character sketch: Ella Fortune

“Ella and I met in France. She was driving an ambulance and I was stringing for the Picture Post. We decided that after the war we’d strike out on our own. I was fed up with the censorship and she’s always been a bit wild as far as I can make out. She’s the Duke of Walton’s eldest daughter, always had her head. Oxford, Bloomsbury and all that.” He coughed again. “Don’t think Walton knew what to do with her. She married Fortune without her father’s consent a couple of years before the war. He went West pretty early on, Mons I think. She’s a good lass. Flying from Cairo to Cape Town at the moment. Trying to set a record.” Another harrumph. “Supposed to be sending me back pictures.”

Callum McGovern, speaking to Alec Carter in Lost in Time

Ella Fortune is a shadowy minor character in both Lost in Time and Shadows on the Border. She’s the co-proprieter of the Pictorial Examiner, the paper where Lew Tyler works.

When I started writing Lost in Time, I thought Ella was going to have a larger role than she does. However, after helping pull Lew out of the Thames and setting him up with a flat and a job at the paper, she went off in her aeroplane to fly down the spine of Africa. I think she’s actually now going to have her own adventure.

She’s a thoroughly emancipated woman with a background in the Suffrage movement who drove an ambulance for the Red Cross in France during the First World War. She’s lucky enough to both have money and be an ‘Honourable’… the daughter of a Peer. So she can pretty much do as she likes, particularly because she’s a widow. I’m not sure yet whether her marriage to Oliver Fortune in 1912 was a marriage of convenience or whether they were truly attached to each other. She’s in her thirties and has no children by design.

She flies an Avro 504k (as a lot of people did after World War 1- more than eight thousand of them were built during the war), but her long distance flying takes place in a Vickers Vimy, which has been specially modified to take bigger fuel tanks. She’s her own mechanic and navigator but she does sometimes fly with a co-pilot.

I’m not sure what sort of adventures she’s going to have yet, but watch this space!

character sketch: Alec Carter

Alistair Carter, one of the two main protagonists from Lost in Time and Shadows on the Border, is a Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police. I imagine him as looking quite like the chap on the left on the cover of Shadows, although with a raincoat and a Homberg hat.

He’s in his mid-thirties at the start of Lost in Time in 1919, which means he was born in the late 1880s, to quite a well off middle class family who were pretty upset when he joined the police instead of becoming a solicitor or another professional. He was in the Military Police in the war and served on the Western Front. Afterwards, he came back and took up his old job with the department and works out of the Poplar area of London, at Wapping Police Station, on the Thames. He was promoted to Detective Inspector when he came back from the army and is quiet and insightful and good at working out what people mean from what they don’t say.

His brief, abortive marriage to Kitty has left him with a big empty house next to Hamstead Heath and a lot of guilt. He married a woman because it was expected of him and he could have made it work if they’d become friends, but she was really only interested in being a trophy wife and by the time she died, although he was devastated, there was also an element of relief because he was so unhappy.

He’s cross most of the time for reasons he can’t really put his finger on. Unsettled in his skin. And that only gets worse when he meets Lew Tyler during the course of a murder investigation. He isn’t unused to finding men attractive and has had liaisons before and one particular person he was very drawn to, but no-one as strongly as Lew.

Alec is probably my favorite character from the two books. He’s grumpy and defensive and not at all in touch with his emotions. It makes him really interesting to write.

character sketch: Lew Tyler

This is the first in a series of occasional character sketches I’m going to do.

Lew Tyler is one of the main characters in both Lost In Time and Shadows On The Border, books one and two of the Lost In Time series. I think he’s probably going to pop in and out of future stories as well.

Lew was born in the UK in 1983 and when we first meet him at the beginning of Lost In Time, he has just been jettisoned back in time from 2016 to 1919.

One of the things I wanted to do with the story is contrast the experience of someone age thirty-three in 2016 with the experience of someone of a similar age in 1919, and I was quite happy with how that worked out.

Lew is a rather reluctant magician who can manipulate the fabric of time and space and the void between the worlds. He gets sucked back through time as part of his search for his friend Mira, who Lew assumes is missing because she over-reached her magical abilities. Lew tried to use his own magic to track her and ended up in London just after World War One. It took him a while to find his feet – he was very lucky – and he ended up with two jobs that overlap – a journalist and photographer at a small weekly London paper and as a police crime-scene photographer. This allows him to poke around London quite easily in his search for his friend and his unexpected bequest of a motorbike early on in the book helps that a lot too.

He’s not actually a very good or knowledgeable magician. He and Mira met in foster care after his parents died when he was in his early teens. Although his father was a magic user, Lew didn’t have enough time with him and neither he nor Mira have had any kind of mentoring or training. They’re flying blind and that’s why things have gone wrong.

Lew is a kind and open person. But he’s also scared of people finding out his secrets – both that he’s from the future and that he’s gay – and he feels very alone at the start of the books. As the series goes on, he settles in to himself, but I can’t say too much more about that without spoilers!

What does he look like? He’s five foot ten, with high boned cheeks, long-ish fair hair that he tries to keep slicked back from his face, but that usually falls in to his eyes. He’s sinewy rather than built. He’s got dark brown eyes that are shot through with lighter hazel and when he’s pulling power, the hazel bits take on a golden colour. He’s quite empathic, probably because of the magic, and finds it difficult to filter out other people’s emotions unless he’s concentrating hard. That can be helpful if he’s working magic, but a nuisance the rest of the time.

I really like the overall feel of the artwork JMS has done for the series. I feel that that they give a good feel for the characters and the world. In my head, Lew is the man at the back hiding under the rather large hat.