Author, romance writer & historian Pamela Hartshorne speaks with Holly Ranfield and Elinore Court about her novel, Time’s Echo.
Q – In your novel Time’s Echo, were time and nostalgia important themes as you were writing?
A – I wouldn’t say nostalgia, but time is definitely key to the book. I thought about time a lot. When we think about the past, how present is it? I started with the idea of Post Traumatic Stress disorder, as one of the symptoms of the illness is that you literally re-experience the traumatic incident. There might be a sound or smell that not only triggers the memory but forces you to re-experience it. I started with the idea that if you can re-experience something in your past in such a vivid way, what if you could go back a bit farther? There is always that ‘what if’ question – what if you could go back and see what it was really like? What if you could change it? I’m always fascinated by that idea.
We idealise the past because it’s a safe place – it’s safe because we know it
Q – The motif about water and drowning in your novel, is that a motif about memories and the past overwhelming the characters in the present?
A – I think that’s a really nice way of putting it. There’s something unstoppable about the past. There are so many times when you want to stop time and say ‘let it be 30 seconds before, let me not have fallen over or answered this phone call that gave me bad news’ but you never can. Time keeps on going and taking you with it whether you want it to or not.
Q – Do you think it’s easy to idealise our past or a past we’ve never experienced?
A – Certainly, we’re self-selective. Some people choose to remember the bad things, but if you’re a romantic, you only remember the good. When I look through photos, every day was a sunny day and everyone was always smiling, it appears as if it were some kind of continuous golden age looking back, but it clearly wasn’t. Those were just the times I chose to take photos. I think we idealise the past because it’s a safe place – it’s safe because we know it, we have no idea what will happen in the future and this uncertainty is what worries us. The past has that security.
Q – Would you say that time is subjective?
A – The whole notion of perception is interesting. I did my thesis on space. Part of that was on how we perceive time. For example, when you’re broken-hearted, the days feel like they go on forever, whereas when you’re feeling bright and upbeat time goes really quickly. There are times when we’re on autopilot and we lose sense of time. You could be driving along the motorway and suddenly realise you’re speeding, but you’re mind was in autopilot. It’s instances like these that cause us to reassess our understanding of time passing. There can never be one complete truth about perception; we can’t say, “This moment in time was like this”. The three of us sitting here will be experiencing this moment in time differently; we will remember it differently too.
We time-travel within the confines of our mind and imagination
Q – Do you think reading novels can be a form of time travel?
A – Yes. When you read, you are entering a different world in your imagination. My task as a writer is to create that. In my novel, I’m not saying ‘that’s what Elizabethan England was like’ because I don’t really know. It’s the world I’ve created because that’s what I think it would have been like. I’m inviting the reader to step into that world. I have to try and convince you and if you are convinced, the novel is a success. People read historical novels for the enjoyment of the differences between that world and their reality but at the same time, you need aspects of sameness to connect with the reader. We time-travel within the confines of our mind and imagination.
Author: Holly Ranfield and Elinore Court