Author Interview || Elizabeth Tammi

This November, Elizabeth Tammi will release her sapphic novel Outrun the Wind, based on Greek mythology. Going by the number of asks we see on Tumblr from readers who are looking for books set in Ancient Greece, I’m thinking this is a story that will get people hyped. And hopefully, we can get more historical recommendations soon!

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Interview

Q1: Can you tell us a little bit about the plot of Outrun the Wild and how you came up with the idea originally?

So, OUTRUN THE WIND was kind of born entirely out of spite. Here’s the deal– I adore mythology. Like, LOVE it, and can’t remember a time when I wasn’t transfixed by the magic of sharing a story with generations long, long past. Greek mythology is probably one of my favorite realms to explore, and though I’d often heard of the heroine Atalanta, it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I read her story in full (or one version of it, at least). And though I was immediately captivated by Atalanta, I was less than thrilled with the resolution to her story. She ends up with Hippomenes, this guy that literally uses divine trickery to trap her into marriage. It really, really irked me. There are other things about Greek mythology that have always bothered me too, and I used those questions and that frustration to build my own (very different) version of her story, and add in new characters that helped me conceptualize what else might have been going on in the background of Atalanta’s world. Basically, when Atalanta crosses paths with one of the huntresses of Artemis, a dangerous situation unfolds. Kahina, the huntress, is a former oracle for the god Apollo, but was rescued by Artemis and now serves in her band of followers…a band that’s sworn off love. When Kahina ends up saving Atalanta, she directly disobeys Artemis’s orders, and is given a dangerous task to complete to regain her status. But of course, Atalanta ends up being a complicated part of this task.

Q2: What made you want to set an f/f romance in the world of huntresses and warriors in ancient Greece?

Firstly, I find historically-set queer stories very comforting and important. They just sort of serve as a reminder that f/f love isn’t a fad or a trend. It’s always, always been around, and by setting this story in ancient Greece, I hoped to emphasize and normalize that fact. Greek myths themselves actually do have a considerable amount of queer stories, but they’re essentially all male-centered, which isn’t very fair. In addition, I could see that today’s YA readers (myself included) are really interested in mythology and reimaginings. Books by authors like Rick Riordan and Madeline Miller are hugely successful, and really gripped me and other readers my age. It seemed natural that as I started writing seriously, I also wanted to reimagine mythology.

Q3: Did you put a lot of research into the mythology of the time period when building the world or creating your characters?

I did, but I also have to admit that I leaned heavily into the fantastical aspects of the story. I read several versions of Atalanta’s myth to find out more about the core of who she was, but at the same time, I certainly gave her aspects that I feel are unique to my view of her. I borrowed some of the plot points of her myth– like the race, golden apples, and Calydonian Boar Hunt– but all of these points were kind of flipped and revisioned to make the most sense for this new version of Atalanta’s tale. For readers who are familiar with Atalanta or Greek mythology in general, you’ll likely recognize a lot of the names, gods, and locations that are incorporated. I actually got to visit Greece (twice) in the past year or so, which was helpful in a lot of ways– visiting places in the book, especially Delphi, was enormously inspirational. As for the actual time period when Atalanta’s character likely existed, most classicists estimate maybe she would’ve lived a couple decades prior to the Trojan War. So actually, I don’t think even coinswould have been invented yet. There are some things like that– money, wardrobe variations, and possibly family dynamics– that might not be totally true to Greece in the late Bronze Age, but hey. At the end of the day, OUTRUN THE WIND is a fantasy novel. I didn’t want to feel constrained by history when I was already changing so much of the mythology.

Q4: Did you draw any inspiration from other f/f books you have read or other authors you admire?

I stand on the backs of giants. Honestly. I don’t think this book would’ve had a chance if I’d tried to find a publishing deal for it even ten or fifteen years ago. In YA fiction especially, I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful to so many wonderful authors who helped pave this road for stories like OUTRUN THE WIND. This year especially has been awesome for sapphic literature in YA– my cousin Amy Spalding recently had her novel The Summer of Jordi Perez released, and I’m so looking forward to My Whole Truth by Mischa Thrace that comes out in October, with a lesbian lead. I actually just finished Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli a few days ago, and adored her thoughtful exploration of a bi girl’s misadventures through senior year.  Anyway, growing up reading YA authors including f/f stories in their work (to name a few: Marie Lu, Leigh Bardugo, and Kierstan White) definitely gave me the confidence and drive to believe that this story would find a home in the YA community too.

Q5: Are there any other mythological worlds that you would like to write some f/f romances for in the future?

Oh, totally. I love mythology and could probably write a hundred stories that play with its various aspects. I would be interested, someday, to maybe delve into Norse mythology. A lot of my family comes from Scandinavia, and I think Viking history is fascinating. I could see myself writing in that world one day. We’ll see!  Fingers crossed.

 

About the Author:

Elizabeth Tammi was born in California and grew up in Florida, but is currently double-majoring in Creative Writing and Journalism as an undergraduate at Mercer University in Georgia. When she’s not writing, you can probably find Elizabeth at rehearsal for one of her vocal ensembles, or at work for her university’s newspaper and literary magazine. Her other interests include traveling, caffeinated beverages, and mythology. Outrun the Wind is her debut novel.

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