I have often had the pleasure of being entertained by my open, joyful, and imaginative friend, Terri-Lynne DeFino, but never more so then when I visited the world she created in her first novel, Finder. A thoroughly engaging read Finder proved as creative, open, breathtaking, and unique as the woman herself. It’s the kind of book that invites you to get comfortably immersed in the dust covered surroundings and become part of the story. The journey, characters, and setting have stayed with me in all the good ways, becoming as real as any place I’ve ever visited. And now, I get to go back! You can come too. Today, I’m interviewing author Terri-Lynne DeFino about her companion novel to Finder, titled A Time Never Lived. Oh, and we might have a chat about, world building, the biggest lesson she learned from being a writer and editor, and sex.
DMS: I know from reading Finder, which I loved, that world building is very important to you. Can you tell me what two elements of your world building you spend the most time developing?
TLD: The absolute most important element, to me, is language. There is no more subtle way to create a fully realized world than through language and idiom. The sounds of the culture—whether soft or hard, consonant-heavy or softened with lots of vowels, even how words and names end, the number of syllables—tap into a reader subliminally; and sometimes quite blatantly.
Language is a problem usually solved with much handwavery, and the good graces of the fans of the genre. Take comparatively-small Europe as an example. So many languages! In England alone, the different dialects almost make them seem like different languages. And yet, in fantasy, everyone speaks the same common tongue—or seems to. We give them accents to denote their “otherness,” sometimes there’s a translator involved, and we leave it at that.
It is this familiarity with the sounds from other languages existing in our own world that lends flavor our worlds. A name like, say, Richter, is not going to evoke an Italian flavor, though a name like Vorenzio might. Richter has those hard, German sounds one would find in a world akin to England or Germany. In Finder, the names of my characters in Therk evoke the Middle-East: Azah, Nalsa, Rury, Emala; the words for mother, father, and for “dear one”: mahti, fahti, dashi. Flavors!
The second most important element to me is the everyday stuff, like food. Food is that basic necessity of life we humans have turned into an art form. Imagine reading a travelogue about Greece without restaurant recommendations! I can’t imagine building a world without giving it the spices and flavors (of a more literal kind than language) of its culture. Even the lack of flavors says a lot about a culture. It is in these subtle ways I like to create my worlds.
DMS: A Time Never Lived is a companion book to Finder, set in the same world, but
with different main characters. What prompted you to make the switch and write about these characters?
TLD: The main characters in A Time Never Lived were minor characters in Finder, while the major characters from Finder become minors in A Time Never Lived. I knew when I thought him up that Vic was going to get his own story. The others sort of fell into natural place around him. I, personally, love an ongoing saga, but I find I prefer these rotating characters within the same setting rather than the other way around. Sometimes, an author can go on too long with the same characters and end up getting stale, her readers bored long before the story’s told. I like to keep hints of old characters in my stories to evoke that sense of familiarity and, hopefully, affection, while giving my readers an entirely new story. It’s the same with the setting. A Time Never Lived is the same world as Finder, only a different part of it. In fact, the next two books in the works are also set in the same world but in different parts; and with entirely different characters. Still, they all link together in small, subtle ways that end up being rather important. More than that would be spoilery, so I’ll end it there.
DMS: If it’s not giving too much away, how did you come up with the title for this novel?
TLD: A Time Never Lived comes from a cultural standard in storytelling akin to our own, “Once Upon A Time.” Stories begin: “Of a time never lived, in a land no one knows…” There is significance to that story beginning, as all stories come from the dragons, but it also works on a major theme of the novel: life is rarely what we expect it to be.
DMS: It’s easy to ally yourself with the heroes in your novels, but how do you feel about the villains?
TLD: I love my villains, though I seldom have a hard and fast good vs evil plot going in my books. My villains are often friends of the heroes, whether they like it or not. Good and evil depends upon the eyes one is looking out of—a lesson I learned from Guy Gavriel Kay’s, Tigana. A well-drawn villain, in my opinion, can be as sympathetic and righteous as the hero.
DMS: You have some great sex scenes in your novels. Do you ever find yourself shying away from writing them?
TLD: I’ve never shied away from sex scenes. While I can and do get a little down and dirty, I have to admit that I prefer a “fade to black” sort of thing before getting too graphic. It’s for the same reason I rarely go into much detail about a character’s appearance—I like to leave certain things up to the reader. To give those barest details, leaving the readers to infer the rest gives those readers exactly what they want, because they’re filling in the blanks. Readers have a much better imagination than they give themselves credit for.
DMS: What is the biggest life-lesson being a writer and editor has taught you?
TLD: The biggest life-lesson I’ve learned from being a writer and editor is that rushing never works. Rushing—whether driving, baking a cake, raising a child, or writing a book—results in mediocre, disaster, or having to do it all over again the right way. Taking one’s time not only makes the process more enjoyable, it allows us to actually learn from it. Rushing might get the job done faster, but it will never get it done better—or even as well.
Thanks, Terri-Lynne for sharing your creative process and your wonderful writing! Now that you know a little about Terri-Lynne, you’re probably eager to read her work. Well, don’t say I never did anything nice for you, because HERE is a tantalizing excerpt from A Time Never Lived for you to enjoy! If you’d like to get a signed copy of Finder or A Time Never Lived and happen to live in Kansas City, Missouri visit Terri-Lynne and her fellow authors of Hadley Rille Books at Prospero’s Bookstore this Thursday, May 24 from 6-8. Can’t make that? Not to worry, she’ll be having her launch party at ConQuest (Sheridan in KC) on Saturday, May 26th from 4 pm -until her pen runs out of ink!
Terri-Lynne DeFino is an alumna of the 2006 Viable Paradise X workshop, where she studied with Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Laura Mixon, Steven Gould, Debra Doyle, James Macdonald, James Patrick Kelly and Corey Doctorow. Her critically acclaimed novel FINDER, the companion to A TIME NEVER LIVED, is currently available from Hadley-Rille Books. She lives in rural Connecticut with her family, her cats and the various magical creatures that end up in her stories or on her walls. Visit her at http://bogwitch64.livejournal.com or at http://heroinesoffantasy.blogspot.com.