Award-winning author
Unusual times, remarkable places

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

14 November 2010

Interview with debut fantasy author Terri-Lynne DeFino

Terri-Lynne DeFino’s first novel, Finder (Hadley Rille Books) debuted in November. This adventure fantasy tells the story of a young man with a talent for finding lost things and the runaway slave a client hires him to find.

Welcome, Terri, and congratulations on the release of Finder!

Thanks, Shauna! It’s a pleasure to be here.

What genres do you read most? Who are your favorite authors?

In the past, I read fantasy almost exclusively, which is why I joined a book club seven years ago. It forced me to open up my reading habits to include some great stuff being published that I’d have never known about.

For my favorite fantasy writers, there are way too many. I’ll stick to those whose books I will buy when they come out, without even knowing what they’re about first: Jane Yolen, Guy Gavriel Kay, Patricia McKillip, Robert Holdstock (before his demise), and C.C. Finlay. I’m trying to steer clear of friends! But I have to add Kimberly Dahl Vandervort in here, because I loved her work before I loved her! And I’ll read anything she writes.

As for mainstream, I only have two authors who qualify to the above criteria: Jonathan Safran Foer and Tracy Chevalier. They have yet to disappoint.

Are there certain themes or topics you’re drawn to in your writing?

I am a sucker for redemption. Give me that grand sacrifice, that big moment of gut-wrenching change, and I’m mush. I am also driven to include women’s issues and the injustices with which we are too often (and still) facing.

What writers have had the greatest influence on you?

When I was a child, Rahl Dahl was a huge influence. I was a dreamy sort of kid. His work spoke to me on a level most adults didn’t. I trusted him completely.

Lois Lowry taught me the power of words, of how they can evoke strong emotion without flourish and word acrobatics. (The Giver)

Guy Gavriel Kay taught me that good and evil depends upon whose eyes one is looking out of. (Tigana)

The biggest influence, however, has to be Jane Yolen. Most of what I have of her work is in the form of children’s picture books. I used to read to several classrooms at the local elementary school. Her books held clutches of small children in rapt attention. It was like watching a spell being cast, and when I closed the book, that moment of perfect silence before the children came back to themselves. THAT is magic. That is the magic of words.

How important have your writing friends been in your development as a writer?

Wow. They’ve been integral to my development as a writer. I’ve never had much luck with in-person writing groups here at home. I attended a writer’s retreat back in 2002 that turned into a yearly retreat that continues to this day. My Viable Paradise tribe has been the backbone of my writing life since 2006. We’re a community of writers that I couldn’t possibly function without.

And then there is Livejournal. I’ve met some really amazing writers there, and in fact, without Livejournal, I’d not have been following Kim Vandervort’s blog during her publishing process with Hadley Rille Books. And now I have my Hadley Rille Books family, people I count on, who count on me. I can’t even fathom how I ever got along outside of a writing community. Now I have three!

One thing I really enjoyed about the book is that the second half of the book takes place eighteen years after the first half, allowing us to see how the choices the characters made worked out and how these choices changed them. How did you come up with the idea to do that?

The original question was whether, in the end, Ethen could really turn Zihariel in for the rest of his money? I knew the answer, and how it would come about, but that answer didn’t lead to a conclusion so much as another question: So what happens then?

The consequences of Ethen and Zihariel’s decision is the real story, and that came as somewhat of a surprise to me during that planning phase.

In Finder, one of the characters says: “…life is a spiral of events that comes around again and again but never the same way twice.” That describes the book pretty accurately, I think.

What is your writing regimen? Would you recommend it to aspiring authors?

I write from 9:30–2:30 every weekday. There’s laundry mixed in there, the occasional cat-wrangling to oversee, but I stick to that schedule pretty strictly. It’s easier now that my kids are grown and I don’t have mom duties mixed in, but when they were younger, I stuck to that schedule unless something came up. If they were in school, I was at my computer. Mom shift started when they got home and didn’t end until they were in bed. Now, my time is my own. I know this makes me freakishly lucky. Most writers I know squeeze in an hour here, an hour there—if they’re lucky.

What I recommend to aspiring writers is this—write. A paragraph. A page. Whatever you have the time and the brain power to put out, just do it. If you’re spending that spare hour noodling around online because an hour isn’t enough to get anything done, well—you’re never going to get anything done.

Do you have any other advice for my readers who are working on their first novels?

I do—and it’s this: It’s all about the story, not you. Don’t be afraid to edit. Your words are not sacred. Always accept criticism graciously. You don’t have to agree, but it will help you understand how others are seeing your work.
Also—write a second book. And a third. And a fifth. The chances of your first book being the one to sell aren’t all that great. Finder is—are you ready for it—my 24th manuscript. Yes, you read that right. I wrote 23 books that never saw the light of day before this one. I consider them my education. Finder is my diploma.

Do you have another book in the works?

Yes! A Time Never Lived, the sequel to Finder.

I’m happy you could visit my blog today, Terri! Good luck with Finder and your future books.

Thanks, Shauna!

You can learn more about Terri and Finder by visiting her her blog at Finder is available online from (hardcover, trade paperback, Kindle), Barnes and Noble (hardcover, trade paperback), and Hadley Rille Books.


Hadley Rille Books' fifth anniversary celebration is still going on, and there's still time to enter to win a Kindle 3G. Also, if you buy any title from Hadley Rille Books directly from its Website before the end of December, you'll get 10% off and and free shipping. For more details, see my blog post of 14 October.


Coming soon:

* final report on World Fantasy Con 2010
* info on applying to Clarion 2011
* author interview with historical fiction writer Kimberly Todd Wade

02 November 2010

World Fantasy Con: tidbits and trends

Random thoughts and information about the 2010 World Fantasy Con; summaries of sessions to come later.

Biggest inspiration to write more: I found out that my niece, who is majoring in genetics and has a double minor in psychology and English, still finds time to write every day and is doing NaNoWriMo this month.

Biggest awkward moment: Shortly after I and a friend had interrupted Guy Gavriel Kay's dinner to tell him how much we loved his books, I found myself in a "what do I do or say now?" moment, standing by the elevators waiting for an elevator with him. What is the proper follow-up behavior to gushing?

Best news for writers: Although many big publishers are in crash mode, I talked to several spec fic micropublishers who have survived and are expanding. They seem to be looking for a somewhat wider variety of books than the mainstream publishers, too.

Total number of free books:
I already took a heavy box of books to the post office, so I can't count them yet, but I would guess about three dozen.

Best free book scored: the new Brandon Sanderson book, The Way of Kings

Free book I most want to read after The Way of Kings:
Hell Can Wait by Theodore Judson. This book attracted my attention with the Roman soldier cover and kept it with its back-cover copy about a Roman soldier who finds himself 1800 years in the future trying to survive in modern-day America. This is a publication of mmicropress Edge.

Best career decision ever: Being a Clarion grad gave me credibility and instant rapport with all the Clarion and Clarion West grads I met.

Most discouraging statistic: A slush reader for Clarkesworld magazine said that its six slush readers each get 25 to 30 manuscripts per day to review. The magazine publishes only 12 short stories a year.

Best "I'm really a writer" moment: LOCUS magazine took several pictures of me! (And of many other people too, I have to admit.)

Worst feature of con hotel: One thousand writers on the Internet simultaneously overwhelmed the system and made it as slow as I remember 300 bps modems being.

Worst "I wish I'd known that earlier" moment: The con suite provided free breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I didn't find out until Saturday night.

  • more steampunk (but not nearly as much more as I expected)
  • more zombies
  • fewer vampires
  • continued darkness in almost all spec fic books
  • better covers on small and micropress books
  • more authors at the booksigning
  • more readers, browsers, and buyers at the booksigning
  • more panels that dealt partially or entirely with humor
  • fewer parties than last year