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Let’s Get Lit!: Meet Elan Mastai, author of ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS

Welcome to “Let’s Get Lit!” on Here we will chat with an author about their work and their
favorite nerdy loves! This super cool edition will feature Elan Mastai, author of ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS! I had the chance to chat with Mastai about his new book, time travel and his writing rituals.

Meg Bonney: Hi Elan! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat! Your debut novel, ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS is launching February 7th. What can you tell us about it?

Elan Mastai:  Well, the story is set in 2016, but it’s the 2016 that people in the 1950s thought we were going to have—a technological utopia of flying cars, robot maids, moon bases, and teleportation. Until the main character, Tom Barren, causes an accident with a stolen time machine that strands him in our 2016, what we think of as the real world, but which to him seems like a terrifying dystopia where everything has gone wrong. So now he’s here, in our version of the world, trying to figure out how to get back to the timeline he knows. But the longer he’s stuck here, the more challenging that becomes…

MB: That sounds great! If you could time travel, where would you go and why?      

EM: My great-aunt was the dessert chef to the Sultan of Morocco back before World War 2. Apparently she made the best pastries of all time. Would it be an insane waste of a time machine just to try some really good dessert? Because I’m pretty into dessert.

MB: Um, no! And please pick me up on your way! What is your writing ritual like?

EM: The usual stuff. I keep a bleached human skull on my desk and every morning it tells me what I dreamed the night before, so I just write down what it says. Wait, no, sorry. I keep to a pretty strict writing regimen. I’m at my desk by 10AM, I write till lunch, take a break, and then I’m back at my desk till about 5PM. I take occasional breaks for coffee and email, but for the most part I treat it like a job. Because it is my job.

MB: Nice! You are also a screen writer. How does that creative process differ from novel writing?

EM: Well, screenplays are always written in Courier font, but you can write a novel in any font you want, so it’s very liberating. I went with Times New Roman. Okay, so, the actual writing process isn’t that different. You have to write it one word at a time, same as always. But a movie doesn’t have a singular voice. You’re collaborating with a whole lot of other people, producers and executives, directors and actors, crew members and even marketing people. You may be the script’s only writer, but you’re like a composer writing a symphony that will be played by a whole orchestra. Your voice is one of many, hopefully in harmony. With a novel, you’re a soloist. It’s your voice and yours alone. Sure, you have an editor, and they can have tremendous influence as they help you shape the book. But as a novelist you’re fundamentally on your own.  After years of writing movies in a collaborative process, publishing my first novel is very exciting, and a little nerve-wracking.

MB: I can see how that would be stressful! What kind of research did you have to do to prep for writing a time travel novel?  

EM: So, first I had to build a time machine. Actually the key is you just promise you’ll build a time machine in the future and then send it back to the present. It worked for Bill & Ted. Mostly I read a lot about the nature of time, orbital mechanics, quantum physics, and theories of alternate dimensions. You know, basic stuff. I like to get the science right, to the extent that it’s possible when you’re delving into something as intrinsically knotty as time travel. The fact that actual physicists like Sean Carroll seem to think I handled the science well is hugely gratifying.

MB: That is really, really cool! We all get way too into our fandoms here at What fandom makes you geek out the most? (A book, movie or TV show) 

EM: In comics, X-Men and Spider-man, but more recently Saga, by Brian K Vaughan is just the best. On TV, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Game of Thrones. In books, anything by Philip K Dick and Kurt Vonnegut, and lately the Magicians trilogy and the Queen of the Tearling trilogy. In movies, anything X-Men, Spider-man, or Marvel Universe, but if you want to get seriously geeky with me, let’s talk John Carpenter movies from the 1980s, especially The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China.

MB: You fit in with us here at for sure! If you could dream cast anyone to play Tom, the main character, who would you pick?  

EM: Not to be evasive, but since I’m currently writing the movie adaptation of All Our Wrong Todays for Paramount, I’ll sidestep that question. When we cast Tom, I’d hate for whoever signs on to see this and be offended I didn’t name them!

MB: Totally understandable and congrats! We are always on the hunt for a good book. What are you loving right now? 

EM: Carlo Rovelli’s Reality Is Not What It Seems is the best book on quantum physics I’ve ever read, so beautifully written and lucid and mind-blowing. But if that’s a little too out there for you—Claire Cameron’s The Last Neanderthal, Ron Currie’s Everything Matters!, Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country, André Alexis’s Fifteen Dogs, and Erika Johansen’s Queen of the Tearling trilogy.

MB: Will this book be a series or have we seen the last of Tom and his travels?  

EM: Well… I wanted All Our Wrong Todays to have a definitive ending. There are huge plot twists and character reveals, but when you get to the last page, the story is over. I love these characters though, and so maybe I included a secret door I could open if and when I wanted to revisit them. But for now it’s a one-shot novel.

MB: This book gave me some Doctor Who vibes. Are you a fan of the show?

EM: No! When I was a kid, I thought the theme music for Doctor Who was so scary that even the box at my neighborhood video store would freak me out. Anytime it came on TV, I’d dive at the set to turn it off before the first “ooooo-waaa-oooooooooh” would happen. I realize this is completely ridiculous since the show is not particularly frightening at all, but I stand by my childhood assessment and reject all things Whovian.


MB: That’s hilarious! Lastly, any advice for writers out there who are still working on getting published? 

EM: Finish things. Starting is hard, and finishing is the hardest. But it’s so much easier to revise something than to stare at the blank page (or screen). If you feel uninspired, give yourself permission to write lousy material, since you’ll rewrite it many, many times anyway. And that’s good. All the books and movies you love are not first drafts. They’re the result of years of painstaking revision to make them what they are. When we only see the finished work, it’s intimidating and discouraging. But I guarantee you the first draft of anything by your favorite writer isn’t that good. So finish what you begin and then start rewriting it. The work always improves.

MB: That is great advice! Thanks so much for chatting today!

EM: Thank you!

Be sure to pick of your copy of ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS right HERE

Keep up with Elan on his website and follow him on twitter!

Need more Let’s Get Lit! in your life? Check out my interview with J. Patrick Black, author of NINTH CITY BURNING. And don’t forget to hit me up on twitter if you’d like to be featured on Let’s Get Lit! 

Thanks for reading!


Meg Bonney

Meg is a TV obsessed writer based in the Midwest. She is also the author of the award winning YA-Fantasy novel, EVERLY and tends to be overly caffeinated. Find her on Twitter to chat about TV, books and Bellamy Blake's freckles.

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