Scandinavian-Inspired Dark Epic Fantasy Author Tina LeCount Myers
Tina LeCount Myers is a writer, artist, independent historian, and surfer. Born in Mexico to expat-bohemian parents, she grew up on Southern California tennis courts with a prophecy hanging over her head; her parents hoped she'd one day be an author. Tina lives in San Francisco with her adventurer husband and loud Siamese cat. The Song of All is the first book of the epic fantasy trilogy The Legacy of the Heavens. Her latest book from the trilogy, Dreams of the Dark Sky, publishes February 2019 from Night Shade Books.
The Song of All and Dreams of the Dark Sky reads more like "Shakespeare" fantasy than "X-Men" fantasy. Do you see the series as leaning more toward literary fiction, or fantasy genre fiction—or can they be read by both audiences?
Of course, my hope is that my books appeal both to readers of literary fiction and genre fantasy fiction. The two readerships are not that mutually exclusive. Readers of Shakespeare and X-men are likely interested in the same things: complex characters, a rich, detailed world, and great storytelling. The relationship between Magneto and Xavier feels very Shakespearean to me. One of the things that I tried to do in writing these two books was give equal attention to both language and fantasy elements. My hope is that readers will find a turn-of-phrase or description as compelling as a sword fight and vice versa.
What do you feel the fantasy genre of storytelling affords you as an author writing closely to that medium?
When I describe The Legacy of the Heavens series to people, I say, “The story is about two ancient warring tribes in the Arctic tundra, and a flawed man who is trying to save his son. It also includes parallel worlds accessed by song, psionics, sequential hermaphroditism, reindeer, and epic sword fights.” Where else but fantasy can a writer have that kind of latitude to explore such diverse elements? Anything is possible in fantasy storytelling.
“...I was equally interested in exploring how to layer mythology over science.”
In addition to your familial history, what drew you to the setting of your novels in the frozen northlands with characters drawn from Scandinavian mythology?
Part of the decision I made in world-building was predicated on the initial debate, and subsequent bet, I had with my husband, to write a fantasy story with science as a foundation. For me, that meant looking at the world I live in and that humans evolved in to find an other-worldly location. I chose the Arctic tundra because of its harsh climate. To survive in the cold with very little sunlight in the winter suggested the possibility of interesting adaptations due to evolution. This region also has a rich mythology to draw inspiration from. So, while my Finnish ancestry played a role in the setting of the story, I was equally interested in exploring how to layer mythology over science.
How did you go about obtaining literary representation and then go on to get published?
The Song of All went through seven edits, including two professional editors, before I thought it was ready for submission. Then I turned my attention to the synopsis, which I still think is one of the hardest things to write. I rewrote the synopsis ten times with the help of one of my beta readers. The query came next. I used every available resource out there to craft my query letter. I researched literary agents both in the Guide to Literary Agents and online. I did Twitter pitches, through #PitMad, to hone my logline (Twitter was still 140 characters then). I also attended writers’ conferences that featured literary agents and book editors. It just so happened that at my second writers’ conference, the San Francisco Writers’ Conference, I pitched you. You were my last literary agent of the day. The "time’s up" bell rang about a minute into my pitch. I was so flustered, but you weren’t phased at all. You asked for the full manuscript and a couple of weeks after that you took me on as your client. If I remember the timeline correctly, you sold The Legacy of the Heavens trilogy within three months of going out on submission.
The Jápmemeahttun—or what I consider akin to "dark elves"—from your novels are unique, in that they can change between male and female—at will. While sequential hermaphroditism does indeed occur in nature among species such as the clownfish, what inspired you to write that aspect into your characters?
The Jápmemeahttun were my way of thinking about and talking about "elves" without ever using that term. I was curious about what living a couple of centuries might look like. What might some of the problems be? What might some of the possibilities be? In particular, I wanted to consider what a social group might look like if individuals experienced both genders, in terms of their physiology and gender roles. So, I did look to nature for examples of hermaphroditism, in particular the sequential form—male to female and female to male—and how it might be evolutionarily advantageous. But while there are some species that change sex at will, the Jápmemeahttun go through a very specific biological process that allows them to transition from female to male in their lifetime.
“The learning curve for me as a debut author in the publishing industry was steep, and I was certainly grateful to have a knowledgeable literary agent...”
Now that you have published your second novel within The Legacy of the Heavens series, what have you learned from the book publishing experience?
The learning curve for me as a debut author in the publishing industry was steep, and I was certainly grateful to have a knowledgeable literary agent, like you, who was open to questions. With the second book, I am discovering that the learning curve is getting even steeper, particularly in terms of balancing my time between, promoting the first book, while preparing the second book for publication, while writing the third. I was raised to be self-sufficient, but I am now seeing the importance of building a team and getting help for things that I just don’t know how to do.
Irjan, the lead character of your first novel, goes through some tremendous character development in the story. What is the driving force behind his drastic change of character and what drew you to that particular literary device?
Irjan’s character development in The Song of All centers on a crisis of conscience, and what happens when the life of revenge and violence that he had relied on no longer served him. In particular, I wanted to explore the consequences of Irjan’s choices, both in his life and in the lives of the people he loved. I think a crisis of conscience or a life crisis is something that most people can relate to. How we handle it also ripples out, maybe not a dramatic as in Irjan’s case, but I do believe that actions have consequences, both intended and unintended.
The audiobook edition of The Song of All, narrated by Ulf Bjorklund, is particularly unique, given that he has a Swedish background and the novel is set in the Saamiland of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. What was it like working with Bjorklund on the pronunciations and character voices of your audiobook edition?
It was an absolute pleasure to work with Ulf and director Max Bloomquist, and the entire team at Brilliance Audio. Max’s background is both Swedish and Finnish, so it really was a Scandinavian production. Max and Ulf also worked with Thomas A. DuBois, the Halls-Bascom Professor of Scandinavian Studies, Folklore, and Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to make sure they had the correct pronunciation for the Saami words. I always go and listen to the audiobook before I give a reading to make sure that I have the correct pronunciation. I think Ulf really captured the essence of the characters, and I hope to work with him again in the near future.
“You have to love your story before anyone will.”
Do you have any advice for writers out there, aspiring to become published authors?
I would say, write for yourself first. You have to love your story before anyone will. Then, be clear on why you want to be published, because that will inform your decision-making along the way. After that, I think persistence, combined with a positive attitude, is crucial.
Can you give us a sense of what’s to come from The Northern Ones, book three in The Legacy of the Heavens series? Please, no spoilers!
Of the three books, The Northern Ones has much more of a quest element in it. And readers will go beyond the borders of Davvieana to discover more of the outside world. The story is a cross between Rogue One and Marco Polo.