About Tiffani Collins:
I've always been terrible at running, so I learned to ride horses. I was even worse at dancing, so I studied martial arts instead. A banshee sings better than I do, so I picked up the violin – and didn't fare much better, truthfully. When asked what I wanted do when I grew up, I always said “work with animals,” so I became a Veterinarian Technician and did that for fifteen years. When I got tired of wrestling dogs and herding cats, I got a job at my local library where I get to talk about books with other bookworms all day long.
I read to keep sane and I write… well, I write because what’s more fun than that?
My name is Tiffani Collins and I live in a small rural town in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California. When I'm not braiding hair at Renaissance Fairs, spending time with friends, or helping library patrons find their next favorite read, I'm working on my next writing project.
What inspires you to write?
I once heard another author remark that they were always looking for a certain kind of story to read, and when they couldn't find it, they decided to write it themselves. That statement really resonated with me and it was then that I realized that was why I wrote, too.
I also love writing because it's a bit like taking a vacation in a world you built with a bunch of people you know very well. Some of them you like, some of them you don't, and some you'd really like to strangle with your own hands because they make your head explode with wrath – and you can! Because they're the bad guy and you get to write the fitting poetic end to their villainy that never seems to happen in real life. It's quite satisfying. Just as it is very gratifying to give your good guys the happy ending you wished more people could have in reality.
What authors do you read when you aren’t writing?
I could meet J. K. Rowling or George R. R. Martin and think it was cool, but I wouldn't turn into an incoherently babbling fan girl for anyone other than Jim Butcher. I actually don't want to ever run into him in real life because I am deathly certain I would humiliate myself terribly and never recover from the experience.
After that, I have to say that the authors I want to be like the most are J. K. Rowling, Naomi Novik, Leigh Bardugo, Will Wight, Tanya Huff, Dianna Wynne Jones, Diana Gabaldon, L. A. Meyer, and Ilona Andrews.
Tell us about your writing process.
I’m definitely a planner and not a pantser, but my outlines often come a little after halfway through the book and more to keep track of the timeline. I start with a character who has an interesting nature. I know where she starts out, meaning I know what kind of personal issue she’s dealing with, and I know how she’ll end up, which is happy – because there’s enough misery and tragedy in the real word and I write to escape all that, damn it!
Everything that comes in the middle is a foggy mystery for the most part and I only have a bare skeleton of an idea on how my character gets from point A to point Z. I spend a great deal of time listening to music, which often conjures cool scenes in my head. The music and the scenes get shuffled into a logical chain of events as I envision the world my character must navigate.
The story’s external events evolve around the character. For instance, I wanted my character, Danny, to belong to a small group of individuals other unscrupulous people could exploit to increase their own power, a kind of human familiar. Such an arrangement would obviously mean there’s an element of slavery in the world she inhabits. That observation leads to questions that need answers:
Is it black-market slavery, like human trafficking is in our world; or is it legal and forms the bedrock foundation of her world’s economy and civilization as it did for the Romans, the Vikings, and so many other cultures throughout human history?
Are there others who fight against the status quo, or will Danny be alone in trying to free herself and others like her?
What are the difficulties she faces and how does she get free?
Once free, will she be able to build a life for herself as a full citizen of her world with rights and liberties, or will she forever be on the run, fighting to stay free every moment for the rest of her life because the system is too massive for her to ever shift or dismantle?
These questions and their answers become an If-Then sequence of events that all must culminate in a final outcome where my character is happy and the reader feels satisfied. But that’s only the skeleton. Then I have to come up with the flesh and the guts and the brains and the skin – and the devil’s in the details. I have done more research into history, science, geography, anthropology, psychology, economics, physics, etc. as an alternate history fantasy author than I did to get my GED, Associate of Science degree, and my license in veterinary medicine.
All of that reading and research generates an avalanche of notes that I keep in massive documents that I have hyperlinked and organized like Wikipedia pages so I can keep everything straight. It’s a lot of work, but when you’re building a world and cast of characters that can support an epic fantasy series that will span over twenty books, you’ve got to be organized. That organization really comes in handy as your research generates more ideas for more scenes and books that spin off from the book you’re working on now and you need to keep it all straight over the course of years.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
No, it's more like I am a National Geographic videographer watching the doing of strange exotic people through the lens of my camera. Occasionally, I direct the action so that the people and events show to their best advantage, but really I don't "interact" with them much. I just let them be themselves and try to capture it all for my audience back home.
What advice would you give other writers?
Read, read, read, then read some more.
If you're writing romance, read tons of romance. If you're writing horror, then tons of horror.
Reading boat-loads of the kind of stories you're trying to write will help you internalize what good storytelling should "look" like. Sort of like immersing yourself in the language and culture of a language you're trying to learn. Even BAD stories will teach you what NOT to do. If you read a book that elicits a strong reaction from you – whether it's to recommend the book to everyone you meet or to burn it in effigy – ask yourself WHY you've reacted so strongly. Dissect it, then try to emulate it – or avoid it, in the case of bad books.
When you start writing your own stories, just write. Put your butt in the chair and words on the paper, no matter what. Sometimes your fingers will fly over the keyboard and sometimes every letter you punch will feel like ripping out a nail, but if you don't get those words on the page, you'll never finish your story.
WHEN you finish your story, the hardest part is this: Be brave.
When you let people read your writing, you're letting them into your head, because make no mistake, there's way more of YOU in that story than you'll ever realize and people are going to see it. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there for people to judge. But be brave and let them in. I believe most people will like what they see and want to see more of you than not.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
There's a quote that I like which pretty much sums up my thoughts on why I choose to self-publish:
“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
— Cyril Connolly
Basically, it comes down to this: I have a story I want to tell and I don't want anyone else in the kitchen while I work. If people like what I make, they're more than happy to have as much as they like. If they don't, then they can look elsewhere. I don't want anyone trying to tell me this or that won't sell because no one is buying it now – that I should write about zombie unicorns because they are the hot trend in literature today. Maybe I'm the trend of tomorrow, hmm? How would they know if they won't let me out of the gate?
But on a more practical note, I wanted to cut out the middleman. I've been following Kristine Kathryn Rusch and her business blog since 2009 and everything I've learned about the publishing industry, both way back when and what it's become today, has led me to believe that it's far better to be the master of my own financial fate than to place my work in the hands of others who really don't have much incentive to watch out for my interests over their own. It means WAAAAAY more work and loads more research into the business side of things for me, but I also reap far more rewards and retain all rights to my work. This way, if opportunity comes knocking later down the road, I don't have to worry about whether I have the rights for whatever bit of my work someone wants to license.
But I get why a lot of people choose to use agents or go with traditional publishers. It can get very expensive putting up the money to produce books properly and not everyone wants to spend the money or time or effort. Just know that if you go that route, you can expect fewer rewards.
And if you do get offered contracts, I would strongly suggest using an IP attorney to help you through the negotiations. They will only charge you a one-time fee and there will not be any conflict of interest. Just tell them what you want out of the deal and they will do their best to get it for you, or at least help you understand better what the deal will mean for you now and in the future.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think books are timeless and will always be around. Books are the origins for all the best entertainment, whether it is movies, or videogames, or theater. What I like best about books now and looking forward is that with the rise of the indie author, people are no longer told what they will like and can determine for themselves what is good or isn't.
Yes, it means there's more chaff to wade through to find the wheat, and yes, it's a little sad that with so much out there it's becoming less and less likely to find other people who've read the same books as you so you can geek out together over them, but overall I love greater variety. I love greater availability. I love greater accessibility. All of that has come with the rise of digital books and I think this is a trend that is here to stay. Which is probably the best news writers have had since Guttenberg invented the printing press. We stand to benefit tremendously from the modern age of publishing – if we're willing to put the work in and take responsibility for our own careers as writers.
What genres do you write?: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Alternate Universe/History
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.