In 1971, a middle-aged man carrying $200,000 cash (a cool million and a half today) parachuted out of the airplane he’d just politely hijacked.
Then he vanished into thin air, launching the legend of D.B. Cooper.
Feisty but disillusioned with modern-day life, Valerie Valera becomes fascinated and obsessed with the man and all things 70’s, thinking she would give anything to travel back and find out exactly what happened.
Time travel is a funny thing, and some dreams do come true, so when Val, along with her attractive, affable, intriguing neighbour, Marv, are yanked back to just days before the skyjacking, they make it their mission to find out what’s really become of… THE MAN IN 18-E.
This quirky debut time travel novel by D.L. Hynes is an engrossing, humorous adrenaline ride you’ll want to go back and read again and again.
KG: The Man in 18-E is a very cryptic title for a debut novel, without too many spoilers who is that man and what is his story?
DLH: 18-E is an airline seat, and D.B./Dan Cooper was the alias of a real-life man who in 1971 hijacked a commercial aircraft, collected $200,000, and parachuted out, never to be found or positively identified. His is considered one of the great unsolved crimes of the 20th Century.
KG: The book is very North American in setting and feeling; what do you think people in the UK will make of it?
DLH: Well, the world has gotten smaller, so I think on both sides of the pond there's a lot of pop-culture crossover (I'm a Doctor Who fan, for example). And I think people of any culture can relate to being stuck in a rut and dreaming of fortune and escape. But because the book is set in both Canada in the US and a large chunk of it 48+ years ago, I have included some footnotes to help out with references that may be unfamiliar to some readers. The book can be read with or without referring to the footnotes, which I have kept as accurate and facetious as possible.
KG: It’s a time travel story but with a difference. When did you first get interested in time travel and if you could travel to just one time and place where and WHEN would it be?
DLH: I think I've always loved time travel stories - the Bill and Ted and Back to the Future movies were fun, Somewhere in Time is a brilliant movie based on a haunting love story - though of late it's mostly been Doctor Who. I prefer my time travel stories light-hearted. There's lots of times and places I would love to visit - the 60s (Swinging London must have been a scene, man), the Flapper scene and Paris of the 1920s, but tbh, after doing all this Cooper research, it would be very tempting to go back to 1971 and solve the mystery.
KG: I think it’s a great story that would transfer well to the big screen, who could you see playing the main character’s?
DLH: Wow, thank you - wouldn't that be something? Valerie I see as attractive but in a down-to-earth way, maybe a Laura Linney or Julianne Moore type when either is in a less glam role. Marv is an aging but still youthful rocker, and I can't think of any actors in his age range that really fit - a skinny, shaggy-haired rocker who can act would do, but he must have an air of kindness underneath the black clothes. Maybe Sam Rockwell or Ewen MacGregor, but I didn't have any actor in mind when I wrote him. For the skyjacker - Edward Norton has the right Everyman quality; the key thing is that he must have a face that can blend. He's not a GQ man in a suit, he's just a man in a suit. Kirsten Dunst was a revelation in Season 2 of Fargo and The Cat's Meow and would make a very good Bunny. For the other characters, I haven't really thought about it.
KG: What writers do you like and most closely identify your writing style to?
DLH: I love Stephen King, Agatha Christie, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, the late children's writer Ellen Raskin, Douglas Adams, Daphne duMaurier, but apart from keeping it fairly colloquial like King and Atwood, and keeping the style simple like Christie or Raskin, and light like Adams or Gaiman, I can't say there's one dominating influence. The footnotes were added later, and you can see the same type of thing in the fictional works of Susanna Clarke and Terry Pratchett, though in this case the footnotes are references to real-world pop cultural phenomena of various places and eras, not entire fictional universes. They're more of an aid to the reader, like the glossary Herbert put in Dune (and which I sadly did not realize was there until I was halfway through and very confused!)
KG: What do you like most about writing?
DLH: The fun part is the plotting and coming up with the characters and their quirks. And I love that you can change anything you want, scrap the whole plan if you want, have your characters do anything. You can do that for yourself in life, of course, up to a point, but that's a lot more work.
KG: Do you have a set routine in your writing, place, time?
DLH: I have a writing space with a desk and computer, but I often outline or write entire chunks on paper as they come to me, then type them up later. I do it anytime I have free time and enough energy to concentrate. There's no set schedule as my work schedule varies, though lately I've mostly been writing at nights and weekends.
KG: How do you plan your stories, are you a meticulous planner?
DLH: Yes and no. I start with a general outline (mainly because I'm also trying my hand at mysteries, and if you don't know the end from the beginning, how you gonna plant the clues?) but this will change many times during the writing as new ideas pop up or if something feels missing or extraneous. I don't like to plan every little detail, as it's easy to become bored with the story then and will show in the writing. If I'm getting bored, the reader will. And later on in the process, the editor and publisher may also suggest changes, so it's best to stay flexible.
KG: What tips would you give to anyone writing in general and time travel in particular? Maybe best doing it in the past or the future?
DLH: To anyone writing - make sure the subject matter is something you love, or it will show. Don't make it too autobiographical - leave that for its own genre - but of course draw from your own emotions and knowledge and observations of other humans. The best publishing advice: Don't be too sad about rejections. Aim for 100 rejections, I was once told, and then you know you're submitting enough. I used to give up on books after 1 rejection; big mistake. Publishers are very individual; look for ones whose published works closely match what you write.
I hadn't really planned to write a time travel book initially, just got fascinated with the real-life case and decided to make something of what I found out. Time travel made sense because I was wracking my brains over the various suspects and had a wish that I could fly back and just know. It just went from there. I have never written anything set in the future, but for books set in the past, the first thing is just to do your research. It's so easy now with the Internet. For time travel in the past 100 years or so, you can get a firm grip on everything from the popular styles of the times to the way people spoke and lived.
It is freeing that (as far as we know) time travel doesn't exist, so you can go full-fantasy on how the travel happens. In this case I went with a portal triggered by nostalgic objects, but you can use anything from pocket watches to Deloreans. As a reader I don't really mind about the technical aspects of it, and unless the writer is a physicist, I don't think they really need to waste a lot of time on the HOW of time travel. Make something up.
KG: It’s a very simple but effective cover, who designed it, and do you see it fits in well with the story?
DLH: I Love the cover. My publisher has a great designer Graeme Parker, he designed it entirely and I think he just nailed it. I've always loved the feeling of a plane taking off, and as the book is about Cooper, who hijacked the plane right after takeoff, I think it's a perfect image. Can't think of a better symbol for launching my writing career, either, so - love, love, love.
KG: What books or projects do you have coming in the near future?
DLH: I have two mystery novels finished but I need to re-write them a bit down the road, tighten them up a bit. For now, I'm working on the sequel to this time travel book, which will be set in the 1920s and involve a famous Hollywood unsolved murder. I think the third may involve a famous case from the 1930s but not sure about that one yet; I don't want to over-think it as I'm way off from finishing the second yet. I also have a fictional, fable-like self-help book in the works, but there's no deadline on that one. Just whenever I have time to finish it.
KG: And where do you see your writing in five to ten years’ time?
DLH: I'd like to get to a place where I can write full-time, both time travel and mystery books. I never aspired to be a highly literary writer; really just want to write fun fiction that I hope people will find entertaining and a distraction from their worries. I read a lot of escapist fiction when I was stuck in post-earthquake Japan in 1995, and I believe it is just as noble to provide entertainment as intellectual insight. People need the break sometimes. I hope to entertain; that's about it.
KG: What would be your perfect Christmas?
DLH: This is pretty much it - my family are well and in touch, I have a bit of time off to relax with hubby, cats, friends, have enough cash to be decently merry, and my first book is coming out! If I could visit my Mom in far-off Labrador, that would be perfect but hope to see her in the New Year.
KG: Do you make new year resolution’s? If so, what are they for the new decade?
DLH: I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, but I am trying to be a more focused, calm, positive person overall. Lots of meditation and reminding myself that life is too short to put off your dreams, put off showing your loved ones your love, or wallow in your problems.