Ask the Author: Mike Chen
What would you like readers to know about you?
I write speculative fiction, or literary sci-fi depending on marketing definitions. So basically character-driven sci-fi stories with feelings, as opposed to epic galaxy-collapsing sci-fi (which I enjoy, but I can’t write). I also cover geek culture for sites like The Mary Sue and Tor Dot Com, and for about 10 years, I covered the NHL as a freelancer for sites like Fox Sports and Comcast Sports. I also do a lot of corporate ghostwriting and content marketing, so I’m basically writing all the time.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
Here’s the official back cover copy:
To save his daughter, he’ll go anywhere—and any-when
Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in IT, trying to keep the spark in his marriage, struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Miranda. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career…as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.
Stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late.
Their mission: return Kin to 2142, where he’s only been gone weeks, not years, and where another family is waiting for him. A family he can’t remember.
Torn between two lives, Kin is desperate for a way to stay connected to both. But when his best efforts threaten to destroy the agency and even history itself, his daughter’s very existence is at risk. It’ll take one final trip across time to save Miranda—even if it means breaking all the rules of time travel in the process.
A uniquely emotional genre-bending debut, Here and Now and Then captures the perfect balance of heart, playfulness, and imagination, offering an intimate glimpse into the crevices of a father’s heart and its capacity to stretch across both space and time to protect the people that mean the most.
Library Journal compared it to The Time Traveler’s Wife and Booklist said it was perfect for fans of Doctor Who. Those comparisons make me super happy, it’s totally what I was going for.
What has been your inspiration for writing your book?
I tend to grab things from whatever media I’m consuming at the time. I always watch a lot of Doctor Who, but I was watching it even more than usual when this idea popped in my head. Specifically, I saw an episode called School Reunion back-to-back with an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called The Inner Light. Both are notable for their examinations of how time can impact relationships, and the idea spawned from that. Several Goodreads and Amazon reviewers have referenced The Inner Light, which is an absolute delight to hear.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
I don’t know if I had a favorite scene necessarily, but certain parts of stories arrive fully formed in my head during the early concept level. These wind up being the anchors of early drafts as I try to build the story around it. So, for this book, the pivotal scene when the characters reunite (that is my vague spoiler-free description) has been part of it since the beginning. I also loved writing any scenes with Heather, as she had really fun snappy dialogue.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
I read a lot as a kid and a teen but I think the first book that made me think “I want to try this” was High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. By that point, I’d written some short stories and taken classes, but High Fidelity was a real turning point. I feel like a lot of my writing voice is influenced by Hornby, despite the fact that I’ve grown so much from a craft perspective since that moment. About A Boy is something I still revisit when I’m struggling with voice or structure.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
Read a lot, but as you read, think about what works/doesn’t work in the book — character, pacing, dialogue, prose, etc. I highly recommend a book called Save The Cat, which breaks down structure into 3 acts with specific beats. In talking with other writers, I often find that structure and stakes are the toughest nuts to crack. That’s why so many writers who write really great prose still fail to land an agent — it’s because there’s nothing driving that great prose. Understanding structure is key to writing a great story instead of just writing pretty sentences.
And write for yourself, not the market. If you see any trend in the market, it’s gonna change by the time you get an agent anyway, so write what you want. It will come through in the prose.