Author Interview: Tiffani Collins

  1. Tiffani Collins
  1. We’ll skip the “tell us about yourself” because coming up with something on the spot is, truly, the bane of an author’s existence. So, let’s start with something a little easier! Tell me what you’re working on at the moment.

Right now, I’m tying up all the loose ends getting my third book, Reflections of a Tigress, out. I’m also hammering out the barebones of the plot of my next book so I can get started on it once Reflections of a Tigress can walk on its own.

  1. In as much detail as you would like, tell me about your book(s) that are already out/on the way.

Well, the first book I wrote was set in a purely fantasy world I created with a long-time friend. Though this world was not earth, we still pulled from many earth cultures, myths, and legends that we then tailored to our needs. My main character for Dark Wood is Nící, who I based very loosely off of Japanese kistunes. I also got to play with kappa and Tanuki, but foxes have always been my favorite, so the kitsunes—or Kitsüns—got all of the love. Nící’s story in Dark Wood is of a woman who’s been broken by betrayal and how someone who has lost family, innocence, and faith learns to love, trust, and believe again.

Nící’s tale was meant to be the first in a series I’d planned to write with my friend, but unfortunately Dark Wood has become a standalone novel. The series I’m currently writing is the story of Danny North Star. She’s a character I’d first come up with as a freshman in high school when I was writing with an online fan-fiction author’s group, but she kind of got side-lined when I bucked down to my college courses in pursuit of my Veterinary Technician licence. Ten years later, I decided to bring Danny back, much different and, I’d like to think, better developed in a world I’d built just for her from scratch.

The Traveller’s Journal series is set in a universe filled with alternate versions of earth, organized by those in the know into what they call the related worlds. Danny’s world of Ten A is a lot like ours, Ten B, in some ways, but vastly different in many others. Their historical timeline diverged from ours about 2,000 years ago, with Judas’s decision not to betray Jesus. Obviously, that’s made for some pretty big differences, but one of the largest is Ten A’s embrace and mastery of magic. It’s allowed them to explore, colonize, and basically govern many of the related worlds.

Now, there are three types of humans in Ten A and most of the related worlds: the Gifted, those who can use magic; the Nulls, those who can’t; and the Conduits, whose own significant reservoirs of power have been exploited by the Gifted for centuries. Danny is a Conduit—one of the strongest her world has seen in millennia—a product of generations of careful breeding by her family who have built their empire of mirror enchantments on the backs of Conduits like her. Reflections of a Runner is the story of how she managed the first escape from her powerful family in centuries.

Reflections of a Tigress, the next instalment soon to be released, is the story of how Danny begins to build the foundation of an organization that she intends to use to help everyone like her, starting with finding a base of operations hidden within a traveling circus. But what I love best about the second book in the Traveller’s Journal series is that we get to see some familiar faces again, from a world no one has heard from in living memory. If Danny wants to go into the business of stealing people like her out from under some of the most powerful and influential members of Ten A society, she’s going to need some help from a certain crafty vixen and her kin.

  1. As far as the writing process goes—including such things as conception of idea all the way through to money in the bank—what is the least favourite bit? (Everyone has one!)

Oh, that is as easy a question as they come!

The book’s synopsis. I’d rather re-write the whole novel rather than try and distil it down to 300 words or less. If it didn’t mean my book would be dead on delivery, I’d find a way never to have to write another one!

Sadly, for me, the book’s description is as important or more so than the cover, so I’m forced to contort and torture myself to produce something that will entice people to buy my book.

The struggle is real, people. Oh, how it’s real!

4. Conversely, what is the bit of the writing process that gets your writery brain grinning?

Again, easy as it gets!

The world building is my favorite part. Creating the systems that run things, from magic to culture, to government, to criminal underworlds, to wildlife, to destiny. I love coming up with unique characters and how they shape the world around them, not the other way around.

For instance, I have a character who is a syphon, someone who’s very existence is banned nearly everywhere she or those like her might try to go. She’s currently hiding in the circus where Danny has her base of operations, not that Danny knows her. I don’t have a role for her yet in the series, but she’s one of my favorites. I hope to make her into a character with a purpose strong enough to a lot her some word count that won’t get cut to ribbons on the editing floor, but even if I don’t, she’s still a lot of fun for me to think about when I can’t sleep some nights.

5. If you could steal any author’s ability to improve your own work, who would you steal from and why? (e.g. Tolkien’s language skills, Douglas Adams’ humour, etc.)

Oh, now, see, there’re two abilities I prize above all others and it’s really hard for me to choose between them. One is humor. Tanya Huff once said that humor was the hardest thing to do well in fiction because it is so subjective, and I believe her. But it is also the one thing that, if an author can master it like Huff has, will convince me to forgive almost any flaws in the rest of the book.

Then again, the ability to plot out a series like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files or J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter is something I passionately wish to develop in my own writing. It’s finding all of the breadcrumbs a skilful writer leaves behind in an intricately plotted series that has me devouring book after book and raving about the series to anyone who loves to read. Even books that make me laugh on a regular basis, like the Ilona Andrew’s books, don’t inspire the same level of devotion and obsession as a well-laid planned series full of fun clues to chew over while waiting for the next instalment.

Which is probably why I idolize Jim Butcher so much. If I could wake up one morning and be able to write like him, I would be the happiest author alive!

6. Now for some fun! The main character of the book you’re working on (or have recently finished) has kidnapped you for ruining their life. How will you explain that what you’re doing is for the best?

Man, I think if I ever found myself in that pitiable situation, I wouldn’t even try. I’d beg for mercy and a swift death instead of the fate they had in store for me, which they would gleefully describe in excruciating detail.

See, it’s like this.

I write because I love it and because writing fantasy fiction is about the only way I can create a place in which people mostly get what they deserve, for good or ill, and where I can set whatever rules I want and enforce them. In theory, that means I could write a perfect world in which no one suffers, there is no tragedy, no injustice, where everyone gets along and lives in peace.

But let’s be real—that wouldn’t sell very well, and as much as I write for me, I also write for others, who want to spend their hard-earned money on something that will entertain them with high personal drama, the satisfying resolution of a fierce dogged conflict, overcoming tremendous adversity despite impossible odds, maybe even a story of bloody vengeance visited upon a horrid monster who had committed grievous crimes against a good and worthy hero. Which pretty much guarantees that if you want to tell stories that grip a reader’s imagination and won’t let go, you have to be ruthless and more than a little bit sadistic.

Think about it.

How do you justify putting innocent people through intense mental, emotional, and physical pain and hardship purely for the purposes of entertaining the general masses, not to mention for personal profit? I don’t think you can, really, hence the plea for a merciful beheading, thank you.

7. You, your main character(s), and the protagonist of the last book you read are playing poker. What are the stakes? Who will win and why?

So, in this scenario, Me, Danny North Star, Alice Sinclair, NícíVinLíena, and Simon, son of Kalman from Will Wight’s Traveler’s Gate trilogy are all playing a game of poker, right?

Well, instantly, I can tell you who will be the first person who’s out of the game: me! I’m terrible at poker, especially if there’s real money involved. I can set records in how fast I can lose my money gambling, especially if I’m playing poker. Which is why I would only play if the most valuable things being wagered were M&Ms and fun-sized candy bars. And even then, I would still lose my ass within the hour.

Alice would be the next out, lasting maybe all of a half hour longer than I would. We both have glass faces and a pathetic grasp of the game or the rules of betting. Danny would last longer. She’s been forced to develop a better poker face and she has had to be a real quick study to distinguish herself in her chosen occupation of abductor and smuggler extraordinaire, but even she wouldn’t be able to hold out against our final two contestants.

Simon has the best of poker faces and the aid of Caela, a little girl’s doll who can speak to him telepathically and who “listens to the wind,” a lofty way of saying she sees pretty much everything within a couple of miles and reports it all to Simon. There’s no such thing as keeping your cards close to the vest against a player like that.

Unless, of course, you’re a talented illusionist who lets you see only what she want’s you to see. In the end, Nící would take the whole pot, not only because she’s had over a hundred and fifty years to master the bluff, winning wagers against dangerous adversaries through sheer cunning, and accurately calculating the odds of any situation she’s in including card counting. More importantly, she follows the motto all Kitsün’s live by: “’Cheater’ is a term only used by those who’ve lost the game.” She’s good enough at that style of play that few of her victims even know they’ve been had.

8. Let’s face it, writing is hard. What do you think are some traps to avoid in your particular area of expertise? (Whether that be your genre, your knowledge of plot, your character building, your world building, etc.)

Oh, geeze, I actually don’t know. I don’t consider myself savvy enough at writing to tell other people about traps to look out for.

Well, maybe I would say that one thing to watch out for is the idea that your story has to be perfect before you send it out. And by perfect, I mean when people delay sending their manuscript out into the wider world—whether that’s to an agent, a publisher, or clicking that “publish” button as an indie author—because they are attempting to write then next great American novel, or the next Twilight bestseller.

I’ve known a few people who have great ideas, have written awesome stories, but who never seem to work up the nerve to call it worthy for public consumption. There’s no such thing as perfect. There is such a thing as good enough. Ideally, you will continue to grow as an author the more you write. Well, what that means is anyone looking back on their earliest works will likely cringe and wonder what possessed anyone to buy that book. I think one of the saddest fates for a writer is the one in which they never publish anything because they could never overcome their own inner critic.

9. Anything else you’d like to add? Plots to take over the world, for example. Upcoming release dates, links and things, maybe even your favourite chocolate cake recipe.

Please, taking over the world if for workoholics with control issues. I like my me-time waaaay too much and have a live and let live mentality. I’d be terrible at world domination. I’d much rather write books. And sell them, of course, so here comes my shameless self-promotion of the books which I’ve already published.

Here is the universal link for:

Dark Wood: https://books2read.com/u/mgzaLz

Reflections of a Runner: https://books2read.com/u/bQJBED

These links will show every online location people can find my books. Keep an eye out for Danny’s second book, coming in August. Readers can find sample chapters for all my books as well as bonus material and short stories from the related worlds on my website tiffani-collins.com.