Hey there, Taya! First off, how the hell are you and how have you been?
Fine, thank you. There, I’ve given the worst possible answer to the worst possible question. Okay, but no, I’m great! Less than a week removed from vacation, so I’ve still got the glow of summer on me. Oh, who am I kidding, that’s the sheen of sweat as I melt in this unnatural heat. It’s September. In Boston. And it’s 90+ degrees. Fuck that.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself, your journey, and how you became T L Greylock the Author?
Ooo, Author with a capital A, how fancy! There are so many ways this story could be told, but I’ll highlight two things that are unique to me.
A lot of authors will give some version of the “I always knew I wanted to write” story, and that’s probably a valid story for me, too. I did pursue creative writing on my own as a teenager, dabbling in writing the kinds of stories I liked to read, which mainly meant historical fiction taking place in various time periods of British history. I also excelled, if I may say so, at writing in the classroom, so I developed a good set of skills.
But none of that would have mattered if I didn’t have an uncle who began self-publishing back in the dark ages of self-publishing—back when print-on-demand was a distant dream and aspiring authors had to order print runs and package and ship books out of their basements.
My uncle (quick plug: Todd Borg, writes the Owen McKenna mystery/thriller series set in Lake Tahoe and featuring a Great Dane) has published a book a year since 2001, proving that it could be done, that it was viable—if demanding. And at some point in my early- to mid-twenties, I realized that I could do it, too.
The second part of my story that is unique to me is the name I chose to publish under. While I like my name, Taya has proved to have its complications: if people hear it spoken, they don’t know how to spell it, and if people see it written, they don’t know how to say it. Not exactly what you want when you’re doing something that relies so heavily on word of mouth.
Enter T L Greylock. Mt. Greylock is the tallest mountain in Massachusetts and also happens to be the mountain that looms over the small college town where I spent four years. But this gets even better. Mt. Greylock also happens to be what Herman Melville could see out his window from his home in Pittsfield, MA—and it looked like a whale. Cue Moby Dick.
Oh, and G is a good place to be on a bookshelf.
Most folks will know you for your Song of the Ash Tree trilogy. Can you tell us a little about that series, and what made you want to write that particular story? In other words, what about the series is special to you?
In short: MYTHOLOGY
I adore mythology. It started with a fascination with Greek/Roman mythology at an early age and transformed into a full-blown love affair with Norse mythology by the time I went to college.
When the story for The Song of the Ash Tree started to creep into my brain, I knew from the start that I wanted to tell a very human story. A lot of creative work centered around the Norse myths has often focused on the gods—and why wouldn’t it? They’re the ones fighting giants, they’re the ones at the forefront of the battle at the end of the world. But I didn’t know how to tell the story of the end of the world as seen from a god’s perspective; it seemed too big, too otherworldly. So I wanted to tell the story of the end of the world from the perspective of a man who knew it was happening, who might even influence it in ways he can’t fathom, but who isn’t there to avenge Odin when Fenrir swallows him. Instead, he’s facing it with his friends and surrounded by all the quirks of human nature. That seemed like the better story to tell.
Now that the Song of the Ash Tree trilogy is complete, what’s next for T L Greylock? Can you tell us about any new projects?
I am currently working on a book that allows me to pretend I’m using my MA in Classical Archaeology.
Since that sounds super pretentious, let me add that the main character is an adventuring archaeologist. She’s also a wealthy aristocrat with a nose for information she shouldn’t have, a willingness to pick a pocket (or safe) or two in the name of academic research, and an underdeveloped instinct for knowing when to back down. She’s been a great deal of fun.
It’s the first in a series of undetermined length, currently existing under the working title The Firenzia Company Chronicles. It’s lighter than the Ash Tree as it doesn’t have that heavy Norse atmosphere of apocalypse hanging over it, but there are some serious themes and topics I want to address as I go. We’ll see. I’m a discovery writer to the bone so we could end up growing mushrooms under the sea for all I know.
Transitioning from a completed project to an entirely new project must be very difficult. Have you had any troubles moving from one to the other, and how do you get back on the horse when that transition doesn’t go too well?
This has been my life since publishing the final book in the trilogy early in 2017—you could even say it’s been my life since I finished the first draft of the final book in mid-2015. Granted, I set writing aside that year to get the aforementioned MA, but I won’t pretend that I had an easy time making the transition from completing a project to figuring out what was next.
There’s another book I very much want to write. I find I can’t talk about it anymore and it needs to just stay locked up, fermenting, for the time being. But I spent more than a year trying to make it work, trying to get those words out, before coming to that understanding—and accepting it.
I think it’s important for writers to share these kinds of difficulties. Pretending that something is easy just because someone else makes it look easy on Twitter isn’t healthy or realistic.
As for how I did get back on the horse recently? I don’t really know, to be honest. I think it was the right combination of idea, timing, having extra time at my disposal, persistence, and encouragement from people I respect.
You’ve said in the past that you prefer to write low-magic fantasy. Is there any particular reason for that, and why do you think these kind of books are necessary?
My preference stems from my early love of historical fiction. I devoured historical fiction as a child and still do today. Whenever my family travelled, we would bring books pertaining to places we were visiting. So, for instance, when we followed the Oregon Trail when I was about 8 years old, I read a book about the Donner Party told from the point of view of a small wooden doll owned by one of the few survivors of the ordeal.
(You want grimdark? Go read Daniel James Brown’s The Indifferent Stars Above.)
So I wasn’t reading a ton of fantasy as a kid. Instead, the books that spurred my imagination were stories of places and people living in times I could only know through stories—that was magic!
I think what appeals to me about low-magic fantasy is the fact that the magic is less likely to be a crutch—for a character or for the author. That and the fact that magic systems get too bogged down in detail for my taste and lose their…well, magic. I like magical things and people and creatures to be natural and mysterious. The best spells are those woven by characters created by a masterful author, the kind that reach in and take a piece of you with them when you finish a book.
In terms of reading, which kind of books do you like to spend your time with? Any favourite authors or series? What was the last book to make you cry or laugh out loud?
The fact that I only discovered Guy Gavriel Kay last year is really quite astounding given that he writes exactly the kind of book I describe in my previous answer. The Lions of Al-Rassan is pretty much a perfect book in my opinion and I was blown away. I said in my review at the time that I don’t think I’ve ever before been that attached to that many characters. They really made me feel that story.
Incidentally, I’m pretty sure that’s the last book that made me cry!
As for laughing out loud, I know I chuckled regularly while reading A Gentleman in Moscow earlier this year. I also listened to the audiobook of The Martian this summer and had some good laughs.
Oh, wait, The Nightingale, which I read earlier this year as well, definitely had me tearing up.
In general, I like to get in a lot of variety. This year, for instance, the books I’ve read include a biography of Ulysses S. Grant, a book on the Norwegian resistance fighters who worked tirelessly to sabotage Hitler’s attempts to build an atomic bomb, my first Cormac McCarthy novel, and a memoir that on the surface is about dogsledding but is actually about identity.
From we’ve heard, authordom comes with a lot of ups and downs. What have been some of your favourite moments and memories since becoming an author?
The usual things like seeing new cover art, holding finished books for the first time…those are all great. But this year I was finally able to meet some of the great friends I’ve made over the past three or so years and those are by far the best moments I’ve had.
Spending time with like-minded people, having fun with them but also sharing and giving advice about this path we’re all walking…it was genuinely inspiring and uplifting. This thing we do is a solitary thing. It’s nice to have people to rely on when you need it.
If you could grab any other author, living or dead, and pick their brain… which author would you pick, and what would you ask them?
I’d have to go with GGK and rather than ask him questions—because where would I even start??—I’d literally pick his brain and put bits of it in my own skull, thereby acquiring the ability to write as well as he does.
What is the most “out-there” thing you’ve ever had to research for a book?
Ooo. Had to think about this one, but I think I’ve got it.
There may or may not have been a method of execution employed by the Norse people known as the blood eagle. There are those who believe it was a literary invention or even a mistranslation, rather than an actual historical practice. I’m partial to the notion that this was a thing that was done. A very bloody thing.
In order to understand how this might work, I had to know a thing or two about how one might sever ribs from spines, how one might then draw forth the poor unfortunate lungs out through the gaping holes (remember the severing?), and whether or not an individual might live long enough to feel the cold air blowing gently across those lungs before expiring.
It still makes me squirm. And I love it.
Thanks for visiting the Inn and chatting with us, Taya! Anything you’d like to say to our readers to close off?
Don’t listen to Phil Tucker or Ben Galley.
About anything. But particularly about anything to do with archery and vile rumors they might spread.
T L Greylock is the author of The Song of the Ash Tree trilogy, consisting of The Blood-Tainted Winter, The Hills of Home, and Already Comes Darkness.
She can only wink her left eye, jumped out of an airplane at 13,000 feet while strapped to a Navy SEAL, had a dog named Agamemnon and a cat named Odysseus, and has been swimming with stingrays in the Caribbean.
P.S. One of the above statements is false. Can you guess which?
You can buy Taya’s books at the following links:
- The Blood-Tainted Winter (The Song of the Ash Tree #1): Amazon US/ UK / CA
- The Hills of Home (The Song of the Ash Tree #2): Amazon US/ UK / CA
- Already Comes Darkness (The Song of the Ash Tree #3): Amazon US/ UK / CA
You can find T L Greylock on Twitter @TLGreylock