Interview with T.W. Fendley
Today my friend, author T.W. Fendley stopped by to talk about her science fiction fantasy novel, "Zero Time." I met T.W. through Broad Universe (an association for women writers of speculative fiction) and she is a member of the Blog Ring of Power. Her book concept is fascinating and I was thrilled when she agreed to sit down and tell me more about it.
Terri: Where did the title "Zero Time" come from?
T.W.: It actually refers to two things. First, the date on the Maya calendar for the end of the Long Count on Dec. 21, 2012, is written in our numerals as 220.127.116.11.0. A lot of zeroes there! The Maya had at least five ways to write "zero," which represented more than nothingness. Zero personified a Maya death god, and it indicated the transition between completion of one period of time and another. Second, the book's title refers to "zero time" remaining for the expedition to Earth to return to the Pleiades with a cure for a genetic malady that threatened their race with extinction.
Terri: What inspired you to write this story?
T.W.: My inspiration came from history and mythology, astronomy and astrology, physics and metaphysics.Some of the resources I used are listed on my website: ZERO TIME: Behind the Story. While researching short story ideas at the 1997 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop, I came across some information about the ancient American cultures--it was love at first sight. Although I've always been a history buff, this was new to me. I'd studied ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, but never Andean and Mesoamerican cultures.I already had this setting in mind when I ran across a description of the sex-chromosome drive (SRY) in Matt Ridley's book, GENOME. I thought, What if people had this SRY disorder that causes 97 percent of the offspring to be female? Suddenly my characters became travelers from the Pleiades whose motivation for traveling to Earth was to save their race from extinction. And it went on from there...
Terri: What was the hardest part of writing this book?
T.W.: For many years, the hardest part was finding the time and creative energy to devote to writing. Even though the story kept pulling me, I had little interest in spending more time in front of a computer when I got home from my hectic "day job" in corporate communications. Instead, I focused on learning what I could about the ancient cultures. Fortunately, I was able to take early retirement in 2007, so that's when I got serious about finishing ZERO TIME.
Terri: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
T.W.: I like the chapter where two sisters decide to play a prank on their father, Seven Hunahpu. Using a device they dub the "beak breaker," they alter the frequency of a gateway into a hidden chamber at the Southern Temples (Machu Picchu). Instead of passing through the gateway, Seven Hunahpu crushes his nose on the stone wall. His brother tells Seven Hunahpu it's a new version of the hummingbird story he'd just told the village youngsters. In that story, the hummingbird outwitted the condor in a contest to see which could fly the highest. The parable was to remind Initiates to not be too confident, like the condor, because even the smallest child can do great things, like the hummingbird. It was a fun chapter to write because I like to make connections. In this case, I brought together metaphysical concepts about vibrations with ancient Initiation rituals, and I adapted an indigenous folktale to fit the situation.
Terri: How much time did you spend on research for this story? What type of research did you do?
T.W.: I spent a decade learning about ancient American cultures. For several years, I lived in Washington D.C., where I joined the Pre-Columbian Society, visited museums like Dumbarton Oaks and took classes at the Smithsonian on archeology and archeoastronomy. When I had the chance to travel, I went to several Maya sites in the Yucatan and eventually to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. I did research online. And I read--a lot. I also spent scads of time learning about metaphysics. When I was a teen, my mother introduced me to the sleeping prophet, Edgar Cayce, but I really didn't understand the scope of his readings until around 2007, while I was writing ZERO TIME. I became acquainted Edgar Cayce's Association for Research and Enlightenment, and took some online courses and local workshops. I joined a local Cayce book study group, and they taught me a new way of seeing the world. Some of the metaphysical concepts touched on in my book include astrology, reincarnation, the Law of Attraction, the Law of One, energy healing and remote viewing.
Terri: What has been the most surprising reaction to something you've written?
T.W.: One of my friends said she wanted a Plumed Serpent for Christmas! (Come to think of it, I do, too.)
Terri: What is the strongest criticism you've ever received as an author? The best compliment?
T.W.: I spent five years as a working journalist, twenty years as a corporate spokesperson, and four years as an art student. I know how to take criticism, even if I don't like it. So far, the most vitriolic attacks I ever received about my writing happened nearly thirty years ago when I worked for a statewide newspaper in Arkansas. I wrote a perspective feature story citing doctors, economists, etc., who held "alternative" viewpoints about marijuana use. The letters to the editor were very personal, branding me (the reporter) as a pot head and worse. Apparently they confused the messenger with the message, something that happens with fiction, too. So far, the most disturbing criticism I've received of ZERO TIME was a review that mentioned inaccuracies. Although I generally don't contact reviewers, I asked what problems she found, but never got an answer. The best compliment is when a reader "gets" what I was trying to say AND enjoys the story. Reading should be fun, after all. People who don't usually read historical fantasy have liked ZERO TIME, which I find especially gratifying. Oh, and I had a friend who asked to quote something I said in his book. How cool is that?! Yeah, it's really hard to pick the "best" compliment.
Terri: How do you deal with rejection and/or negative reviews?
T.W.: For me, the difficulty in getting reviews has felt a lot like rejection, even though I realize it's just a process I have to work through. I am so grateful to those who read the book and take the time to review it, even if it's just putting up how many "stars" it ranks.Trying to find ways to get in touch with readers has been a challenge, but Goodreads, Library Thing and visiting other blogs (like this one!) have helped a lot. I find most "negative" reviews offer some constructive advice. They've given me ideas about how to improve my next book.
Terri: Tell us about your book's cover - where did the design come from and what was the design process like?
T.W.: One of the benefits of working with a small press is having help with the cover. Linda, one of the owners of L&L Dreamspell, takes great pride in doing ours. I offered a few minor suggestions on the cover she proposed, such as deepening the colors, which she accepted.
Terri: Tell us about your route to success - where there any bumps and bruises along the way?
T.W.: Like most authors, I queried many agents after I finished writing ZERO TIME, but got few nibbles. I didn't keep track of the numbers (although I probably could get them off QueryTracker if I really wanted to). What worked for me was going to the Missouri Writers Guild conference and pitching in person. I got requests for partials from two agents and L&L Dreamspell, the publisher I eventually signed with.
Terri: Why did you decide to go with a small press? Did you use/do you have an agent?
T.W.: When I got the offer from L&L Dreamspell, one of the agents I really liked was still reviewing my novel (she had also requested the full manuscript). She gave me some feedback on things she'd like to see changed, but it wasn't an offer of representation. I knew from some of my friends that having an agent didn't guarantee you'd find a publisher, so I decided to go with the small press offer. By that time, I'd been trying to get ZERO TIME published for almost three years. With its connection to the end of the Maya Long Count, I wanted the book out before 2012. I'm grateful to L&L Dreamspell for making it happen.
Terri: What are your current / future project(s)?
T.W.: I've started writing a sequel to ZERO TIME called WHITE HERON, about the master shaman's story. I'm also looking for 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.
Where can your readers stalk you?
- Author website: http://www.twfendley.com/ and http://www.thewriterslens.com/
- Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/TW-Fendley/129072687185040?ref=ts
- Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4715872.T_W_Fendley
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/#%21/twfendley Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/T.W.-Fendley/e/B004ETG2S2
- Other: I'm also on Library Thing, Broad Universe and Author's Den
What format is your book(s) available in (print, e-book, audio book, etc.)? It is available in both e-book (from Amazon, AllRomance/OmniLit, Fictionwise, and B&N) and paperback (from Amazon, B&N, Main Street Books, Garden District Book Shop, and Octavia Books.
T.W. Fendley writes historical fantasy and science fiction with a Mesoamerican twist for adults and young adults. Her debut historical fantasy novel, ZERO TIME, was voted Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Novel in the 2011 P&E Readers Poll. Her short stories took second place in the 2011 Writers' Digest Horror Competition and won the 9th NASFiC 2007 contest. Teresa belongs to the St. Louis Writer's Guild, the Missouri Writers' Guild, SCBWI and Broad Universe.
ZERO TIME: 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.