Cover of Virtually MariaCover of A Matter of TimeCover of Yesterday Today and Tomorrow  



by John Joyce


John Joyce on writing A Matter of Time

Cover of A Matter of Time  

How long after finishing Virtually Maria did you start A Matter of Time?

Before I finished Virtually Maria, I knew the overall saga of Theo Gilkrensky and his quest to save his wife Maria was too big for just one book and that it had to be the first book in an ongoing series.

I started work on A Matter of Time almost as soon as I began to send out the manuscript of Virtually Maria to various publishers. I already had an idea of how the story themes and characters within the Virtual Trilogy would develop and the subjects I wanted to pursue, so it wasn't difficult to start work immediately.

Working on A Matter of Time also kept my mind off the painful process of rejection after rejection that every author goes through as their manuscripts comes back from publishers and agents time and time again.

What themes did you want to explore in A Matter of Time?

The themes I wanted to explore in A Matter of Time were the ongoing development of the "virtual Maria" user interface within the Minerva 3,000 from a cold and calculating machine into a thinking, feeling entity that could show emotion and form attachements, the idea of Theo Gilkrensky being tempted by another woman and beginning to doubt his quest to save Maria, and finally the phenomenon of the " Bermuda Triangle" itself.

The first theme is explored in a number of different ways throughout the novel, starting with the rebellion of the "virtual Maria" interface as its capabilities grow within the Minerva 3000 prototype computer system. "Maria" feels confined within the computer and wants to reach out and touch the world. She does this initially by flying Theo's private jet on the way to Florida and by fighting a duel with a robotic missile sent to destroy him. Then she is hijacked by perverted computer games king Jerry Gibb and sucked into his "Morbius III" virtual reality computer game. Trapped within the virtual world of cyberspace with Jerry Gibb, she finds herself in a congruent environment with another person for the first time and can experience all the excitement, frustration and pain of being human.

The second theme, that of testing Theo's resolve to complete his quest to save Maria by presenting him with another woman who loves him - is explored not only through his relationship with his former lover Jessica Wright, but also through Jill McCarthy, daughter of Theo's friend and mentor Bill. Jill has been smitten with Theo since they were at college together and now sees a chance to win him for herself.

The third theme, concerning the phenomenon of the "Bermuda Triangle" - the area of ocean to the east of Florida where ships and aircraft have dissappeared - has always fascinated me. In particular, I wanted to minutely examine the legend of Flight 19 - in which five US Navy Avenger torpedo bombers disappeared during a training exercise in December 1945 along with a Martin Mariner flying boat that was sent to search for them afterwards.

Related to the "urban legend" of Flight 19 is the story of the "Philidelphia Experiment", in which the US Navy is reported to have accidentally 'teleported' the destroyer USS Eldridge out of the Philidephia shipyards during an experiment with exteme magnetism code named "Project Rainbow".

Since both these legends could possibly involve the same kinds of forces that my fictional hero is trying to harness, I thought it would be interesting to readers to explore them in some depth.

Do you believe that the Bermuda Triangle exists as an actual paranormal phenomenon?

I'm fascinated by the idea that it might be a real phenomenon but I tend to be sceptical that any forces other than those of nature, tide and current are at work there.

In A Matter of Time the facts and fallacies behind the Bermuda Triangle mystery are dealt with in detail during a discussion between Theo Gilkrensky and Jill McCarthy over dinner in a Florida hotel. Jill is a pragmatist. She points out that the ocean east of Florida contains millions of square miles of open sea which are swept by dangerous currents. Once out of sight of land it is easily possible for people to get lost, to panic and to fall prey to all kinds of accidents.

For example, Flight 19 was actually led by a pilot who was unfamiliar with the area and who didn't trust his compass. It is likely that he simply flew his flight in the wrong direction until they ran out of fuel and then ditched into the sea. In the vast expanse of the ocean, which was by then experiencing a growing storm, their chances of survival were slim.

The villain of A Matter of Time - the computer games king Jerry Gibb - is a very believable character. Is he modelled on anyone in particular?

I once read that, to create believable characters, a writer should look inside himself. I like to think that Jerry is believable because he has had to face all the trials and humiliations that so many children who are 'different' from their peers have to go through. Jerry was very overweight as a child. He could never live up to his father's expectations that he would be good at sports. He also receives the double humiliation of getting hit in the teeth by a baseball in front of his father and losing an important game in front of the girl he worships.

I think anyone who has been rejected by someone they idolise can feel Jerry's pain in that scene. I think they can even understand how he copes with that pain by retreating into a fantasy world of adult computer games where he has complete control as the wizard Morbius.

I think there's a little bit of Jerry Gibb in all of us. Perhaps that's why he's such a believable character, and perhaps that's why computer games are so addictive to so many people?

Yukiko Funakoshi - the seductive Japanese assassin - is back in A Matter of Time. How do you see her character developing?

I had to bring back Yukiko, simply because she's one of my favourite characters. In many ways her motive to avenger the deaths of her parents is as pure as Theo Gilkrensky's motive to save Maria, and she drives towards her quest with the same obsession that he does. In A Matter of Time, she is thrown into a situation with Theo where each of them needs the other to survive against a common enemy and so a temporary truce is called. How each of them deals with this makes for a very interesting situation and does create a mutual respect between them - at least for a while.

In the third book - Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow - Yukiko Funakoshi will play an even more important role in the plot, as her quest to kill Gilkrensky and his quest to save Maria come closer and closer to their final resolution.

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Copyright John Joyce 2008





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