This novel is a prequel to my lesbian romance, All Things Rise, and it begins with a journey.
The setting is a hundred years or so in the future, after oil has peaked and transportation is mostly on foot or by horseback. For Vivian Wildfire Yates, the passage she chooses is a footpath from East Texas to North Georgia. During this trek, two women cross Vivian’s path who individually impact her life in different ways. Along the way she is also confronted with numerous obstacles both natural and man-made.
As with most of my stories so far, I began my writing process for The Time Before Now with a drawing of one of its characters. In this case, I did lots of sketching of Vivian before I settled on a drawing that I felt captured the rugged individualism I envisioned for her. The drawing also conveys a subtle vulnerability. I think you see that when you look in her eyes. The final image of Vivian is featured on the cover. She is not as wise to the world as she thinks but thankfully learns this early in her journey.
Vivian is the sort of character many of us might aspire to be. She’s a person of integrity and is self-sufficient, confident, fearless even, in the face of adversity. And the sort of woman that others depend on.
This book is also the story of Ida George. Her aspirations and focus are different from Vivian’s. Ida is drawn to hearth and home the way Vivian is drawn to independence and freedom. Vivian and Ida couldn’t be more different and yet are drawn together during this epic journey.
If you have read All Things Rise, then you may remember that Ida is Cole’s biological aunt. In The Time Before Now, Cole is six and we get to see some of the forces in her life that shaped her into the person she
One of the first things I had to do when I plotted this story was to make sure someone could actually make Vivian’s epic walk.
The Appalachian Trail, which runs up the eastern U.S., is two thousand miles from Georgia to Maine. As a teen and as an adult I hiked different sections of the Appalachian Trail so I knew that trekking seven hundred miles was doable, and relied on my experiences for some of the details of this story.
I also spent a good amount of time sitting and imagining my childhood in Mississippi. What the air smelled like. What sounds you hear in the woods when the sandy forest floor is covered with pine needles. And then there are the swamps. I have sense memories of the large stands of long-leaf pines and the scent of the dark tannic water in the swamps and creeks. Hopefully I captured this sense of place for those of you who haven’t traveled in the Deep South.
This book will likely get categorized as science fiction because it’s set in the context of an imagined future. But it doesn’t really feel like science fiction to me. It feels like one possible trajectory for a society without machines and industry. If anything, I would describe it as a lesbian romance set in a mostly happy post-apocalyptic world. Mostly. Because where would the adventure of the journey be without a bit of danger?
There’s one other character that plays an important role in this novel: Vivian’s Cherokee grandfather. He raised Vivian, and his passing is the impetus for Vivian to begin traveling east. Her goal is to reach the mountains that were once the ancestral home of the Cherokees. She uses a map drawn by her grandfather to guide her. Even after death, he continues to be a spiritual force in Vivian’s life.
Writing this book and remembering my youth spent in forests in the Deep South with my father made me want to reconnect with my wilderness roots. Maybe it will inspire others to spend more time outside, and connect with their ancestors in the process. And let’s not forget: fall in love.