Short disclaimer for the sake of transparency: Tahani did not ask TGE for a review of her book. Rather, I approached her after reading it. I then sat on this interview for a few months considering (and dreading) the idea of turning it into a cast before being given the idea to transcribe it instead (thanks, Regina!) Many thanks to Tahani for agreeing to do this interview.
What was the original idea for Faoii? When did you start writing it?
I started writing The Last Faoii in 2013. I woke up in the middle of the night [after having] a dream that ended up being the first three chapters of The Last Faoii. And those three chapters have almost not even changed from that first draft…[I]t was so complete in my head, and every day I just kept adding to it until eventually, I had a book. But it all started with a dream.
What do you think inspired that dream?
I’ve always been inspired by powerful women. I’ve always wanted to see other women in media, strong women that weren’t just a side character, just a love interest…I wanted to create women warriors [who] weren’t just accepted but expected. I think the idea had just been building in my brain for a long time until eventually I woke up in the middle of the night and it was more formed.
How did you start creating the world? Developing the setting, defining magic, etc.?
In the writing community, there are two different styles of writing a lot of the time: planning and pansting. And I am most definitely a pantser. Other than those first three chapters, I had nothing planned beforehand [laughs]. But the minute I wrote those first three chapters I knew this world was real in my head, I just had to explore it. And I did, over a lot of chapters.
I appreciated the use of magic as a more mundane tool rather than a get out of jail free card. What was the thought process of developing this magic system?
I wanted the [use of] magic to be smaller than the use of warfare. I didn’t want [Faoii] to use magic as a cop-out. [They are] fighters first and sorceresses second. So magic doesn’t have a lot of influence [in this story] because mostly they’re fighters, and sometimes they can use battle magic in small amounts. It’s never their primary out. I wanted to create a magic system that boosted [innate] abilities, not granted new ones.
What were some tropes you tried to avoid? What were some you embraced?
I obviously wanted to avoid the idea of women being unable to wear full armor. An actual breastplate is always going to protect you more than bikini mail. I didn’t want women to be secondary characters [either as] a support class archer or a love interest. Then I ended up almost going too far in a couple of places, like [how] my one archer happens to be male [laughs] and things like that. I ended up subverting the trope almost too much sometimes, but the entire thing is supposed to be about gender conflict and them coming together in the end [rather than embrace it]. So subverting that trope ended up making the story stronger in the end.
What were some of the emotions you felt over the course of writing/publishing/promoting your book?
Like I said earlier, I’m a pantser, and I loved getting inspired in the middle of the night… [When] something would click perfectly, watching this grand puzzle fall together… It was one of the most amazing feelings in the world.
Trying to find an agent was… interesting. It was difficult, and I learned a lot. I got sick and ended up going through [Quill publishing] because I didn’t think that I was going to be able to publish any other way. [But] editing and working with a real editor was interesting and awesome.
Then came [the] marketing. I think that anyone who has ever written a book will tell you that marketing is just soul-crushing. You don’t want to write another book because you know eventually, you’ll have to market that one too. But [I’m] writing the second book right now, and I love it. I just know eventually marketing will happen. But […] it’s worth it in the end.
The world of Faoii is an incredibly bleak place. What made you decide to take it in a darker direction?
Representation, partially. The books we read and write have to tie into our world in some way, or you don’t relate to them. And we live in kind of a dark society right now. Not as dark as Faoii, but still pretty dark. I also didn’t want to create a story about warriors who never saw war.
What are your plans for Faoii?
I have quite a bit more planned. I’m currently writing the sequel, Faoii Betrayer, and I’m doing something odd with it. I’ve had so many people say that [Faoii] isn’t comparable to anything else they’ve read anyway that at this point going in odd directions isn’t to be unexpected. The sequel takes place almost 250 years after the end of The Last Faoii, and you see all of the consequences of […] the Faoii war. And if you thought Faoii was a dark world, you’re going to absolutely love how dark the sequel is. Everything we do has some effect on the world around us, [and that] is a big theme of the next book.
Are there any other stories you have out now?
I do have a short story that came out in Escape. You don’t have to have read The Last Faoii to understand [this story]. It’s a completely new Faoii and her family, but you get much more of the lore in a much smaller amount.
Have you read The Last Faoii? What are your thoughts? Are you excited for Faoii Betrayer? Let us know!