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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Having Coffee with Author T. W. Fendley

Finally, life can start to (maybe) get back to some semblance of normalize. With that, so can this blog site. I had to apologize to the author who I had scheduled in July, but between my bill pay job and taking care of an elderly parent, my life just erupted out of control. I hope to have them scheduled again soon.

Meanwhile, this month I am combing my normal first of the month and the the first Saturday of the month post into one. I would welcome you to grab your coffee (or drink of choice), sit back and welcome Science-Fiction author TW Fendley as we discuss writing and offer you the chance to win a free signed copy of her book Zero Time.

 What is Zero Time about?

"As Zero Time nears, only Keihla Benton can save two worlds from the  powers of Darkness. But first she must unlock the secrets of Machu Picchu and her own past."

David Alan Lucas: When you are starting to work on a new novel, what do you find brings the story into focus for you? A Character? A setting? Something else?

T. W. Fendley: Working with my characters' goals and motivation bring the story into focus for me. I keep asking myself, "What would make him/her do that?" and "What does he/she want?" That drives the plot.

DL: What attracted you to Science Fiction?

TW: I've always had an active imagination. I think that's just how my mind works--seeing possibilities and "what if" are part of my personality. Sci-fi and fantasy allow me to play with other people who think like I do. I had the good fortune to read Jules Verne and C.S. Lewis as a kid. When I was about fifteen, Michael Crichton's Andromeda Strain came out. I picked up a copy at the library and got completely hooked on sci fi.

DL: What key things make your stories work?

TW: For me, it's all about making connections between things that are seemingly unrelated. That's why you'll find elements of science and history in my stories alongside metaphysical concepts and mythology. It's this juxtaposition where freshness (originality) occurs, kind of like putting complementary colors next to each other in a painting--blue with orange "pops."

DL: What themes in your fiction writing seem to drive you the most?

TW: I'm crazy about cycles. I love sunspot cycles, history cycles, biological cycles. You name it, if it's a cycle, I love it. I also enjoy stepping outside the normal way of looking at the world, beyond our five senses. Sometimes this involves traditional science, and other times it's more metaphysical or even psychological. This includes remote viewing (a type of precognition), which I've been practicing for a few years now (I host a blog at www.ARV4fun.com). And I'm a huge fan of ancient American cultures--Inca, Maya, Aztec, etc.

DL: Do you work on multiple novels at once? If so, how many?

TW: I write one novel at a time, though I have edited a novel while writing another. This summer, I actively worked on three short stories as part of the Clarion Write-a-Thon. They are all at various stages of completion, but generally I try to finish the first draft of one story before starting the next. As each story goes to my critique group for review, I start the next one. Some of these stories would really like to be novels (and one started out as part of a novel), but so far, I'm resisting.    

DL: How easy was it to take the leap of faith to become a serious writer and chase this career? What did you find that you had to do to take the step?

TW: Hmmm…I guess it all depends what you mean by serious. I made the first major commitment of money and time to writing fiction in 1997, when I attended the six-week Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop. I wiped out several years of saved vacation time (after my boss gave me permission to be off work for that long) and spent an inheritance from my grandparents. It took another ten years before I was able to write full-time and finish the novel that started as a short story idea at Clarion.

But before any of that happened, I had to take the chance on rejection and submit a story as my application to Clarion. That wasn't as easy as it may sound. I figured getting an acceptance letter was a benchmark in itself.      

DL: In years past, new writers would battle their way in the pulp magazines to build their readerships and their careers. Do you think that is still the case in the explosion of electronic readers, blogs, e-zines, and other like media? Who do you see as the current gatekeeper of the good writers and those who are still developing?

TW: It's always been about reaching readers, who are the ultimate gatekeepers. The marketplace has never been as open for writers as it is now. That's both a blessing and a curse. More writers can get published than when you had to go through pulp magazines, but now readers are inundated by choices. When it comes to gatekeepers, the traditional ones are still in place--agents, publishers, editors, bookstores. A new paradigm of self-gatekeeping is developing along with self-publishing. This puts the burden and expense of producing a quality product and marketing it solely on the writer.
           
DL: When you plot your novels, from whose point of view do you plot from? The protagonist’s? The antagonist’s? The narrator’s? Some one else?

TW: Since I'm a big-time pantster, this question somewhat baffles me. Although I keep trying to plot in advance (I guess that would be the narrator), I find my stories are generally driven from the protagonist's perspective.  

DL: Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that when science catches up with the science fiction writer, the science fiction writer needs to make a leap forward.  How do you stay ahead of the game?

TW: Imagination. Which brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from Albert Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

DL: What novels, books, articles, magazines or other media most useful when you are researching your novels?

TW: I allow the research to lead me. If I find a good source, often it will refer to other information. I check that out, too. With my interest in Peru and Mesoamerica, I've amassed dozens of books on everything from tourist travel guides to folktales to guidebooks of flora and fauna in ancient times. Of course, the internet is essential these days. Whenever possible, I travel. The personal experience "on location" gives me perspectives and accuracy I wouldn't otherwise have.

DL: What is your writing schedule like?

TW: I'd like to say I am very disciplined with my writing, but that wouldn't be true. In fact, I didn't write much at all in the first six month after my debut book's release. Marketing takes a lot of time! I write an hour or two each day I'm home, although that includes doing research and editing. I also spend several hours each day doing a variety of things to further my writing endeavors -- entering contests, seeking agents or publishers for my books and stories, etc. I regularly contribute to two writing blogs (The Writers' Lens and Pots & Pens) and tweet about those. I also blog on my author's website, including posts as a member of the Blog Ring of Power that features interviews with other speculative fiction authors.

DL: If you could have coffee (or drink of your choice) with four other authors from any time period, who would you choose and why?

TW: There are so many authors whose work I love, how could I possibly limit it to four? Let's make my drink a skinny decaf mocha.

Isaac Asimov -- His Foundation series has CYCLES! and "Nightfall" is my all-time favorite short story. Did I mention how much I love his robot stories?

Neal Stephenson, Kim Stanley Robinson, Dan Simmons and Diana Gabaldon -- I want to become their clone (I know--impossible, even for a clone, to be four people.) They're all great storytellers who weave history and science with memorable characters and crazy worldbuilding.

Tim Powers -- I was in awe of him at Clarion (he was the lead instructor), and I still am, but I'd love to have the chance to just sit and chat. He's an imaginative writer who makes complex plots fun to read, an artist and nice guy.

Jim Butcher, Ursula LeGuin and Anne McCaffrey -- They take fantasy to the next level in their unique ways. I'd love to get ideas on how to do that

DL: How could my readers learn more about you?

TW: Probably the best place is my website, www.twfendley.com. I have links to my other blogs and to Twitter (@twfendley), Facebook, Goodreads, Library Thing, etc. I'm happy to report that ZERO TIME is available at the St. Louis County Library (ebook only), as well as from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and various indie bookstores (ebook and paperback).

Thank you T. W. Fendley!

How do you win a free copy of this book?  To enter the contest, simply leave a comment or question on the Writers' Lens blog between now (August 4th, 2012) and midnight August 31, 2012. Please include your email so we can reach you if you win. The more comments you leave, the greater your chance of winning the contest. If you refer others to The Writer's Lens who mention your name in their comments, I'll enter your name again in our random number generator along with theirs, also increasing your chances at winning! The winner will be chosen after midnight on Friday, August 31 and the announcement made on Saturday, September 1. Good luck and comment often.

Thank you for reading and please visit www.davidalanlucas.com and www.thewriterslens.com. You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.

4 comments:

  1. Great interview, T. W. and David! I'm also a big fan of Ursual K. LeGuin. I read her books in my twenties and want to read them again to get a different perspective now that I'm fifty.

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  2. Nice interview... just learned about Ursula LeGuin and am reading a book of her short stories (Compass Rose). Also great picture!

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  3. Hi, Denise -- It's been decades since I read LeGuin, too, but I still remember images--almost like still-shots from movies--from some of the stories. It would be fun to re-read them.

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  4. Hi, Lynn -- I'd love to hear what you think of Ursula (to see if her work still resonates with new readers). Thanks for your comments on the pix--must credit the photographer, Kyle Weber, a talented young professional in Collinsville.

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