MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR TESSA MCFIONN
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
Hello! I’m Tessa McFionn and I write steamy speculative romance. If it’s paranormal, science fiction, supernatural, or fantasy, I’ll write it.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
Well, right now, I have two series that are out. My paranormal series, The Guardian Warriors, came into being when I was in a very dark place myself. And in that moment, my hero swept into my head and the rest, as they say, is history. The science fiction series, The Rise of the Stria, actually hit me as I was watching tv. I wondered what would happen if someone just opened their door and was transported to another universe. Kinda like The Wizard of Oz but without the twister. It’s been fun thinking about that “what if.”
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
I have always been a fan of anything out of the ordinary. My mother used to read to me and my brother when we were kids and that was when I was first introduced to fantasy. My gateway book was The Hobbit. After that, I read Heinlein, Asimov, all of Tolkien, then moved to Terry Brooks and of course, comic books. I was a total nerd, and still am. But it wasn’t until I found Sherrilyn Kenyon and Anne Rice when I learned that romance could exist in the realms of the supernatural.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
Oh God. TONS! For my Guardians series, since those are contemporary paranormals set in actual places, I’ve had to spend lots of time digging into city specifics (thank you, Google Earth.) I don’t want to be one of those authors who hasn’t done their homework, so I delve into street maps, building architecture and neighborhood makeups to give each story the right feel. Also, since my heroes are immortal warriors pulled from ancient battlefields, that means hours of historical research. I work hard to make sure the armor, weaponry, battlefield dynamics, and actual conflicts are correct. Finally, each of my boys has a kick-ass muscle car, since I love them. So, that means engine specs, checking the available factory colors, bucket seats v. bench seats. All the bells and whistles that would make the car believable. Which brings me to the main reason I love writing sci-fi: NO RESEACH! I just need to keep track of planets, people, and alliances. The rest is up to my imagination.
Can you tell me about your Series?
I would be delighted. In the Guardian Warriors series, we learn about a world within our world and the battle between the forces of good and evil that has raged on since the dawn of time. The Guardians, ancient and immortal warriors, fight to protect humanity’s free will and their enemies, the Rogues, are bent on destruction and chaos, believing the suffering of humans will bring about new growth and new ideas. In each book, we follow one Guardian as he meets his spiritmate, the one who will allow him to once again return to a normal, mortal life. And, of course, the path to true love never is easy, which makes for much more interesting stories.
Meanwhile, across the universe far from home, Evainne Wagner finds herself in the middle of an interplanetary revolution and she’s the one who can end it all. Aided by the crew of the rebel’s flagship and her sexy captain, she is faced with a difficult choice: stay in a world she doesn’t understand, or return to a world where she doesn’t fit.
Do you have a favorite book out of this series?
Wow. That’s tough. In my Guardians series, I think my favorite would be Spirit Song, the third book in the series. I just love Bastian, even though he’s a bit of an ass. I wondered what it would be like if a bad guy ended up fighting for the good guys, so I created Bastian, an assassin who discovers he’s been recruited on the side of right. He completely steals my heart, no pun intended.
Where did you get the inspiration/idea for your series?
As crazy as it sounds, the Guardians came from a movie/tv show from the 1990s called Highlander. Yeah, yeah. “There can be only one.” But in my world, there is way more than one. I suppose it goes back to my love of “what if,” not to mention I like the idea of having handsome, sword brandishing warriors wandering around the planet keeping us safe.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
Was it always meant to become a series?
Actually, yes. Since the Guardians have been around for millennia, there are so many stories and characters still out there for me to reveal. And there is one who refuses to tell me his story, so I will keep going until my snarky Irishman is ready to open up to me.
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
Ugh. I wish I could say I wake up each day and immediately set to work on my words. But that only happens on weekends and holidays. For 185 days out of the year, I wake up and head off to the day job and I’m assuming by the specific number, you can already guess that my day job is that of a teacher. Don’t get me wrong; I do love my job. I get to work with amazing and imaginative students, but it does cut into writing time. I don’t truly have goals in stone. I just make sure that at the end of each work day, I open up my current project while sitting on my corner of the couch and get at least one hour of work done. It has to be time since sometimes it’s creating new words and others, it’s editing ones already down.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
I have several, but the one I’m really excited about is a paranormal romantic mystery. I’m actually hammering away on it to see if I can get it ready to send to an agent. The title is Dance Me a Dark-Haired Beauty and is filled with faes, shape shifters, and a mysterious illness that threatens to shatter the wall between worlds.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
Names are so important. I am a firm believer in the right name for the right character. In fact, in my fourth book, Spirit Shattered, I tried to have my hero with a different name and origin story, but the words just wouldn’t come at all. I tried to pair my little spitfire, Danika, with my suave conquistador, Gabriel, but she wasn’t having that at all. But the moment I brought in Anton, the story unfolded beautifully. Since my Guardians start in the past, I rely on historic name sites to find out what names would have been around during those times. It would sound rather silly to have a hero from ancient Greece named Bob.
Where do your ideas come from?
Wow. All over. I was always the kid that asked what next. Once my mom would finish a book, I wanted to know what happened after that. Did they really live happily ever after? Did they have kids? And what about that one bad guy that got away? Did someone finally get him? I was insatiably curious and my imagination would continue to spin long after the book was closed. So, once I started seriously writing, I took that idea of what if and ran with it. What if there were people who pointed us toward, or away from, decisions in our lives? What if all of us had the chance at supernatural powers? From there, I just let the stories start and listen to the voices in my head.
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
Hmm. Since I keep things rather out there, it kinda keeps the playing field open. For some reason, my stories tend to have a darker edge. So, if I were to experiment, I think writing light and comedic might be an interesting twist. After all, I believe we all read to escape into other worlds, so why not make it a fun place?
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Time. For me, it’s all about time management. Some days, I don’t get home from work until late in the evening and there’s still that whole dinner and spending time with hubby that needs to get squeezed in before heading to bed. Luckily for me, I have a partner who loves me and accepts my crazy schedule.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I love them! I actually have two of them, one for the second in my Guardians series, Spirit Bound, and the other for the first book in the Rise of the Stria, To Discover a Divine. But both of them were made for me, since I completely SUCK at that particular skill set. I would love to have trailers for all my books, but until I win the lottery, I’ll just have to be happy with the ones I have.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Sending in my first manuscript. LOL. But it actually is the truth. I finished Spirit Fall back in 2011 and it took me two years before I got the nerve to send it out to publishers. It is terrifying and even though I told myself I knew I would get rejection letters, it was still tough to keep shipping it out after rejection after rejection after rejection. So, I guess my best accomplishment would be never giving up on my words.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Having my story in the hands of the world. I love telling stories and I hope that people enjoy reading them. In this crazy place, we all need stories of love and triumph over evil.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Wow. The long term dream. I see myself still writing stories that fans want to read. Accolades on the walls would be nice too, but for me, it’s all about the fans. I started out by writing stories that I would want to read and down the road, I want to make sure that I never falter from that path.
Have you always liked to write?
I have. I started telling stories before I could actually write. And once I could put pencil to paper, the rest is history. I wrote dreams, short stories, poems. Everything. I wrote for my high school newspaper and submitted works to my local newspaper. My characters and situations were always weird. One of my mother’s favorite stories was my cautionary tale about the evils of the Cabbage Patch Kids and how they were actually brain controlling machines designed to destroy the human race. (Can you tell about how old I am?) I took Creative Writing classes in college, but it wasn’t until much later when I realized that my stories could travel around the world.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Don’t doubt yourself. If the words feel right, then they’re right. If not, change them. Words are fluid and constantly shifting. Write from your gut and your heart, and tell stories you want to read.
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
LOL! I’m still trying to figure out if I am any good at this. I do have a solid day job teaching, so there is that. But if I had the chance to reinvent myself, I would love to be an archeologist. Blame it all on Indiana Jones.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
Sigh. Yes. I’ve heard so many people say not to do that, but I just can’t seem to stop myself. And breaking another unspoken author rule, I do respond to them. Usually, it’s just a quick thank you and nothing more. As for the bad ones, those are tough. Again, I say thank you since they did take the time to make their thoughts known so I acknowledge their effort. I try not to take them personally since not everyone is going to like every book written. I focus more on useable feedback and move on from there.
What is your least favorite part of the writing / publishing process?
The wait. Since I am published through small press houses, there is always a long gap between when it leaves my hands and when it hits the shelves. But I have to remind myself that quality requires time and practice breathing exercises so I don’t blow a fuse while waiting.
What are you working on now?
As I wait for edits on the second book in my sci-fi series, I’m working on a whole new project that I’m planning to pitch as soon as it’s ready for public consumption. It’s my paranormal mystery and I’m having a blast working in this uncharted territory for me.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
I can give a little taste. It’s still in the beginning stages, so the fire is just getting stoked. Our main character, Camille Delacourt, is a rare fae called a skin dancer, one who is able to change everything about her appearance and she has spent most of her long life living undetected by both humans and fae. Until one fateful night…
“Excuse me, miss?”
Cam shook her head, filing away the family album and smiled toward the voice to her right. “Bonjou, cher. Can I…”
Her tongue froze as an eerie pair of eyes too blue to be human regarded her with cool interest.
Shit. He’s fae. She could feel it in her bones. One of the skills inherent to skin dancers was the ability to sense other magical beings. Hiding in plain sight is simple when you know where your enemies lie. Another piece of remembered advice rushed to the forefront of her mind.
Not only he was a fae; he was powerful to boot. She resisted the urge to rub her hand along her arms to brush away the prickling sensation. Standing an easy six and a half feet tall, he oozed sex. Blonde hair reached to his shoulders and a devastatingly sensual smile was framed by a well-trimmed five o’clock shadow. She blinked rapidly as he waited patiently for her to reengage her mouth.
“Pardon, cher.” Now she was the one fumbling for the right thing to say. Karma’s quick in the bayou. “Can I get you a drink?” She painted on her best flirtatious grin, shoving her momentary lapse as far into her mind as she could and waited for him to respond. Fingers crossed, she hoped he read her pause as attraction. It wasn’t too far from the truth, but her need to remain anonymous outweighed her need for a night-time dance partner.
This time, luck was on her side and he turned up the heat, running his hand through his hair as he pinned her with a smoldering grin. Her heart hammered beneath the thin white tank of her work uniform, but she refused to give in to his practiced charms. Damn. The man worn handsome like a comfortable suit. Knowing his glamour masked his true face, toning down his other worldly looks, made her all the more curious to see him drop his guard.
Why did you choose to write in your genre? If you write in more than one, how do you balance them?
I have always loved anything out of the norm. One of the first movies I remember falling in love with was Walt Disney’s Fantasia. I was about five and my mom took me and my brother to see it. Now, this was back in the day when you had only one screen at the theater and movies still had intermissions. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the moment the conductor made the sun rise at the end of Beethoven’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, the movie’s opening piece, I was hooked. It taught me to see beyond the visible and find the magic that existed in everything. So, I guess my mind has always been wired to work in the fantastical. I don’t see it as needing to balance things, but I do keep lots of notes so the rules don’t cross over too much.
Where did your love of books come from?
My mom. We had books everywhere in our house growing up. The only room without books was the bathroom. If you were going to take a bath, you brought your own reading materials. We took weekly trips to the library, to second-hand book stores and it wasn’t a birthday or Christmas if books weren’t part of a gift. She encouraged my writing and even supported my love of comics. She was my greatest inspiration and with every book I write, I hope I am making her proud.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
Far too many to really number, but there are some that stand above the rest. For authors, topping the list are Sherrilyn Kenyon, Terry Brooks, J.R.R. Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, Christine Feehan, J.K. Rowling and of course, Walt Disney. The books are going to sound odd, but these are the stories that I go to when I need a good kick in the pants. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Cloak & Silence by Sherrilyn Kenyon have helped me to get through so many tough times and road blocks in my life.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
Ooh, that’s a close race between my snarky Irishman and my ass of an assassin. Eamon drives me nuts with his disappearing and reappearing act. I have actually had readers ask repeatedly if he’s going to have his own story and I wish I knew that answer. He only talks to me when he wants to, then will sit back and watch from the shadows. Ugh. Boys. As for my heroines, I’d go with Evainne. Dumped into an alien world, she relies on her cool and her wits to make sense of things.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Honestly, I would say it’s a bit of both. Once the ideas are flowing and the words just spill out onto the page, it’s the best feeling the world. But I do agonize over edits, so therein lies the conflict. I love the creation process, but dread the cleaning part.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Shiny objects. I have a bit of ADHD and at times, it’s not easy to stay focused on the task at hand. My hubby calls it “my magpie disorder,” but I have learned to set reminders and notes around my house to keep my mind on target.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I’d like to think that by staying true to my own ideas, I am delivering to readers stories they want to read. So far, I think I’m doing okay on that part. As long as love conquers all in the end, the rest is all gravy.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I am so fortunate to be a part of Romance Writers of America and through my local chapter, I’ve met some truly amazing writers. Lisa Kessler, Linda Thomas-Sundstrom, Damon Suede, HelenKay Dimon, Cynthia Diamond, just to name a few, and the most amazing part has been able to connect with my inspiration, Sherrilyn Kenyon. Each one of them has helped me to persevere and to continually strive to be the best I can be.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
How the Hell Did That Happen? Or Confessions of a Disnerd. LOL! Actually, I have no idea.
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
Can we send you a billion dollars? LOL. I can’t think of anything that I truly want to reveal that hasn’t been brought up just yet. But, if anyone happens to have a spare fortune, I know just how to put that to good use.
Where can your fans find you and follow??
I love connecting with readers. I’m just about everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are my main hangouts. I have newsletter that comes out usually once a quarter, unless something amazing happens between times. Here’s all the links and anyone who’s interested can sign up for my newsletter on my website.
Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RM4OGQ6
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/tmcfionn/
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/tessa.mcfionn
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview ❤️