focused on the personal, even though this was a big story to tell.
I really tried to get the whole story out and to not edit at all until it was done. From there I trimmed it down and moved bits around to get the pacing where I wanted it. And that first draft was about 2,000 words longer than what ended up being the final version. Very little was added to the story from that first draft, it really was a process of refining.
LSQ: I love the couple at the end, living new lives together far from their origins. It’s so hopeful. What was the first scene that came to you when you thought up this story?
Jeannine: That scene got written much later. When I started writing, I knew that we were going to see the main character happier at the end, having given up this life she thought would make her happy. The scene existed as a sort of feeling I wanted for the story, but I didn’t have any details on it.
Once I wrote Yamato, I knew that there would be an epilogue scene where we got to see the results of their work together. And because I wrote that scene at the very end, it felt very satisfying to write.
In some respects, “Skipping Back” is a very personal piece because it reflects a sort of radical optimism that I feel strongly about. To me, hope and optimism aren’t about being in denial of truth or existing in a place of magical thinking, where we think our problems will just magically disappear one day. They’re about accepting the truth of our situations, and then making choices. And maybe we decide to take a particular course of action, even if we know it is hugely difficult. So, I think hope is very active in that way. At least, to me it is.