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Cover Reveal and Five Questions with Dani Finn


I’m so lucky to have been asked to reveal the cover for the wonderful Dani Finn’s The World Within,a standalone Sapphic romantasy with lots of steam and a ton of heart. Dani was also kind enough to let me interview them for this post, so scroll to the bottom of this post to learn more about Dani and The World Within!

 

 

Lila’s life is almost perfect.

She’s finally opened her luxury sex shop and wellness center in a rehabilitated ancient temple. The painted faces are lining up to buy the new alchemical vibrators and unwind in the spa and baths. And she gets to work with her two best friends every day.

So why is there an empty place in her chest?

Enter Avisse, the delivery woman, a single mom with a quick smile and eyes that flash from hard to soft in an instant. There’s a spark, and a kiss, and a promise of dinner next time Avisse is in town.

Until then, Lila’s got her hands full with the shop, not to mention the mystic portal she’s discovered in the temple basement. What lies beyond will turn their lives—and the World Within—inside out.

This steamy sapphic fantasy romance stars a transfeminine heroine and includes meditation magic, alchemical trans healthcare, and family lost & found.

The World Within is intended for an adult audience. Content warnings include explicit, consensual sex scenes, societal transphobia, and child peril.

It’s set in the Weirdwater universe and includes some characters from The Living Waters and Unpainted but is meant as a standalone.

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Book cover description of The World Within (light blue swirly font on top), a Weirdwater romance (pink swirly font below the main image) by Dani Finn (plain white font at the bottom). The cover shows an ethereal light blue image of a woman twirling in a dress, with a temple pool with arched ceilings as the background, in pink, light blue, and lavender tones.


Tadaa!

 

Five Questions with Dani Finn

So many of your stories build upon each other and are interconnected in small but meaningful ways that enrich the worldbuilding. Do you find yourself making these choices early in the brainstorming process, or are they things that come later? What do you hope readers take away from this interconnectedness? 

I can’t seem to stop myself from weaving in little strands of lore from other books, so I figured, why not lean into it? It always starts by accident, like how the idea for the Time Before books came as I was drafting Hollow Road (Maer Cycle #1). They kept finding these bronze artifacts, some magical, all mysterious, from a clearly more advanced civilization thousands of years before. I knew there had to be a series set among the Maer of the Time Before, but I wasn’t ready yet. 

I wrote the Weirdwater Confluence next, which is set among the humans in the South, but funny thing…references to little tidbits from the Time Before kept popping up there, too. It all comes back to Cloti, a mythical figure among both Maer and humans who’s referenced in both series, including in The World Within.

 

Fittingly, the final book in the Time Before is Cloti’s Song, the story of the woman herself. Those who’ve read all my other books and finally arrive at Cloti’s Song are in for a hell of a ride. But also—those who start with the Time Before and jump to the Maer Cycle will be fascinated to see what happens 1,700 years later when the Maer start clawing their way back from near extinction. And those reading the Weirdwater books next will see Cloti’s influence among the humans.

 

One universe, many portals.


 

Trans, particularly trans-feminine, works tend to face a lot of backlash and scrutiny. What do you wish potential readers understood about trans books and authors that goes unremarked upon or that you believe is important?

 

The older I get, the more I crave stories that explore and celebrate the diversity of gender and relationships. I love seeing how people relate to each other, form friendships, fall in love, and, sure, have smoking-hot, inventive on-page sex. I’ll read any pairing if the story promises to be good, but I very much gravitate toward queer stories, especially sapphic ones. Full disclosure: trans sapphic stories are my Special Interest™️.

 

Traditional publishing seems allergic to transfeminine books in particular. And when one is published, it’s assailed from all sides for a variety of reasons that may boil down to just one: transmisogyny. But look at the indie publishing world, and you see a burgeoning field of transfem literature, vibrant and tragic and joyous. I’ve read almost nothing but trans romances for the past year and a half, and I’m still scrambling to catch up. I can’t get enough of them.


The older I get, the more I crave stories that explore and celebrate the diversity of gender and relationships.

What I love about trans romance especially is the extra layer that’s often present, the play between subverting and affirming gender roles and expectations. Add in a fantasy world where you can bend those roles however you want, and you’ve got the perfect sandbox for exploring the labyrinth of the human heart. There’s often trauma—it’s rare to read a trans book without it, given how the world treats trans people. To see the bright hope slashing through all that pain and struggle is like watching the sun part a thundercloud to bring forth a rainbow. Gods, that sounds corny as hell, but I said what I said.


The World Within is set in a health spa, which is such a particular setting and one you don’t often see in fantasy. What inspired you to choose this setting?

 

Part of it is simply because Lila, the heroine, bought an old temple with Aven and Tera at the end of Unpainted, planning to turn it into a high-end sex shop and wellness center. (I should assure our gentle readers that, while Unpainted is a lovely book, they don’t need to have read it to enjoy The World Within.)

 

Lila discovers during the course of the story that The World Within means something more to her than just a business. It should come as no surprise that it means something more to me as well. Like a lot of folks, I’m desperately seeking a place of tranquility and peace where I can explore, rest, and heal. A place where everyone sees each other—and themselves—as they are, not as how they appear.


What do you enjoy most about blending romance and fantasy?

 

Ah, the eternal question. Is it a simple matter of me being a lifelong fantasy nerd who came to romance late in life and never left? I think it’s something more than that. I enjoy sci-fi romances and historical romances, but not nearly as much. And I rarely read contemp. There’s a sweet spot for me where the imagined, ahistorical, pre-industrial fantasy alt-world meets love and relationships not tainted by the prejudices of the real world unless the author wills it so for a reason.

 

Fantasy romance (especially queer, natch) allows for exploration of relationship dynamics that may exist in the real world, but when injected with a dose of fantasy, they blossom into something new and beautiful. Fantasy gives us the remove—and the aesthetic and narrative freedom—to pour our dreams into stories, spreading hope wherever they are read. Gods, I’m getting sappy again, but it’s honestly, truly, the way I feel, and it’s why I wrote The World Within.


You’ve mentioned elsewhere that this book was deeply meaningful to you in novel ways. Can you tell me a little more about that?

 

When Lila first appeared on the page as a minor character in Unpainted, I was drawn to her, much in the way Aven is in the book. She’s strong, self-confident, and free-spirited, the embodiment of what I often admire in women. She’s also, in some ways, the exact opposite of me; or rather, she’s the me I wish I could become, or could have become if born into a different world. She’s the woman I never was, filtered through story.

I wanted to write this book so badly, but I lacked the courage. I’ve always struggled with self-confidence writing female characters, just as I’ve always been drawn to writing them. I’d expressed this thought, probably on Twitter, and I got to chatting with May Peterson, who wrote my favorite book, The Calyx Charm, a fantasy romance featuring a transfeminine heroine with magical hair. She told me to ignore the brain weasels and just write my heart out, and that’s what I did.

 

When it came time for editing, I knew I had to work with her as a sensitivity reader. I am nonbinary, and while I share many things in common with trans women, I don’t claim that identity at this time. I’m still evolving and exploring, in part through the stories I write. May was, of course, so helpful, insightful, and gentle about the whole process, which gave me the confidence I needed to tell Lila’s story boldly, brain weasels be damned.

 

In the book, Lila looks into something called the Sooth Mirror and sees a vision of herself in another reality, one in which her life turned out very differently. In a way, this book is my Sooth Mirror.

 

I’ll leave you with this passage from the book (which is in late stage editing at this point), in which Lila asks her friend Sylvan (yes, the Sylvan from The Living Waters) if the Sooth Mirror will show her the truth:

 

 

“Yes. No. Sort of. What you get, what you see in the Sooth Mirror, is not the actual truth, as you would experience if you traveled through the portal I believe will be created once we have the higher purity crystal. It’s an approximation of the truth, made up of what’s in your mind, augmented by what’s in the Worlds.”

“So, you might just be seeing what you imagine to be true.”

Sylvan shook his head impatiently. “No, it’s much more than that. I can feel the difference, when I look into it—some of it comes from me, yes, but there are things I couldn’t possibly know, unlocked by the knowledge I already have. It’s hard to explain, but it is the truth—just not quite exactly the whole truth.”

Check out The World Within!

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Illustration of author Dani Finn. They're a White non-binary author with pale lavendar streaks in their light blond hair. They're wearing black-rimmed eyeglasses and have grey-green eyes and a big smile. They're wearing a collared shirt with purple and white speckles on pale blue. A fractal pattern with turquoise backing and pink lines serves as the background.

Dani Finn (they/them) is a nonbinary fantasy romance author who occasionally writes fantasy without romance as well.

They favor high-steam love stories that crisscross the gender spectrum, from swords and sorcery to sword-free fantasy with meditation magic and everything in between.

Steve Hugh Westenra

Steve is a trans author of fantasy, science fiction, and horror (basically, if it’s weird he writes it). He grew up on the eldritch shores of Newfoundland, Canada, and currently lives and works in (the slightly less eldritch) Montreal. He holds advanced degrees in Russian Literature, Medieval Studies, and Religious Studies. As a reader, Steve’s tastes are eclectic. He enjoys anything that could be called speculative, including fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, but has been known to enjoy a good mystery as well as literary fiction. He’s always excited to try something new or that pushes boundaries, particularly from marginalized authors. Steve is passionate about queer representation, Late Antiquity, and spiders.

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