To help spread the word about the Grumpy Old Trickster Gods anthology, I’m interviewing the authors involved.
Today we have E.J. Tedrow, author of Huehuecóyotl and the Dead Irish Hero.
What is your story in the Grumpy Old Trickster Gods about?
My story is about the Nahuatl trickster god, Huehuecóyotl, and how he deals with someone who tries to fool a god. It also includes some of my favorite mythic characters and a goddess from Celtic legend—the Morrigan, Scathac and Cuchulainn.
I love Morrígan! I did a whole blog post about her. What kind of research did you do for this story?
Lots of reading, both in preparation for writing the story and in my normal life before. I read a lot, and I LOVE mythology, so I’ve read any and all kinds of myths and legends I can get my hands on. Most of what I used for my story was pulled from my memories of all the reading, and the tales that I loved the most.
Do you enjoy books filled with mythology and folklore?
Oh, yes! When I was young, we had these massive books of Roman and Greek myths and legends written for kids, and I used to pore over them and reread my favorites for hours at a time. Eventually, I got bored with just the Greek and Roman stories, and started branching out into Norse, African, Asian, and Native American stories. I love them all!
There’s so much folklore to uncover when you just look. I regularly find new stories when I do research for my podcast and folklore blogposts that go with it. Where did the inspiration for this story come from?
Hm, well, I’d say a little bit from Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles and a little bit “they probably don’t want any more stories about Loki,” but mostly my Muse enjoying mixing genres together—or, in this case, different pantheons. So I chose two of my favorites and thought about what kind of fun I could have!
Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?
I have considered it, and went with sortof a hybrid approach. You see, my mother-in-law and I have very similar names, and she’s an author too! It would be so confusing to search for her name and find my books (once I get some more published) or for someone looking for my books to find hers. It’s why I chose to write as E.J. Tedrow instead of using my first name.
Yeah, that wouldn’t go down well with readers. What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?
“Writer’s block” means something is wrong. Either with the story, or the characters, or the plot: something about the story is wrong, and my subconscious mind or my Muse knows it, even if I can’t put a finger on it. Not being able to put words on the page, even bad words, is a sign that something is broken and that I need to put some serious thought and brain power into figuring out why the words won’t go.
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
Revision. I can smack down new words with ease. No problem. First draft is fun, it’s fast, and I get to tell the story as a whole for the first time. My plans and outlines only barely keep me on track and I love it. But when it comes time to revise and fix all the mistakes I made during the first go? I struggle, big time. That’s one reason why it’s taken me so long to get my first novel (as yet still unpublished, but coming out before the end of 2022!) to a point where I can share it with others. I started revising it in 2017!
It sound like you need serious butt-in-chair time! How long have you been writing or when did you start?
I started writing thanks to one fabulous homeschool co-op teacher and the 2002 Disney movie Treasure Planet. The teacher offered an Introduction to Literature and a Creative Writing class for the 7th and 8th graders at the co-op. In Intro to Lit, we read Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong and I fell in love with the fantasy genre, and I watched Treasure Planet for the first time right as the Creative Writing class began. I loved the movie and wanted more, and I couldn’t find anything like it, so I set out to write it myself. That first novel was terrible (whose isn’t, though?), but I finished it and went to work on the next one, and the next after that, and another after that. This year makes 20 years that I’ve been writing fiction!
Sounds like you had a great teacher. What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?
Good storytelling comes first—is the reader enjoying the tale? Next would be readability. Does the writer use words and grammar in such a way so that the reader can understand what’s happening in the story? Anything else after that is just personal preference or style.
Readability is important, isn’t it? What comes first for you—the plot or the characters—and why?
Characters come first to me, 99% of the time. A name, or an occupation, or someone who has something interesting (an odd type of magic, a unique item, something of that nature). Usually, it’s a name that comes to me first, and then I flesh out the character by asking my Muse questions about them. I actually have written-down conversations with myself when I’m building a character and their story like this, questioning and answering myself. It’s really fun to brainstorm that way!
How many books have you written and which is your favorite?
Including that very first (awful) novel I wrote in 2002-2003, I’ve written nine novels, plus a bunch of shorter novella-length and short story length pieces, and dozens and dozens of “story starts” where I start out exploring an idea to see if it’ll go anywhere. Most of them don’t, but they’re still a lot of fun.
I’d have to say my favorite one is The Murderwarden. I wrote the first draft for NaNoWriMo in 2010, rewrote it from 2014-2016, and began revisions in 2017—and I’m planning on finally publishing it as my first novel this year. Both of the main characters, Anja and Faris, are dear to me, having known them for so long. I love the dynamic of their relationship and how they balance each other.
Would you and your main character get along?
I’d get along with Faris, absolutely. He’s the sort of guy everybody just can’t help but like. Anja would be trickier. She’s blunt and has kindof a prickly personality, but there’s a lot me in all my characters, so I’m sure I’d be able to get along. She wouldn’t like me very much. I can be a little flighty for her taste, so the most I could expect from her is probably tolerance.
What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
For revisions, I need plenty of light at my desk, my morning coffee, music (instrumental, picked ahead of time to fit the mood of the scenes I plan to be working on), and to be away from my phone/iPad/computer. I prefer revising with a pen and paper, by hand.
For writing, it’s mostly the same (light, music, coffee or other hot beverage—yes, even in the summer!), but I turn my internet/wi-fi off since I write primarily on either my computer or my iPad. The World Wide Web is so tempting, and I know that if I let myself do research or “just check one thing” I’ll lose all my writing time. Researching can be done when it’s not writing time.
Coffee fuels the writing world! If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?
Deisian Iseklae, Anja’s father. He’s similar to her in many ways, but led a very different life that I only hint about in The Murderwarden. If I were to write a spin-off, he’s the side character I would choose.
If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?
Peter S. Beagle. I got to meet him once, several years ago, when my local movie theater did a special viewing of the movie The Last Unicorn and he came for a meet and greet and Q&A. The man is a legend and doesn’t get enough credit. I learned more about how to tell a good story at that Q&A session than I did in all my writing before that. Plus, he’s a wonderful person and I’d love to set up in some coffee bar somewhere and just talk the afternoon away with him.
Q&As with authors who know their stuff is the best way to learn more about being a good writer. When was the last time you Googled yourself and what did you find?
The last time I googled my actual name, I found my mother-in-law’s books! She writes non-fiction curriculum books for homeschoolers. I had a good giggle, and then gave some serious thought to what name I would be publishing under to help mitigate any confusion between our very different audiences. I hope there’s enough difference so my people will find me and her people will find her instead of getting them mixed up.
Have pets ever gotten in the way of your writing?
Only all the time, but I don’t mind. I have a horse named Country and an Irish Wolfhound named TenSoon! Country is my adventure, my wings, and I can easily spend all day at the barn. TenSoon likes to interrupt me while I’m working, demanding pets and snuggles. He’ll push his nose under my elbow and fling it up into the air like, “C’mon, mom, haven’t you done enough work today?”
They’re adorable! What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?
“Just write the thing.” That thing you think is hard, that thing you think you don’t have the skills to tackle yet, the thing that you think only you love… write the thing.
I forget who told that to me, but it’s stuck with me over the years. Trying new things, new stories, new ideas, it stretches my skills and forces me to grow as a writer—and if I don’t get it right on the first try, I can take what I’ve learned trying that thing and try again.
What are the essential characteristics of a hero you can root for?
For me to root for a hero—or any character—they have to have a goal. Something they want, that they’re working toward, a thing that they want to happen or to have or to be. They can be unlikeable, the kind that rubs some people the wrong way, but if they have a goal, I can get behind them. Other things like charm, wit, banter, smarts, those are nice trappings, but I like a character who knows what they want and goes for it.
What books do you enjoy reading?
Most of them, and I’m not kidding! I read some of everything, and lots of a few things. My favorites are fantasy, westerns, mysteries, thrillers, and science fiction, but I’ll pick up just about anything and give it a whirl if it sounds interesting enough. Specific authors that come to mind are Brandon Sanderson, Peter S. Beagle, RA Salvatore, Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, Andy Weir, Rachel Aaron, Erin Morgenstern and JRR Tolkien.
I’m a fan of words and the sounds words make, and of authors who use them beautifully.
It’s good to read widely — as my A-Z reading/blogging challenge showed last month. Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?
Almost too many to count. I aspire to write twists like Sanderson, I want to write breathtaking fight scenes like Salvatore, I want my words to make pleasing sounds like Beagle’s. I want to yarn a good story like L’Amour. I think the one thing that inspired me to become a writer above all the rest, though, isn’t a book or a movie—it’s a person. My 7th and 8th grade homeschool Literature and Writing teacher. She not only introduced me to fantasy and science fiction, but she showed me how much I enjoyed writing and playing with words.
Name an underappreciated novel that you love.
Daniel Polansky’s Low Town. Fantasy detective noir with the best kind of ending to the series—one it deserves. Immensely satisfying and hits all the right spots for someone who loves the fantasy-mystery/fantasy-detective genre and can’t find enough of it to read.
Sounds interesting. Which author in your genre do you most admire, and why?
There are a lot of authors in my genre I admire, but if I had to pick only one, it would probably be Brandon Sanderson. I feel like a lot of writers in the fantasy genre look up to him, and for good reason. He excels in his writing, his stories are great, and he’s extremely savvy when it comes to the business of writing and publishing. There’s a reason he’s so popular. But what I admire most about him is his willingness to experiment and try new things instead of just doing the same thing again and again. It gives me hope that new things that I might try could work out for me, too. Not on the same scale, of course, but seeing authors I look up to testing different strategies makes me more willing to try my own.
Reach for the moon — even if you don’t make it, you’ll land among the stars. (Or something like that.) As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
My writing mascot would be a Golden Retriever. Goofy and fun, spirited and a hard worker (once you get me to focus, that is). Serious when they need to be, they learn new things quickly and they’re friendly and smart, just like how I’d like to be as a writer.
About the Author
EJ has been writing fiction since she was 13, after falling in love with fantasy and science fiction, although she’s been a lover of mythology and tales of legend since she was even younger. She is currently revising a full-length novel for publication, and is in the planning stages of a new, exciting project. EJ has always been a reader, and it didn’t take long for her love of reading stories to turn into wanting to tell them as well. She loves history and mythology, especially in tales where the two mix. She lives in Virginia with her husband, her horse and her Irish Wolfhound.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this interview. Any questions for the author?
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