Inside an Anthology: When to Now

Today we’re back with literary powerhouse Alison McBain. We’re talking about the process of compiling and editing an anthology as she and her writer’s group, the Fairfield Scribes, prepare to release an anthology of time travel themed short stories called When to Now.

Alison, welcome back and thank you for taking the time out of your manic schedule to talk to me again. Firstly, can you introduce the anthology and give me an idea of your involvement in the production of the work?

Alison McBain HeadshotWhen to Now contains short, time travel themed stories from hard sci-fi to the surreal, from literary to fantasy. It’s an amazing anthology, and I’m so proud to have had a small part in putting it together and working with these lovely, talented writers. There are 18 stories by 17 authors. The shortest story is a flash fiction piece, about 950 words, and the longest story is a novelette and about 16,000 words. We have a steampunk story that follows a Victorian time traveler back to Viking times. There’s a daughter who’s trying to figure out her mother’s murder and how it relates to her mother’s research into time travel. We have a story about woman who gave up her son many years ago, and has to face, once again, the trauma that changed her life. And we have a story about a young girl who learns that a time traveler can’t change events in the past, no matter how much she may want him to.

How long has the anthology taken to get to the stage of publication?

WHEN TO NOW CoverAs as lead editor the planning stages started roughly 2 years ago, with a few detours along the way. This was my first time editing an anthology – conceiving of who might be a part of it, making contacts in the writing and publishing world, setting up marketing for the book and authors, and figuring out the logistics of running a writing contest – so the scope of the project was quite ambitious. All of these things were “firsts” for me, and so I will lovingly refer to this anthology as my guinea pig. Or a test rat, but “guinea pig” sounds a lot better.

But having gone through it once, I’m happy to do it again – and now I actually know what I’m doing! (Although I probably shouldn’t admit that – my authors in this anthology might kill me, ha.)

How were contributors selected?

There was a three-part process to selecting contributors. First, because the Fairfield Scribes started out (and still is) a writing group, we opened up the invitation first to members of the Scribes. Not everyone was able to be a part of the anthology this time, but several authors signed up to write stories.

Next, we had a list of authors whose work we’d encountered through writing-related events and groups, and we invited those whom we thought would make it a well-rounded anthology. These are authors whose writing we love, new and brilliant authors who were just making or have just made their debut.

Finally, we held a contest to select the feature story of the anthology. And we had a lot of amazing entries to the contest – we could have published half a dozen books just from the contest entries alone. We were thrilled to announce our contest winner, “Ruby’s Paradox” by Cynthia C. Scott. It’s a very powerful story, and a great way to lead off an anthology full of amazing stories.

What was the most difficult part of the process? One of the contributors said you herded the cats like an award-winning collie, shepherding us to the greatness that is When to Now. I’m guessing dealing with so many people must have been one of the hardest challenges.

I think I know which contributor said that. And I’m totally not at all surprised that she just called me a dog, ha ha. I think I’d be more of a Chihuahua, though, annoyingly barking at everyone and everything to get things done. But hopefully my bark is worse than my bite.

This is the first time I’ve been in charge of a project of this scope, so the biggest challenge was… everything? Putting together the author list, running a contest for our feature story in the anthology, editing each story with sometimes multiple edits back and forth with the authors, selecting the order of stories in the anthology so everything flowed nicely… again, everything was tough? Ha. But now I know what goes into a project of this scope, and it will be much easier to plan for our next anthology, which we’re hoping to start the process of putting it together early next year. We’ve already chosen our theme for our next book, and it is VERY exciting.

How was the name When to Now chosen?

Most of the editors of the Scribes get together once a week as a writing critique group, so that’s generally when we brainstorm on any publishing business. We all had ideas about what to call the anthology – Robert Tomaino, one of the contributing editors, came up with the name. All of us instantly loved it. I won out on the subtitle, despite some protests.

BW Fairfield Scribes Logo

With stories of every stripe, from hard sci-fi to the surreal, from literary to fantasy. It’s a body of work Alison and the contributors are clearly proud of. It’s full of talented writers, some of which I had a chance to speak with about their contribution.

P C Keeler

A software developer by day, an avid writing in his spare time, Peter has been spotted walking around the Tuxedo Park Renaissance Faire with a subtly-robotic miniature dragon on his shoulder and a vacuum-tube-bedecked top hat.

peter-photo-2_1My story, Try Again, was originally conceived of as a sensory piece – what if the time-traveler was prehistoric? I wanted to explore the idea of what would develop from a pre-civilization mind dealing with time travel – and, ultimately, the detachment that would result. I hope that the feeling of early desolation and later distance came through tonally.

What does it mean to you to be published in the anthology?

It’s a wonderful feeling, naturally. This is the second anthology published by the Fairfield Scribes; our first, Z Tales, was a fun “hey, let’s make a book together” project. Z Tales has some excellent stories in it, well worth the read (I may be slightly biased, of course), and I think When to Now is helping us really build up steam, getting to be a more marketed, slicker, more inclusive product. As we continue releasing anthologies, I like to think that we’ll get noticed more – and knowing that I’ll be able to be a part of it is fantastic.

How involved were you with putting the book together?

Alison McBain was the driving force behind making this anthology a professional production, once we got under way, everything from proposing invited authors to coordinating and promoting our featured story contest to assembling the book in its finished form. I don’t recall who proposed time travel, but I was certainly a vigorous yes vote for it. I helped where I could, and did quite a lot of evaluations for the contest, but the finished product is a reflection of Alison’s drive and standards.

M.K. Beutymhill

Former boxer and regional roller derby skater, M.K. Beutymhill lives in Sacramento, CA, where she writes when she’s not working in musical theatre.

A Peculiar Count in Time is a time traveling fiction based off true events, historical people, and astonishing legends surrounding the original international man of mystery himself, the Count of St. Germain. In search of this 18th century alchemist rumoured to be immortal, John and Isabella Cooper-Oakley follow his breadcrumbs through history to learn his secrets. It’s historical fiction, with a dash of steampunkery.


What sort of research did the story involve?

Wanting to remain as historically accurate as possible, extensive research went into all the characters and events.

What was the biggest writing challenge?

I typically write fantasy/steampunk, where I have a lot more wiggle room to make the characters exactly what I want them to be. In historical fiction, however, these people are often already documented, their paths already constructed, so it can be a challenge to manipulate them into the narrative when you’re aiming to honour historical accuracy. In A Peculiar Count in Time, Isabella and John time travel to several points in history, each destination with its own unique stipulations. Figures like Nikola Tesla and Louis XV’s timelines are ironclad, and there are certain perimeters to acknowledge when referencing well documented, yet exclusive groups, like the Freemasons or the Knights Templar. More disputable are the likes of Shakespeare and Vlad Dracul. (Un)Fortunately(?), the further you go back in time, the muddier our knowledge gets, leaving enough blank spots in which history was more open to interpretation, such as with Atlantis, where I was really able to flex my creativity and have fun with it. Even during these breathers however, I was still cross-checking my research on the constant.

Gabi Coatsworth

One of the non-members of the Scribes, Gabi grew up in London, but moved to the United States and settled in Westport, Connecticut, which she now calls her home.

Headshot of Gabi Coatsworth

Called Misconception, my story tells of Marcia, a middle-aged wife of an intolerant husband, who wonders whether she can travel back in time to make a different choice. A choice that will get her out of a dangerous situation in the present.

Barbara Russell

From the City of Sail, Auckland, Barbara can pick anything up with hers toes. Pens, pencils, clothes, papers…How that’s relevant I’m not sure. Now back to the anthology.


My story is called Miss Princott’s Time Travel Agency. I’m lucky to have found such talented authors to work with. The story set in Auckland about Miss Princott who owns the first time travel agency in the world. A client asks to see Verona in 1527, to meet the real Romeo and Juliet, but something happens and they get stuck there.

Eddie Cantrell

Eddie grew up in South Africa to European parents and was inspired to write when his aunt told him story about when she saw a UFO.

What’s your contribution called?

Blue Sandman. I’m so proud to be a part of When to Now. It not only deals with the theme of time-travel, but also it’s lovely to see how creative the contributing authors have been with the idea. My story’s particular time-travel mechanism is music. I love music and this story is about how music can take one back…in this case, however, its literal.

Tell me a bit about Blue Sandman?

There’s this old man who is dying and there’s this young cab driver who’s become jaded and carries around a lot of guilt. For him, this old man is nothing but another weirdo passenger. But when this old timer invites the youngster into an empty, rat-infested night club and picks up an ancient guitar and strums those first chords, the youngster starts to see that this is no average old timer, and this night club might not be so deserted after-all.

It’s about a young cab driver picks up an old man suffering from Parkinsons and drives him to a derelict part of town where they arrive at a deserted night-club, something out of the 50’s. The visit ends up being a slow ride back in a time when music was magical and cigar smoke drifted through clubs like ghosts.

The story was inspired by Chet Atkins, the legendary guitarist who pioneered country and roackabilly. I listened to a lot of that type of music and read up about that scene during the 40s and 50s.  Loved the research for this story.

A big thank you to everyone who took part in the interviews for this post. Having spoken with you all, I’ll be placing my order as soon as the paperback and eBook are out on 1st October. The Fairfield Scribes will also be running promotions and giveaways on various sites, so if you go to their website:, you can find out more information about where to pick up a free copy of the book.

If you want more you can view more in-depth interviews with some of the anthology authors below:

If you enjoyed this interview then why not follow my blog where I’ll be posting more interviews soon and I regularly provide an insight into my own experiences as I work towards publishing my debut novel, In The End. If you’re an author, or you’ve just got an interesting story to tell and you’d like to be interviewed, just drop me a line on



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