Interview with Tahani Nelson
Some of you may recognise Tahani from her guest post here a couple of months ago. I'm really excited to welcome her back for an author interview. Tahani is just lovely and The Last Faoii sounds great. Be sure to check it out at: inkshares.com/books/the-last-faoii Welcome back, Tahani!
1) To start with, could you introduce yourself and tell us about your current project?
Of course! My name is Tahani Nelson, and I’m currently marketing my first novel, The Last Faoii. I’m working to publish through Inkshares, a crowd-funded publishing company. I’m particularly excited right now because The Last Faoii has been entered into a contest, the winners of which get MASS publication and the chance to be part of a very large, very awesome collection. I got 50 pre-orders in the first 4 days of my campaign, so I KNOW we can win with a little bit of help. It’s pretty neat because if you help to support the book you get a signed copy when it’s published, and if we don’t reach publication everyone gets their money back. I have excerpts, chapters, artwork, and a short video available on my site for anyone who wants more information. (inkshares.com/books/the-last-faoii)
2) Would you mind sharing an excerpt with us, or a favourite quote?
It’s kind of long (about a 3-minute read), but this is definitely one of my favourite scenes: “Get your shields up! Watch for arrows from the windows!” Kaiya’s barking orders pierced the hall. She grabbed a longbow from the wall nearby and drew a bead on their attacker. An arrow from the east caught him first and he toppled off the roof. Kaiya grinned. At least some of her archers had made it to their positions.
“How long have they been watching us?” someone growled.
“Probably weeks.” The whisper that drifted back was dark and cool. “There must have been a miscommunication. I bet those girls in Silentbell weren’t supposed to die so soon. We shouldn’t have gotten a warning."
"That little girl saved our lives.” Kaiya grimaced as she let loose an arrow through another window.
I saw them. Those shadows on the roof across the street. I saw them. And didn’t do a damned thing. It hurt to know that the croeli posted next to her bedroom had been sent to kill her specifically. If their attack had started even a little earlier, they would have killed me in my sleep. And that little girl would still be alive. Kaiya shook the thought away, trying to expel a raw pain that was beginning to draw between her eyebrows. A bronze bell sounded in her ears. It faded more slowly this time. With a scowl, Kaiya released another arrow just as the windows darkened.
A dozen forms blocked the moonlight, crouching in the now-splintered frames. Their ghostly silhouettes were greeted with the chilling battle cry of a faoii army. The shadows showed no fear and offered no response except for releasing a dozen small, steel balls that tumbled from their hands. The room exploded into blue smoke as the canisters hit the floorboards.
In the sudden confusion and safety of the smoke, the ghostly croeli leapt silently into the room. But the faoii army held their ranks, blinking the inky blackness from their eyes. As the croeli broke through the mist and reached the formations, they were cut down quickly. And they never even released a scream.
Kaiya chest swelled with pride as her army held the lines despite the disconcerting smog that broke up shapes and sounds. She urged them on and yelled in their shared triumph with every darting shape brought low. Her blade was slick with oozing gore and bodies littered the floor at her feet. The battle cries of her soldiers filled the air.
But the dark shapes from the windows continued to block out the moonlight in a constant stream, and the faoii formations began to break with the enemy’s swift, continuous attacks. Obviously trained for the smoky conditions, the croeli darted unceasingly from the fog to strike before ducking back into obscurity. While their blades mostly only connected with the interlocking shields of the faoii forces, the close quarters of the warehouse made traditional shieldmates ineffective. The line began to falter.
Kaiya spun as a shape darted to her right. She spun again as it came from the left. Trying to keep her back away from the increasingly frightful foes, Kaiya turned, again and again, making her way to the nearest wall. Finally, she saw a clear silhouette and struck out with her yantoii. Its blade caught him cleanly through the middle and came away coated in crimson blood. But too late did she see the second black shape dart from the side. A burning agony sprouted from her ribcage. She twisted towards this new assailant, but a third shadow sprang from the smoke again. Her leg buckled as his kiukli drove into her calf.
Kaiya landed heavily on one knee, still lashing out into the darkness with her flashing blade. They were easier to see now.
“Keep your formation! The smoke is clearing!” Her stout command came out with more strength than she felt she had. But there was the sudden sound of wooden and bronze shields locking into place. She grinned through her pain. These were faoii.
A croeli darted past her to the right, sprinting towards the battle lines. Kaiya lunged from her kneeling position and caught him in the small of the back. He fell heavily and Kaiya’s smile was dark and terrifying as his blood pooled around his still-twitching limbs. Her victory was short-lived, however, as the punctured muscles beneath her ribs shifted, and her vision became only black splotches on a red background. The room wheeled and the blood-splattered floor rose up to meet her.
She fought to regain momentum. To open her eyes enough to see the ongoing fight. It felt like hours passed before she managed, and in her pain, the forms before her began to shift and change. Figures formed and dissipated in the darkness. She shuddered.
Eyeless, chained warriors with broken, detached movements threw themselves against the flowing swords of golden angels. Even with their bound and bloodied limbs, however, their blades tore the angels down with a brutal efficiency.
But her soldiers were still in formation.
3) What was your inspiration for your current project?
Oddly enough, it started as a dream. I woke up at 1:00 in the morning one day and wrote the first three chapters in a single sitting, then went back to bed. This wasn’t the first time that’s happened, but it was the first time that I woke up the next morning and wanted to continue with what I had written the night before. After that, I couldn’t think of anything else—I had to get this story on paper. So I did.
4) Do you have any other projects on the sidelines?
I started the sequel to this book and I absolutely love how deliciously dark it is. However, I’ve since stopped working on it because it breaks my heart to write something that, at the moment, no one will ever see. I want to publish The Last Faoii before I throw myself completely into Faoii Betrayer. Other than that, I guess I have a dozen others that I’ve started, but none that grabbed me quite like this one.
5) What draws you to the genre you write in? Have you always been drawn to it?
I have always loved fantasy. I grew up reading and writing fantasy because there’s something so wonderful about being in a world that’s so similar to ours and yet with laws and physics that are so bizarre and beautiful. It always bothered me, however, that the women in my old fantasy novels were either in distress, half-dressed, or both. I wanted a fantasy heroine my future daughters could look up to. So I created one.
6) Who/what is your writing inspiration?
I’m inspired by a lot of strong women in the world. Every woman that ever stood up and chose to be herself, who fought laws and cultures that would oppress her—these women were my idols. I always wondered what it would be like if someone gave them a sword. Or, better yet, what would they have become if they’d been raised in a society where they were helped—no, expected—to be the best from birth? What could they have been? And what other problems could have arisen? So I created the faoii of Clearwall.
7) What do you do if inspiration just won't come?
This doesn’t happen often because most the time I just start writing whatever comes to me in that moment. Most of my drafts begin as jumbled messes as I jump from one scene to another without transitions or logic—I just write what I feel needs to be written. Then, after all the pieces are on paper, I work on editing them, putting them in a logical order, and deleting what ended up not making sense. I’m almost always inspired to make the big, important scenes in a story—and those scenes usually inspire me to write the smaller ones.
8) Which part of the writing process is your favourite, and which part do you dread?
I love love LOVE creating new worlds and people. I love seeing what they’d do in any situation I can come up with. I love not knowing what’s going to happen until it does. So far, I guess I really only hate marketing. Because it’s soul-crushing instead of freeing. It feels too real, and it destroys the magic of having just created an entire world and its people with something so earthly as a pen.
9) What is your number one distraction?
The internet in general. For example, I taught myself how to build/calibrate/fire a trebuchet for this book, and I remember doing research online for a good 2 hours before watching trebuchet videos on youtube for an additional three hours. Then one of the videos reminded me of a character’s armour, and I spent another four hours learning how to craft the breastplate she’d wear. Finally, I broke away from the research part, wrote the scenes, and moved on. During one of my edits (maybe edit 12?) I finally decided to delete both scenes, anyway. So many wasted hours on the internet.
10) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Pantser. Definitely a pantser. This book started as a dream. Like, middle-of-the-night-wake-up-at-1-and-write-what-you-saw dream. It started as one tiny scene that I eventually deleted anyway, and I just built the entire world and society around that idea. I had absolutely no idea what the characters were going to do until I introduced them to the situation—they died so many times before I figured out how to get them out of those messes. But I loved every minute of it.
11) Tea or coffee?
Tea. All the time. All types. Tea is my best friend. I love the smell of coffee, but I think it tastes like death.
12) What are the most important three things you've learned about writing, editing or publishing (or all of the above!) since you started your journey?
One read-through is never enough. Five read-throughs are probably not enough. Find a beta reader (or six, if you’re me) or an editor if you can. Listen to them. Be prepared to cut things you loved, sub-plots you thought were important, and beautifully-crafted sentences that ultimately don’t add to the story. Also, make sure you have thick skin. I got over 200 rejection letters before I learned my original draft was too long. At first they broke my spirit, then I started making origami animals out of them. My zoo is huge, but it is beautiful. And each one just made me want to try harder—to find out what I’d made a mistake on and fix it.
13) What's your favourite quote on writing?
“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.” -Roald Dahl
14) What is the best piece of advice you've received?
For writing? To force yourself to do it every day. Make writing your job and your actual job just your income. Dedicate yourself to full time writing if you can.
For life: Always be more than you were yesterday. I try to live by that. 15) Where else can we connect with you? My book site is inkshares.com/books/the-last-faoii
I’m also on Facebook (facebook.com/tahaninelson), Twitter (@TahaniNelson), and have a blog (tahaninelson.wordpress.com). Connect with me! I LOVE meeting new people, even if they don’t support my writing endeavours!