It’s a fascinating concept. Ida can travel in time – but only through her own past. She can press undo on any action she takes, whether it’s accidentally breaking a plate or saying something she wishes she hadn’t. Poof! She returns to the moment, and picks another option. But when Ida begins to use her ability more and more regularly, creating all kinds of alternate universes, the powers that be start to take notice. When her power starts to spiral out of her control and alternate-Ida doppelgängers appear, Ida realises that keeping the people she loves may come at a price.
Alison Evans has been published in magazines, lit journals and zines all over the world, and Ida marks their literature debut. We spoke to Alison about the inspiration behind such a unique novel, the highs and lows of time travel, and what they would do with an ability like Ida’s…
BR: Congratulations on the release of Ida! What do you hope readers take away from this book?
AE: Thank you! I just hope they have a good time reading it, I think books are the best escape and sometimes it’s super crucial to just get away from real life for a while. Other than that, if anyone learns more about the queer community, that’s always a bonus.
BR: It’s a very unique concept – where did the inspiration for Ida come from?
AE: I was going out after work one day and I had started my car, then I realised I forgot to change out of my work clothes. So I turned off the car, went inside and changed, then was back on the road. When I rounded a corner there had been an accident and I wondered if I hadn’t gone back to change then would I have been in that accident? I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and so I wrote Ida.
BR: How did you decide how time travel and the lightdark worked for the world of Ida?
AE: The time travel/parallel universe skipping stuff was inspired by a video I watched in Year 12 about the thirteen different dimensions. One of the later dimensions was infinite universes where every decision that was possible made a new universe. The science was really too sophisticated for me to understand properly, but this is where I got the bare bones for the universes. I wanted the lightdark to be somewhere that wasn’t comparable to anywhere in real life. Which is why it’s full of contradictions. It’s light but it’s dark; Ida is floating freely in this space but she can’t move her limbs. The only way to navigate where she’s going is by warmth.
BR: It’s always great to see gender diversity in modern literature – tell us more about creating the character of Daisy, and the crucial role they play in the novel.
AE: Daisy is Ida’s partner and they’re genderqueer. This means that they don’t identify as a man or a woman, but as non-binary. They use the singular ‘they’ pronoun and this is something I love to have been able to do. I and a lot of people I know use the singular they pronoun and it feels really great to actually have that in a book. Daisy is an artist and has started university, something that Ida can’t help but compare herself to. Daisy is driven and has this passion for art that Ida desperately wants to understand; she wants to find that motivation for herself too. Ida and Daisy’s relationship is already established at the start of the novel and so we see them already comfortable with each other, and it’s clear that they love and support each other a lot. When Daisy starts to go missing from Ida’s universes, this is the beginning of Ida wondering if her power is really worth it.
BR: What was your experience writing Ida? Was it a challenge to keep the different universes clear in your head?
AE: It was totally a challenge to keep everything clear. I wrote out heaps of timelines while redrafting just so I could remember when/where everything happened. The first time around while writing it was a breeze, because in a first draft nothing really has to make too much sense. But piecing it all together, making sure everything fit, that was hard.
BR: Ida can shift and skip back in time, but only through her own life and decisions. How would you use (or misuse) this power yourself?
AE: Honestly, I have no idea! I try really hard not to think about ‘what could have been’ in my past, I’m just trying to own my decision making. My life is pretty great in all honesty, so I don’t really know what I would change.
BR: What are some of your favourite Australian novels?
AE: Cracked by Clare Strahan for its beautiful use of place, Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff for SPACE and really cool multi-format stuff, The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis for its exploration of grief and identity.
BR: What’s up next for you?
AE: I’m not really sure at the moment! I have a zombie novel sitting on my computer that I’m thinking of going back and editing, and during November I started writing a spooky witchy queer romance-ish YA book that I would also love to finish.
Purchase your own copy of Ida here.