Thursday, October 31, 2019

Stitching Together Time-Slip Fiction by Melanie Dobson

Twenty years ago I attempted to write my first novel by stitching together the threads from two plots—a past story about a woman who disappeared in Colorado’s mining country and a contemporary one about her great-granddaughter trying to find out what happened.

I mailed my manuscript out to a dozen or so publishers and received back the same number of rejections. The general consensus—I needed to rip out the seams of this story and rewrite, but I didn’t know how to sew the dual timelines back together again.

So I tucked away my idea alongside a stack of rough drafts and kept writing, finally partnering with a publisher for a contemporary novel about an unresolved conflict that happened decades earlier. My first novel came out in 2005, and I followed that with several historical and contemporary stories that featured characters searching for answers from the past.

Then Tatiana de Rosnay published Sarah’s Key, and I was swept up in her story that wove together equally compelling past and present plotlines. Her novel spanned sixty years, and the truth about the past ultimately transformed the contemporary protagonist’s life.

Reading that novel changed my life. It was exactly what I wanted to write!

So I hunkered back down, studied the structure of Tatiana’s brilliant book, and began writing another novel set in both the past and present—this one about a French woman during World War II who hid members of the resistance in tunnels under her family’s chateau. After years of wanting to write a multiple timeline story, Chateau of Secrets was published in 2015. And it’s been such a joy for me to continue pursuing this dream of mine for the past five years.

Many authors have begun to embrace this format of weaving together parallel past and present timelines, typically bridging the gap with a journal or heirloom that passes through generations. According to a recent article in Publishers Weekly, this genre is continuing to grow, and that makes my heart happy because I love reading these novels as much as I enjoy writing them.

The big question, though, seems to be—what do we call this rapidly growing structure?

Publishers, authors, and readers call the multiple timeline format by multiple names. Time slip. Split time. Dual timeline. Twin strand. Time jump. Hybrid.

A reviewer for My Brother’s Crown (Leslie Gould and Mindy Starns Clark) called their past-present novel, “the melding of the two time periods.” What a beautiful way to describe this emerging genre.

In Publishers Weekly, Karen Watson of Tyndale House said, “There seems to be an ongoing interest in storytelling that bridges or twists traditional concepts of time and history. Rather than just straight linear historical fiction, we see a lot of novels that bridge two periods of time—what we call time-slip stories.”

I like time slip—this idea of melding together two or more stories as the readers slip through time. And I like split time as well, demonstrating how these novels are split into stories from different eras. The problem with dual timeline is that it narrows this format to two plotlines when some authors are branching out to three or more time periods in their novels. Kristy Cambron’s Lost Castle is a tri-timeline story, for example, with parallel plots from the French Revolution, World War II, and present day.

If you enjoy this genre, you can find a listing of inspirational time-slip stories at No matter what we call this genre, the important thing is that readers continue to be swept away by stories transporting them seamlessly across time!

Memories of Glass

Reminiscent of Diane Ackerman’s The Zookeeper’s Wife, this stunning novel draws from true accounts to shine a light on a period of Holland’s darkest history and bravest heroes.
1942. As war rips through the heart of Holland, childhood friends Josie van Rees and Eliese Linden partner with a few daring citizens to rescue Eliese’s son and hundreds of other Jewish children who await deportation in a converted theater in Amsterdam. But amid their resistance work, Josie and Eliese’s dangerous secrets could derail their friendship and their entire mission. When the enemy finds these women, only one will escape.

Seventy-five years later, Ava Drake begins to suspect that her great-grandfather William Kingston was not the World War II hero he claimed to be. Her work as director of the prestigious Kingston Family Foundation leads her to Landon West’s Ugandan coffee plantation, and Ava and Landon soon discover a connection between their families. As Landon’s great-grandmother shares the broken pieces of her story, Ava must confront the greatest loss in her own life—and powerful members of the Kingston family who will do anything to keep the truth buried.
Illuminating the story and strength of these women, award-winning author Melanie Dobson transports readers through time and place, from World War II Holland to contemporary Uganda, in this rich and inspiring novel.

Memories of Glass is available for review, and Melanie Dobson is available for interviews to discuss:

• • Critically-acclaimed author Melanie Dobson writes a gripping time-slip WWII and contemporary novel, inspired by true accounts.

• • Two friends join a resistance mission to rescue Jewish children from a Nazi deportation center during the Holocaust; seventy-five years later in contemporary Uganda, a woman confronts a chilling truth about her family history.

• • Carol Award -winning author with rigorously researched novels.

Writing fiction is Melanie Dobson's excuse to explore abandoned houses, travel to unique places, and spend hours reading old books and journals. The award-winning author of twenty books, Melanie enjoys stitching together both time-slip and historical fiction including Catching the Wind, Hidden Among the Stars, and her latest novel, Memories of Glass. Melanie’s historical novels have won four Carol Awards, the 2018 Audie Award, and the ForeWord Book of the Year. More information about her and her family’s journey is available at


  1. Good morning, Melanie.

    There's a time-slip I'd love to write. I'm so glad to hear that the genre is gaining popularity. Every time I sit down to write it, I come up with same problem: how do I pitch this?

    Thanks for the helpful post!

    1. Hi Connie! I recommend that you finish the story before you think too much about the pitch, but some publishers are actively looking for this genre so it shouldn't be difficult to pitch. When you say "time-slip" or "split-time", they will know what you're talking about. In your pitch, you will probably want to highlight the past story and then explain how it impacts your present day characters.

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  3. These are my favorite novels and I’m so glad they are getting popular. I recently read Memories Of Glass and it was every bit as good as I’d hoped!

  4. I’ve been working on several time-slips for years and never knew the genre had a name. Thanks so much for this timely post!

    1. You are most welcome, Yvonne! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I love time-slip novels and hope to someday write one when I have the right story! Right now, I'm listening to Memories of Glass and loving it! I knew how caught up I was in the story when I pulled up to a drive-through window and paused the recording so they wouldn't know I was involved with the Dutch Resistance! LOL. Thanks for this post and for a lovely book, Melanie.

    1. That is awesome, Marie!! Good thing they didn't catch you. :) I hope you are able to write one as well. It's a grand adventure.

  6. Melanie, thank you for guest posting today. Your novel sounds great. I admire your plotting abilities! Please know you are welcome to guest post anytime. Thanks again!

    1. Thanks so much, Terri! I really enjoyed joining you all last week. Thank you for your encouragement and invitation!! I really appreciate it.


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