Author interview: CR Downing (Traveler’s HOT L)

Interview with CR Downing (Chuck)

One of the great things about being a time travel fan is being asked to read time travel novels and to share my thoughts about them. One of the unexpected spin-offs from that is occasionally having contact with those authors and finding out more about their thoughts on time and time travel, and how they’ve been able to construct a novel around those thoughts.

Until now I’ve been posting my time travel author interviews over on Time Travel Nexus. Time is nigh for a time travel author interview here on Time2timetravel!

So let’s meet CR Downing (or “Chuck”) who is the creator behind Traveler’s HOT L (which I’ve reviewed on Time Travel Nexus).

CR Downing ("Chuck")
CR Downing (“Chuck”)

Traveler’s HOT L is a collection of 8 independent short stories which share a common thread; an involvement with the Traveler’s HOT L – the “Harmonious Overlap of Time Location” and is the backbone of Chuck’s brilliant time travel mechanism.

Traveler's HOT L
Book cover for Traveler’s HOT L

As well as a “teller of tales” Chuck is also a science teacher. Dr Downing (yes – there’s a PhD to his name!) has received several awards for his teaching – including the prestigious “Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching”. He’s also a frequent speaker at science conferences at the local, state and national levels.

With such a solid (and active) footing in science, it’s hardly surprising that Chuck’s time travel method comes over so well in Traveler’s HOT L!

Chuck – many thanks for giving us your time!

I love the time travel mechanism behind the HOT L – the “Harmonious Overlap of Time Location”, and it’s explained really well in the first short story. Did you need to undertake any kind of research when exploring the ideas that you encompass here?

Chuck: I didn’t do any “scientific” research. The mode of transport along the timeline is a combination of three ideas I’d used in stand-alone short stories over many years.

  • Traveler’s HOT L was originally the title of what expanded to become Caught in the Middle, the first story in this book. It had rippling walls and the electric shock. That story ended with the line, “But, it didn’t smell all that bad after all.”
  • The mist is from another story in the book, Michael Casey O’Brien.
  • The vibrating DNA and the requirement to only travel where some amount of common DNA exists were original in DNA Trek.
  • Merging the three variables provides a complex process that gives more credence to the need for the time synchronizers and the proprietors of the HOT L.

    My favourite story in the collection is “DNA” where time travel plays a leading role through the HOT L, but also with the life of the main character who’s seeking to discover / develop time travel. In comparison, the time travel aspect in some of the other short stories is not key. How did you go about assigning the degree of integration of time travel into your stories?

    Chuck: The three of the stories mentioned in my first answer could not exist without the time travel component, although the amount of time travel that is described in Michael Casey O’Brien is minimal. Battle for a Far Planet was the longest of the short stories massaged into this anthology. In the complete Battle story, finished in Traveler’s HOT L Vol. 2, time travel is integral to the resolution of the storyline. Million-Dollar Mistake originally ended with a “storm” sending the counterfeiters back in time as a form of unexpected justice. I added the time travel element to the other stories in what I felt was an adequate amount. I know you did not agree with my assessment in some cases, but the majority of those commenting on the book like how time travel is woven into different genres. Most notable are the non-scifi fans that liked the book because of the stories.

    One of my fears of time travel becoming a reality is that it would be misused, so I really like your custodians of time who ensure that things go smoothly, or at least take measures to correct mistakes. Do you have any reservations about time travel?

    Chuck: My main reservation is like yours—misuse of time travel for personal/political gain. To limit that, my rules in brief are:

    1. The time you are gone from “your time” is time you lose in your real-time life. For example, two weeks in the past or future costs you two weeks in the year you live in.
    2. No objects forward or backward along the timeline—one photograph is allowed. No advanced weapons, drugs, or devices arrive from the future. All influence in the new time by the traveler is personal.
    3. There are penalties for missing your return window. Long-term existence—from weeks to years—in the time traveled to is consequence for missing the harmonic overlap.

    I feel that the combination of those and the existence of the time synchronizers provides a reasonable safeguard.

    I read on your website that you’re a collector of science fiction anthologies. What is it about these that hold your captivation?

    Chuck: My first in-depth experience with science fiction was Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series. I next discovered anthologies of short stories: Nebula Awards, Nova, Orbit, Annual Best SciFi Stories, collections by theme, etc. The short stories intrigued me. They still do—I’m writing two as I answer these questions. Getting a point across through a satisfying plotline in a few hundred to a few thousand words is more difficult than writing longer pieces. I admire those authors honored by their inclusion in the anthologies.

    The short stories in Traveler’s HOT L cover many genres. You’ve also written full length novels in science fiction, murder mystery, Biblical fiction as well as non fiction titles. Do you set out to write in a particular genre, or do you tend to write and see what happens?

    Chuck: I always have an idea of the genre of the story before I complete more than a rough outline. The idea for the plot doesn’t always remain intact. When that happens, the genre might change. That doesn’t happen often.

    Right now, I have books in some stage of production in the following genres.

  • MysteryThe 5th Page, a Phil Mamba novel. This is out for prepublication review.
  • Science Fiction – working title is The Drunk Gene. The plot is based on genetic engineering in the early 1990’s.
  • Science FictionFreedom’s Just a Word is a short story to be submitted to magazines for publication.
  • Science FictionSecrets of the Sequenced Symbols is another Traveler’s HOT L story. In this case, the protagonists travel back to our present to learn the importance of the books they cannot read.
  • Science Fiction – working title is Interval. A rare recessive trait endows individuals with the ability to observe past events as though watching a video. Some might consider these observations to be digital time travel.
  • Biblical FictionWho Leads the Shepherd follows a shepherd’s life, including his search for the Messiah. The shepherd’s story begins outside Bethlehem as a boy on the night Jesus was born. It ends after he witnesses Christ’s crucifixion.
  • Real Life as Fiction – no working title yet. This will be a novella—a series of vignettes—about a grandpa on his deathbed and his wayward granddaughter as she travels to his hospital room.
  • As of this moment, none of the stories that are not already time-travel linked look like they will morph to include time travel.

    As a Christian, would you go back in time to see Jesus?

    Chuck: Interestingly, I’d never given much thought to that idea. “Let’s Go to Golgotha” by Brian Aldiss is a great short-short story involving time travel. If you haven’t read it, look it up online. Now, back to the answer to the question.

    Visiting Christ’s time with the knowledge of how His life ends would difficult for me. I’m not sure I’d want to experience any of that part of the story first-hand. I also suspect that what I heard might prove to be very convicting in a way beyond what even I can imagine.

    You’re justifiably a very proud grandfather. Have you taken any precautions to avoid becoming the leading role in a practical test of the grandfather paradox?

    Proud grandfather!
    Proud grandfather!

    I have not. In the current situation, the son providing half the DNA of my granddaughters is adopted, so the point is moot. Assuming my other son has children…

    Realistically, any change to the past has ramifications far beyond anything ever written. No one knows the total impact any life has on people and events. I doubt that even the most vivid imagination would fall far short of what impact a single life has on this world. Who knows the long-term impact of a kind word said to a student, an employee, or a stranger? Each of those contacts produces a unique set of ripples.

    What of events spawned by those contacts in the lives of those contacted? I don’t think there’s enough mathematics in the universe to track the path of the influence of even a single event of a single life through history.

    You’ve been a teacher for 39 years in high school and college / university. My view on teaching is that it would be one of the most frustrating jobs there is; a class mixed with kids who don’t want to learn with some who do want to learn but can’t, and hopefully at least a few who can take in what you teach. And yet you’ve achieved the “Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching”! How is this possible?!

    Chuck: An answer to this question must contain many layers.

  • Superficial Layer. I have an inherent ability to recognize when I’m losing an audience. Long ago, in my early teenage years, I developed techniques to “bring the audience back to me” when I was regaling cousins with Bill Cosby routines. I often refer to my 31 years of high school teaching as “being able to do five shows a day.” Bottom line here: I didn’t have a lot of trouble with classroom discipline.
  • Next layer in. I think I had excellent teachers throughout my schooling. I remember recording scripts for puppet shows and measuring wasted milk in 6th grade. I wrote short stories in 7th and 8th grade. I gave a speech as Fidel Castro—complete with fake beard—in 9th grade. As a senior in high school, one of my good friends and I did the last scene of Hamlet—just the two of use—swapping props as we changed roles.
  • Layer 3. My memories of school are those of challenging assignments and being expected to think through to a solution to a problem. I carried that into my teaching. I found out early in my career that most teachers didn’t teach the way I did. I was surprised. Many of my students remark about how grateful they are for making them figure things out. “I never had another class in high school or college where I had to think more than I did in your class,” is a not an uncommon remark.
  • The Core. I believe that students can do what they are asked to do if they are supported properly. By support, I’m not talking about leading questions or providing dozens of hints. There must be a balance of support and challenge. Lev Vygotsky named this the Zone of Proximal Development. It is the situation where students feel safe enough to risk thinking outside their comfort zones. I co-authored a very fine book for parents, teachers, and administrators Tune Up Your Teaching & Turn On Student Learning is a detailed look at what a classroom can be in terms of thinking and learning. The quote that follows ends the Preface.

    Betty Crocker ® is not the author of this book. It is not a recipe you can follow step by step and get a perfect award winning “cake” at the end. This is a map of the change process with “GPS coordinates” included. (p xvii)

    I believe that every teacher should make thinking—critically, creatively, coherently, and in community—the prime objective in his or her classroom.

  • Have you ever been told to “Stand in the corner until you learn to behave” by a teacher, but actually spent most of the time standing there plotting revenge (or writing graffiti on the wall)?

    Chuck: I was a model student. I remember being disciplined only twice in school. Neither was for an offense of consequence.

    What would you like the future to hold for you?


  • I will develop a deeper love of my wife.
  • I would like to be more help to more people.
  • I would like to visit my grandchildren more and model for them what the life of a Christian is.
  • Oh, and, of course, in my “perfect future,” I’m also a best-selling author.
  • You can read more about Chuck and his novels on his website, and follow him on Twitter (@CRDowningAuthor) and on Facebook.

    Read my review of Travelers HOT L over on Time Tavel Nexus!


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