The Mists Of Tanindua (Author Interview)

What inspired the name The Mists of Tanindua for your book?

The name Tanindua” came to me in a dream I had while I was traveling from China to Thailand. In the dream, I was disembarking from a clipper ship, and on the docks, there was a woman who shifted between human, fish, and insect as she spoke. She put a lei over my head and said “Welcome to Tanindua”.  That dream stayed with me and eventually, inspired me to write about a land that shifted between realities like the woman from the dream, but it lacked a mechanic.

Ever since I was a child mist and fog always had a touch of magic for me. It was transformational. It could take something you see every day and suddenly make it mysterious. It allowed my imagination to invent entirely new worlds to project just beyond what my eyes could see. It created a liminal space between the known and the imagination. So, my choice of worlds shifting in the mist felt like a natural fit to me.

In this book, the island of Tanindua is a crossroads of sorts that sits between many worlds. The Island is always shrouded in mist, and as the mists shift on the island it opens a gateway to one world while closing the gateway to the previous. So, once you go to the island you may not be able to return to the world you left for some time, and should you leave the island to enter a world you may not be able to return until the island returns. So, I came to the title “The Mists of Tanindua” in the hopes that it will capture the dream-like mystery that inspired the stories themselves.

Can you share more about Charles Brennan; how did you develop this character?

When I was much younger, I used to read a lot of “boy adventurer” books like The Hardy Boys, and Johnny Quest. I wanted to capture some of that naivety and how the protagonist would never seem to quite realize just how much danger they were in. But unlike the Hardy Boys and Johnny Quest, Charles’s story is also a coming of age. Without giving too much away, he starts this book off as Charley an 18-year-old man/boy dreaming of adventure and the unknown, by the end he takes on the persona of Charles signifying his taking on the mantle of full adulthood. In later installments of the series, we will see him continue to grow into a “man of the worlds”.

What significance does the pendant hold in the story; why did you choose it to resonate with Tanindua's essence?

The pendant plays a few roles in the story. First, it serves as a tangible symbol of accomplishment. Just getting to the Island represents a monumental challenge. The characters sail from the east coast to the seas northeast of Australia on little more than a hunch and a boy’s dream. It also signifies a connection to a culture the characters have sacrificed everything they have ever known to find. Finally, it acts as a narrative device similar to “the Babble Fish” from Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, in that it allows Charles and crew to communicate with the inhabitants of the island as well as the inhabitants of the various worlds the island drifts to.

In the book, the crew encounters ancient shipbuilding techniques; what research did you do to depict this accurately?

In earning a degree in Anthropology I have had the pleasure of being educated on basic ship/boat building and shelter construction techniques of a wide range of cultures who thrived in a plethora of environments. The ships of Tanindua have a combination of features of early Mediterranean trading vessels and Chinese Junks. The combination of the two isn’t historically accurate but I wanted the Tanninduans to have something that was both familiar and unique. The ship styles and designs will become a growing theme in later installments of the series as they and the Island encounter people from some of the other worlds.

The island's environment plays a big role in the story; how did you imagine and detail the setting of Tanindua?

My starting point for envisioning Tanindua is a blend of stories of Shangri-La, the lost city of Z, Atlantis, and some early accounts of the Aztec empire. I then tried to envision how the cultures who built those empires would look if they lived in a transient environment that constantly shifted from world to world. I tried to give each world a very different set of challenges to adapt to. Some have very little land, other worlds have poisonous air, some are frozen wastelands with roving packs of giant wolves, and others still have strange creatures like gibbon bats. I then added some details from my travels through the different environments from smog-choked mega-cities, mangrove jungles, the Gobi Desert, the floating mountains in central China, and more. Though I only talked about a few of the worlds in this book, later installments of the Tanindua series will focus on other stranger worlds to come.

Could you explain the balance you tried to maintain between uncovering secrets and respecting the legacy of Tanindua?

I tried to mirror the balance between cultural legacy and the welcoming nature of Eastern cultures that I was blessed to encounter everywhere I traveled. It seemed to me that many of the cultures I took inspiration from for this book are happy to welcome travelers, to share with them their culture, to go to great lengths to teach their ways, and even a willingness to assimilate outsiders into their culture, to an extent. An outsider can become a member of those cultures provided they are willing to earn their place within the culture by learning their ways and fulfilling a role.  

What themes did you aim to explore through the adventures of the Endeavor's crew?

There are too many to count especially as we move into the installments yet to be finished. A few of the major themes are cross-cultural love, adventure, greed, finding oneself, coming of age, rivalry, honor, and solving conflict through cunning actions rather than brute force.  

How do you think the myths and legends of Tanindua enrich the crew's journey on the island?

First, there is the legend of the Island… that guides the crew into the adventure that leads them to the island. While on the island the people of Tanindua instead of having myths and legends have stories about lived experiences designed to educate and help people survive. Of course, some of those stories are more difficult to believe than others but as the crew discovers all of the stories are connected to the truth. This theme of legend meets reality will continue, to be echoed in the installments of the series to come. 

What were the challenges for you in writing about a lost civilization and its mysteries?

I think the biggest challenge for me was to try to create a culture connected to our world that wasn’t a part of any real culture. I had to find ways to show influences from all of the cultures Tanidua has had contact with while maintaining a cultural identity for Tanindua that was separate. Another challenge for me was to find adaptations for the culture that would be realistic and feasible given the dynamic nature of life on the island. For instance, how do they handle food if their land is frozen solid in one world, and filled with poison in the next? 

What do you hope readers take away from The Mists of Tanindua after they turn the last page?

I want the readers to walk away with a sense of wonder and what could be. I hope to help the readers invent new worlds for themselves to explore as they drift off to sleep. I want to instill a burning desire in my readers to go out into the unknown and explore and see the unseen. In short, I want them to have an insatiable imagination and an appetite for adventure.