‘A memoir wrapped in this fiction tortilla of time travel’ | Texas author explores the 1970’s, sensitive topics in debut novel

The book is full of real tear-jerking memories, sensitive topics, comedic zingers and time-traveling.

SAN ANTONIO — Amy Daughters’s just wanted to write a funny time travel book but what she penned opened up a new world of emotions.

“I had no idea that this catharsis for not just me but for a lot of readers was going to come out of it,” Daughters said.

Daughters’s debut novel, “You Cannot Mess This Up: A True Story That Never Happened,” mixes real tear-jerking memories, sensitive topics, comedic zingers and time-traveling.

“It’s a memoir wrapped in this fiction tortilla of time travel,” Daughters said.

The novel takes place in 2014 and revolves around Amy Daughters who gets thrown back in time to 1978 where she meets her parents who are now closer to her own age, her now-dead grandparents, her siblings, and her 10-year-old self.

Amy is then forced to spend time with her family – who have no idea who she really is while also watching her awkward 10-year-old self for the next 36 hours.

Many if not all the characters are based on real-life counterparts including her parents, grandparents and even Mary, the reassuring, wise presence who helps Amy travel back in time.

Daughters’s jokes that the story and characters are a fabrication but not a complete fabrication.

“The character portrayals of the main characters are accurate to my memories, and accurate to my perceptions,” she said. 

Daughters understands that what she wrote may be different than how others recollect it but it’s ultimately her story. 

“That’s why reality is this flighty thing that you can’t get your hands on, and my brother and sister and I are perfect examples of that in this book,” she said. 

But it was no surprise to Daughters’s that her first novel would be about time traveling because when it comes to the age-old question of would you rather go to the future or back to the past Daughters’s said there’s only one right answer: go back in time.

“I’m fascinated. I’m a history person. I’m a non-fiction person. I’ve got a metal detector. I’m fascinated with the past,” Daughters said.  

Once Daughters’s decided to write the book she started researching everything and anything about time-traveling. She even booked a stay at a 70’s themed resort chalk full of albums and VCR tapes. Daughters’s said she wanted to fully immerse herself into that time period.

“It was such an indulgent process,” she said.

According to Daughters all of the nostalgia featured in the book is based on both fact and memory.

Daughters’s even got to visit her childhood home with her family which helped her understand the spacing and vibe of the house after decades apart.   

The novel showcases life in the 70’s without the internet or cellphones and the ever-changing family dynamics. Daughters’s also explores sensitive topics like homosexuality, criticism from family members and more.

Daughters said she never planned for the book to bring up so many emotions but admits that when you “travel back in time” and see yourself as a 10-year-old and see your mom at the same age you are in the present, it opens up your heart.

She thinks this unplanned journey helped the emotional aspects become so much more real and organic throughout the book.

Daughters’s was initially scared to show her family the novel but after some nudging from some close friends she gave her siblings and parents a copy of the book for Christmas. She also mentioned she gave them their presents as she was pulling out of the driveway because she was so scared and nervous about their reactions.

Fortunately, her siblings loved their characters as both of them thought they came across as cool, hilarious kids.  

Her mother appreciated how she was viewed and portrayed and how her daughter thought about her not only as a mother but as a person in general. This led to a heart-to-heart between mother and daughter.  

“There was a lot of healing for both of us because of the book,” Daughters said.  

Daughters’s dad – who was more like her best friend told her not to ask for permission but to go after her dreams and write the story she wanted.

Daughters’s later received a memorable text from her father a few weeks before the book went to print. He told her he loved the story and felt like he went back in time himself. He also said he loved how Amy handled the difficult topics mentioned in the book but also joked about how they don’t talk about their feelings – which is a nod to the novel itself.

Two weeks after reading the book Daughters’s dad unexpectedly died but she is forever grateful for the text she received and recalls on it fondly.

Looking back on the novel Daughters’s admits there’s many layers to her novel. The story has a great balance of hilarity and seriousness mixed together and it’s evident that Daughters’s loves and strives to make people laugh. 

“I was just trying to be funny ha-ha girl,” Daughters said.

Daughters’s said she believes this comedic writing mirrors her personality.

“I see everything through a humorous lens,” she said. “My personality is reflected in my inner monologue. (In) the book there’s parts of it I don’t like, there’s parts of it I love, but the thing I love the best are the parts where there’s something really serious that happens and a quip comes in either behind it or before it.” 

Daughters’s hopes readers find the novel entertaining, nostalgic, and relatable. 

“Each human experience is unique and valued and all our little memories matter. They matter to us and the people that love us. And they matter enough to share, they matter enough to share and take seriously,” she said.

Daughters’s is a Houston native and graduated from Texas Tech University. She currently lives in Texas with her husband Willie and her two sons, Will and Matthew.

For more information on Amy Daughters click here.

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