1. Tell us about your latest novel, Zero Time.
I sometimes describe it as equal parts of mythology, history, science and metaphysics, stirred by imagination. Xmucane (pronounced Schmoo-kane) leads an expedition to Earth to overcome a genetic flaw that threatens the people of Omeyocan with extinction, but she soon finds herself involved in a very personal battle that pits mother against daughter, and sister against sister. As Zero Time nears, she joins forces with Keihla Benton, who has learned that the Andean prophecies about 2012 have special meaning for her. Together they must seize the last chance to restore the cycle of Light to Earth and return to the Pleiades with a cure.
2. How did your main character come to you?
I guess you could say it was like birthing twins since I have two main characters — Keihla Benton in the present-day timestream and Xmucane in (mostly) the ancient times. Xmucane and her mate, Xpiyacoc (Shoo-pee-a-cok), were loosely patterned after Claire and Jamie in Diana Gabaldon’s amazing OUTLANDER series. I say “loosely” because they quickly veered from the traditional romantic path, but their story unfolds as they time-travel thousands of years. Keihla is more her own woman, shaped by the secrets she uncovers about Machu Picchu and her own past.
3. What factored into the setting?
The setting became a driving force in the plot, helping to anchor the story’s timeline. It shifts from a futuristic culture in the Pleiades, to ancient pyramid builders in what are now Mexico and Peru, to the midst of a savage ritualistic ceremony in a pre-Aztec temple complex, to present-day Machu Picchu. I chose these particular times and places for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted the expedition from the Pleiades to bring the same culture to the various sites at times when the earliest Andean and Mesoamerican cultures arose, establishing a common origin for their advanced knowledge. Second, I wanted to share these ancient peoples’ fascinating heritage with modern readers. I first became acquainted with their mythology and history in 1997, while researching story ideas at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Workshop. Since then, I’ve enjoyed learning as much as possible about their amazing accomplishments.
4. What was the most difficult part of writing this fantasy/sci fi?
It was hard to keep track of everything happening and “everywhen.” I constantly checked my homemade “genealogy” charts to verify how the sixteen characters who came from Omeyocan were all related. I also had to keep a list of who traveled with whom so I had the right characters together in a certain time period. More than once, my critique partners pointed out that I seemed to have “lost” a character, and I had to go back and retrieve that plotline. It was kind of like “Where’s Waldo?” without visuals.
5. What surprised you the most about one of the characters?
Xmucane’s daughter, Coyolxauhqui (Ki-olo-kee), proved to be the most surprising. I think that was partly because Xmucane’s perceptions of her daughter evolved. When they left Omeyocan, Coyolxauhqui was just a toddler. The next time they met, she was an adult and tried to kill Xmucane. Coyolxauhqui’s transformations were indicated by her different names–Golden Bells and Snake Woman.
6. When did you begin to write fiction?
Some of my earliest works of fiction were poems about trees and tales about the adventures of my Breyer model horses (Scherezade, Lady Velvet, Count Romero, etc.). I also had an oral storytelling tradition. After my older sister and I were supposed to be asleep, we’d jump up and down on our twin beds as we alternated telling a story, one scene at a time. “Pretend I knew something, but you didn’t know I knew.” Sound familiar? When I was in the sixth or seventh grade, I won two essay-writing contests. One was about owls for the Audubon Society. For the Tuberculosis Association essay, I created Timothy B. Mouse, my first truly fictional character. I started writing fiction for publication in the mid-1990s while living in New Orleans, and began writing full-time in 2007. My first sale was a short story, “Solar Lullaby,” in the 2010 Dreamspell Sci Fi Vol 1 ebook.
7. To what extent has your journalism background influenced your fiction?
I’d like to say that people compare me to Hemingway. Sadly, the inclination to write tersely hasn’t turned out nearly as well for me. Imagine that! In some ways, my journalism background has been great. The fact-checking and research techniques are still quite helpful. Unfortunately, my skill at turning out copy quickly has disappeared completely. There are reasons for that, of course. It’s much easier for me to write about facts than to create fiction, with all its plots, character-building and setting considerations. It took years after I quit journalism to get back in touch with my opinions, and I’m still working on how to fully express my imagination.
8. Are you a plotter or pantser (write by the seat of your pants)? Why?
I’m definitely a pantser, though many times I’ve wished to be a plotter. Even if I have an outline, I stray from it. Why? I wish I knew! Maybe it’s my INFP personality. That’s Introverted-Intuitive-Feeling-Perceiving in the Myers-Briggs Personality Types. Although I’m borderline on some of those, the Perceiving
tendency shows my “go-with-the-flow” tendency in plotting is pretty characteristic for my personality type.
9. Tell us about where you live — we love to travel.
Living in St. Louis would be heavenly if you loved beer, bratwurst and sports. My husband likes two out of three, but I strike out. Fortunately, St. Louis also has some lovely parks with beautiful flowers and a vibrant community for both visual and literary arts. The biggest attraction for me is living near my two daughters and their families, and I’m only a day’s drive from the rest of my family in Arkansas. We have a world-class zoo, a fun place for younger kids called the Magic House, a “City Museum” that’s like wacky indoor/outdoor playground with a Ferris wheel on the roof, and 6 Flags. So if you’re traveling, bring the kids for a visit! (NOTE: generic photo from City Museum attached if you want it, or a pix we took of bluebells.)
10. What’s your favorite regional food?
This time of year it’s easy to say what my favorite food is–Ted Drewes’ frozen custard. There are only two locations, and the main one is only open in the summer. It’s known for “concrete” sundaes, which are so dense you can hold them upside down and the custard won’t fall out of the cup. My favorite is a regular sundae with macadamia nuts, coconut and pineapple chunks. The Hawaiian only comes in a large size. I don’t hold it upside down until it’s empty. Another St. Louis favorite is gooey butter cake–essentially a yellow cake with extra butter and a whole box of confectioner’s sugar in the mix.
11. We love animals and would love to know about your favorite pet.
My favorite pet was a cockapoo who joined our family more than forty years ago. The day we got her was the perfect example of why some women dislike their mothers-in-law. Generally I got along fine with mine, but that day, when she brought my preschool daughters home, she also brought a fluffy black dog from the animal shelter. And they’d already named it. I didn’t have the heart to send Tigger back to the pound, which turned out to be the best thing ever. Tigger was always patient with the girls and never nipped at any of the neighborhood children, except one I wanted to bite myself. She lived to be about thirteen years old.
12. What’s next in your writing life?
I’m hunting an agent for my young adult contemporary fantasy, THE LABYRINTH OF TIME. Sixteen-year-old Jade Davis discovers she and the son of a Peruvian museum director are the only ones who can telepathically access messages encoded by an ancient race on engraved stones. Jade’s family vacation to Peru quickly turns into a quest to save humanity from fiery destruction. I’ve also started writing WHITE HERON, the sequel to ZERO TIME, which tells the master shaman’s story.
Thanks to the Dames of Dialogue for being a Party Host in my Virtual Book Tour Party!
The ZERO TIME 2012 Virtual Book Tour Party is here!
To celebrate, T.W. Fendley is giving away a Maya-Aztec astrology report, a Mayan Winds CD, ZERO TIME tote bag and fun 126.96.36.199.0. buttons. Check out the prizes and other posts on the Party Page.
3 ways to enter (multiple entries are great!)
1) Leave a comment here or on any of the other PARTY POSTS listed on the Party Page.
2) Tweet about the Virtual Party or any of the PARTY POSTS (with tag #ZEROTIME2012)
Example: Join the Virtual Party for historical #fantasy novel ZERO TIME by @twfendley for a chance to win prizes! #ZEROTIME2012 http://bit.ly/x91NgP
3) Facebook (tag @T.W. Fendley) about the Virtual Party. (NOTE: tag must have periods to work)
Example: Join the Virtual Party for historical fantasy novel ZERO TIME by @T.W. Fendley for a chance to win prizes! http://twfendley.com/?page_id=510
You can find ZERO TIME at: