Author Spotlight: Elizabeth Tammi talks Outrun the Wind
I'm thrilled to be featuring Elizabeth Tammi on the blog today! In addition to being an author, Elizabeth is currently studying at Mercer University as a Stamps scholar. With interests in journalism, acting, and creative writing, she has a passion for story, and with over 26,700 followers, she runs one of Tumblr's most prominent YA fiction/writing blogs at annabethisterrified.tumblr.com.
Elizabeth's debut novel, OUTRUN THE WIND, released yesterday from Flux Books and you can check out the synopsis below!
The Huntresses of Artemis must obey two rules: never disobey the goddess, and never fall in love. After being rescued from a harrowing life as an Oracle of Delphi, Kahina is glad to be a part of the Hunt; living among a group of female warriors gives her a chance to reclaim her strength, even while her prophetic powers linger. But when a routine mission goes awry, Kahina breaks the first rule in order to save the legendary huntress Atalanta.
To earn back Artemis’s favor, Kahina must complete a dangerous task in the kingdom of Arkadia— where the king’s daughter is revealed to be none other than Atalanta. Still reeling from her disastrous quest and her father’s insistence on marriage, Atalanta isn’t sure what to make of Kahina. As her connection to Atalanta deepens, Kahina finds herself in danger of breaking Artemis’ second rule.
She helps Atalanta devise a dangerous game to avoid marriage, and word spreads throughout Greece, attracting suitors willing to tempt fate to go up against Atalanta in a race for her hand. But when the men responsible for both the girls’ dark pasts arrive, the game turns deadly.
And now, here's my chat with Elizabeth!
Hi, Elizabeth! Welcome and congrats on the release of Outrun the Wind. Can you share a little about the story and what inspired it?
Hi, Megan! Thanks so much for having me! Outrun the Wind is essentially a YA sapphic reimagining of the story of Atalanta from Greek mythology. I really adore Atalanta as a mythological figure, but I was upset at how her story ended and set out to ‘fix’ it for myself by imagining what might’ve been going on in the background. I love Greek mythology, but definitely have some questions and issues with it, so this book was my way of answering them.
Kahina and Atalanta have a hate-to-love relationship. What are your tips for executing this trope (which is one of my favorites, btw!)?
Isn’t it an awesome trope?! It’s definitely my favorite too. I think one good thing I’ve noticed in my favorite renditions of this trope is that the point of hate-to-love is that these people are experiencing the full spectrum of who the other is, and that can be a really important and solid foundation for a relationship. The couple understands the deepest faults of each other, but also the most redeeming and beautiful qualities too—this trope allows for each character to gain a full, rich comprehension of their love interest, “for better or worse."
What has been your favorite ‘author moment’ so far?
There’s been so many! Seeing my name and book on Barnes & Noble’s site was fantastic, and I loved getting to tell my family, friends, and professors the good news. Their support has been unwavering and incredibly meaningful. I think the most surreal thing was a review of Outrun the Wind that the School Library Journal did—they compared my work to Rick Riordan’s, who has long been (and still is!) my favorite author. He’s the one who really showed me the magic of mythology and inspired me with his fabulous characters and stories to start taking writing seriously myself. In fact, when his Heroes of Olympus series ended, that was the moment when I sort of woke up and realized that if I wanted to do what he did, I needed to get started right away. And I did, the very next day.
As a fantasy writer, I’m always interested in world building. How much of yours was based strictly on Greek Mythology, and what was your research process like?
It’s definitely steeped much more in the mythology aspect and less so in the historical aspect. As some early readers have pointed out, I accidentally used forks in one of my scenes! Big anachronism right there, but at the end of the day, this is still a fantasy novel and my main focus was not replicating the exact daily functions of early Bronze Age Greece. I mean, there are gods and monsters roaming around—clearly, history wasn’t my top priority. Anyway, I read several of the early renditions of Atalanta’s myth and tried to replicate as much of the imagery and aesthetic that I got from those translations. I also got to study abroad in Greece with my university (after I wrote the first draft, but before it sold), which was a massive help in revisions. I got to see so many sites from the book in real life—like Delphi and Corinth—and also visited too many museums to name.
I'm a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing Outrun the Wind teach you?
Outrun the Wind definitely taught me, from a writing standpoint, that point-of-view is crucial. I got frustrated with the story in its early stages, because I knew it needed to be told from a first-person perspective, but by choosing either Kahina or Atalanta, I was missing something critical from the other character. The first draft was all Kahina; another draft, which I aborted fairly early in, was 100% Atalanta. I didn’t want to do a dual first-person perspective book, because they are notoriously difficult to tackle. I even tried doing third-person to see if that worked, but it fell flat. Finally, with other feedback, I realized I had to bite the bullet if I wanted to make the story work like I needed it to. I would have to incorporate two points-of-view, each with first-person narration. It was hard, obviously, because how do you distinguish two girls the same age like that? Maybe I didn’t pull it off well, but maybe I did. I’m sure readers will diverge on that. No matter what, the one thing I’m confident in is that both girls had to tell their sides to this story, or it would’ve been empty.
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
I just finished watching The Haunting of Hill House, which was fantastic! Now, I’m lightening things up by watching Superstore. On the literary side, I’m on the final book in The Illuminae Files trilogy by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Crazy good!
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your publishing career?
I think I’ve learned, through this magical and sometimes frightening debut process, that no matter what ‘stage’ a writer is at, there are some wonderful pros and some heartbreaking cons. Whether a writer is working on their first ever book, or a new debut like me, or rocking the New York Times bestseller’s list, there are struggles and upsides to every stage. I’ve stopped obsessing over and idealizing the idea of being a NYT bestseller, which has been a huge comfort to me. Obviously, that’s still a goal of mine, but I’m no longer conceptualizing it as this magical ‘finish line’ where everything is smooth sailing. And I hope new writers remember, that as awesome as it is to have my debut novel entering the world, there are actually a couple aspects of my life pre-contract that I miss! Having the freedom and safety net to write as freely as I wanted, without the knowledge that someone would be reading it someday, was actually a lot of fun and held so much possibility, even though I still desperately wanted to be published someday. The point is, the biggest thing I’ve learned so far is to embrace where you’re at in the publishing journey. Work hard and work smart, but don’t think there’s a finish line where you can kick back and write effortlessly with loads of royalties for the rest of your life. Publishing is a long game and a tricky one, but it’s also a ton of fun and has many rewards. Persistence is key, so just keep your head in the game and your heart in the stories you want to tell.
Many thanks go out to Elizabeth for taking the time to tell us more about her debut journey and how OUTRUN THE WIND came to be. Be to sure to add Elizabeth's Greek-inspired YA fantasy to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy (WRITE) NOW from retail sites like Amazon, and Barnes & Noble or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,