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Gwyn Cready | What Inspires My Time Travel Love

March 29, 2010

GWYN CREADYFLIRTING WITH FOREVERHi, everyone. Thanks for having me here to blog today. I’ve also been getting a lot of questions about what inspires me about time travel as well as the painter aspects of my new release, Flirting with Forever, so I thought I take some time to address both those things, and if you hang on until the end, I’ll have some news about a pretty nice contest. One hint ladies: shoes.

First, time travel. My friend theorizes I am a time traveler, that I leave this world when I sleep to visit another time, which is why certain times (late 17th/early 18th centuries) appeal to me more than others. Could be true. My mind is open to such possibilities, but personally I think Jamie Fraser made such an impression on me I couldn’t let go : ) All I can tell you is I’ve always been fascinated with the interesting possibilities and conflict that time travel sets up in a story. Back to the Future is sort of like the basic textbook on that for me. I guess I watched it at an impressionable age, but there you have it. In fact, I was just at a lecture this week given by Audrey Niffenegger, author of the Time Traveler’s Wife, who was asked, “How does one study time travel?”, in reply to which I whispered to the friend sitting next to me, “One watches Back to the Future.” Niffenegger’s answer was far more scientific.

As as far as the story in Flirting with Forever is concerned, I’ve always loved painters and painting and museums, so I knew that someday I’d write a book with a painter hero in it. Two things inspired this particular story, though. Years ago, I was reading Tracy Chevalier’s phenomenal The Girl with a Pearl Earring in which Chevalier weaves a fictionalized account of the making of Vermeer’s painting of the same name around what little we actually do know about Vermeer’s life. The book was fantastic, but because the love story in it was made up I just kept imaging Vermeer up in heaven, stretched out in his bathtub, flipping through the book and doing a spit take with his wine. So I filed that picture away in long-term storage, and when I was doing some research on real-life Restoration painter Peter Lely, who, like Vermeer, left few details of his personal life to history, I ran across an ancient article entitled, “Lely’s Love Story,” from a British periodical called Burlington Magazine. Turns out Lely has some dark secrets, and men like that make the best sort of heroes. So it was a natural to throw ambitious biographer Cam Stratford in his path, infuriating him enough with her prying and poking to make him return from the afterlife to stop her from writing about him.

But why Peter Lely, you ask? Well if the painting shown here doesn’t answer that, then I’m not sure what would. What sort of man can elicit such a pose? I had to know the answer.

I wrote the book in late 2008 and revised it in the spring of 2009. I’m pretty familiar with Lely’s time period (the middle and late 1600s)–in fact I was named after one of the characters in the book, Nell Gwynn (yes, my first name is Nelle)–so I’d say the amount of research was a fun level, not an onerous one. One interesting thing was investigating how painters of that era painted. I picked up a great book called, How to Paint Your Own Vermeer by Jonathan Janson. That really helped with some realistic detail in the book. The key, though, was that article on Lely. Thank goodness I have this wonderful university librarian friend who gets me anything I need.

The story is very romantic, the most romantic I’ve ever written, and I think the cover captures the magic and daring of the book perfectly. Doesn’t Pocket Books do a marvelous job? Those zebra-striped shoes are to die for. I’m actually running a Flirting with Forever launch contest where you can win a pair of Michael Kors zebra-striped pumps worth $165 (or $165 Zappos gift certificate for those of you with non-zebra-striped shoe tastes). Go to my website to find out more.

If you have any questions or comments, I’m here to answer them. And if there are any painting fans out there, I’d love to know what painters or paintings have inspired you and why.

Gwyn Cready, dying to see Hot Tub Time Machine even if they don’t go back to the late 17th/early 18th centuries.

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