Sense of smell activates time travel device in new Y/A novel

Sarah Suk’s The Space Between Here & Now focuses on a teenager’s attempt to get answers about her missing mother

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Vancouver writer Sarah Suk’s latest Y/A novel, The Space Between Here & Now, centers on a teenage girl who has a sense of smell so powerful that it causes her to time travel to moments in her life. And yes, those moments are not always pleasant, much less explainable.

Postmedia caught up with Suk and asked him a few questions about his intriguing book.

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Cover photo of the novel The Space Between Here and Now
The space between here and now by Sarah Suk Photo courtesy of Quill Tree Books /sun

q: Your protagonist, 17-year-old Aimee, has something called sensory time warp syndrome, a rare condition in which a smell can make her travel to a moment in her life. What inspired this device?

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TO: That’s when I first learned that of our five senses, smell is the one most connected to memory. He made me wonder: what if scents could make us physically travel in time? I feel like a lot of my inspiration comes like this: in a random fact that I learn or in a detail that catches my attention and makes me think about hypothetical scenarios.

Q: What does Aimee’s unique skill as a fiction writer offer you?

TO: I love time travel stories and always wanted to write one. Aimee’s experience gave me the opportunity to explore her in a way that seemed both fantastical and grounded in reality. In many ways, Sensory Time Warp Syndrome parallels many chronic conditions that people live with daily in our real world, without time travel, and I enjoyed the process of writing about it through a speculative lens. .

Q: How are you and Aimee alike?
TO: We are both very introspective people and appreciate art, doing our best to live in the present.

Q: Aimee becomes a detective of sorts as she searches for the truth about her mother. Any thoughts on this character returning in other novels where she can use her unique gift to help others? Maybe solve crimes?

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TO: I don’t have any current plans to return to Aimee’s character, but I love the idea of ​​her helping others. I think she would be very good at it.

Q: What made you want to explore pain in this novel?

TO: Grief and loss are themes I often lean into in my stories because I think they show up in our lives in many ways, some more obvious than others. Aimee is going through the pain of her mother abandoning her, as well as the loss of missing out on certain experiences that her classmates are having, such as driving and dating, because she feels held back by her condition. Loss is a universal human experience, but we all respond to it in very different ways, and I’m curious to explore that in my writing.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from this story?

TO: I always hope my books find the readers who need them most in that moment for whatever reason, whether it makes them laugh, think, or feel seen. I feel the same way about this story, with the added bonus that I hope it encourages people to take a breath and enjoy the present moment.

Q: What kind of feedback do you get from younger fans?

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TO: I hear a lot from young readers who are also aspiring authors, telling me about the parts of my books that inspire them to continue pursuing their dreams. I always feel very moved by these messages. It’s a great honor to be a part of their writing journey in that way. I also love hearing about their favorite scenes and characters and seeing the art they make based on those things.

Q: Do you have any rules you follow when writing novels for a younger audience?

TO: I don’t have rules per se, but I try to be conscious of keeping my voice as genuine as possible and remember that my goal first and foremost is to tell a great story, not teach a lesson.

Q: What are your favorite Y/A novels?

TO: Some recent young adult novels that I loved are The Girl Who Fell Under the Sea by Axie Oh I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson and Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram. As a child, I really enjoyed Kit Pearson’s children’s books. I remember rereading A Fistful of Time and I Wake and Dreaming several times as a child and feeling very inspired to write my own books one day.

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