Author Interview: Tahani Nelson



  • First, can you give us some background about yourself?

  • I grew up as the only Gothic girl within 100 miles in rural Montana. I've always known that I was different--and that it was okay. 
        I also always loved reading fantasy, but had trouble finding females that were more than damsels in distress in the books I read. It didn't take me long to try and rectify that-- I've been writing fantasy novels with strong heroines since Junior High. 
        Today, I've switched out the black lipstick for a red pen and English degree, and use them to try to instill that love of being different into my high school students.
  • What have you written?

  • For published works, "Dreams and Ballet Slippers" and "Mortal Asphalt" in Soliloquy Magazine. Besides that, I'm currently marketing my first Fantasy novel.
  • Are you currently working on anything?

  • I've recently finished my first dark fantasy novel, The Last Faoii. It took 4 years to write and edit it, and I'm still diving into the vast, complicated world of representation and publishing.
       My current WIP's include Faoii's sequel and a dystopian 1984-meets-Sabriel fantasy called Chained Mage.
  • What is your process like in the midst of writing a book?

  • Everyone I talk to seems so amazed that I wrote a book. I don't think they realize that writing it is the easy part. The Last Faoii WANTED to be written-- every day it was the first thing I thought about upon waking and the last thing I worked on before bed. Since I have two jobs, a lot of my writing is done on napkins and scratch paper when I find a free moment, and the nights are crazy, sleepless things that have me pounding away at a keyboard until my next shift starts. But it's so exciting and energetic--I don't feel like I need to sleep while I'm creating an entire world and the people therein. 
        Usually I have a vague outline of events and my process starts with me writing everything that's in my head as it comes to me. I write a scene that needs to be shown, finish it, and then write whatever the next scene in my head is until I have all of them in a confused, jumbled Word document. It's not until after all of those are out of my head and on the computer that I go back and edit-- smooth them, fill in the holes, and make them fit together. If I try to polish anything before I get the majority on paper, I end up getting sidetracked as I slap down another scene.
  • What does your routine look like when you get to the editing process?

  • Once the story is down, my first step is to make sure the events are in order. Since I just write entire paragraphs or chapters as they come to me, the first draft is usually a jumbled mess. So I copy/paste entire sections of the book to where they're supposed to be. 
        Once that's done I start over on page one and read the entire thing again-- this time making sure that the transitions between scenes are clean and make sense. This is also my best chance to make sure I'm not repeating things over and over, and that pacing is smooth. 
        The next step is to send it out to someone that I trust (usually my dad). He tells me if the story makes sense and whether or not I should pursue it. If he tells me it's not my best work it stops there and I write something new. If I get his approval, I look over the changes he suggests and start searching for beta readers. After I send it out to 3-4 betas, I wait until I hear their changes, decide which ones make it into the final product and which ones don't, and put them in. 
        Finally, I read through it one more time. If I'm happy with the end result, I start looking for agents or publication. I don't know what happens after that, but I'll let you know when I get there.
  • Do you have any quirks or rituals that help you achieve your writing goals?

  • I have three or four songs that help me concentrate. Depending on what type of scene I'm writing I put one of them on and repeat it over and over until the scene is complete. It drives my husband crazy, so he was nice and bought me a good set of headphones to use.
  • Tell us about your work space.

  • My computer sits on our kitchen table. To my right is a wall with character sketches, maps, and doodles. To my left is usually a pile of scratch paper and napkins with ideas written on them, a cup of tea that has probably gone cold, and a cat (who refuses to move no matter how many times I push him off). I almost always have one of three wordless songs playing on repeat. A lot people say they wouldn't be able to work in that environment-- I think it's the perfect storm.
  • Are there any software or apps that help you in your writing process?

  • Not really. I just write on Microsoft Word. I guess the most helpful thing I do there is make each chapter a new heading so that I can easily navigate the scenes, and Word's comment feature makes it easy for my beta's to point things out, but that's really all I do.
  • What do you do when you lose focus? Any tips for getting it back?

  • The music thing really helps me out. I know a lot of people can't stand to listen to the same thing over and over and over again, but I've trained my brain to the point that if it hears one of those three songs--it's time to write. 
       It's also hard to lose focus when you jump-write like I do. The minute I'm not inspired to write a particular scene anymore, I jump to a different one. I can always come back and polish the first one up at a different time, but if I'm inspired to write something, I'm going to write it--continuity be damned.
  • Tell us about your publishing process.

  • I'm currently trying to publish through Inkshares-- a crowdsourced publisher. I really like it, because I get to offer a signed copy to everyone who pre-orders and word spreads that way. It is kind of hard, though-- you have to get a minimum of 250 pre-orders just to qualify for select publishing, but if you don't reach that goal everyone gets their money back, so it's not like anyone is out anything.
       I haven't succeeded in publishing The Last Faoii yet, but I'll keep working on it. It'll happen.
  • Where can people find you and your work?


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