Interview With Author Tessa McFionn
It is a pleasure to welcome Tessa McFionn author of The Rise of the Stria series.
Welcome Tessa to The Adventures of the Everyday Fangirl and thanks so much for taking the time out your busy schedule to help us get to know you and your stories better.
What does the title of this novel, series or set of stories signify?
My latest series, The Rise of the Stria, is a space opera which has been spinning in my mind for many years now. I pitched the first book, To Discover a Divine, as The Wizard of Oz meets Star Wars. At the time, the work was entitled Lost in Transmigration, but the feedback on the title was less than anticipated. Seems people thought, by the title, this was going to be a comedy, or at least a light rom-com. And that would be a big negative there, Ghost Rider. So, after several heart-to-hearts with my wonderful publishing team at Fiery Seas Publishing, we came up with the current title. The story centers around a human, Evainne Wagner, who gets sucked into another galaxy only to find out she is some sort of mystical savior eluded to in an ancient prophecy, and it will follow her as she learns of her role and navigates the intense attraction to our hero, a captain in the Strian rebel forces, Kahlym cal Jheun.
Do the names of the characters in your novel have some sort of significance or importance to you? If so, give a few examples…
Ah, the names. Actually, I find myself discovering new character names in the oddest of ways. One fun way is watching the credits at the ends of movies. I have always stayed until the bitter end in the theater. Sometimes because I wanted to know who sang a particular song or where a movie was shot, but during the wait, I would read the names. My husband and I actually play a game where we try to find the funniest, or longest, or coolest name in the credits. By watching all the names scroll by, my author brain is on high alert for the next hero, heroine, villain or sidekick in the long list. But, in the case of my sci-fi, it was a little different. For my heroine, I have always loved the name Evainne. I first heard it in Neil Gaiman’s work, Starlight, and I just loved it. As to the aliens, those are tough. I mean, you don’t really think you’re going to come across a spaceman named Bob, right? I wanted to make the names look exotic, but still be pronounceable. So, Callum became Kahlym and Darrin became Dhaerin. For the others, don’t laugh, but I stared at my keyboard and started with one letter then built the names up from there. Granted, this is a very trial and error method. I thought to myself, what kinds of word sounds made me think happy thoughts and which sounded evil. I tried to give my good guys soothing sounds while the harsher tones were aimed toward the bad guys. Like I said, I know it sounds silly, but it works for me.
What prompted you to write in this genre and who or what inspired you to?
I have been a nerd for the whole of my life. My mother used to read to me and my brother when we were little. She read anything and everything. We heard The Yearling, Old Yeller, Jaws, (LOL! Yes, I heard the story before the movie was made) and The Hobbit. I remember when my grandmother gave me a copy of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. I was in the fourth grade and I was so excited. The opening line used the word “xenomorph” and I had to read the rest of it with the dictionary next to me. But I didn’t care. I was hooked. I am old enough to say that I was there the day they released Star Wars in the theaters. I remember looking over my shoulder when the space ship zoomed in from off-camera, cheering for the good guys and booing Darth Vader. After that, I continued to devour all things fantastical. I read Asimov, Bradbury, all of the Dune books. My mother even enrolled me in the Science Fiction/Fantasy Book of the Month club, which is why I dedicate each and every book I write to her memory. She is my biggest inspiration and was my most steadfast supporter, even though she never had a chance to read my works.
What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer and do your characters reflect some of these attributes?
Wait, we have to be sane to do this?! Nobody told me that!!! All kidding aside, for me, since I do have a full-time day job, it’s all about time management. It’s a bit of the “all work and no play” mentality. I try to make sure to get words on pages every day, but I try, she said incredulously, I try NOT to beat myself up if I don’t. I personally tend to be rather scattered. Yes, I am a pantser and can get distracted by shiny objects. (Just ask my hubby. He calls it my magpie complex.) So, I create characters who can think on their feet and multitask like it’s cool. I don’t really have any strongly organized characters just yet, only because I’m not sure how to approach that myself.
What kind of research did you have to do for the novel, series or set of stories that was different from others?
That’s the beauty about writing science fiction: not a whole lot of available information on a fictitious part of the universe. If anything, I guess what you could call it is anti-research. It’s more about checking around to make sure your device/concept/planetary system isn’t already being used by someone else out there. But you still have to make things believable and relatable, and therein lies the rub. When I first started writing my space opera, I had the Alliance as the good guys, but that only sparked my memories of watching Firefly and Serenity, even though they were the bad guys in that world. So, after numerous synonym searches (thank you, thesaurus.com and my Flip Dictionary), I found a very distant cousin, twice removed on their mother’s side I would venture to guess. I rewatched lots of Star Trek reruns and Googled lots of ship components. But even then, things can go sideways. I was 90% done with the first draft and my ship’s three-armed tech/mechanic was named Warwick. I was so pleased with my somewhat obscure choice of names and took a break to read and POOF! There, as bold as day, was Warwick, out in print. So, back to the drawing board, a little switcharoo and Warwick becomes Falka, and the cleric, who was originally Falco, becomes Yhan’tu. Now, would others have made the connection? I don’t know, but if I want to set my stories apart, then maybe it means making some changes when needed.
What makes you laugh?
EVERYTHING!! I love to laugh. I consider myself to be more of an optimist than a pessimist, and I try to keep things on a positive note. This means lots of laughter and lots of smiles. My current go-to for a good giggle is a series of short videos called True Facts. OMG! If you haven’t seen these yet, they are just hysterical. They’re little nature videos about strange animals and they are just brilliant. The narrator reminds me a little of a young version of Morgan Freeman and he starts out so serious, but ends up cracking himself up throughout the episode with the facts or the videos of the animals. There is one about seahorses and he acquaints the way seahorses move to riding a skateboard and waving a Denny’s menu really fast to move. I believe that laughter is the best way to learn about people and to stay healthy.
What makes you cry?
Not much? I know, that makes me sound so heartless. But, like I said above, I try to be optimistic about things. But, if I am truly moved emotionally, I will shed a tear or two. This can happen when I see someone rise up against all odds and succeed, or when someone inspires others to rise up. For me, it’s all about the journey. I cry when I see the little kitties climb up from the edge of the abyss, or when I watch my students completely nail a performance in front of a packed house. I don’t cry in normal movies. I thought E.T. was boring and Terms of Endearment didn’t move me either. I also don’t watch sappy movies. LMAO! I know, I know! What kind of romance author am I?! But, I did cry when Spock died in Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan and when Gandalf fell in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
What are you a fan of and is this reflected in your writing?
Since my life has surrounded the nerd culture for the whole of my life, I have lots of fandoms that influence me. I have also been surrounded by the performing arts and these have been woven into a couple of my heroines in my paranormal series. In my first book, Spirit Fall, my heroine is a dancer disillusioned with life and is brought down from the edge of suicide by a handsome hero. My third book in that same series, Spirit Song, tells of a torch singer held prisoner by a sleazy mobster in Chicago and finds an unlikely savior in a reluctant Guardian Warrior. It’s hard not to infuse some of yourself into your stories. Everyone does drink coffee. That is a requirement. I even found a way to make coffee appear in a different universe. It’s that serious.
Is there anything else you want to add about the story, series that has not already been mentioned?
This is only the beginning. I wrote To Discover a Divine with the idea of it only being a trilogy, but my muse wasn’t having any of that. So, this is the gateway to a whole new universe of tales from the Dantaran Galaxy and I hope to share many more stories as times goes on.
What is the best way for readers to interact with you?
I’m a bit old school and I really do like Facebook. However, that being said, I am on Twitter and Instagram as well. I answer emails, my semaphore and smoke signals are a bit weak, but I’d be willing to brush up on them if needed. Just drop by my website, my Amazon Author page or find me on the interwebs.