Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mayan Sci-Fi Author - T.W. Fendley

This week I've had the pleasure of interviewing a fellow Midwesterner - T.W. Fendley, author of ZERO TIME, a fascinating sci-fi fantasy incorporating ancient Mayan culture.  As one who once desired to be an archaeologist (and who still enjoys the study of many elements of history), I was very intrigued by the premise of this book.  Plus it has an element that seems to be on so many minds since Y2K, the end of the world.  So please join me in welcoming to the blog, Ms. Fendley!

DAB:  Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author?

TWF:  For many years, it was hard for me to decide which I liked best: art or writing. Even in college, I had a double major. As so often happens, the money ran out before I finished both degrees, but by that time I'd already decided that journalism was my calling (plus the job prospects were better). I've always earned my living by writing, mostly in corporate communications, but it wasn't until the mid-1990s that I decided to try fiction. A couple of things came together--today I'd call it synchronicity. My boss and I didn't see eye-to-eye on things, and at one point he said I "wasn't creative enough." Well, for me, insults don't get much worse, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Things improved between us after I got accepted at Clarion, one of the top workshops for science fiction and fantasy writers. About the same time, a co-worker told me she'd just found a publisher for her first romance novel. She introduced me to the Crescent City Writers, a great group of women who knew the ins and outs of publishing. They helped me take my first steps toward becoming a fiction writer.

DAB:  Where do you come up with ideas for your novels like ZERO TIME?

TWF:  Mostly I get ideas from reading about a wide variety of things: metaphysics, ancient cultures, science and astronomy. Sometimes I dream entire stories, although they often don't make sense by the time I get them written down. I like to write about the connections I see between things. A journalism instructor once dubbed me "Leap of Faith Teresa" because I intuited connections between things. Of course, you certainly check the facts if you're a journalist, but it makes for some interesting possibilities in fiction.

For ZERO TIME, the inspiration came while researching short story ideas at Clarion. 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. Some of the resources I used are listed on my website:
ZERO TIME: Behind the Story

DAB:  Do you ever have difficulty writing from the point-of-view of a member of the opposite sex?

TWF:  So far my point-of-view characters have been women, mainly because I want to portray strong female characters, not victims. When I write about male characters, usually I rely on something from my experience. I've been observing men for a lot of years <grin>, so I've heard and seen a lot. I haven't received much push-back from men who've critiqued my work, but I'm always open to constructive feedback.

DAB:  So are there particular men in your life for observation or are they just random men who cross your path?  Also, how much of "them" have you incorporated into the male characters in ZERO TIME?

TWF:  Hmmm. Not an easy question. None of the male characters are patterned on a particular person, but some of their actions are reminiscent of things that have happened. For instance, my husband is very romantic and brought me roses at the airport while we were dating (he lived in Florida and I was in New Orleans). Like Xpiyacoc, he would definitely remember promising me the starry sky and would bring me a blue rose in parting. Xpiyacoc and Xmucane are loosely based on Jamie and Claire from Diana Gabaldon's amazing OUTLANDER series, but my story quickly veers off the romantic path. That's also pretty typical of my real life. Thankfully, my relationships have vastly improved through the years.

DAB:  Who is your favorite character to write in ZERO TIME, and why?

TWF:  Usually I find Xmucane most appealing because she's a strong leader who listens to her heart. This sensitivity made it possible for her to respond appropriately when confronted with the unintended consequences of leaving her daughters and sisters. Sending her sixteen family members in small groups to places separated by 6,000 years was one of many sacrifices made to improve their expedition's chances of saving the people of Omeyocan from extinction. Xmucane's a take-charge kind of person, but it's never a matter of ego. Sadly, I guess such leaders only exist in fiction.

DAB:  What is a typical day of writing for you?

TWF:  Hmmm. I'd love to say that I'm incredibly disciplined and work on my novel every day at a certain time, no matter what. That isn't what happens. But unless I'm out of town, at the gym, at critique group or running errands, I am generally in my office. I usually have several small daily writing goals that fill the day--such as write for an hour or five hundred words (whichever comes first), edit a chapter or research a specific topic. Daily goals build toward my overall writing goals, which include finishing my next book this year, marketing the one that's published, finding an agent/publisher for my completed YA novel, and entering short story contests.

DAB:  I love it that you mention being at critique group, as I have found mine to be invaluable (we celebrate our ten year anniversary this year).  However, it seems very few writers anymore belong to an actual critique group, choosing either an online group or to go it alone.  How do you feel your group benefits your writing and overall experience as an author?

TWF:  One of the reasons I joined the St. Louis Writers Guild was to meet other writers. That's how I found two of the three critique buddies who reviewed the first two drafts of my novel. I met the other one at the local sci-fi/fantasy convention. Three of us have continued to meet every other week for more than five years. We've reviewed numerous books a couple of chapters at a time. I don't think I would be published without their help. There's simply no substitute for having someone you trust read your work and give constructive feedback. One of my critique buddies says you should always leave the session feeling inspired to write, and I know I always do.

DAB:  Tell us about the moment you received your first real fan correspondence.

TWF:  The closest thing I've had to fan correspondence so far was the first review I got on Library Thing from a reader who won my book in a giveaway. I'd received a couple of two-star reviews on Goodreads and was pretty discouraged. Then I saw the comments from his four-star review and knew this perfect stranger had "gotten it." I raced to tell my husband and sent off a few emails with the news. Although I try to measure success based on internal factors, sometimes the kindness of strangers makes the day a lot brighter.

DAB:  Okay, to outline or not to outline - that is the question.

TWF:  No question, no outline. At Clarion, one of my favorite authors, Tim Powers, talked about using colored index cards to plan his wonderful, complex stories. I'd love to do something like that--or at least be able to outline BEFORE I start writing a story instead of after I finish it. I keep trying from time to time, but it hasn't worked yet.

DAB:  I personally don't use an outline either.  In what ways does an outline just not work for you at present?

TWF:  Even when I have an outline, I find I don't use it. Occasionally I can pick up a plot thread or two, but that's about all. Still, it seems like such a good idea, doesn't it? What works best for me is stopping at the beginning of a new scene, with clear direction on how the action needs to continue. Then I have a starting place the next day. 

DAB:  How long did ZERO TIME take to put to bed?

TWF:  It depends on when you start counting. After I took early retirement and started writing full-time, it took a little over a year to complete the book. Of course, by then, I'd spent a decade doing research and had a pretty clear idea of who my characters were, etc.

DAB:  Care to tell us what is next on your writing horizon?

TWF:  I’m hunting 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. I’ve also started writing WHITE HERON, the sequel to ZERO TIME, which tells the master shaman’s story.

DAB:  Now's your chance - please give us a final plug for ZERO TIME.

TWF:  I'll just share a few words from two of my readers:
  • “For those who like to stretch their imaginations—and who doesn’t?—this novel is a fascinating and compelling read."
  • "Breathtaking scope, thrilling action!"
Thanks, D.A., for being a Party Host in my Virtual Book Tour Party! I hope your readers will visit the Party Page and "join the party." Here's how:
The ZERO TIME 2012 Virtual Book Tour Party is here!
To celebrate, T.W. Fendley is giving away a Maya-Aztec astrology report, a Mayan Winds CD, ZERO TIME tote bag and fun buttons. Check out the prizes and other posts on the Party Page.
3 ways to enter  (multiple entries are great!)
1) Leave a comment here or on any of the other PARTY POSTS listed on the Party Page.
2) Tweet about the Virtual Party or any of the PARTY POSTS (with tag #ZEROTIME2012)
Example: Join the Virtual Party for historical #fantasy novel ZERO TIME by @twfendley for a chance to win prizes! #ZEROTIME2012
3) Facebook (tag @T.W. Fendley) about the Virtual Party. (NOTE: tag must have periods to work)
Example: Join the Virtual Party for historical fantasy novel ZERO TIME by @T.W. Fendley for a chance to win prizes!

As Zero Time nears, only Keihla Benton can save two worlds from the powers of Darkness. But first she must unlock the secrets of Machu Picchu and her own past.

When Philadelphia science writer Keihla Benton joins an archeological team at Machu Picchu, she learns the Andean prophesies about 2012 have special meaning for her. Only she can end the cycle of Darkness that endangers Earth at the end of the Mayan calendar. As she uncovers secrets from the past, which threaten her life and those she loves, Keihla struggles to keep the powerful Great Crystal from the Lord of Darkness and his consort.
Xmucane 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. With the help of the time-traveling Great Serpent Quetzalcoatl, she leaves the Southern Temples to arrive in present-day Machu Picchu as the expedition’s time-window closes.

Xmucane and Keihla work together as Earth and Omeyocan near alignment with the galaxy’s dark heart for the first time in 26,000 years. They must seize the last chance to restore the cycle of Light to Earth and return to the Pleiades with a cure, no matter what the cost to their hearts.

ZERO TIME is available at:
Ebook $4.99
Paperback $16.95
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.


  1. Thanks so much for having me as your guest, D.A. It was a fun interview. I look forward to your upcoming post on The Writers' Lens!

    Again, I appreciate you being a wonderful Party Host for my book tour. :)

  2. It has been great getting to know you and the studies behind Zero Time. I look forward to working with you again!

  3. T.W.

    Zero Time sounds like a great read. Best of luck with it.

    1. Thanks, Gary! My hope is that readers will become as excited about these ancient American cultures as I am. I think they have a lot to offer us!

  4. TW, your novel sounds fascinating.

    What the ancients, Inca and Maya knew and what we will discover will soon converge, I'm sure--and we'll all be surprised!

    I wish you much luck with Zero Time.

    1. Hi, Gordon -- I like your prophecy! My intention is for a very positive transformation as one Long Count ends... and another soon begins. :)

      And thanks so much for your kind comments.

  5. TW, I can't wait to check out your book. Given our current year, it's very topical and right up my alley. I'm also happy to find I'm not the only person who can't stick to an outline.
    DA, great interview. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi, Adrian -- Thanks so much for your interest! I was grateful to L&L Dreamspell for publishing ZERO TIME so it could be available now. I hope you find it thought-provoking and fun!

      I wish you the best on your book, too. Keep writing!

    2. Thanks, Adrian. More and more I'm finding that no matter what the "experts" say, so many writers don't use an outline, or at least a traditional outline. Thanks for stopping by the blog and leaving a comment.