--TIME MACHINES REPAIRED WHILE-U-WAIT certainly appealed to this extremely infrequent science fiction reader, a large part of that appeal was undoubtedly a good set of characters, particularly Spider Webb (all the current / near-future / far-future / past incarnations of him). Do you feel that this book is going to appeal to hard-core genre readers as much as it would people just looking for something highly entertaining and engaging?
I'm sorry for not getting back to you sooner with answers to these questions. Am on holiday in seaside Mandurah with my lovely wife, and having to rely on spotty wifi access to check mail, etc. Last night I tried twice to answer them, and lost them to the ether both times. This time I'm in a McDonalds, with wifi that supposedly won't quit on me, so I'm hoping for good things.
Thank you for your interest in my book, despite its sf-ness. So far the book has done well, appealing to sf readers across the spectrum, and was also shortlisted for the uber-prestigious Philip K. Dick Award for excellence in sf first published in paperback anywhere in the world. The award is usually won by Brits and Americans, so to even get considered was a huge deal for me, and for my Canadian publisher. It gives the book huge credibility in the hard sf community. I've also had good reports from people not interested in sf who have read the book and enjoyed it, too, very likely because they're responding to the characters and their very human, very relatable problems.
--TIME MACHINES REPAIRED WHILE-U-WAIT has a rather complicated central point - parallel / convergent / concurrent timelines, yet it's not a confusing book to read. In fact it's quite a fun book to read. Did you find it was a fun book to write or where the time shift requirements tricky to explain / keep track of?
It was a marvellously fun idea that became a very difficult thing to actually write. There was an awful lot to keep straight in my head, and with the help of extensive and detailed notes. And then after I submitted it to the publisher, he sent it to an editor (another author, a Canadian mystery writer), who wrote back with some very serious concerns that had to be addressed, and which pretty much meant rewriting most of the last half of the book. Which is fine with me: it made the book much better, it made everything make sense, and that's the important thing. So, yes, dreadful slog, but worthwhile result. :)
--TIME MACHINES REPAIRED WHILE-U-WAIT has been described as a book that would appeal to readers who like complicated plot lines, murder and amusing dialogue. Did a science fiction / futuristic setting bring something in particular to the book, and did the use of a suspicious death provide you with a particular impetus or plan?
The suspicious death was the part I liked best. I've always loved mysteries and crime novels, as well as the sf, and as it's turned out three of my four books have had mystery elements to some degree. I'm now planning a sequel to Time Machines, and sure enough, it needs to be another mystery, which means another body (at least one), and a new brain-hurting mystery to solve for poor old Spider.
The single detail of the future setting--the ubiquity of time machines--presented enormous difficulties in working out the details. Because if everyone, including the cops, have time machines, then catching murderers should be pretty easy: you just go back to the time of death, and catch the murderer in the act, or in the act of dumping the body, etc. Either way, it should make murderers much easier to catch. So, how to avoid that? How to still have a story and a puzzling mystery, despite this? The mystery story structure provides the bones of the book, the structure, and the various cast positions that have to be "staffed": (victim, suspects, the sleuth, the killer, etc). It gives you the opening (finding the body), and a path to follow to the ending (the solution, and the big finish, and the downbeat ending).
--Despite the futuristic setting for TIME MACHINES REPAIRED WHILE-U-WAIT the people are still dealing with the boring bits of life - traffic jams; relationship breakdowns; longing and desire; horrible coffee. Do you have a feeling that the more things change for the human race, the more some elements stay the same?
I am inclined to think people will always be people. I remember reading some ancient Roman and Greek history, and being really struck by how very "modern" the people seemed, with their preoccupations with aging, jealousy, "these kids today", love and loneliness, with wondering how to live a good life, worried about what other people think of them, and all the other all-too-human concerns we recognise so well. I figure that in the future, no matter how technologically enhanced, or modified, people get, even if they get all disembodied and live inside computer networks, there will still be people worried about these same issues, though somehow twisted because of the unique location and setting. And I figure that even in the far future, people will still find cause to say, "we can upload our minds to computers, but we still can't get decent cups of coffee?", "these kids today!", and, "do I look fat in this?"
--And the great unfair question - which authors do you recommend / admire / would you say have greatly influenced your own writing?
This is easy: William Gibson, Jorge Luis Borges, Alan Furst, Connie Willis, HP Lovecraft, Elmore Leonard, Sue Grafton, Charles Stross--and many, many more besides. These are the names that come immediately to mind, because I love their work dearly, struggle to emulate it, and re-read it again and again for sheer pleasure. They each are at the top of their respective games, doing their particular thing with a quality, and wit, and lack of apparent effort that makes this writer extremely envious, and has, in low moments, tempted him to give up the whole hopeless thing, and leave these geniuses to it. But I don't, because I can't. It's what I do, because it's all I can do.