JQM PRESENTS A BLOG POST INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR Tiffani Collins
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF:
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.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS? WHY?
Jim Butcher! 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. All of these authors write incredibly immersive stories that have stuck with me for years with characters that feel so real you talk about them to your friends as if they were people you’ve actually met. Many of these authors – Jim Butcher, Tanya Huff, and Ilona Andrews specifically – also have a tremendous ability to make me laugh with their witty one-liners. Tanya Huff has been known to say that of all elements in writing, humor is the hardest to pull off well, and I agree! If an author can make me burst out laughing while reading, I will forgive them almost any sin they might commit elsewhere in the story.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS? WHY?
Oh, God! I hate this question! Should I answer with the book that made me laugh the most? Or maybe the book that got me reading in the fourth grade and transmuted all my testing scores through some mystical means of alchemy from well below average in every subject to off the charts… well, except for math – that never got over the above average line, sadly. It’s so hard to pick a favorite, but I’ll take a stab at a few that have suck in my head for years and are always the first I recommend to people: * Raven, by S. A. Swiniarski – best horror book about vampires ever and the first book that I ever encountered that explained vampirism as a virus pathogen, which I really thought was cool back in middle school. BTW, I went from reading Goosebumps in the fourth grade (those books I mentioned above) to reading John Saul and Dean Koontz by sixth grade, so just because I say I read a book in middle school doesn’t mean it was meant for children. * Summer Knight, by Jim Butcher – this is the fourth book in his Dresden Files series, but the FIRST book of his that I liked. The first two sat collecting dust on my selves for years because I thought his main character, Harry Dresden, was an irritating chauvinist and the author couldn’t write any female characters that weren’t trying to out-macho the guys or use their sexual appeal to get what they wanted, which really grated on me. Then a friend told me if I got past the third book, the series really begins to take off – and she was right. The Dresden Files is like crack cocaine, according to my cousin – once you get a taste, you’re addicted for life. One of the reasons I love Jim Butcher is that he is a prime example of how an author can have a rocky start but really come into their own as they grow in their craft. He gives me a lot of hope for myself as a writer. * Lord of Scoundrels, by Lorretta Chase – the one straight-up romance that I will publicly admit to loving. Remember how I said if a book can make me burst out laughing, I’ll forgive it everything else? Well, this book was hilarious, so I could get over the fact that it is a dyed-in-the-wool Regency romance novel. >:P It’s also my reminder that there will always be exceptions to any rule and that I should sometimes get out of my own way and try books from genres I don’t typically like. * And finally, Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo – because Kaz Brekker is in there and he is the BEST ANTI-HERO EVER! ‘Nuf said. If I ever manage to pull of characterization half as well as Bardugo did with Kaz, I will die believing myself a success as an author.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE LITERARY CHARACTERS? WHY?
This is also hard to answer, but I’ll give the two answers that immediately pop into my head: * Kaz Brekker, from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – he is such a broken character. I know that’s a weird reason to love a guy who literally dug his fingers into the orbital socket of the guy he was questioning to rip out his eye, but it’s true. Kaz has been deeply, deeply scarred by horrific events in his childhood, and life growing up in the gangs of what feels like Victorian-era New York REALLY didn’t help. He is both the most vulnerable character in the book and also the strongest, bravest, smartest character in the book. Despite everything his life has thrown at him, Kaz is still actually a good guy. He’s as Sherlock Holms said in the BBC show “Sherlock”: “I may be on the side of the angels, but I am not one of them.” * Ethan, from Will Wight’s Cradle series – Ethan is a side character, but I love him because he’s funny for one, but also because he plays off being a fool, but is actually one of the strongest and smartest characters in the series. I’ll admit here, that this is where my love affair with competence really shows. I don’t like those stories where the hero bumbles his way through the series, not really knowing what he’s doing, but persevering in the end, despite everyone around him having more of a clue than he does – which, let’s be honest, is most fantasy/adventure stories. I like characters who already know what they are doing and then sitting down to watch them do what they do best with style. Ethan gives me that, which is a reprieve from watching Linden tripping over his own feet. Don’t get me wrong, I really do like Linden a lot, but Ethan is the one that gives me the competence porn that I crave.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR FELLOW AUTHORS AND/OR ASPIRING AUTHORS?
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 page, 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.
IMAGINE ONE OF YOUR BOOKS IS ABOUT TO BECOME A FILM OR TV SHOW. WHO IS YOUR “DREAM CAST?” AND WHO DO YOU ASK TO CREATE THE SOUNDTRACK?
Oooo, this is tricky for me to answer, because I actually don’t “see” the characters and places in my head. I always feel like a blind person in my world and someone has to be around to tell me what everything and everyone looks like. It’s why I love having artists do renderings of the creatures or characters in my stories, because at last I can see them! Same for buildings or settings. I do a lot of browsing on Google’s image searches to figure out how to describe a setting in the scene I’m working on. So, I suppose I would be overjoyed with whoever they cast so long as they matched the basic description I set up for the character. In a way it would be easier to say what I WOULDN’T want to see happen. I would hate it if they completely miscast my characters like they did in Sci Fi’s Dresden Files TV series based off of Jim Butcher’s books. Harry Dresden is basketball-player tall and lanky with a legit wizarding staff; they chose a shortish guy with an average build and a hockey stick to play him. Bob is a spirit that looks like a swirl of orange campfire sparks inhabiting a human skull who loves bodice-rippers and has a funny, snarky attitude; they turned him into a dour ghost-man with the personality of Lurch from the Adam’s Family. Morgan is an old, grizzled German guy with pasty white skin and graying hair; they cast him as a big, fit, youngish African American guy. Karen Murphy is a cute blonde woman; they cast a brunette. No, no, no, no, no! I wouldn’t let the rights to my books go without retaining veto power on the development front, which probably means I will never see my books on the streaming platforms because I am NOT J. K. Rowling.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WANT TO SHARE WITH POTENTIAL READERS?
Please don’t ask me questions about how my story will turn out or what will happen to certain characters because I have ZERO ability to stop myself from geeking out and spilling EVERYTHING! So, for the sake of all those who hate spoilers, please take pity on a poor writer who lacks a functioning filter.
WHERE CAN WE GO TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOU AND YOUR LITERARY WORKS?
Ok, so I have a confession to make – I hate social media. Biggest time-sucks ever! I don’t even have accounts on most of them and the two I AM on are always on the shaky edge of being shut down for lack of use. I would just much rather be reading, or writing, or researching for my writing, or going to Ren Fairs where I do really cool things with hair braiding, or doing art, or walking my dogs, or hanging with friends, or playing Skyrim, or, you know… living my life. But I do have a website, tiffani-collins.com, and a blog and a contact page, so I am reachable and I do love talking with people and being totally nerdy about books. Hard to get me to STOP talking, really, and I enjoy nothing more than to gush with fellow fans of the same books or learning of new series I might be interested in. So, please, by all means, come visit my website and drop me a line!