Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, T.A. Creech – I am a house-parent to a rambunctious small child and happily mated to an equally rambunctious military spouse. My adventures in writing began with fanfiction, and once I was hooked I never looked back.
Thanks so much, T.A., for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
T.A. Creech: When I was a wee lass of 11 in La Mesa, CA, my English teacher assigned the whole class a writing assignment. Write a short story about anything, she said. At the time, a hamster named Houdini, bless his black little escapist heart, shared my room. I didn’t know it at the time, but that hamster set me on the path to being a speculative fiction writer.
For a couple of days, I was stumped on what to write this story about. It drove me crazy and not one suggestion my Mom or sister gave me helped at all. And then Houdini bailed out of his cage. In my pre-teenaged mind, that was superhero level stuff right there. And then the idea caught fire in my imagination. Granted, at the time, I didn’t know three pages about a hamster with superpowers were woefully short, but, damn it all, I wrote those three pages in an hour. Thus, Super Hamster was born. Teacher told me my style and technique needed some work, but it was a rip-roaring tale otherwise. I put down the pen for a few years after that, because life interfered. Never forgot how writing that story made me feel though.
Then fandom came into my life. Sailor Moon to be precise. Writing in fandom cemented for me the niggling idea I’d had when I wrote about that damned hamster and a few dear friends of mine several years later shoved me, kicking and screaming with adrenaline, into original fiction. I’ve never looked back.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
TAC: Genre is the easy discussion. I write both romance and speculative fiction. Because I grew up on the bodice rippers my Mom and sister loved to read that pissed me off to no end, I swore I would, one day, write better romances than those stereotypical characters and their formula drama. Love and romance are all about give and receive, not control, take, dominate. It’s a distortion that I personally abhor. Speculative fiction, on the other hand, gives me so much! I can go to whole new worlds and take my readers with me. I can change this world into anything I want and happily lay that world at readers’ feet for their enjoyment as well as mine.
Style is a whole other topic. A never ending evolution of voice and emotion and words that I don’t feel I can ever accurately describe. Like Mr. Holmes, I can lay out the inner workings of my style and always miss something. They best I can tell anyone is that I follow the character’s voice out of the darkness and into their life.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
TAC: My first published work was short story named Slither. It’s about nagas, which are human-snake hybrids. These particular ones are genetically engineered as a worker class for a world humans are colonizing in the Outer Arm and the nagas are in the middle of a violent revolution. Just a little slice of a much bigger picture, which I didn’t realize until after JMS published it. In fact, once that contract is up, I’m going to expand it massively.
I still love that story.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
TAC: I think my writing process is pretty standard. I get an idea and jot it down on a sticky note that goes on my wall. Yeah, that’s an actual whole wall in my writing space. Then, once I’ve finished with the next piece of writing I’ve been working on, I take a look at the idea. If more ideas pop from that one, I sit down and start a file folder, in an actual filing cabinet, and write out a synopsis and a crap ton of index cards with whatever ideas come up from that first idea. I add more ideas to the file until it’s that plot’s turn to write. Then, I outline it.
After the outline, I let it sit for a couple of days while I polish or edit the story I wrote last. Then I make any changes to the outline before I put it into my writing program, and then I write.
I research as I go. Never know what I need until I’m in the thick of the story. I edit and polish only after the story’s written, once I’ve outlined the next story on my list.
JSC: Tell us about a unique or quirky habit of yours.
TAC: Ah. There’s so many. I could spin tales of the judgmental eyebrow my Gabriel Funkopop gives me from the corner of my desk. Or the Bag End mini terrarium that sits next to him.
There’s the hilarious conversation I had with my soldier!spouse while he was deployed about buying the Rosetta Stone program so I could learn Russian for a character in one of my plots. And the eyebrow spouse gave me when I showed him the collection of fandom mugs I got while he was away the last deployment. Or the Bad Dragons I have for reference material.
And don’t get me started on the scale model of the ISS I bought for a post-nuclear disaster trilogy I’ve plotted. Talk about the deserted-island trope. Seriously, I wish I could include pictures of my workspace here. It would be a laugh.
But I think the quirkiest habit I have is playing fan videos in the top right corner of my computer screen while I write. I choose fan videos that reflect my intended mood for a story, and then let them play. Currently, it’s a lot of Sherlock because I’m writing a Sci-Fi cop romance.
JSC: If you could sit down with one other writer, living or dead, who would you choose, and what would you ask them?
TAC: This question stumped me for a bit. I mean, so many authors to choose from! Maybe Sir Doyle, so I could ask him why he wrote such a phenomenal character as Sherlock Holmes, but left the rest of the characters, who have such potential, to whither in shadows of flatness. Or Tamora Pierce and how she managed to write unbelievably solid stories time after time. Maybe Andy Weir just so I can listen to him geek out about the science he used in The Martian. Stan Lee is also possible, because I want the full, unedited version of the Winter Soldier’s story.
I think, in the end, I would have to say C. S. Friedman. Gerald Tarrant is the epitome of redemption and I want her personal opinion on writing a character like him. What it was like to give life to such a man as that one.
JSC: What action would your name be if it were a verb?
TAC: If my name were a verb, it would have to be that flurry of useless action one takes when there’s nothing one can do during a panic.
JSC: What kind of character or topic have you been dying to try to write, but you’ve never worked up the courage?
TAC: I sit here at my desk while I write this, and I look over at my work, both on the wall and in my files, and you know, I can’t think of a single thing. I’ve got ideas for war and love and hate and sorrow and joy, all the little emotions and actions in between and I feel limitless in my ability to tackle an idea or character. All my life, I’ve loved stories, whether I’ve told them or someone else has, no matter the medium.
I’ve found that drawing back from even one piece of humanity, from even one experience, is not something I can do and still tell stories. Life is full of the bad things as much as the good, and while I love to write a solid piece of fluffy romance, I love, just as much, to tell of the less fortunate aspects of our existence. It’s how we grow and learn. So no, there is nothing in my writing I’ve never worked up the courage to tell. And if I haven’t told it, that’s only because I haven’t told it yet.
JSC: If you had the opportunity to live one year of your life over again, which year would you choose?
TAC: The same sentiment from the last question also applies here. I’ve seen the worse and the best aspects of humanity, experienced it directly in a lot of instances too. It makes me a better storyteller and, as painful and frightening as some of the things I’ve been through, I wouldn’t change any of it. It’s brought me to where I am now, will add to where my work takes me in the future and that’s not something I want to meddle with.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
TAC: Witch King was my latest release, back in June. A high fantasy story that I loved working on and am pleased as punch to push some more. Very proud of that story.
I just finished Herald, the second book in my Theosophi series, which won’t be released until October. Now, I’m back to Artificial Heart. In this one, I’m having fun re-enforcing the cop romance trope, which I love. I’m also having a blast destroying the Too Human To Be Human trope. All this is after it’s done pulling out my teeth by being difficult.
A bio-terrorist attack changed the whole world centuries before, mutated humanity in new, more primal ways. Omega detective Travis Danten transferred from New Detroit, where he was safe from the ravages of the world, to Tucson, Arizona, on the edge of the Desolate Zones. He was handpicked for this assignment, part of a trial program. Alpha SdAIs are to integrate into the police force to act as bodyguards and assistants to the police Omegas.
SdAI Virgil catches Travis’ entire attention during selection. Barely acquainted, their first real case takes them out to the twisted monument of the Boneyard, a fitting backdrop to the twisted murder they’ve been assigned. Such a case forces Travis well beyond his safe and comfortable view of the world, right into the arms of his partner. Virgil hopes he can hang on.
Such a story can’t be rushed, but I’m hoping to have it published before the end of the year, because JMS is booked solid with books being published. Herald on the other hand, will be out in October, so I hope readers will enjoy that grumpy archangel. Seriously, all Gabriels should come with a sticker on their foreheads that read WARNING: Archangel.
And now for T.A.’s latest book: Witch King:
King Solna Nalion is tired of war. Standing in the aftermath of yet another battle over an ancient insult, he longs for the possibility of ending the wars at last — and finds it in Vius Tylele, a wounded warrior who is not what he seems. In light of Tylele’s charm and intelligence, Nalion schemes to unite their countries for a lasting peace, one that might even bring love.
Nothing is as it seems and Vius Tylele knows that all too well. But King Nalion’s marriage proposal, while ridiculous, has merit. Between petulant generals, tainted magic, and falling unexpectedly in love, Vius discovers he has more to lose than he thought. His country, his magic, and even his heart.
“I accept your offer to wed, but we must set terms.”
Solna nodded and stuffed his relieved sigh down into his boots. Then he waved at the plates,
encouraging Vius to eat. “Absolutely.”
Vius drew in a noisy breath. “First, we must decide which of us will give up his throne.”
“I will,” Solna said. Vius opened his mouth, probably to argue, but Solna cut him off. “It makes sense. This is my idea that you’ve graciously agreed to and I have an heir in my niece. She is more than ready for the throne.”
“Right.” Vius tapped a long forefinger against his lips for a moment. “In that case, we must also decide if you will be simply Consort or my co-ruler.”
That one gave Solna pause, but then, it wasn’t really his choice either. “Whichever pleases you. There is plenty of time to figure it out before we go to Osaire.”
Vius frowned. “Why are you so amilicable with this? You are giving up a throne and kingdom like it is nothing.”
“To stop war? To travel like I never could with a crown as a tether? To be with someone who knows the burden of it? Whose burden I can lighten?” Solna smiled gently at his confused so to be husband. “You bet. I’m all in if you are.”
“I see.” Vius shook his head, but smiled anyway. “Do you have any conditions?”
“Beyond following our marriage customs and pretending this is a love match?” It was Solna’s turn to shake his head. “Not that I can think of.”
“And you are fine with fulfilling all the duties required of a husband?” It was a challenge.
Vius’ disbelief was written across his face. “All of them?”
Then it dawned on Solna what Vius alluded to. “Well, we are going to have to. It is a required part of the proceedings to consummate the union in front of the kingdom.” For the first time in a long time, Solna flushed hot. “In front of those attending the feast, at any rate.”
Vius paled. “You’re serious.”
“Yes.” Solna picked up a piece of soft bread and stared at it, flaking crumbs off in a nervous twitch. “Will that be a problem?”
For a while, Vius said nothing. Solna didn’t dare look up to guess at his thoughts. Maybe his heart was a little more invested in this marriage to Vius than was warranted after such a short time. Damn it all.
Slender hands entered his line of sight and firmly stopped his fidgeting. Solna whipped his head up, eyes caught immediately by Vius’ warm brown gaze. “It will not be a problem, Solna.”
Solna slumped and blew out the breath he held. He dropped the bread and clasped Vius’ hands. “Anything else we need to discuss right now?”
Vius shook his head and Solna tugged him to his feet. “Then let’s sleep. I’m tired and you are still healing.”
“It’s not even midday yet!” Vius protested, but he didn’t resist either. Solna ignored it. Vius’ skin was paler than he liked and his eyes were starting to glass over.
He led Vius through the other door in the back wall and over to his large bed. Solna urged him up and drew the heavy quilt to Vius’ shoulders. Vius curled up on his side, facing the other side of the bed. Solna smiled.
I am a house-parent to a rambunctious small child and happily mated to an equally rambunctious military spouse. My adventures in writing began with fanfiction, and once I was hooked I never looked back.
While I’ve always tried to make my fanfiction unique, what I enjoy most about creating original work is the ability to delve into my stranger ideas without worrying about how I might apply them to someone else’s world and characters. With my own creations, I take pride in twisting familiar tropes into something new and unexpected.
When I write, it is with the intention that my stories will leave a lasting impression. I hope you enjoy the characters and the worlds I create, and that they help you to find a place to exist, for a while, outside of your own.