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Adam Interviews...Stephannie Tallent!

So it's Monday the 13th...

Is that good or bad?

Does the 13th multiply the badness of Monday? Or do they cancel out?

It doesn't matter, because I have a great interview coming for you!

In the vibrant tapestry of modern literature, few writers weave as intriguing a narrative as Stephannie Tallent. A celebrated author whose literary prowess spans genres from the mystical allure of fantasy to the intricate plots of science fiction and mystery, Tallent brings a unique depth to her storytelling. Her journey into the literary world is as diverse as her novels. A West Point graduate and a former Military Intelligence officer, her life experiences enrich her narratives, imbuing them with realism and a palpable sense of adventure.

Stephannie's knack for storytelling is not just confined to the realms of fantasy and mystery; she also explores the complexities of romance, crafting narratives that explore the intricacies of human relationships. Her recent accolade, winning first place in the 1st quarter of Volume 40 of the Writers of the Future competition, attests to her skill and versatility as a writer.

Join us as we delve into the mind of Stephannie Tallent, exploring her creative process, her influences, and the imaginative worlds she brings to life through her words. Whether you are a long-time fan or new to her work, this interview promises a fascinating glimpse into the life of a writer who shapes her experiences into stories that captivate and inspire.

Official Bio:

Stephannie Tallent writes various subgenres of fantasy, as well as dabbling in science fiction, mystery, and romance. She’s collected a variety of degrees over the years: a Bachelor of Science in English Literature from the United States Military Academy at West Point, a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from the University of Texas, Austin; and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Texas A&M.

A small animal veterinarian, she jokes she’s a vet-vet, having served as an Army Military Intelligence officer during Desert Storm.

Stephannie Tallent's earliest memories are of gathering mussel shells and kelp at the beach and carting the stinking mass home. After living around the world, she moved back to California to be back near the ocean. Many evenings she'll be sipping a cocktail or glass of wine, watching the sun set over the water, from her deck with her husband Dave, and English Cocker spaniels Orry and Rosie.

Social media links:

Reboots – a great idea or a lack of creativity? I think it depends on the property. Most things I don’t think should be rebooted—seriously, make something new and fresh. Look at the most popular movies in summer of 2023: Barbie and Oppenheimer. Not reboots. (Loved both, by the way.)

But some properties? Logan’s Run. Love Michael York, but that movie is so dated. I saw it as a kid (read the book, too; biggest thing I remember about the book is the community they encounter that requires a literal pound of flesh). It doesn’t really hold up now, but I think it has some interesting ideas.

Stephannie Tallent

A book you’re looking forward to release (by someone else)? I’ve fallen in love with T. Kingfisher’s Paladin series. She hits a ton of the things I love: competent heroes and heroines, a bit of romance, a fun and interesting mystery or conflict.

I’m always looking forward to Seanan Mcguire’s books—still hoping for a third killer mermaid book! (Into the Drowning Deep, Rolling in the Deep, under her Mira Grant pseudonym, are the first two.)

Coffee, tea, or cacao? All of it, depending on the time of day. But mostly coffee. Drip, with half and half, on a daily basis. We have a Gaggia burr grinder I bought years ago. It’s holding up well. Our drip machine is a Moccamaster. I love it. It’s turquoise blue. I generally buy medium roast beans for at home.

I also have an Aeropress that I’m going to bring along on trips. I put together a whole coffee travel kit: the Aeropress, a hand grinder, a little scale that came with the padded bag that holds everything, filters, etc.

Last but not least, we have a Rancilio Miss Silvia espresso machine. Bought that years ago. Unfortunately it takes a bit more effort than the drip, so we don’t use it as often as we should.

After dinner at a nice restaurant? A macchiato, with maybe a tiny bit of sugar.

Fave coffee drink from a coffee house? A small flat white.

I’ve started drinking a cup of herbal tea in the evenings. I do the bagged (I know, heresy!) Yogi Egyptian Licorice. It’s naturally sweet, so satisfies that urge.

Hot chocolate is a rare treat.

Stephannie Tallent holding the art to go with her winning story

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I’m all over the place. My winning story for Writers of the Future (Life and Death and Love in the Bayou) was inspired by a photo of a derelict steam ship in a bayou, and was initially written for a Valentine’s Day anthology (the editor said she wanted something “different”; I didn’t quite interpret that how she meant it!!!).

I save interesting articles or photos in the Pocket online app. Atlas Obscura is a great source.

Some of the writing workshops I’ve done use items or similar as prompts. That works for me, too.

The Los Angeles Public Library system is fantastic for checking out books for research. I don’t think you have to live in Los Angeles to get a card—my hometown is incorporated, so I don’t officially live in Los Angeles, and I got a library card.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? I squeeze writing in between my veterinary work (lunches, between appointments) and on weekends. I’m better with outside deadlines—but I want to get better about that, and get more of a routine going.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? 

Read! Some of my favorite current authors include Seanan McGuire, Martha Wells, Barbara Hambly, and T. Kingfisher. Stephen King is amazing.

My husband and I watch a lot of movies/TV—though it’s harder, now, to watch just for pleasure rather than noting structure, beats, etc. Our dogs (Orry and Rosie) demand “couch time”, where they get cuddled while we all watch something. Recent TV favorites include Slow Horses and The Three Body Problem. I’m a big Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fan, and I’d argue I like the latter better.

I also design knitting patterns. Knitting used to be a hobby, it became a side gig.

Foodie. Amateur mixologist. Travel.

Is there a theme/trope you find yourself going back to in multiple works? Or one you avoid? Found family is one I go to often. Consent is another. I don’t plan on those themes, they just happen.

I’ve realized I don’t often write male protagonists. Male characters, sure, but not as the main character (except for romance, I guess, where I alternate viewpoints between the two main characters, which, for me, have been female/male).

Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they? Don’t stop learning. There are so many options now for online learning, both free and paid. Hit your library up for books on craft. And write lots—but with a purpose towards learning and improving; don’t just keep doing the same thing. And READ.

What is the first book that made you cry? I can’t even tell you. I do cry at books, movies, TV shows, and even songs.

Shoot, I cried during a preview of that movie where they leave the sled dogs behind!

I’m a total sucker for someone nobly sacrificing themselves for the remainder of the team.

The cover of Writers of the Future 40 - a woman standing on a horn against the backdrop of a planet

What are common traps for aspiring writers? Constant workshopping. Becoming attached to just one story, and trying to make it perfect.

Do the best you can do, at this moment in time, and set it free.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I write what interests me. If I’m following a prompt (a call for submissions for an anthology, for example), I’ll work with the theme, but I’ll let the story take me where it wants to go.

Having said that, I do try to tell stories in a way that will be enjoyable for a reader.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?

So far I’ve mainly written short stories, though I have done multiple stories in the same worlds. My Jolene stories are urban fantasy; the Dinah stories are Weird Western. I’ve written a few short SF stories (one of which turned into my first screenplay) that are connected, and I’ve realized that my other SF does seem to be in the same universe.

But I don’t think all of those different worlds are interconnected. But I might surprise myself.

So the short answer is yes, sort of.

Who shot first, Han or Greedo? Oh, Han, totally.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? Start sooner. Be serious sooner.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Purchasing (and earning!) the different lifetime WMG memberships, with Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch as instructors.

What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to? The ones they want to write for. If you’re writing SF, some of the popular science magazines? The Hollywood Reporter—lots of info on copyright etc.

What do you have coming next? I’m in the middle of a diesel punk killer mermaid novella. Some other shorts. Adapting my SF screenplay (adapted from a short story!) into a novella or short novel.

Excerpt from “Life and Death and Love in the Bayou” from Writers of the Future Vol 40 (released May 7 2024):

It was the February the rain fell so warm and hard the bayous swamped over old man Rochambeau’s gator curing shack and the whole parish smelled like graveyard mold and sour-smelling gator excrement, even the houses built up on stilts above the high-water line, that I decided to help my mama once and for all. No matter the cost to my soul.

’Bout that shed . . . I knew old man Rochambeau would just hit up my mama to use the ham hut for his haul, and she’d say yes, so I didn’t feel too bad. Not for him, anyway.

Felt bad for my mama, who’d be stuck bumping up against log- shaped hunks of gator meat while she seasoned and cured the hogs. Touch one of those logs of meat, and it’s like the Spanish moss is dragging against the back of your neck, like the spirit of the gator is still there and pissed off and just waiting to chomp on you and roll you.

Those spirits are truly there, lurking to garner just a bit of power, enough to touch the living world.

I know ’cause I see them. Granny said I’m blessed, just like her, and her granny before, and I gotta keep it secret.

What we see we can touch, and what we touch, we can control.

And some men don’t like us women having that power. Call us witches, and do worse than call us names.

And sometimes, that power just ain’t enough to keep a body safe. Many a blessed woman’s been beaten or hung in this parish, either too weak or too despairing to fight back.

So, best keep it hidden.

The rains seem to feed the spirits, restoring them closer to life. Made me itch to see them. Test them.

Mama didn’t make me help with slaughtering the hogs anymore, not after that first time when I was ten. I screamed for days, ’til my throat bled, then I sprayed blood just like those cutthroat hogs.

I get to go exploring on my own, now, when it’s butcherin’ time, which is fine by me. Don’t get me wrong. I know that I can’t afford weakness. Since that autumn six years past, I’ve learned to not flinch away from, well, nature red in tooth and claw. Death is part of life. Necessary for life.

Trying to build up my—I don’t want to say tolerance, but the way the world is, I need to be able to function in the face of violence. It’s so hard, sometime. Nature’s one thing. People hurting other people? Twists my insides around.

Why ain’t I in school, you ask? School’s for rich folks, not teenage swamp witches like me. Mama sent me through grade school. That was enough. I can read, and write, sure enough, so’s I can scribble down what I see and learn on my own, in a tattered red-covered spiral notebook, but they couldn’t teach me nothing about the spirits of the bayou, and that’s what I truly needed to learn.

Granny told me that I’d have to master my powers, else they’d master me, and I’d turn out like crazy old Calixte, half snake herself by now, undulating in the sulfur-smelling brown water, slipping through the roots of the mangroves, the little green flowers of the water spider orchids tangling in her long gray hair.

Secretly, I thought submersing yourself into the magic of the swamp might not be such a bad thing, after I saw what Mama’s most recent boyfriend Leroy Bobanchet done to her this last time, a week ago. Both eyes blackened and her slender nose crooked and one tooth lost and two more loose….

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1 Comment

Stefanie - Ioved reading this! So ;interesting - and amazing!

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