Please welcome Arianne 'Tex' Thompson to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. One Night in Sixes will published on July 29th by Solaris Books.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Tex: You know, I always see these great author bios that make me green with envy – "I learned to read when I was a zygote and wrote my first short story in pureed carrots on my high-chair table" – but the semi-ridiculous truth is that I first hit on the idea of writing a novel in 11th grade, and even then it was mostly as a lark. It took a whole lot longer to grow any sense of urgency.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Tex: Well, the story behind this particular story is so long and bizarre (it's actually the resurrected Frankenstein's-monster version of that first 11th-grade novel) that I'm not even sure I have a capital-P Process yet. But so far, I think I enjoy writing most when I have a few anchor-point scenes in mind, and enough leeway to make new discoveries on my way from one to the next.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Tex: Definitely, definitely time. I'm one of these people who doesn't want to step through the wardrobe into Narnia until I am 100% caught up on all real-world responsibilities and can enjoy a long, leisurely frolic in fantasyland. I've learned the hard way that that kind of "dessert-last" thinking is a GREAT way not to get anything finished, ever – but I'm still a long way from having a regular, sustainable writing routine.
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
Tex: Oh, boy – well, this might sound strange, but when you think about it, Terry Pratchett and William Faulkner actually have a heck of a lot in common. I love their sharp turns of phrase, and how they can bring a place to life (and Yoknapatawpha County is every bit as fantastical as Ankh-Morpork!) More than that, though, I love how they treat every character as a fully-realized person. There are good characters in their books and bad ones, big roles and small ones, but nobody is a straw man or a punching bag or a stereotype. Any author who gives that kind of love and respect even to their villains and bit parts is someone I admire.
TQ: Describe One Night in Sixes in 140 characters or less.
Tex: "It's a cowboys-and-Indians story: the cowboy's accidentally shot an Indian, and if the family doesn't come after him, the fishmen will."
TQ: Tell us something about One Night in Sixes that is not in the book description.
Tex: Actually, one thing that I haven't really gotten to advertise much is that this world is one that runs on "culture magic." Basically, if you live the way your ancestors lived – eat what they ate, speak their language, work their land, and follow their customs – you get these supernatural powers that are specific to your culture and community. That's had a huge impact on the clash of cultures here. On the one hand, the settlers from the east have industrialized and spread out so quickly that most of their magic is gone. On the other, the native peoples in the west have used their power to defend their land and freedom, but are also having to decide how much of their old ways they can afford to keep in this new, changing world.
TQ: What inspired you to write One Night in Sixes? The novel has been described by your publisher as a "Western-influenced rural fantasy novel." What is a "rural fantasy"? Which Westerns count among your favorites?
Tex: Well, for me, the Western is defined less by geographic location than by atmosphere – you know, the frontier, the great unknown, and the sense that humanity is a fragile speck in a vast, dangerous world. I think that's one reason why it's so spec-fic friendly – you can re-imagine the Western into something like Star Trek, Firefly, or The Dark Tower without losing a bit of that. (I have a big love for all three of those, by the way – though for straight Westerns, I am a huge fan of True Grit in all its forms, and HBO's Deadwood. I applaud any storyteller who can reach past traditional heroic "types" to include people we don't get to see as often, and make them important without making them invincible. Show me someone who can save the day – or ruin it! – without ever picking up a gun, and I'll show you my money.)
Still, if we were to re-tell The Grapes of Wrath with a herd of migrating giants fleeing a drought, or imagine the creatures from Wizard of Oz overrunning Dust Bowl-era Kansas – to my mind, those would be "rural" fantasy stories, but not Western as such. And I like that, because it gives us so much room to explore a world beyond bright city lights, but without always centering the story on the clash between civilization and wilderness.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for One Night in Sixes?
Tex: As it happens, I did the usual obligatory bucketloads of homework about all the particulars: educating myself on 19th-century architecture, horse handling, the geography of the American Southwest, and so on. But I think the most important part of my research was actually going to New Mexico – visiting not only the nifty old ghost towns and monuments, but also the living pueblos and modern communities. I'm acutely aware of how poorly and infrequently American Indians have been represented in pop culture – and while I want to do a good job all around, I am especially anxious to do justice to their fictional analogues. I'm in no position to judge the success of my efforts on that front, but having the opportunity to visit and be a guest in real, living communities has been a tremendous blessing.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Tex: Elim is definitely an easy character to inhabit: he's thoughtful and mellow and sympathetic enough that thinking from his perspective isn't much of a stretch. Strangely enough, my biggest challenge has been with Día, the grave bride (a kind of "science nun", so to speak.) She's a deeply religious young black woman who divides her time between studying the living and burying the dead – and while she's one of my absolute favorite characters, her experience is so far outside mine that I'm not at all comfortable "winging it" with her. I feel like I really need to triple-check everything to do her justice.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from One Night in Sixes.
Tex: Haha, well, I'm monstrously terrible at one-line anything, but here's a bit I like, from chapter 1. Elim and Sil have failed in their horse-selling expedition, and Elim is about to console himself with an all-you-can-eat chowdown.
"For his part, Elim intended to stuff his guts enough to last him all the way through until next year... presuming of course that there was still going to BE a next year, which was another item on that whole long list of things that Elim had no ability to order, and sometimes even to understand. In view of which, it became all the more critically important to keep a two-handed hold on your plate, and full faith in the immediate comfort and solace of pie."
TQ: What's next?
Tex: Well, I'm currently editing the sequel to One Night in Sixes, called Medicine for the Dead, which will hopefully be out in March 2015. And as we say in Texas, "Lord willing and the creek don't rise," these two books will do well enough that I'll get to write the third book, which will finish the story. Fingers crossed, anyway!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Tex: Thank you so much for having me!
One Night in Sixes
Children of the Drought One
Solaris, July 29, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 464 pages
The border town called Sixes is quiet in the heat of the day. Still, Appaloosa Elim has heard the stories about what wakes at sunset: gunslingers and shapeshifters and ancient animal gods whose human faces never outlast the daylight.
And the daylight is running out. Elim's so-called 'partner' - that lily-white lordling Sil Halfwick – has disappeared inside the old adobe walls, hell-bent on making a name for himself among Sixes' notorious black-market traders. Elim, whose worldly station is written in the bastard browns and whites of his cow-spotted face, doesn't dare show up home without him.
If he ever wants to go home again, he'd better find his missing partner fast. But if he's caught out after dark, Elim risks succumbing to the old and sinister truth in his own flesh - and discovering just how far he'll go to survive the night.
Arianne "Tex" Thompson is home-grown Texas success story. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history from UT Dallas and a master’s degree in literature from the University of Dallas, she went on to become a community college professor, teaching the fundamentals of English to adults writing below the eighth-grade level. Now a master teacher for academic tutoring and test prep services, as well as the managing editor for the DFW Writers Conference, Tex is a regular feature at high schools, writing conferences, and genre conventions alike.
With her first book, a ‘rural fantasy’ novel called One Night in Sixes, Tex joins the growing ranks of Solaris authors committed to exciting, innovative and inclusive science fiction and fantasy. Find her online at www.thetexfiles.com and on Twitter as @tex_maam!