Guest post: Marlene Dotterer, author of Shipbuilder, the Time Travel Journeys

I’ve known Marlene for a long time, since I joined OWW in 2004. Already, she was working on an interesting project, involving the sinking–or maybe not–of the Titanic. The result is her book Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder.

Marlene talks about her book and the research she did to write it with historical accuracy.

Must Have Give-Aways!

Ships are launched with a bottle of champagne. My book is about a ship, so…

Actually, perhaps it’s best if I don’t try to mail anyone a bottle of champagne. But how about a free book?

Throughout the blog tour, I’ll keep track of everyone who leaves a comment on any of the blogs and enter them into a drawing. At the end of the tour, I’ll pick three winners, each to receive an autographed copy of The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder.

So, read on! Comment!

About the book:

Imagine being there before the Titanic set sail.

Now imagine being there before she’s even built.

Sam Altair is a physicist living in Belfast, Ireland. He has spent his career researching time travel and now, in early 2006, he’s finally reached the point where he can send objects backwards through time. The only problem is, he doesn’t know where the objects go. They don’t show up in the past, and no one notices any changes to the present. Are they creating alternate time lines?

To collect more data, Sam tries a clandestine experiment in a public park, late at night. But the experiment goes horribly wrong when Casey Wilson, a student at the university, stumbles into his isolation field. Sam tries to rescue her, but instead, he and Casey are transported back to the year 1906. Stuck in the past, cut off from everyone and everything they know, Sam and Casey work together to help each other survive. Then Casey meets Thomas Andrews, the man who will shortly begin to build the most famous ship since Noah’s Ark. Should they warn him, changing the past and creating unknown consequences for the future?

Or should they let him die?

Before You Write: Research!

Thank you for letting me borrow your blog, Patty. I’m glad to be here, and to meet your readers. I promise to tidy up before handing it back to you.

I’m so excited to have The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder out in the world. It’s been quite a journey, from idea to fruition. When I first decided to write a novel about Thomas Andrews, I knew I had research to do. Writing any novel takes a certain amount of knowledge about the strangest subjects. After all, when you invent a world, and characters to populate it, you have to know how that world functions. You have to know what your characters know. If you have a character who is an expert in wine-making (for example), you have to learn a bit about wine-making, or your book will suffer greatly.

Thomas Andrews built large, ocean-going vessels. Cruise liners.

I grew up in a desert.

You see my problem.

Shipbuilding wasn’t the only thing I needed to learn about. TTJ: Shipbuilder is science fiction, but it takes place in Ireland,1906 – 1912. It’s a novel about a well-known historical event. So my world was not one made up by me – it’s one we can all read about in books, or even see in old movies. In addition, Thomas Andrews was a member of the upper class, one of the “landed gentry.” His uncle was a viscount. I don’t exactly move in those circles.

Then there was the Titanic herself. I knew what most people know about Titanic: whatever was in James Cameron’s movie.

Let’s not forget the physics of time travel. What would Stephen Hawking think if I screwed that up?

Can you imagine the research I had to do?

Over the years, millions of words have been written about Titanic and everyone connected with her. If I go into detail here, you’ll feel you’re back in a college seminar, so I’ll just point you to the bibliography page on my website, here. I read every one of those books and websites, as well as others. I took notes. I made timelines. I joined forums and asked questions. At times, it felt like I was writing a term paper. But it was always fascinating.

I’m not a mechanically talented person, so most of the technical detail on shipbuilding was lost on me. In the end, I was mostly concerned with the character of Thomas Andrews. I wanted to explore the idea of what he might do if given a second chance at life, knowing that the ship he was building would hit an iceberg and sink, unless he could prevent it. Such a chance would mean everything to him, and he would never throw it aside. I hope I was able to achieve a balance where the technicalities of shipbuilding form a stable backdrop to the story, without taking center stage. The book covers the years when Titanic was being built, but does not go into detail about the actual building process.

I had fun researching the role of the Edwardian lady. My character, Casey Wilson, is a typical 21st century girl, brought up by liberal parents in the permissive San Francisco Bay Area. Casey has to figure out how to navigate the oppressive waters of Edwardian Ireland while holding onto her dignity and free-thinking ways. Women in this era ranged from over-protected, stifled wives and daughters, to poverty-stricken, hard-working servants or factory workers. This was also the era of suffragettes and the beginnings of progress toward women’s rights. Casey experiences all of it, from trying to find work when she and Sam first arrive in 1906, to running an upper-class household as the fictional wife of Thomas Andrews.

Ireland is a fascinating and troubled country at any time, and the Edwardian era is no exception. The constant struggle between religious and political factions, along with the rise of unions and workers’ rights, make this a particularly volatile period. Sam and Casey find themselves in the middle of all of it, and eventually they understand that they must try to change more than just the Titanic.

I also researched the state of science in this time and place. Sam is a physicist, and I could not imagine any modern physicist going back to 1906 and not trying to contact Albert Einstein. This was a fun part of the book for me, as I read Walter Isaccson’s new biography, Einstein, His Life and Universe, and Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams. What do you think Einstein’s response would have been to the presence of Sam and Casey?

And what about the time travel? Oh, I researched. I researched a lot. In the end, the mechanics of the time travel don’t really enter into this story, so I treat it as a simple factual event that starts the book. This book is about Thomas Andrews, not time travel, per se.

The next book in the The Time Travel Journals series is Bridgebuilders – THAT’S where the time travel gets down and dirty…

Marlene Dotterer grew up as a desert rat in Tucson, Arizona. In 1990, she loaded her five children into the family station wagon, and drove north-west to the foggy San Francisco Bay Area. To stay warm, she tackled many enterprises, earning a degree in geology, working for a national laboratory, and running her own business as a personal chef. She’s a frustrated gardener, loves to cook, and teaches natural childbirth classes. She says she writes, “to silence the voices,” obsessed with the possibilities of other worlds and other times.

She is married to The Best Husband in the World, and lives in Pleasant Hill, California.

Her website is

You can buy your copy of Shipbuilder at:


Amazon Kindle

Amazon estore for the paperback version


4 comments on “Guest post: Marlene Dotterer, author of Shipbuilder, the Time Travel Journeys

  1. Wow Marlene. I cannot imagine the countless hours you must have spent researching this. You must be an expert in many facets of that period by now. I’ll bet the book is fascinating. Good luck. Yvonne (

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