I’ve written time travel and loved it… Her Lost Love when my heroine takes a magic train from 1955 back to 1943 to Posey Creek, PA to save the man she loves from being killed in France… and present day back to the Battle of Antietam in 1862 where my heroine meets her ‘twin’ who’s a Confederate spy… and also historical fiction about the Titanic The Runaway Girl.
But writing a dual timeline is like walking barefoot on broken seashells on the sand.
Painful. Excruciating. And dangerous.
You can end up hobbling all the way home… or to the end of your manuscript. Yikes.
I’ve been there… and survived. I’ve written two dual timeline novels — The Resistance Girl and the novel I just finished (title coming) — both about Paris during World War 2 when the city was occupied by the Nazis. The era lends itself to intrigue, romance, spies… and danger. Who could resist? Not me.
However, I’ve fretted and moaned and had more chocolate binges than I care to admit writing these books, but they’re the most rewarding stories I’ve ever written. Stories about lost family found and connecting with your ‘roots’. I learned a lot along the way… so here are my 7 Tips for Writing Dual Timelines:
1 — keep two sets of timelines so you know where you and your heroines are in each era at all times.
Your heroine’s birthdate in the past is important and determines what “historical events’ she witnesses. In the present, your heroine’s journey may last a shorter time — a week, month; in the past, it could be years. In The Resistance Girl, we follow the heroine’s film career from the 1920s through 1950. The modern heroine’s journey last for several days.
2 — present day in your story doesn’t have to mean today. Make it work for you.
My latest novel takes place in 2003 and 1940-1945. Why? Because I wanted my historical heroine to be alive when she meets the present day heroine. She’s 80 years old and at the top of her game, but the war years still haunt her. Also, she loves flying on the Concorde and the last trip of the airship was in 2003.
3 — create a compelling opening in whichever timeline works best. No hard fast rule you have to begin in the past.
In my new Paris novel, I begin in 2003 because I wanted to set up the 80-year-old diva’s reluctance to talk about the war years because of her personal pain. My modern heroine/reporter convinces her to ‘let it go’ and we’re off and running…
4 — decide before you begin plotting (or if you’re a pantster — I do both) if your two heroines meet at some point; or, if we know the historical heroine meets her fate and we never see her in the present.
I did both — in The Resistance Girl, the modern heroine discovers she had a famous grandmother in France during the war — a film star — she never knew existed. But in my new novel, the two heroines meet in the first chapter in 2003.
5 — know your history and research your era like crazy; your heroine in the past is fictional, but make her life believable! Facts count but don’t tell us, show us how your heroine survives in that era in a way that’s unique to her.
For example, the historical heroine in my upcoming book ends up in concentration camps; I gave her an unusual backstory that determined how she survived in the camps because of her background and talents, but made sure it was also possible.
6 — location, location, location… make sure you know exactly what your locations look like in both eras if you’re going to visit them in both timelines.
In my upcoming book about Paris, we go to concentration camp sites in Germany and Poland in both 1944-45, 1975, and 2003. I was fortunate to find photos and films that showed what the camps looked like in 1944-45 and also circa 2003 and 1975. An amazing bit of luck which created some tear-jerking moments for my historical heroine.
7 — have fun! This is an adventure about finding your heroine’s roots — like that fabulous PBS show where the celebrity goes through the big scrapbook and meets their lost relatives with the jovial host.
Make your story heartfelt, emotional, fascinating, believable, and filled with surprises to keep your readers turning those pages like the celeb on TV!
Questions about dual timelines:
Drop me a comment!
I had every intention of writing a lovely post this month about all the cool stuff going on with my WW 2 Occupied Paris novel, The Resistance Girl. Honest I did.
Then the research on my next book shot the pants off that idea.
My deadline is right around the corner.
My book is written… mostly. Some bugs to work out. Re-read, check it over… you know the drill.
The research is overwhelming… so much so, I’ve got to cut this shorter than I like. I’m writing another book about Occupied Paris, but this time my heroine finds herself in a concentration camp. Two of them actually… emotionally, I’m drained. Mentally I’m exhausted.
My heart… broken.
I will never, never be able to understand why it happened, the horror, injustice, humiliation done to the victims of the Holocaust. But I’m determined to tell a story about a brave young woman who had a baby in a camp… and she survived. But she never knew what happened to her baby… until years later.
I’ve watched a million survivor videos… read so many books about the Holocaust… checked and double checked the timelines of the camps and what happened there down to what they ate, where the railroad tracks ended at camp, the blocks or barracks map… and I still have questions. I want to make it right.
No, I’ve got to make it right.
I owe to the those who died and those who survived.
So forgive me if I’m emotional this month.
We must never forget…
You can listen to The Resistance Girl on Spotify
Or search for Jina Bacarr and my ‘artiste’ page will pop up.
I’ve been writing humorous poetry since I was a wee girl at me Irish grandmother’s knee… she’d chuckle and get on with baking her apple sugar pies and then winding her blue rosary around her gnarled fingers, praying, ‘What’s the lass going to come to with these ditties?’
Novels, mostly historicals these days and I’m finishing up a second Paris WW 2 novel while pulling all-nighters… I needed a break, so here’s a lighthearted poem about everyone’s favorite frog from this Irish Poetess.
Put the kettle on and Enjoy!
The art of writing fairy tales
is a joy I claim.
But frog or toad, what’s in a name?
’Tis a prince I seek at the end of my tale
And that happily ever after, but to no avail
Ah, but yes have I the power of the pen
So with my snappy keystrokes Poof! I say.
He’s here. Amen!
Here the first in my Occupied Paris series:
The Resistance Girl
Juliana discovers her grandmamma was a famous French film star in Occupied Paris
And the shocking secret her mother never told her…
5* ‘… a beautiful and poignant historic fiction that left me in tears’ Jessica F NetGalley
I read ‘A Night to Remember’ a million times, imaging myself on the ship of dreams wearing an elegant gown and long white gloves, dancing in first class with a handsome gentleman. Then reality would set in and I realized I’d more likely be in steerage since my family came over from Ireland.
The place dreams are made of…
When I was a little girl, I lived with my Irish grandmother for a while and I remember sitting at the big, wooden table with her as she added flour, milk, and herbs to leftover mashed spuds for potato cakes, or wound her blue rosary beads around her gnarled fingers while she spun tales about life in Ireland. Grand times they were, and a lovely thread woven through the quilt of my childhood.
Books were my companions back then and I’d read anywhere, anytime. I read tons of romances, but I’d often end up in the history section of the library looking for more stories about the Titanic. Imagining sneaking into first class and pretending I belonged there. Something I found hard to do growing up since we moved a lot and I was always the ‘new kid’ (I went to fifteen schools before college). I yearned to be among the popular kids at the beach, but somewhere in my heart, I knew the way to better myself was reading and the rest would come later.
Reading was my world.
That became the basis of my heroine, Ava O’Reilly, in THE RUNAWAY GIRL, a girl who wants to better herself by reading books but it’s forbidden to the servants in the grand house in Ireland where she’s in service.
Then when she’s wrongly accused of stealing a diamond bracelet, she escapes.
To the Titanic.
And every tale I’d heard at my grandmother’s knee, every book I’d read, every film about the ship of dreams I’d watched over and over again became the fodder for telling my own story about the Titanic.
Based on my girlhood and love of books.
And the sea.
And yes, romance, too.
And how an Irish girl makes a daring choice on that fateful night when the Titanic hits an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. that changes her life forever…
And mine, too.
Spotify has a wonderful platform for AUTHORS and their novels!
Two women hold the keys to his heart. Only one will survive that fateful night…
When Ava O’Reilly is wrongly accused of stealing from her employer, she has no option but to flee Ireland. The law is after her, and she has only one chance at escape – the Titanic.
Aboard the ship of dreams, she runs straight into the arms of Captain ‘Buck’ Blackthorn, a dashing gentleman gambler who promises to be her protector. He is intrigued by her Irish beauty and manages to disguise her as the maid of his good friend, the lovely Countess of Marbury. Little does he realise, that the Countess is also in love with him.
As the fateful night approaches, tragedy strikes further when Ava is separated from Buck, and must make a daring choice that will change her life forever…
A sweeping historical romance set aboard the Titanic, from the author of Her Lost Love (Christmas Once Again).
Praise for Jina Bacarr:
‘A delightful holiday romance that has all the charm of a classic Christmas movie. Christmas Once Again is perfect for anyone who loves a holiday romance brimming with mistletoe, hope, and what ifs.’ Andie Newton, author of The Girl I Left Behind
‘A breathtaking holiday romance that is sure to stay with you long after reading’
‘A mesmerizing holiday romance that is sure to sweep you off your feet and take you away to another place, another time.’
‘A fabulous book you won’t want to miss’
THE RUNAWAY GIRL e-book, print and audio book:
Valentine’s Day is Sunday — a time for kissing.
But what if your first kiss was just plain awful?
Meet Riley Murphy. She’s a kissing virgin, waiting for the right guy to come along. Until she joins the Drama Club at Holywell High and has to kiss the class dweeb on stage in front of the whole school on Valentine’s Day.
Virgin Kiss is a short story I wrote that I’m serializing in 1-minute segments.
I’m inserting my video intro here and my audio story Parts 1-9 for V-Day!
Virgin Kiss Instagram 1-minute posts (text on audio is included in IG comments). I hope you enjoy my time travel trip back to high school!
Everyone has a secret fantasy—even a rich and powerful vampire…More info →
Three friends, each survivors of a brutal childhood, grew up together in foster care. Now as women, they’re fighting for their lives again.More info →