Tara Maya is the author of The Unfinished Song series. She has lived in Africa, Europe and Asia. She's pounded sorghum with mortar and pestle in a little clay village where the jungle meets the desert, meditated in a Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas and sailed the Volga river to a secret city that was once the heart of the Soviet space program. This first-hand experience, as well as research into the strange and piquant histories of lost civilizations, inspires her writing. Her terrible housekeeping, however, is entirely the fault of pixies.
What role do you believe speculative fiction plays in society?
We’re constantly being told to think “outside the box” but the truth is there are few situations in life where we are actually allowed to stretch our imagination past possible to amazing. Many people think of spec fic as a genre for children, but to me it’s even more important to read it as we are entering (or trying to survive) the “adult” world, because that’s when everything else is conspiring to crush our creativity—and also when we most need to free our imagination. Imagination is the leaven of risk.
Why do you write in this genre?
Think of genre like a camera. Some genres keep specialize in close-up shots of the actors—quiet, character-based stories. Some genres take a broad shot of world-changing action—thrilling, political adventure. The advantage of speculative genres is that the author can zoom deeply into one soul, and—in the same book!—zoom out to show the world-shattering consequences of one person’s journey.
No story comes together until several ideas collide and coalesce. So there are a couple of different, disparate seeds I could point to. There was a Polynesian myth I read that I wanted to explore in a longer form. But that alone wouldn’t have gotten me anywhere, since it was just an intellectual idea. The heart of the story came from an experience I had in high school. I was a cheerleader, but then I found out I had to wear a back brace for scoliosis. Although I didn’t have to wear it when I danced, so it had no affect on my dancing ability, suddenly, I was treated like a pariah, and never allowed to perform. The only job I was allowed was to look after the props of the other girls. Some scenes of things that happened to me are described in the series, thinly disguised by the alternate culture. The emotions she feels are what I felt. Like Dindi, I belonged to the squad without belonging.
What was your biggest challenge in writing it?
The Unfinished Song is an epic, and epic means a vast, complex story. That’s a challenge. I originally wrote the story as a single book. I decided eventually to break it up into a number of smaller books. I thought that would be a snap, and boldly promised my readers that I would have the twelve books out very quickly. That was a foolish thing to boast. The story grew as I worked with it. The biggest challenge, besides writing it quickly, is that it is still, at heart, one continuous story, which has a pre-ordained ending. Although I am often tempted to go off on tangents, I have to discipline myself to write faithfully to that ending. I trail a lot of story-lines through the epic, and I must never allow myself to forget how they are all going to tie together.
What are you working on now?
One of the crucial keys to doing any sort of creative work is to avoid burn-out. So although my main energy is still finishing The Unfinished Song, I sometimes take breaks to work on other projects. I have a military SF series I’m also working on, the first book of which is already published, called STRAT. I sometimes write books for my young children (for instance, “Don’t Eat Poop,” “Tiny Tim,” and “Little Black Cat”). I design book covers. Then I go back to The Unfinished Song.
About The Unfinished Song - Book 1: Initiate
A DETERMINED GIRL...
Dindi can't do anything right, maybe because she spends more time dancing with pixies than doing her chores. Her clan hopes to marry her off and settle her down, but she dreams of becoming a Tavaedi, one of the powerful warrior-dancers whose secret magics are revealed only to those who pass a mysterious Test during the Initiation ceremony. The problem? No-one in Dindi's clan has ever passed the Test. Her grandmother died trying. But Dindi has a plan.
AN EXILED WARRIOR...
Kavio is the most powerful warrior-dancer in Faearth, but when he is exiled from the tribehold for a crime he didn't commit, he decides to shed his old life. If roving cannibals and hexers don't kill him first, this is his chance to escape the shadow of his father's wars and his mother's curse. But when he rescues a young Initiate girl, he finds himself drawn into as deadly a plot as any he left behind. He must decide whether to walk away or fight for her... assuming she would even accept the help of an exile.
“…a fascinating, original world full of fairies, magic and dancing.” - One Book Shy of a Full Shelf