Infrequently Asked Questions
Who is Garison Fitch?
Garison Fitch is a scientist who lives in the Soviet Americas. His attempts at interdimentional travel have previously been successful, but short. An attempt at a longer trip takes him through time. When he returns to the present, he finds the world changed (to the world we know) and must decide whether to return to the past and try to return the world to normal or live in this strange world he has created.
Are the electronic (Kindle) versions of the novels identical to the print versions?
For “First Time” and “Saving Time”, yes (except for a few spelling mistakes that were corrected for the electronic versions). The print version of “Lost Time” actually contains a short story that doesn’t appear in the electronic version. “Why is that?” someone asks. The answer is two-fold. First, without the short story, “Lost Time” was shorter than the other two novels. I had written the short story and not known what to do with it, so I tacked it onto “Lost Time” as a sort of bonus. Second, though, is the reason why it’s not on the Kindle version: it doesn’t really fit. It’s a short story about Darius Fitch (the mountain man from “First Time” and Garison’s grandson) and a dream he had. The problem is that the dream is related to the third story in the “All the Time in Our World” series and seemed to just confuse readers of “Lost Time”. I may eventually offer it as part of one of the Kindle books or just on this web site.
Why does “Lost Time” spend so much time away from the story of Garison Fitch?
“Saving Time” is the true sequel to “First Time”. “Lost Time” (or LT, as I refer to it) is not so much a sequel or even a continuation of the narrative as a cousin to the first two books. The main characters, Jason and Bronwyn, are the only two survivors “other than Garison” from the “normal” world and, eventually, provide the explanation for how Garison can change what he changed and still survive.
Will we ever find out what happened to Bat Garrett at the end of LT?
Yes. The novel “All the Time in Our World” (ATOW) is the beginning of that tale. It will continue in “Some Time” and the forthcoming novel “TimeKeeperS”.
What if I don’t have a Kindle? How can I read all these books?
Thanks to the wonderful people at Amazon, you can now read Kindle-ready books on your PC, Mac iPad, iPhone, Blackberry or Android! Get the free software and you can order Kindle books and read them on all of these devices. Many of my novels–including the three Garison Fitch books–are also available on the Nook platform! All of these books are published by C&C Press and, if we can show them that “All the Time in the World” is worth the investment, they will bring it out in a paperback edition.
The following is a series of questions submitted by a reader that I thought other readers might be interested in reading.
What inspired you to write science fiction and, specifically, time travel?
I have always enjoyed science fiction and fantasy, having grown up watching the original (and best) “Star Trek” with my three older sisters. As I got old enough to read, I would read whatever sci-fi I could find in our school library or the children’s section at the public library. I was fascinated with the possibilites of … possibilities.
As for time travel, I have also enjoyed history–historical fiction, actual histories, biographies–and that lead to a desire to be there, to be in history. To, as Doc Brown says, “Witness the birth of Christ.” One day back in high school, I was talking to my father about wanting to write a time travel story (I had been writing for quite a while, mostly detective stories and westerns) and he suggested a story where a modern person goes back and finds themselves taking the place of Patrick Henry. From that germ of an idea grew (several years later), the story of Garison Fitch.
What was the inspiration behind the “Time” series?
Whoops, I should have read ahead, huh? Kind of already answered that.
But seriously, the story of Edward and Marianne started being written back when I was in junior high. I was writing on an old manual typewriter back then and must have started and stopped the story a dozen times, usually petering out with the two teenagers just barely making it to the mountains. I never could get them past that point. And, really, while the characters had traveled through time into the future for the story, it was never really a time travel story. Time travel was just the vehicle that got them to the story.
Then, in high school, I began writing the westerns and the detective stories and got sidetracked from Edward and Marianne–though I made some desultory tries probably at least once a year. I continued to write in college, though still not on time travel–though I began collecting notes for this epic story I wanted to tell. It was still the story of Edward and Marianne and it still followed most of the earlier line, but I still didn’t know how to get them over the mountain.
Right after college, in my first year of marriage, the story of Garison Fitch finally clicked for me. I wrote it out and was extremely pleased. Over time (ha!) I came to write two more Garison Fitch stories and had a modicum of success selling them–mostly to family and friends, but a few strangers. Around the turn of the century, I returned to the story of Edward and Marianne. For some reason, when I hit on the idea that Edward was the grandson of Garison Fitch and Bat Garrett–and that Marianne was from the family that populated my westerns–I was able to get them over the mountains.
Is there a correlation between yourself and Garison Fitch? Are you Garison Fitch?
I answer that–in all seriousness–with, “Ha-ha-ha-chuckle-snort-choke-haw-haw-HAW!” Garison is everything I am not: smart, handsome, fairly confident. On the other hand, maybe Garison is who I wish I were.
The characters who are closest to me are Bat Garrett and Edward. Both of them have strengths I wish I had, but both have a lot of my personality–especially as far as sense of humor is concerned. Some readers think I’m more like Edward than I am, but I think that’s because Marianne is so much like my wife.
Was there a particular person in your life from which you drew the characters of Heather, Sarah and Bat Garrett?
OK, I just answered the Bat question. As for Heather, she is named for a good friend of mine from high school who I had a crush on. She looks like another girl I had a crush on during that same time period. Her personality is pure Louis L’Amour. By that, I mean that she’s not a wilting wall-flower. She’s a full partner with her husband, not someone who walks behind him–or in front of him, for that matter.
I think Sarah was created “out of whole cloth” more than any other character I have. In the early versions, she wasn’t very well developed. But the more I re-wrote, the more I came to like the idea of the girl who’s just waiting for her moment to shine in a town that has turned its back on her. I like people–in real life, especially–who overcome the unfairness of life, rather than grumble about it.
How extensive was your research on both quantum physics and the theory of time travel?
Watching “Star Trek” and “Back to the Future.”
Seriously, my stories were always designed to be about the people in them, and time travel was just the vehicle. Garison’s battle, for instance, is not really against time travel, but himself. Still, I realized–once I got going–that I needed to come up with my own logic for how things would work out. So, essentially, I decided that my version of time travel would be based on the idea that there is only one timeline. I have since read people who argue for multiple timelines and multiple realities. I think that can make for interesting fiction, but for my stories, I have always written them on the premise that there’s only one timeline.
Which has led to some interesting discussions over the years with people who have become so caught up in the “multi” concepts that they can’t conceive of my “single” concept. They try to argue with me, quote Einstein et. al. I try to explain it this way: A] this is fiction and I’m the writer so I can tell the story the way I want. 2] If I wrote a story where I deemed it crucial to the storyline that the sky over the planet in the story be plaid-colored, that’s fine as long as I am consistent in everything related to the sky. In this case, I wrote a story based on there being one timeline, and have stuck with that.
Reminds me of a Christian critic who stated that he outright rejected any science-fiction that was based on a young earth model of creation. How stupid (of the critic, not the writers). If a writer wants to write a novel from the perspective that the earth was just created 8 seconds ago and all our history and memories were programmed in by God–then do it! To say that any fiction has to conform to someone else’s idea of what’s “right” based the current mores of theology, science or whatever is to miss the point of fiction. Fiction is about exploring the “what ifs” of life and thought.
The following is an interviewed that was conducted some time back for the web site republibot.com.
Republibot’s Burt Cottage interviews Samuel “Sam” Ben White on his recent success with selling Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels on Amazon’s Kindle platform.
Burt Cottage: Good morning.
Sam: It’s afternoon where I am.
BC: No kidding. Anyway, tell us about Kindle.
Sam: Actually, I only know what I have read on Amazon, which may be extremely truthful but is—after all—advertising copy. What I do know is that Kindle is an electronic reader that’s supposed to be a quantum leap in the field. The screen, they tell me, is like reading printed words on white paper—as opposed to looking at print on the “white paper” of my screen.
BC: Before we go further, tell us a little about the novels you have for sale on Kindle.
Sam: “Us”? There’s more than one of you there?
BC: It’s an editorial thing. I speak on behalf of all my readers which may very well be a plurality.
Sam: Ah. You know, I’m sure your questions are well thought-out, but let me tell you what I want to tell you, then we can go from there.
BC: I don’t think that’s how it works—
Sam: I wrote “First Time: The Legend of Garison Fitch” many years ago and even signed with a small publisher in Minnesota. Sold something like 28 copies of the book, then they decided they wanted a re-write.
BC: Wait, they wanted a re-write AFTER publication?
Sam: Yes, they were new at the business. I was, too, so I agreed. But then their suggestions for the re-write started coming in and they began to go way beyond stylistic points and actually began to monkey with the plot and the themes. After extensive back-and-forth, I told them, “No” and cancelled our agreement.
Sam: I realize that a publisher—who is sinking their money into the project—deserves some say as to how they spend that money. I have no problem with that. But they had bought (and published!) my novel, then they wanted to change it into a completely different novel. At some point I had to decide whether I wanted to be published just to be published or whether I wanted to stick to the story I had written. Every time they would call or write, they would start out telling me how much they loved a passage, then suggest—and eventually impose—changes that would completely change the passage. Not to say I’m a grand master, but their suggestions were along the lines of telling Leonardo, “We love this ‘Mona’ painting but we have a few suggestions. Could you make the smile more pronounced? And put a cheeseburger in her hands? And maybe lose the chick entirely.”
BC: That’s funny.
Sam: It is now, but it was extremely frustrating at the time. So I pulled my book from them, asked for the payment on the books I had actually sold (which I never received) and went back to the laborious and fruitless pursuit of sending my novel to every publisher and agent in “The Writer’s Market”. Several years, re-writes, one contest win and a stack of rejection slips later, I stumbled across the idea of self-publishing. I self-published “First Time” in 2001 and sold enough that I was able to pay my way out of the hole I had dug—selling the neighborhood of 2-300 copies, mostly to friends and relatives but a few over the Internet from my web site and a few more at a couple book signings.
BC: That sounds promising.
Sam: It is, sort of. But it’s also very frustrating. It’s a little like being a child who once a year gets one of those little sample spoons of ice cream from Baskin-Robbins but is never allowed to eat a whole scoop.
BC: That’s sad.
Sam: I’m tearing up just thinking about it.
BC: What happened next?
Sam: Since “First Time” had been moderately successful (I consider almost any time I’m not broke to be a success), I decided to release “Saving Time: The Legend of Garison Fitch—Book 2”, which I had been writing simultaneous to doing all the re-writes on “First Time”.
BC: Quick question about those re-writes. Were they along the lines of the suggestions from the publisher you had worked with?
Sam: No. They were generated by the conviction that no one was writing the kind of stories I wanted to read,
so I would write them. I like character-driven stories where the conflict is more within a person than with an outside antagonist. The self-published book of “First Time” is almost 40% larger than the original published version. Almost none of the “action” has been changed, but the characters are much more fleshed out and even the action is—I believe—better narrated.
BC: So even though you were meeting with rejection after rejection for “First Time”, you went ahead and wrote a sequel?
Sam: Yes. Sometimes—well, actually, with all the novels I’ve written—I just get an idea and I can barely sleep or accomplish anything else until I get that idea on paper (or computer). Then I wrestle with it. Sometimes it comes to naught. Or the final product bears little resemblance to the idea I first had. But when I finished “First Time” for the first time, I knew there was more to Garison Fitch’s story. A few years later I started exploring what it might be and “Saving Time” almost wrote itself.
BC: Who is “Garison Fitch”?
Sam: Haven’t you read the book?
BC: It was a generalized question. An attempt to give you an opportunity to explain your character to those who might not have read the book.
Sam: Gotcha. OK. Garison Fitch, at the start of the first book, is a reclusive scientist who lives in the Soviet Americas. In some ways, he’s a little over the top. Very smart. Very handsome. Athletic. All that. His Achilles Heel, though, is that he’s pretty socially awkward, owing to his being so smart he had no friends in school and the fact that his parents died when he was fairly young. As the story opens, Garison is about to test a machine that he believes will allow him to travel interdimensionally. I would like to add something here, if I may.
BC: Go ahead.
Sam: I have actually gotten some letters and calls from people who disagreed with my whole concept of multiple dimensions. The thing is, they were working in completely theoretical areas (as am I). They forget: Garison grew up on this North American continent, but under Soviet rule. I have often wondered—if such a thing were to be—would things such as theoretical physics be the same there as here?
BC: Wouldn’t they?
Sam: I wonder. How much of our theorizing is based on absolute fact and how much is based on previous theorizing? Take Einstein out of the picture—or some less famous theorizer of 200 years ago—and how might all the theories that followed be different? If Einstein had never been born, would someone else have come to the same theory of relativity? Or, maybe someone would have, but it wouldn’t have happened for another century. One of the recurring themes of my time travel books is that history is kind of like a game of Jenga (except infinitely more complicated) in that we have no idea how things might have been different if one thing had been done differently. So, in my books, I’m exploring one possible outcome if one or two things had been done differently.
BC: What is it that’s done differently in Garison Fitch’s world?
Sam: Without giving too much away, let’s just say that someone who is considered very pivotal in the formation of the Western world—and especially the United States—dies as a child. Garison, however, runs his experiment and travels through time—rather than through dimensions, as he expected. In the past, he saves this child from death. In so doing, he re-writes the world.
BC: Very interesting!
Sam: I thought so. I’ve always been fascinated with time travel. In all the stories I’ve read or seen where someone traveled to the past, though, they were always worried about screwing up their/our present. I began to wonder: what if OURS is the screw-up? Then, I had Garison come back to our time and discover this world he created. Then he’s got a new dilemma: live with the world he created, or travel in time again and try to return the world to what he knows as “normal”. Within that is the ethical dilemma of whether he COULD let the child die if he had the means to prevent it.
And what about free will? Even if he went back and let the child die, would everyone in the subsequent centuries make the same choices they made before? Would it really return the world to his normal? Then, “Saving Time” deals with Garison discovering that his earlier trip through time has torn a hole in time. So his dilemma there is how to go back in time and keep himself from making the first trip through time without using his time machine to get there, which would just tear still another hole.
BC: And isn’t there a third book in the series?
Sam: A third book published so far (he says with a knowing wink). It deals with an apparent contradiction of logic wherein a trip to the future changed the past.
BC: Pretty weighty questions.
Sam: They are, but I try to address them in the midst of a story that’s fun and entertaining. It’s not page after page of debate on these topics. They are covered within the “action”, sometimes almost subliminally.
BC: So, can you tell us about Kindle now?
Sam: Probably. I am an inveterate Amazon shopper. Probably spend 1/3 of my income there. Not really, but it seems that way. So I was always seeing the ads for Kindle. I was intrigued, but it was out of my price range—and I’m still kind of a dead-tree person, anyway. One day I was looking at my books on Amazon (yes, they are for sale there in actual paper copies) and there was this little ad that said something like “Are you the publisher of this book? Put it on Kindle!” Or wording to that effect. I looked into the process—found out it didn’t cost me any money—and gave it a try. I put “First Time”, “Saving Time” and a novel I’d written about addiction and co-dependency called “Psalm 88” on there … and forgot about it.
Seriously, I had no idea how to drive people to my books or anything. They were advertising that they had 250,000 books available on Kindle (now it’s 300k) and I had never known anything about marketing. Still, I put them out there and wrote a little about them on my blog … and nothing happened. That was August of ‘08.
Then, in March, I was looking at my checking account and noticed that Amazon had deposited $28 and change in my account. At first, I thought they must have overcharged me for something, but then I realized if that had happened they would have put the money back on my credit card. I did some checking around and found that, in December, something like 7 copies of my novels had sold on Kindle and the deposit was my royalty (which goes out 60 days after the close of a month in which sales were made).
BC: Who bought your books?
Sam: I have no idea. I’ve blogged and emailed and Facebook’ed and I don’t even know anyone who OWNS a Kindle. The only clue I have about who is buying them is that of the three novels I put out there initially, two are about time travel (which I indicated in the description) and those are the ones that have sold. I’ve never sold a copy of the other book, so I have to figure that whoever is buying my books are looking for time travel stories.
I’d love to know who’s buying these books and (presumably) reading them. Are they enjoying them? Did it start with one person who bought and read it and then has been telling friends? Are they random strangers who don’t know each other (but could somehow be persuaded to join a cult that sends me money)? Seriously, I’d love to know who they are and how they found my books in hopes of parlaying that knowledge into getting the word out to other people.