Running the Bases with Tali Spencer
Today is a special Running the Bases for me because it has my friend Tali Spencer as the guest. Tali has been so generous with her time whenever I ask for help and she even hosted me and my daughter for an afternoon a while back. Oh yeah, did I mention I love her writing? Her Pride of Uttor series is probably one of my all time favorites. If you get a chance, read it and find out why.
1. You write stories in different genres, does one speak to you more?
Fantasy is my first love, and high fantasy especially. I feel most at home when creating my own worlds and using those worlds to explore the human condition, whether it be class differences, gender roles, or how people create their own problems and solutions. I also love to write science fiction stories, which allow me to twist humans and societies to reflect what might happen when humanity meets the “other,” whether that be aliens… or itself.
Because humans, I think, can pretty darn alien.
2. Which author(s) inspired you to write?
I’m definitely old-school. I first published in 1985, so the authors who most inspired me were those I read as a young writer. Tolkien, of course, because he towered over the fantasy field, inspired me to write large, sweeping stories. Frank Herbert with his Dune series inspired me with his female characters. Another big influence was Tanith Lee, whose luminous, beautiful prose still leaves me in awe. She and Marion Zimmer Bradley, whose Darkover books I adore, were the big reasons I submitted to my first publisher, DAW.
3. Pride of Uttor is hard to slot. It’s clearly another world, but it has a steampunk feel to it and lacks the magic needed for typical fantasy. How do you classify your series?
I see Uttor as an alternate world, so would call the stories alternate world fantasies. The lack of magic is intentional, because I was aiming for a more historical vibe, rather than a fantasy vibe. And yet it is a fantasy, because the world in which the stories take place is a created one. The evolution of technology in this world very much mirrors that of Earth. The Greeks and Romans were much more advanced than we—influenced by the Dark Ages and philosophies that downplayed the sophistication of pagan societies—long believed. We still haven’t surpassed Roman advances in hydraulic cement. The Greeks invented calculators and even simple computers.
Uttor is a descendent of these advances. The characters inhabit a world where guns are an emerging, powerful technology, pantheism is a philosophical religion confronting ideological monotheism, and understanding of astronomy is shaping navigation of seagoing ships. It’s a world of conflicts: romantic, social, economic, and religious.
4. The main pairings in Pride of Uttor shift between M/F and M/M was this the plan when you started the series or did it evolve into that over time?
I didn’t start out with a plan; I started out with a story. It always starts that way. A character speaks to me, and next thing I know a world takes shape around that character. More characters pop up. Conflicts emerge. That’s exactly how the Uttor books were born.
The first character was Darius Arrento, the brilliant general whose story is told in Victory Portrait along with that of the captive royal slave, Peta Kordeun. I wrote it as a short story, an erotic short story, about these two men: one powerful and the other powerless, and how the powerful man could be threatened by the other’s origins. In Uttor, a royal is always royal, even if a slave, and Darius cannot accept this. I found this situation intriguing enough I built a world around it. How did this royal end up a slave? To facilitate this, I created an intelligent, perceptive emperor, Gaspar Leonnte, and Peta’s innocent princess of a sister, Julissa. Before long, the emperor had a sister and the captive royals acquired more siblings.
In a real world, it’s rare that all couples in a world would be gay, or straight, or asexual. I decided to explore each relationship on its own terms, as the characters spoke to me. Because the Uttor books form a family saga, the gay and straight characters appear throughout the series. Though the main focus of each book is on the romantic couple, their story plays out in a world that also includes strong pairings of other types. Kind of like the world we already live in. Complicated and inclusive.
About Tali Spencer
Tali Spencer delights in fantasy and adventure, creating worlds where she can explore the heights and shadows of what it means to be human. A hopeful romantic and lover of all things exotic, she also writes romance and science fiction. If you would like to see inspiration pictures for her characters, or glimpse how she envisions her worlds, check out her Pinterest boards.
Tali’s books include the Pride of Uttor series: Captive Heart, Dangerous Beauty, Adored, and Victory Portrait, all with Resplendence. Her gay male high fantasy stories, Thick as Thieves, Sorcerer’s Knot, and The Prince of Winds, are published by Dreamspinner Press, as is her ice-fishing contemporary romance, Breaking the Ice. She often publishes in anthologies, and puts up free stories and excerpts on her blog.