Good Morning! It’s Monday, which means it’s time for another author interview here on the website!
Today I’m pleased to welcome a powerhouse speculative fiction author, Tahani Nelson. She is the author of the Faoii Chronicles, a series I can personally highly recommend, and also a friend. Keep reading to find out more about the NEXT Faoii book – releasing November 15 – and to see the cover!
Tahani Nelson is an author and English teacher in Billings, Montana. With hundreds of 5-star reviews and an ever-growing army of Faoii at her back, Nelson has become a common attendee at author events, Renaissance festivals, news programs, and conventions across the US– always wearing full armor and a face resplendent with warpaint. While her most notable appearances have been at the Indie Audiobook Awards and Fantasycon discussion panels, she most frequently gives presentations about empowerment and creating strong, healthy female role models in modern media.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
For most of my writing career I’ve had between two and three jobs. So writing was initially something I could really only do in the middle of the night. I never really outgrew that; even now I do my best writing between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. when the rest of the world is asleep. I’ll probably be like that forever.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
According to my mother I’ve been “writing” books since I was five, but he first time I recall writing a novel was in high school. At 17 I wrote a 360,000-word monstrosity. It was honestly terrible, but I was so proud of it. My father read the entire thing and really gave me some wonderful encouragement, which is probably the main reason I never stopped writing afterward.
I still have that original manuscript in my office, and I pull it out and look at it sometimes to remind myself how far I’ve come.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
My favorite past time is playing video games. I love RPGs and open-world games where you get to fully immerse yourself in a different universe and decide how to interact with it, and I specifically look for games with strong storylines, interesting characters and innovative combat or magic systems.
So, really, the same things I look for in books.
What does your family think of your writing?
I’m very lucky in how supportive my family is of my writing career. My father, in particular, has been a pillar for as long as I can remember. He introduced me to the immersive quality of literature at a young age, and has always supported my writing endeavors. Today, he’s still the first person I talk to when I have a new idea for a book, and he helps me bounce ideas around when I need to brainstorm. He’s also the first person I send my WIPs to before the editing stage even begins.
My husband, too, is incredibly supportive. He’s probably the only person alive who truly understands how bad my imposter syndrome is, and he’s always been right there to help me fight it. None of these books would exist without him.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
I currently have two full-length novels and several short stories out, with the final novel and an additional anthology coming November 16. It’s hard to say which is my favorite. I like the world I introduced in book 1, and I enjoyed exploring the aftermath of war in book 2. But Faoii Ascended— the final book in the series that’s coming out in November—holds a special place in my heart. It’s so surreal to write “The End” on a series that has been the central part of my existence for nearly a decade. Faoii Ascended brings the entire story to what I consider a very satisfying conclusion, and it’s nice to finish telling a story that’s been in my mind and heart for years.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
The Faoii Army is amazing. I hear from readers so often and have such an amazingly supportive group of warriors at my back. It’s so surreal to get messages from people I’ve never met talking about the Faoii Chronicles, or have people come up to me at events saying they read my books. I legitimately cried the first time a stranger told me I was their favorite author.
I know that it’s incredibly easy to get lost in the literary sea of self-published authors, but I’ve never felt invisible. I always have Faoii spreading news or sharing posts. They’ve made all of this possible.
What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
I hate how many scammers there are in the publishing industry—especially those who prey on self-published or aspiring authors. It’s so disheartening to know that people see newbies with a dream as easy marks, and they feed off that hope with promises of sales or promotions that later translate to expensive retweets or posts that no one ever sees. Paid reviews, poorly-worded DMs promising best-seller status, charging inordinate sums for “publishing guides” filled with buzzwords and bad advice… I hate all of it. It’s one of the reasons I try to give all of the advice I have for free, and why I warn new authors to take everything with a grain of salt.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think the biggest trap that aspiring writers fall into is comparing yourself to other authors on social media. There is nothing out there that will suck the joy from writing faster than comparison. Other authors’ social media feeds are cherry-picked, often exaggerated reels of positivity. And while I’m incredibly happy for every successful indie author out there, I’m also aware that we only get to see everyone else’s peaks, which definitely makes our own valleys seem a lot deeper than they really are. So I try to tell aspiring writers not to compare. There will always be someone who writes more words every night or who has more reviews or who makes more in royalties. There will always be things that make you feel like you’re not good enough. But think about the person you were a year ago. Or five. Or ten. That person would be so proud of you. You’ve come so far, and it’s too easy to forget that when you see other people who look like they’re ahead of you. The only person you should compare yourself to is the writer you used to be.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
All of the books and short stories in the Faoii Chronicles come from the same universe and matriarchal society, but they don’t follow a single character the way most series do. The first book, The Last Faoii, follows a young warrior named Kaiya as she raises an army to protect her homeland. The second book, Faoii Betrayer, takes place almost 200 years later and shows the aftermath of the war from book one, as well as its far-reaching consequences. In the final book, Faoii Ascended, the events of both previous books culminate into world-changing issues that never would have happened without the actions of the previous protagonists. So, while each book technically can be read alone, they make the most sense when read in chronological order. It’s been really fun to explore how the events of one lifetime can affect entire civilizations down the road. Lots of books explore the lives of heroes, but I wanted to go beyond one lifespan and see how our actions shape the lives of people we will never meet.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I truly hated my first publishing experience. I didn’t have any control over my own creation, constantly felt unheard, and never got any of my royalties. The entire thing actually turned me off from writing for several years, and I didn’t think I’d ever start again.
Now I self-publish, and I’m much happier with the process. I have an active role in every part of the process, and get to take risks that I wouldn’t be able to take if I’d gone any other route. It might be harder in some ways, but overall self-publishing has been more affirming and rewarding, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
What was the best money you spent as an author?
Honestly? Armor. My first breastplate was really the game-changer for my marketing strategy.
I write military fantasy, so it’s not a huge surprise that my target audience also likes weapons and armor and that such things will catch someone’s eye from across a convention center. So going to readings, events, or signings in full garb helps me stand out and encourages potential readers to come speak with me about something we’re both interested in.
I’ve also learned that a girl in armor is memorable. Even if someone doesn’t stop by my booth or read my books the first time they see me, I’ll often have people tell me at a later event that they recognized me because of my outfit. My hometown newspaper has referred to me as “local armored woman” on more than one occasion. It’s fun, effective, and gives me confidence, all three of which has helped me sell more books than any paid advertisement ever could.