I’m joined today by author of Keeping Time, Thomas Legendre. he is answering my Author in the Spotlight questions to tell his readers more about himself and his work.
First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
I was born and raised in Maine (yes, Stephen King territory) and spent a good chunk of my early adult years in Arizona, which burned all the Maine right out of me, before ending up in Scotland nearly twenty years ago. This was all in pursuit of education, employment, and yearning for great places. Now I shuttle back and forth between Edinburgh and my job at the University of Nottingham, where I teach Creative Writing, smuggling as much literature into my classes as I possibly can.
What inspired you to start writing?
The funny thing is, I don’t recall ever ‘starting’ to write, only gradually realising I was doing it while I was supposed to be reading Economics and, later, writing analytical essays in Literature. Perhaps due to my undergraduate work in Economics, my creative work tends to draw from other disciplines, exploring the subjective underpinnings of apparently objective material. My first novel, The Burning, features characters whose personal activities, including sexual intrigues and visits to Las Vegas casinos, are inextricable from their discoveries in the fields of economics, ecology, and astrophysics. My play, Half Life, was an entirely different sort of project — an immersive, site-specific performance which took place on the west coast of Scotland as part of NVA’s environmental art installation — yet its dramatic technique was derived from the methods of archaeology as well as general relativity and cosmology. For me, the material tends to generate its own form, not only in projects like the ones I just mentioned but also my short stories, critical essays, and even ‘Dream Repair,’ a radio drama broadcast on BBC4.
Tell me about your journey to publication
[My answer would make Homer’s Odyssey look like a day trip, so let’s skip this one.]
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
Keeping Time is about an archaeologist who travels back in time and has an affair with his wife – and a musician who has an affair with her husband. One critic described it as ‘a mind-bending time-travel love story.’
How did you come up with the title for your book?
My working title was accurate but generic, so my editor wisely suggested a new one. We kicked around about a dozen options until we settled on Keeping Time for not only its literal meaning, but also its emotional and musical resonance.
How do did you celebrate publication day?
The official launch took place exactly one week before the lockdown, and roughly an hour after Boris Johnson first urged everyone to stay home. At that stage we were still bumping elbows and knocking feet. I was paradoxically happy to see a low turnout. I’ll celebrate when COVID-19 is eradicated.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
I’m putting the finishing touches on Spring Fever, a quantum romantic techno-thriller with a literary sensibility. It involves a young woman working for a digital media company, an ice hockey player who talks like a Continental philosopher, and a global virus affecting computers and humans in disturbing ways. I began writing it long before COVID-19. Honest.
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
And What If We Were All Allowed to Disappear is a marvellous, limited-edition collection of poetry by Tania Hershman, published by Guillemot Press. Inspired by particle physics, some of the poems use tissue paper overlays to create multiple poems-in-one.
The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons is a stunning and enthralling collection of loosely linked poems by Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers. Set on a future Mars colony, it’s full of Earthly yearning and palpable Martian beauty, reading almost like a novel or collection of interconnected stories with a subtle narrative arc. I was constantly torn by an impulse to reread each poem and plunge ahead to the next.
Leaving the Atocha Station, a novel by Ben Lerner. The abject honesty and intelligence of the narrative voice made me eager to follow a character I wouldn’t want to meet, let alone hang around with, in real life – a remarkable accomplishment.
What are you reading just now?
In early April 2020, I’m halfway through Grace for Grace by Steve De Jarnatt. Fortunately I’m not finished as it allows me to add a de facto fourth book to the above list. These stories are wildly specific, with great inventive energy in every line, as if Nabokov were reincarnated with an American accent and an urge for fantastic twists of fate.
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
Ouch. That’s like asking what meal you’d like to eat three times a day for the rest of your life. There are loads of candidates here, but I’ll go with Middlemarch. The range and depth of the characterisations, the intelligence and empathy of the narration, the natural resolution of its various plots and themes – all these things make it a novel to have by my side, and on my mind, for all days.
Is there a book you’d like to see made into a film? Who would be in your dream cast?
I’m going to set aside the obvious, self-serving choice of Keeping Time (emblazoned with the five words every author wants to see on the cover: ‘Now a Major Motion Picture’) and pick The Waste Land. That’s right, the poem by T.S. Eliot. I’d cast unknowns from all over the world in their everyday clothing. I’m fantasising about the special effects.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
You can reach me on:
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
The narrator of Middlemarch. Yes, this counts as a character — not quite George Eliot but not quite not-Eliot, almost embodied, inhabiting the more visible characters with warm intelligence and understanding, offering critiques that are discerning yet forgiving, deferential without conceding authority, its own identity quietly prevailing throughout. It’s the best of humanity.
From the back of the book
A crumbling marriage. An ancient mystery. And a way to change the past . . . When archaeologist Aaron Keeler finds himself transported eighteen years backward in time, he becomes swept up in a strangely illicit liaison with his younger wife. A brilliant musician, Violet is captivated by the attentive, “weathered” version of her husband. The Aaron she recently married–an American expat–has become distant, absorbed by his excavation of a prehistoric site at Kilmartin Glen on Scotland’s west coast, where he will soon make the discovery that launches his career. As Aaron travels back and forth across the span of nearly two decades, with time passing in both worlds, he faces a threat to his revelatory dig, a crisis with the older Violet–mother of his two young children–and a sudden deterioration of his health. Meanwhile, Violet’s musical performances take on a resonance related to the secrets the two are uncovering in both time frames. With their children and Aaron’s lives at risk, he and Violet try to repair the damage before it’s too late.