Tiffany FitzHenry is the author of Animus and also a talented Screenwriter. We were fortunate enough to sit down with her by email and have a quick interview.
Interview Conducted by:
1. What is your favorite character in your book?
Wow this is a difficult one! Of course I’m tempted to say Eve, it’s her head we get to live inside, which considering she’s the oldest soul on earth, is definitely a unique place. What’s cool about Eve is she’s really unlimited, the experiences and knowledge that she learns to access and draw upon is infinite, which certainly makes her one of my most favorite characters I’ve ever written. But that said, in Animus, Jude is actually my favorite character. It’s easy to like Eve and natural from the beginning to route for her, but people have strong feelings about Jude, their feelings about him are always intense, it’s partly because he’s so different. His presence kind of disrupts what we want, it makes us feel unsure, and tugs at how we feel in general about people who are really unconventional, who are unpredictable and mysterious. How someone feels about Jude is always interesting to me, most people tend to have very strong feelings one way or another, stronger than even their feelings for Shamus! Again, it isn’t hard to dislike Shamus but Jude is a conflicting character. To me Jude’s character accomplishes one of the most important things a writer can give her audience. He gives them a role to play in the story. How you feel about him is part of your experience. And the way people feel about him is going to change drastically in the second book and then again in the third. And because of this, I’d say in Animus he is definitely my favorite character. It’s a little unfair of course since I’m the only one who knows where his character is heading! People are going to be surprised by Jude, he’s going to keep the reader on their toes.
2. What inspired you to write this book?
The way I write, I don’t usually have an inspiration and then sort of craft a story around that. With Animus, like with everything I write, Eve just showed up. But when she arrived it was like being hit by lightning. As I began to understand who she was the questions that raised in my mind were more of the inspiration for what became the story. Eve made me question things like, who are we? Where do we come from? Why are we here? What are people afraid of? Why? How would people really feel about Eve? I’m always fascinated by the way society acts, how they react and how that affects us all, right away and over time. We are sort of taught not to see or question this but it’s something I really like to analyze. I realized, literally after Animus was written, that what Eve had inspired was actually an origin story. Or rather a potential origin story, for a new dystopian world, one where people would become separated by the age of their soul. It's inspiring to me that one of the things this trilogy is going to do is illustrate for people what happens when we feel identified, to a dysfunctional level, with something we’re told about ourselves. To a level that says I’m going to live over here and this certain little thing (someone else told me about myself) is now my entire idea of ‘who I am.’ Eventually I’ll even fight to preserve this created ideology, never realizing it’s really just an illusion, this given identity. The only meaning it has is the meaning we assign to it. What race are you, what religion, what nationality? We believe in these differences, it’s literally what we have done nonstop throughout history. It’s inspiring to me to sort of illustrate that from the ground up and fun for me to know where it’s heading through the conclusion of book 3.
3. Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?
Wally Lamb wrote a book called She’s Come Undone, published in 1992. I read it for the first time ( and then over and over) around age fourteen; and I was literally never the same. Something in the way he wrote made me completely aware, as I read it, that I would be a writer, that it's what I was, a strangely encouraging and unexpected experience. His writing is so unique and yet approachable and accessible, you fall in love with his heroine Deloris Price for everything that makes her unlovable. In that, this book exemplifies one of the most beautiful things storytelling can do. It lets you into the world of people you don’t identify with at all and before you know it they’ve completely enchanted you. It bridges the gap between us all, that’s what he does so brilliantly in this book. And he does it with the lightest touch, nothing about the way he writes Deloris begs you to like her, quite the opposite. It’s just fearlessly authentic, which I appreciate. Even at fourteen this wasn’t lost on me. On the contrary, I saw a real courage in that kind of writing and a sort of intense faith in your reader. And as a reader I sort of basked in that relationship, the faith he had in us, his audience, how he wasn't forcing you to fall in love with Deloris, how you knew he was just allowing it to happen. And you realize it’s because he knows how beautiful of a person she really is even if the world doesn’t, he isn’t in any hurry to convince you, because of how deeply he knows.
4. What is your favorite part in your book?
When Eve sits down with Mr. Envoy in chapter two. He’s basically interrogating her and she’s quite easily dodging what she doesn’t feel the need to answer and the honest answers she does give really anger him. This part is kind of a rapid-fire back and forth that reveals so much to us about both of them and about some of the intriguing ways in which Eve doesn’t quite fit into the box he’d like her to and it serves to sort of wet our appetite for more of what will happen as she tries to navigate this new call to adventure. I love that about Eve, especially early on in Animus and particularly in her exchange with Mr. Envoy, when she doesn’t yet know that she is the oldest soul on earth, and we get to see how it’s an advantage and a disadvantage, being so aware of so many things. Knowing she isn’t normal yet not really knowing how to be normal.
5 & 6. What have you written in film and TV & What is your story? How did you get in to writing and Hollywood?
Everyone really goes their own path into this business. Since my early teen years I was always writing, entering contests for various story forms, and had the idea that I wanted to pursue a career in film. I loved photography at the time and thought I’d become a DP (director of photography or cinematographer). My teachers at both University of Miami film school and later The New York Film Academy always encourage my writing. This is where I’d shine time and again, but it wasn’t until I moved to LA and got my first job in film working as an assistant to VP Anya Kochoff at Davis Entertainment that it all clicked. Though Anya was an executive, she was also a gifted writer, penning such scripts as Monster-in-Law as I sort of watched in awe. She was a huge influence on me at the time, and over the course of the next years would give me advise, read my scripts, tear them to shreds (as she should have) when I needed to learn more about what makes a great script and remains a trusted friend. She never babied me, or like gave my work to anyone to read, she insisted I forge my own path, which I did, though I was also getting married and having kids at the time. Once my daughters were in school I devoted all of my time to writing. We had moved to Florida so I was outside Hollywood and boy did I feel like it! I had a handful of contacts but people don’t read scripts from unrepresented writers, (nor do publishers really) that’s just how it is. And as someone who has been on the other side of the desk I understand that. So I would enter scripts I had finish in the most competitive contests I could find and continued to write new ones. Always doing very well, finishing in the finals of every contest I entered, I began to get some meetings with agents and managers! In 2012 I wrote my first TV pilot on kind of a whim, it’s called FIRST LADIES, and it quickly made is way into the hands of some of the most powerful producers in Hollywood. That’s when I got to pick the best agent out there and started meeting and working with wonderful producers. I began doing meetings at networks and studios where I got to pitch new pilots I was working on. Living in Atlanta now, this is where my daughters are growing up, and though I would get offers to write on shows, those offers always meant moving to LA and my husband and I want our girls to grow up right where we are at. I’d always thought that writing novels would be the perfect thing because it wouldn’t require me to be in LA, but it wasn’t until 2015 that I wrote my first one, ANIMUS. Now of course, forging the path that I have, I have a great advantage in getting this trilogy to the big screen, which is being worked on as we speak, but it’s a privilege I spent many years earning. To any young writers I’d advise them to really tune in to their heart and to the stories they want to tell, those are the things that will take you where you want to go. If I did this for the money or for my ego I’d have quit a long time ago! Writers need to be able to take a lot of criticism, and a lot of rejection. It’s really a process. And it never stops. You’re always learning and growing, finding new ways to tell stories. But if it’s what you love, it’s never work.