Tell us about your early works—what was the first thing you ever wrote?
Like many young girls, I collected Breyer model horses. Some of the first stories I wrote were about them--Scheherazade, Satan, Count Whirlaway, Velvet, Goldenboy, and the rest of the herd. Their stories were as exotic or as common as their names. In Middle School (we called it Junior High), I won a national youth essay contest about tuberculosis that featured my first imagined character, Timothy B. (T.B.) Mouse.
When did you first consider yourself a professional writer?
After a small press offered to publish my historical fantasy novel, Zero Time, it felt okay to say I was an author. Of course, there’s nothing like holding a print copy of a book you’ve written to make it seem “real.”
What genres do you write?
I write science fiction, fantasy, historical fantasy, horror, and fusions of all those. I write for adults and young adults.
What is your favorite theme/genre to write about?
I love cycles of all kinds, but particularly those involving the Sun. An early fan of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, I was totally inspired by Hari Seldon and psychohistory. You’ll also often find undercurrents of Andean and Mesoamerican mythology and history in my work.
If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?
In college, I was torn between art and journalism. I got journalism scholarships, and found I could graduate quicker as a J-major since art courses required studio time. That was important since I was a single mom and working part-time, too. The great thing about journalism is it gives you permission to be curious. Of course, writing fiction is a lot different from journalism, but I get to do research. I still dabble in watercolor, and I’m married to an artist.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine? Do you use pen and paper or computer? Work at home or at the library/Starbucks, etc.
Since I took early retirement in 2007 to write, my lack of discipline has surprised me. It’s like there’s a little voice in my head that says, “You’ve been on deadlines all your life, forget about it!” Or maybe I’ve learned how to procrastinate? Anyway, I still intend to write on my WIP for an hour or two each day, but so far it’s not happening regularly. That’s why my critique partners have written twice as many books as I have! Of course, there’s a lot to the business of writing besides creating new stories, and I spend a lot of time each day doing that. I have a home-made stand-up desk where I do most of my work. Sometimes I join a great group of writers who meet weekly at a local coffee shop, but I rarely get much done there except editing and chatting.
How much time per day do you spend on your writing?
I spend at least half the day doing writing-related work—drafting or editing my novel, updating my blogs, marketing, doing layout, attending critique groups or Writers Guild meetings. It’s amazing how much time it takes to learn everything you need to know as an author.
What has been the most surprising reaction to something you’ve written?
When I read a story a friend’s story in a horror magazine, it made me look at my own work a bit differently. I decided to enter a short story I’d written in the Writer’s Digest Horror competition. It took second place! That was definitely a shocker to me because I had always thought it was science fiction.
Other than your family, what has been your greatest source of support?
For several years, I’ve met twice monthly with two critique partners—Cole Gibsen and Brad R. Cook. They are amazing writers and wonderful friends. I probably wouldn’t still be writing without their inspiration and encouragement.
How do you deal with rejection and/or negative reviews?
Although reviews are terribly important to a book’s success, you have to write for yourself, not to please others. Otherwise, your self-esteem is at the whim of whoever decides to comment. Even though I do the best I can, I know there’s always room for improvement. People are entitled to their opinions, and generally there’s at least a nugget of valuable advice in negative comments that will help me improve the next story.
Where do you get your story ideas?
Some of my ideas come from dreams, but many evolve from trying to puzzle out a “what if” problem. “What if” only two teens could access messages embedded in stones in the age of dinosaurs? “What if” the stories engraved on the stones are truly warnings? Like many things, I think this has to do with my personality type – I’m an INFP (Introverted/Intuitive/Feeling/Perceiving) on the Myers-Briggs test. I have a talent for making strange connections between unrelated things, and that usually gets the creative wheels turning.
Do you have a specific writing style?
My natural style is sparse, partly due to my journalistic training. One of the hardest things for me is to remember the characters’ internalization has to be written on the page, not just imagined. That’s where my critique partners are worth their weight in chocolate.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
Generally my writer’s block occurs because I’ve let the story get cold while working on other projects. Then I have to go back and re-read a few chapters to refresh myself on the story arc. Usually I do some editing since problem areas are more likely to show up when you look at your story with “fresh eyes.”
Do you use critique partners or beta readers? Why or why not?
I use both critique partners and beta readers whenever possible. As a writer, you’re too close to your own work. What makes perfect sense to you may have a totally different meaning to a reader, and you’re likely to miss grammatical or spelling errors because you’ll see what you think it says instead of what is really written. Also, every writer has “pet words” that crop up too often, and even word search isn’t as good at catching things like that as an impartial reader.
How much time do you spend on research? What type of research do you do?
I LOVE research, and tend to get carried away with it. For my first novel, I gathered information for about ten years before I finished ZERO TIME. That included going to conferences about the Inca, Maya and Aztec cultures; taking courses on archeoastronomy; traveling to the Yucatan, Peru and American Southwest; going to museums; reading books on the culture, plants, mythology and history. For THE LABYRINTH OF TIME, mostly I used Javier Cabrera Darquea’s book, The Message of the Engraved Stones of Ica, as a resource, plus my own recollections and impressions from our tour of the Ica museum and Peru. Of course, some of my previous years of research fed into the new book, too. That’s the good thing about research—you never know when you’ll need some obscure fact.
T.W. Fendley is an award-winning author of historical fantasy and science fiction for adults and young adults. She began writing fiction full-time in 2007 after working twenty-five years in journalism and corporate communications. In October 2011, L&L Dreamspell LLC published her debut historical fantasy novel for adults, Zero Time. Her young adult contemporary fantasy novel, The Labyrinth of Time, will be released in November 2014. Her short stories are available on Kindle and Audible.
Teresa fell in love with ancient American cultures while researching story ideas at the 1997 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. Since then, she’s trekked to archeological sites in the Yucatan, Peru and American Southwest. She serves on the board of the St. Louis Writers Guild, and belongs to the Missouri Writers' Guild, Broad Universe, and Historical Novel Society. She also practices remote viewing with the Applied Precognition Project and studies shamanism. Teresa currently lives near St. Louis with her artist husband and his pet fish.
You can find her online at:
Can Jade restore the Firestone’s powers before the First Men return to judge humanity?
Spending spring break in Peru with her grandmother isn’t sixteen-year-old Jade’s idea of fun. She’d much rather be with her friends at Lake of the Ozarks. Then she meets Felix, a museum director’s son. Jade discovers only she and Felix can telepathically access messages left on engraved stones in the age of dinosaurs.
Following the ancient stones’ guidance, they enter the Labyrinth of Time and–with a shapeshifting dog’s help–seek a red crystal called the Firestone. But time is running out before the First Men return on the night of the second blue moon.