I wanted to write a love story.
I wanted the story to be a coming of age tale in which a gay teenage boy experiences first love. And I wanted this boy to fall in love with a boy who was separated from him not just by great distance, but by time. The obstacle keeping them apart wouldn’t be societal or parental disapproval, or even distance. No, it would be nothing as mundane as that. This boy wouldn’t be able to come together with the guy he loves without changing reality itself.
How’s that for blending genres?
I already had a nice, romantic working title I liked very much, In Time I Dream About You. I also had a name for the main character: Cato, a future resident of Hawaii. And the object of his affection would be Gavin, a present-day resident of Detroit. Cato’s father is director of an agency that uses technology to observe and travel into the past. His father has asked him to review several months of Gavin’s life. Cato is struck by how cute Gavin is. He gets taken in by Gavin’s sense of humor and his devotion to his father and friends. He’s turned on by Gavin’s athleticism. And over the many weeks he spends watching Gavin’s life unfold, he falls in love with him. He dreams of Gavin, wants to be with Gavin, believes his life won’t be complete without Gavin. But in Cato’s time, Gavin has been dead for many decades. Cato can use time travel to either move himself back into Gavin’s era or bring Gavin forward into his, giving them a chance to build a life together. However, either action would change history and thus alter reality. There are laws in Cato’s time forbidding that.
What’s a love-struck guy to do?
That was the premise I started with. But stories have a way of evolving during the process of writing. In chapter three, I began detailing Cato’s observations as to how Gavin is drawn into a street gang against his will. I happened to watch a news report about gang activity in the United States. It featured kids who were desperate to find a place where they belonged and joined gangs for the fellowship and support they craved. It also featured the sad consequences for many of those kids from the violence that inheres with gang membership. My heart broke for those kids who suffered so horribly for their poor choices. That sentiment seeped into my writing. As I continued drafting the story, I began focusing more on Gavin than Cato.
This was supposed to be Cato’s story. It was supposed to be a sweet, ultimately joyous love story. Yet Gavin’s experiences were resonating with me more than were Cato’s. There was a while where I came down with one of the more severe cases of writer’s block I’ve ever gotten. Torn between Gavin and Cato, I just didn’t know which way to go.
I did what I usually do when the dreaded writer’s block strikes. I put the story aside for a time, figuring it would either come together or languish forever as a barely half-finished computer file. After completing another project, I went back and reread what I had so far on Cato and Gavin. In doing so, I came to the conclusion that this had become Gavin’s story, and I had to go back and rewrite what I had from his point of view. It’s still a love story, but it’s not just about the sacrifices a boy will make for romantic love. It’s also about the sacrifices a boy will make for the love he has for his father. It’s about how poor choices can ruin even the most promising lives. It’s about how a boy faces the consequences of his actions and grows from them.
You know from the blurb there is cruelty and pain in this novella. But there is also redemption and hope and more than a little love. In Time I Dream About You grew from a science fiction romance into a cautionary tale for kids who may be tempted to let their need for friendship take them down a path best left untraveled.