Help Me With Time Travel Books

landlineOkay, so I recently read two great “time travel” books–Landline by Rainbow Rowell, which has a magic phone line to the past, and Time and Forever by Susan B. James, which has an actual ticket you buy to travel back in time and experience life in an earlier time. Neither book is like Marty McFly, where he starts to disappear if his parents don’t actually get together in the Back to the Future movies, or like most other time travel shows/episodes on television. You can’t change the past or you’ll change the future. . .in both of these lovely books written by women I admire, the past affects the future, but only because when the main character goes back in time, it affects the future she is in now, but back in the past.



This is what I don’t understand. This is what I need someone smarter than myself to explain to me. Let’s say Anna is a character in a time travel book and she finds a magic lounge chair that transports her back in the past where she meets an important man, Robert, whom she’s married to  in her present life, but as his past self. She gets worried about the Marty McFly rule, and so Anna goes back to the present (future) without hopefully changing anything in the past. In the future-present, though, Robert says something that reminds Anna of when they almost skinny-dipped in the fountain in the park, but this event occurred in the the 2nd past–the past she went back to as her older self, where she threw caution to the wind. So, would Robert have married her if she didn’t travel back in time and almost skinny -dip, but she didn’t travel back in time until she was older. . .which one is real?

See, I’m confused again!

Help me!

By the way, I enjoyed both Landline and Time and Forever, and I highly recommend them to any readers who love romance, love, and time travel.

But first before you go to check them out, please help me.  (If you like non-confusing books that have nothing to do with time travel, you can check out mine by going to my blog: !)



  • Oh, my goodness, I’m absolutely no help here. You know I wrote a time travel book for kids and still don’t know how to explain what happened! Have you read the middle-grade book “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead? My daughter loved that one and begged me to read it and I had to keep asking her how everything that happened in that book was possible. I couldn’t help but wonder if I couldn’t figure it out as an adult could a child? I always blame my ignorance on the fact that I’m not “science oriented!”

    • Renee: I feel only slightly better that you wrote a time travel book and still don’t understand. Maybe I should interview Susan B. James and Rainbow Rowell and ask them to explain. :)

  • Sounds good to me!

  • Margo: I think in time travel stories the “past” is the past — no matter when it happened (so to speak). So if on her second trip back to the past her husband falls in love with someone else and marries that person, for example, when she returns to the present she and her husband would never have married (and their children, if any, would never have been born). The “good news” is that when she returns to the present the second time, she won’t remember that she was married for 10 years to him, because it actually never happened…

    The bottom line is that if you read time travel stories, you’re much better off if you read them really, really fast and don’t think about it too much!! :)

    • @Tasha: Reading them fast is a good suggestion. I think I’m really thinking too much. Both authors did a good job of setting up their world and making it believable, so why am I overthinking it?

  • I haven’t read either of these books but my suggestion is if you’d like to be schooled in time travel, you’re going to have to start watching Doctor Who! Or just watch the episode “Blink.” A quote from the Doctor from that episode: “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.”

    Good luck, I’ve been a fan of all things time travel for a long time and I still get pains in my head while trying to figure it out.

    • I don’t know if I can invest in another TV show, but I know Dr. Who is big right now!

  • Time Travel, how does it work?
    We first must agree on exactly how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
    By that I mean, we don’t know. We don’t even have a way to test which version(s) of time travel in actuality would work, if it in fact any does work.
    Successful time travel stories can begin in known science, but after that, we simply don’t know. We are not even sure that the much posited ‘paradox’ would actually occur. The paradox issue is simply where our knowledge and understanding is all hypothesis.
    So as with vampires, werewolves and zombies, time travel, is at this point in our understanding of it, fiction, legend, theory.
    Many time travel stories state that no matter what you do in the past, that a certain path, destiny, will either prevent you from changing anything, or something else will fill in the new hole in the grand plot and the results in the long term will work out the same anyhow.
    Or you travel back to the fifties, step into an elevator, fart, and suddenly we never figure out a trip to the moon, or Kennedy doesn’t get shot, or ‘My Mother The Car’ becomes a huge hit leading to a ten year run with seven spin-offs and Jerry becomes the most notable Van Dyke.
    Take your pick.
    In Star Trek, McCoy saves the life of a social worker in earth’s past and Star Fleet Academy never gets created, Germany wins WWII, leaving the Enterprise with no place to go, no one to talk to.
    However, the ship’s computer seems to have records of both timelines. Figure that out.
    So write your story, as always, stick to the universe, the rules you create, the laws of physics you create. Be consistent, and for the love of all that may or may not be holy, avoid the ‘deus ex machina’ . It’s been done.
    You seem to be thinking along the lines of the clone effect. There are theories, different kinds of clones in fiction as well. If someone is duplicated, are their thoughts, memories and experiences duplicated? (Intriguing plot lines!) OR does the copy start fresh, with no shared thoughts so that it is truly an independent creature, similar in certain characteristics perhaps, but with its own path. (Known reality)
    Is your character present in both the present and past? Or is the person in the lounge chair an independent copy of that later person? This you will have to work out.
    Quantum physicists have described subatomic particles that exist in more than one time/place simultaneously. So why not?
    Go for it.

    • Dennis: WOW! Thank you for that answer. I think maybe I’m thinking about it too hard? I also thought of Quantum Leap–how he got taken to a place and became someone else because he had to do something–right a wrong–right? And that changed things. . .In both books I mentioned, the main characters are confused too but then eventually grow to accept what happens with their time travel and even use it to better their lives. Maybe I should do a time travel book/movie/TV episode study. . .

  • Time travel is tricky… I remember watching the movie Time Cop and realizing that the main character became a time cop because his wife was killed, but then he goes back in time to prevent it… thus negating the reason for becoming a time copy in the first place, thus never saving his wife, etc… Back to the Future does it right because Marty McFly never purposely travels to the past to change anything… it is an accident. If he had gone back to fix something, then when the future happens, there will be no reason for him to have gone back.

    I like thinking of time travel as opening a wound. If the traveler does something to alter the past, it is like a wound… it will “bleed” the effects through time until it scabs over. People in the “present” would not realize there were any changes because those changes would have rippled through time.

    I actually wrote a YA novel called Paradox that deals with the intricacies of time travel. Because it was written for a YA audience, I had to explain some of these things to make it understandable. Side note: on Thursday and Friday, August 28 and 29, it is free on Kindle! Here is a link if anyone wants a free copy: (Not trying to spam anyone… just give away a free book!)

    Of course, I love Doctor Who and some of the ways the show presents time travel. That and Quantum Leap…

    • Cory: Thanks for letting us know about your free book! I will check it out! :)

  • Maybe it’s like Peggy Sue Got Married. You can try and try but the future will always stay the same.

So, what do you think?