Writing about time travel

So, what's the big deal about writing time travel stuff, you're asking, Amy? Why can't I just bring you back to the present?

First of all, that would be borrring. And second of all, you have work to do in the 19th century. There's a reason you were sent there, and just between you and me, you haven't figured it out quite yet.

What is it actually like to write a time travel novel?


It didn't take me long to realize that writing a time travel novel means doing a LOT of research. I couldn't thrust my character back in time anywhere without matching her surroundings with realism, unless my story was going to be a total fantasy with rules of its own. And I was surprised at the amount of time all the research required. It was mandatory right off the bat, up front and centre, before beginning the story itself.
Exactly how much did a bottle of anything cost in the 19th century? Who picked up the horse poop off the roads? How was anything kept cold? Did ice cream even exist? Whose job was it to light the street lamps? Did young women always wear hats when outside? If bathrooms didn't exist yet, what did the facilities of the time look like? Where did young women wash their long hair? What colours were popular in clothes, furnishings and decor like wallpaper. Was wallpaper popular back then? I'm sure you get my drift ... so many things to find out. And the thing is, everything I learned helped me to immerse myself into the lives of my characters.


If you, as a writer, are attempting to capture the ambience and zeitgeist of a specific time, authenticity becomes important. It makes sense that your readers want to feel the surroundings themselves as if they are standing right in the thick of it. 
For instance, who would want to read about modern technology in a pre-computer era? Okay, well there's Back To The Future, when "Doc" Brown arrives from the future in his DeLorean with all its gadgets. But still...

Yes, I hear you loud and clear, Amy. At least give you a laptop in the past? And Internet access? It would only take a simple edit, you say? Just stick it in there? Like, RIGHT NOW??? 

Yeah, um. Nope. #coolyourjets

Readers who like to read time travel novels do so for the whole effect. The uniqueness and diversity of times past are things we can't ever truly experience - it's up to writers to reclaim bygone worlds in ways that hopefully make readers want to turn each page and live in the moments you have created.
At least, that's how I see it so far, and I'm learning more and more every day.