10 Questions With: Tristan J Tarwater

I recently had the opportunity to do an interview with Tristan before she joined the Troll In the Corner staff about her writing, both her current book, Thieves At Heart, and her future endeavors. If you are interested in purchasing these fine literary products, you can find more information at her site, Back That Elf Up.

Let’s see what she had to say, shall we?

So, tell me a bit about your current novels.  What’s the basic premise of them?
The Valley of Ten Crescents regards a young half-elf named Tavera and her adventures in the region. Thieves at Heart is the only one that’s out now and it has to do with her upbringing as a thief and one of the most important relationships in her life, Derk, her father and teacher. It’s about relationships and figuring out who you are, when other people have expectations of you. And it happens to take place in a fantasy setting, with elves and a bit of magic here and there.

Any chance of seeing sequels to these novels?  What do you have planned for your readers in the future?
Oh yeah! I’m working on the second one right now which will be out by the end of the winter. If all goes well, the third will be out by the end of this year. More of Tavera’s adventures with other citizens of the Valley will be explored. Politics and people’s personal codes bump against each other, cultists are taken on and some foreigners show up and mix things up. The Valley as a region is explored both physically and socially.

When should we expect the next book from you and what can you tell us about it?
Self-Made Scoundrel is a prequel to Thieves at Heart and goes into Derk’s upbringing and past. Thieves at Heart and Tavera’s story is very much about the lower class but Derk’s story starts at the very highest you can get, in the Baron’s house and then makes its way down in a sense. It takes you through Derk’s past and reveals a bit as to why he takes on Tavera in the very beginning of Thieves at Heart and why he is the way he is.

Tell us about Tavera, the half-elven protagonist of Thieves at Heart.
Tavera goes from about age 7 to about 17 in the span of the book. She has a rough start to her life and expects Derk to just use her for his own gain but is surprised to find that he actually cares about her. Tavera is a very cautious and very private person. Like a lot of young people in particular, she wants approval from somebody, anybody. Tavera finds out she likes boys quite a bit, which Derk is not a fan of, of course. And while she might seem very gregarious and not very smart and a bit too nonchalant to some people,  she’s smarter than she puts on. She’s an observer and a good judge of people’s character which is not a bad thing in her line of work. She’s a natural thief and digs the adrenaline rush of stealing. And she’s a half elf in a region that is mostly populated by humans that puts her more on the fringes of society. It makes it a bit uncomfortable in her own skin but over the course of the books she comes to find peace within herself, even if the rest of the Valley can’t.


Have your experiences as a mom or a tabletop gamer influenced your writing in any way?

Well, being a mom destroyed my free time so that when I had a minute to myself  I HAD to write. As far as being a tabletop gamer, the writing came before the gaming. I was telling a good friend of mine about one of the books I was writing (yes…I have started quite a few…) and he said I should GM. I’d never actually played before at that point. I grew up in a kind of religious household and Dungeons and Dragons was thought to be EVIL *cue spooky music* But at this point I was living in sin with my boyfriend and drinking and smoking so hell, why not throw dice rolling onto the list of crimes against deities? I’m totally kidding, this was not my thought process. Anyway, my friend got a group together and I rolled up my first character and I’ve considered myself a gamer ever since. Strangely enough the writing led to DnD and I actually still prefer to play than DM. I love the world building part and coming up with the threads that make up the tapestry but when you throw in numbers, I kind of flail about a bit. That being said, I’ve had stories and characters come about while thinking, ‘What would I love to play? What would be a weird setting to play in and how could that actually exist?” Tavera herself came about because we were about to play 4e and I wanted to play a more urban character after playing a slew of foresty types. I came up with her basic premise and then I thought, what kind of world did she grow up in. Boom, 200,000 words. LITERALLY. Not about the ‘boom’ part, it took significantly longer than saying ‘boom.’

What are some of your other influences?
Literary influences, I would have to say ‘The Crystal Cave’ trilogy by Mary Stewart. I read that as a kid and loved how it handled Merlin and magic and the religions. I mean, it’s such a great series. I read quite a bit of comics these days. I read a lot of mythology growing up as well and I still have a soft spot in my heart for all things ancient. I mean, reality is crazy!
Have you ever considered turning one of your novel settings into an RPG setting, either through an established license such as the OGL or with a custom-built system?

I would love if someone wanted to play in Ten Crescents or Holy Haran or the Desert of Black Sands. That would be a huge compliment, if someone dug a world I built enough to want to play in it and mess with it. As far as a system, it was made with d20 in mind but there’s a lot of internal stuff and roleplaying. Our household once played a game system my spouse came up with that’s kind of loosely based on 1,000 Blank White Cards…*trails off*

Do you currently actively game in any tabletop RPGs?  If so, what’s your favorite?
I don’t actually get to join in any reindeer games these days on account of us being largely friendless and having weird schedules. But my two favorite systems are Dungeons and Dragons because I love the fantasy setting. I love elves. However an easy second or hell, neck and neck would be Feng Shui. The premise of the game itself is brilliant and the character possibilities are great. Plus the way they handle ‘action scenes’ really works well. Brilliantly designed game. I really dig kung fu movies and who doesn’t love Big Trouble in Little China? You can basically play that! I’m hoping to play sooner rather than later. Maybe through the magic of the internet. *shrug*

Have you found that your use of social media, such as Twitter and Google Plus, has helped your success as a writer, bringing info about your novels to people that might not otherwise be aware of your work?
Egads, yes. Wow. I wouldn’t know a vast majority of the people I know and work with if not for Twitter and Google Plus. I found my cover artist on Twitter and my editor through a friend I know through a forum. There are things in place that tweet about your book and expose it to hundreds of people, Sample Sunday, using the right hashtag. And it’s all free, which is great because that means I can pay my editor and artist. I’m on there as myself, letting people know what I’m up to, talking about weird stuff like bludgeoning people with pork loins. As far as being a successful writer, well…I’m a writer no matter what. I’ve been writing since I was a kid and even if I wasn’t putting out books, I would still be writing something. Having that personal interaction, people able to say ‘hey, I really liked your book, when’s the next one coming out?’ THAT gets me to open LibreOffice and pound away on this particular story. Kickstarter has definitely helped as well. I mean, I’ve gotten a few sales in Germany and France! Pretty good considering I never leave the house!

When you do get in a game, what are your favorite snack foods? 
HA! Wow, well when we used to game I generally fixed dinner for everyone and this was usually a big pot of something like pasta bake or chicken stew. Something inexpensive that we could work on all night. But I have to say, chocolate, pretzels and beer are my faves. Though I don’t usually crack open the beer till later in the session. Now I’m cutting back on gluten so dried fruit and chocolate. Thank goodness I can still eat chocolate.


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