Passageways Interview Series: Tahani Nelson

You are cordially invited to visit nine different worlds! You won’t need to pack a thing; there’s no passport or visa required, and all expenses are paid. All you need is one book to transport you.

Passageways is an anthology featuring some of the strongest independent authors writing today, happily playing in the universes they’ve each built. Running the gamut from fantasy to sci-fi to horror.

This Author Interview Series will focus on the authors featured in Passageways, exploring their individual writing process, world-building, and characters. Passageways gives you a peak into the narratives these authors weave. I aim to give you a peak at the authors themselves. 

Over the next 11 weeks, we’ll hear from authors Tahani Nelson (The Faoii Chronicles); Brian Fitzpatrick (Mechcraft); R.H. Webster (Rosebud); S.E. Soldwedel (Broken Circles); G.A. Finocchiaro (SCALES); Evan Graham (The Calling Void); Susan K. Hamilton (Shadow King); and Jane-Holly Meissner (The Fae Child Trilogy), curator Mike X Welch (Enantiodromia), and Editor/Publishing Rep extraordinaire from Writing Bloc, Cari Dubiel (How To Remember).

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. 

The Faoii Chronicles is a military fantasy series centered around strong female warriors and the consequences of the wars they wage. 

The Faoii and the White Wolf follows two powerful women, Azil, a young Faoii, and the newly anointed White Wolf, Iraskiri, as they gravitate towards each other like glaciers. Along the way, each will battle foes both extrinsic and personal, with the survival of both the Faoii and Wolves hanging in the balance. 

  1. I would consider The Faoii Chronicles to be a very successful, independently published book. You’re not only a fantastic writer, but also a marketer of your own work. You’ve spoken with many of your fans, and they are very much like an army—Faoii of your own. What about your books and your characters draws people in, and what do they come away talking about long after the cover closes?

I get a lot of comments about how immersive the experience is. Not just with the books themselves, but with how I interact with my followers. People read worlds they want to live in, and a lot of readers tell me that they love the powerful and immersive universe that I’ve offered for the Faoii Chronicles. But I take that immersion a step further, too. When you read my books you become a part of my army, and I attribute all of my success to my soldiers. I do all of my events and signings in armor, post about my goals like hills that need to be taken, and share every single victory with those who got us that far. People support what they feel part of, and I want every single Faoii to know that I am nothing without them at my back. Shields up!

  1. How did you develop your language or monikers given to the people of your world?

I love languages and always have. When I created the matriarchal world of the Faoii, I realized pretty early on that English is too often patriarchal to fit well within the world I was trying to create.

Let’s use the most common example throughout the books: Faoii. if I had simply called the protagonists of my world “Warriors,” 90% of readers would think of an army like what we’ve historically had on Earth. Even if they thought of both men and women serving in the armed forces, “warrior” is still considered masculine, and people tend to think of a male warrior first and a female warrior second. That word by itself would make it hard to picture a predominantly-female fighting force. So I created a language that helps the reader do the opposite. “Faoii” itself just means “Warrior.” “Fa” means “War” and “-oii” is the feminine conjugation in this language (kind of like “-a” or “-o” in Latin-based languages. The main difference is that the feminine conjugation is dominant when both females and males are present). Now we have a word that doesn’t actually mean anything different, but the connotation has changed. That’s all I wanted when I created Illindrian (even though I only ended up using 6 words in the book itself).

It’s been a really interesting experience to create an entire language around a world I built from nothing, and I’m so glad I had that opportunity. If readers are interested, there is a glossary and pronunciation guide for the language in the back of The Last Faoii.

  1. How does The Faoii and the White Wolf connect with your other novels?

Canonically, “The Faoii and the White Wolf” takes place between The Last Faoii and Faoii Betrayer. I specifically like this short story because it is the first tale that takes us outside the main continent of Imeriel, so you get to explore the unique culture of the Alathi in addition to that of the Faoii. It can be read as a standalone, and has one of my favorite battle scenes to date, but some of the concepts introduced will play heavily in the last book of the trilogy, Faoii Ascended.

  1. The worldbuilding in The Faoii Chronicles is expansive, with the character’s personal stories taking place many years apart with vast changes to the world across years. How do you keep track of it all and stay organized?

A lot of people were surprised when I set Faoii Betrayer nearly 200 years after The Last Faoii, but I wanted to show the aftereffects a war has on a culture. There are a lot of amazing stories about grand battles and toppling tyrants, but very few people consider the frightening aspects of the resulting power vacuum. 

To keep the events of the actual society organized, I often just look at our history. A lot of the events that show up in the narrative are directly influenced by events that are happening in our world right now, and it is not difficult to project which direction things might go. I keep a societal storyboard on my computer that marks major events for Imeriel and reference it often. I’m also particularly proud of my in-depth studies of how the language has evolved in the past 1,000 years of Imeriel’s history, but none of that shows up in the books, except with small things like slight variances of names and spellings between the different cultures. No one really needs to know that part, but like I said above, I really like languages. 

  1. 2020 was a tough year, but you still managed to be productive and creative. Do you have any advice for creatives who have struggled during the pandemic? 

Give yourself grace. This year has been draining for a million different reasons and there often isn’t enough energy left over to make dinner, but less an entire universe filled with its own people and problems. It’s okay if you’re not able to hit the huge goals you might want to set. 

My advice is this: Set smaller goals. TINY goals. Writing an entire book is HUGE. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. So don’t start off by saying “I’m going to write a book this year” or you might be setting yourself up for failure before you even start. Instead, focus on something small. Something possible. I write 200 words a night. That’s it. And it works for me, because a lot of the trouble I’ve had in the past was finding the energy to even START some gigantic goal every evening when I’m already exhausted from work and life and society. Those giant goals were too big for me even before the insanity that was 2020, so don’t be ashamed if you’re having trouble reaching them in the middle of our current hellscape. Set smaller goals. That tiny declaration of “200 words” has brought me through 2 best-selling 110k-word novels and a quarter of the way through the last book in the trilogy. Small goals are fine. Just take it one day (or word) at a time. Best of luck to you.

Follow Tahani Nelson on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Goodreads. Be sure to add her book, The Last Faoii and Faoii Betrayer to your list! More of Nelson’s work can be found at her Amazon Author Page.

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