What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?
My first two books are Into Shadow and Into Light. You should probably read them in that order. I just heard from one of my beta readers for Into Light and she accidentally read it first and then started on Into Shadow… she was very confused!
Both books are set in the not-so-distant future… there has been an enormous war that involved the entire world and the country is only now beginning to recover from it. The country is led by a dashing, handsome war hero who you would like very much if I didn’t kill him off within a few minutes of opening the book.
After his death, his daughter Poppy has to learn to fend for herself and figure out what to do next. She ends up hiding in one of the many cities that were left decimated and deserted after the world war, only to learn that the city of Denver is not nearly as empty as she’d been led to believe.
Into Shadow is really about Poppy finding her way and figuring out how to be her own person after spending so many years as an extension of her father. Into Light is where she returns to confront the man who destroyed her life and killed her father. It all sounds kind of dramatic and dark, but I try to let my snarky sense of humor peek out enough to lighten the mood.
Who’s your favorite character from your books?
Poppy is my favorite, of course! She’s the center of the story and she’s really everything I would like to be myself. She’s smart and loving but tough and able to literally kick butt when the situation calls for it. And she’s a redhead – as I am myself. I have a hard time NOT making the heroine of one of my stories a redhead; I just think it’s the best possible hair you can have.
Your series consists of two books at a time when trilogies are very popular. Can you tell us a little about what goes into a decision like that?
I guess I have a little trouble with premature encapsulation… I wound up the whole story too early so it was only two books instead of three!
But really, so many stories ARE trilogies these days and often that’s just perfect. But sometimes it feels like the story is being stretched out unnecessarily just to make it fit into the three-book mold. Poppy’s story was done at the end of two books.
Besides, how many times have you loved the first two books of a trilogy and then the third was kind of a let-down? I avoided that by stopping with two. I won’t rule out revisiting the world at some point – maybe to give Rivers and Sharra their own story.
How important is reading to your writing? Any particular genres that get your mojo flowing?
If you want the really honest truth… reading is actually a barrier to writing for me. I LOVE to read. I will forgo sleep and slack off on my paying job occasionally when I get caught up in a great book. (Unless my boss reads this and then I definitely NEVER slack off on my day job to read a book! And if I ever did, I totally made up for it later, I promise!)
And when I’m all caught up in a great story from another author, I’m so into it that it crowds out my own stories. I do my best writing when I force myself to put down my reading and listen to the stories in my own head.
I like to read almost any genre, but my favorites are dystopian (big surprise!) and anything with a paranormal twist; ghosts, urban fantasy, and other things that go bump in the night are always fun for me.
What authors have inspired you to write?
It’s so hard to pick just one… but I will go with Kiera Cass, who wrote The Selection series. That is the series that I read just before I finally sat down at the computer with the intention of writing out one of my stories. The world that she created just felt so real to me that I wanted to stay in it a while longer. In the end, the world my books live in is not the same as Cass’s world – which is as it should be, because I want to be inspired, not a copycat. But it was definitely that view of the future that led to my version of it.
What’s your favorite book and what is it that draws you to it?
Another tough one! I love so many… The Dresden Files, the Mercy Thompson series, The Selection series, The Hunger Games, pretty much anything by Mercedes Lackey.
But if I really have to pick one, I would have to go with The Belgariad by David Eddings. This is a series of five books and it’s high fantasy – full of wizardry and drama and peril. It’s the first series that I really remember being completely immersed in. I have read it a dozen times at least and it never loses its magic (no pun intended) for me.
What age were you when you started writing?
As I recall, I wrote my first book at about age seven. It was around a dozen pages long, hand-written and self-illustrated on lined paper that I tore from a notebook and stapled together. I couldn’t tell you any of the storyline anymore, but I do remember that my heroine was named Philadelphia and liked to be called Philly. I also remember an illustration of Philly sitting in a nest. I don’t know if this is because the story ACTUALLY involved Philly sitting in a nest or if that’s just my lack of drawing ability coming to the fore – maybe the picture was supposed to be something else entirely.
To my parents’ great credit, they almost managed not to laugh out loud as they read my first attempt at a book. Since the story of Philadelphia was quite a serious drama, I was pretty offended by the laughter. That may be why it took another thirty years or so before I made another serious attempt at writing a book.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
It’s not a huge thing for me, but I do run into it from time to time. My preferred method of dealing with it is to play lots of rounds of Monster Busters (a match-three game) on my tablet. It occupies just enough of my mind to let me bypass the block and work out some plot points in the background of my thoughts.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I have a very loose outline. I know where I’m starting out and I know where I want to end up, and I lay out a few major milestones along the way. Then I just write and find out where the story takes me.
It has been said that authors sometimes think of their characters as an extension of themselves. Do yours ever feel real to you?
Oh my gosh, yes! I sometimes have to remind myself that these are not real people. I think of my characters as my friends and it’s actually kind of sad to me when I have to stop and realize that they are actually just figments of my own imagination.
If you were a super hero, what would your power be?
I’m greedy. I would want a bunch of them, kind of like superman. I want the super-strength, the super-speed, the x-ray vision, and definitely the ability to fly. I would also like the power to be invisible, especially when the kids are looking for me to tell me more tales of Minecraft. I could just lie right there in the bed taking a nap and they’d never know where to find me!
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
The technical aspects were a little challenging at first. Just figuring out where to go, what to do, and how it all works can be intimidating. I kind of fumbled my way through it, but it worked eventually.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I would learn more about the whole marketing side of things first. I really had no idea how much work it would be to handle the marketing for the already published stuff while still trying to write something new. For me it kind of turned into an either/or thing. I could either focus on marketing Into Shadow or I could focus on writing Into Light. Now that I’m making final tweaks on Into Light, I can move back into marketing mode again, I guess.
Can you tell us about your next book?
The next book is the start of a new series. Hey, maybe this one will be a trilogy! It’s more lighthearted than Into Shadow and Into Light. It will be called Catbird Seat and it’s urban fantasy, featuring a main character who is a crime-solving cat. It sounds kind of strange, I guess, but I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest critiques are the ones that are correct! When I read a comment about something that could have been better and realize that they have a very valid point, it stings a little, but ultimately helps me do things better the next time around.
I really dislike it when someone gives me a low rating of one or two stars, but doesn’t say WHY they feel that way. I’m totally on board with your right to not like my book, but I would like to know what it was that turned you off so I can try not to do that again. Then again, maybe if the one-star reviewers left comments I would hate it even more than when they don’t comment, so I should probably leave well enough alone!
The best compliment is when someone tells me they loved the book and can’t wait to see what happens next. The idea that someone else is enjoying my story and wants more is exhilarating. And my mom didn’t laugh at my book this time around (except in appropriate spots). That was a big relief.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Just jump in and give it a try. Until you give it your best shot you don’t know what you can do.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
I can’t write in the daytime. Or when anyone in the house is still awake, really. I will procrastinate all day long and get nothing accomplished, but suddenly at midnight it’s like an alarm goes off in my brain and it’s time to be productive!
Dogs or Cats?
Cats, for sure. Dogs are cute, but I can’t stand it when they slobber on me. And with Roomie as a major character in my first books and my next series starring a cat as the main character, I guess it’s pretty obvious that I lean that direction.
Chocolate or Vanilla?
I’ll never turn down chocolate, but given a choice between the two, I’ll take vanilla.
What is your biggest fear?
It’s an oddly specific, but real fear… I worry that my car will catch fire while I’m filling it with gas. I try to never re-fuel the car while my kids are with me because I don’t want them strapped in their car seats while the car is on fire. I will postpone fueling up for as long as possible in hopes that my husband will just give in and go to the gas station before I have to.
I realize that it’s ridiculous, but in my defense, my brother’s car really did catch fire while he was filling it with gas. It burned down to a charred frame and nothing more, right there in the parking lot of the gas station! Ever since then I have obsessed over it a little.
Also, vampires. When I was a kid (around 4th grade) I slept with a jar of garlic salt and a fork under my pillow. Apparently my mom felt a stake was inappropriate? I’m still not entirely convinced that vampires (of the scary, non-sparkly variety) are not lurking in the dark when I have to go out alone at night.
So, pretty bleak view of the future. Are you insane? And should we be worried?
Yes. And yes.
Just kidding, I hope. I like to look at Into Shadow as the bleak future, but Into Light takes us past that into bright new possibilities (at least by the end of it all). But even amid the desolation of bombed-out, rubble-strewn cities, people still find friends and family and build good lives. Technology keeps progressing and finding new and better ways to do things. And most people want to do the right thing. So even though there’s plenty to worry about these days, I try to focus on the light, even when it’s almost hidden by the scarier stuff.
And as far as my own sanity goes… I wouldn’t lay any bets in favor of my clean mental-health evaluation. 😉
What People Are Saying About Tara and Into Shadow:
“With the verbal brush-strokes of a Renaissance artist, T.D. Shields crafts a vivid picture of a world two centuries in the future. Thousands of books are given such a setting, but it takes a skilled author to immerse us in that world without weighing the story down in descriptions.”
“The faultless writing style sweeps you into a survival story and leaves no reason to ponder how certain events occurred in this incredible adventure. Tackling bullying and inequality between the sexes, pointing out corruption in government officials, and veering between kindness and cruelty, this novel covers all the human conditions.”
Find out more about T. D Shields HERE