How long have you known that you were a writer? Did you receive a clear call? Or have you just loved writing all your life?
I had written for small market television and radio stations since learning how to do that as part of a television station, and I had written a few short stories in elementary and high school but I didn't get placed in any journalism or creative writing classes, and in fact I was told I'd never be a writer by my community college level writing English teacher. (I hadn't asked, by the way.)
I was more interested in what shapes I could make out of the words while writing in elementary school and more interested in the "Music" that was heard when the words were read allowed than punctuation. That hasn't changed.
It wasn't until I was attending New Mexico State University, working on my Theater degree, as a young mother that someone said, "Let Toni do it . . . she's the writer."
I thought to myself, "I'm the writer?" My first play won a writing contest and that gave me the confidence I needed.
What is the genre you write in? Would you explain what it is?
I call myself a utility writer. I have a "will write for food" attitude. I have written in nearly every genre. I think the defining characteristic of my writing is not the genre but the ability to make people put on the mind and character or circumstance and live it for a few seconds or the length of the writing and beyond. I guess if I was beating a drum it would be that there is more that we have in common with each other than the things that make us different. I like to write about wondrous occurrences or seeking the wonderful, the upbeat and the good in ourselves, our situations and each other.
How do you spend your writing days? Do you set goals to reach a certain number of words per day? Can you give us a general idea of how long it takes you to write a novel?
The first book I wrote took me 5 years but that is because soon after I had the idea and took the first steps I decided I didn't want to write it but the book dragged me behind it and eventually got published by a small publisher without me sending out a single query letter. I don't set goals. I love to write and I could write all day every day. However, the other parts of life, family and work take a lot of my time and so a lot of the time I write in my mind instead of on paper.
What is the spiritual message in your latest book? What can readers expect to get from reading it?
Love is powerful and empowering even if there isn't one specific person to bestow it on. Everything has a purpose. Any situation has a positive that we might not see but God knows. I do not seek to push people to find God. I push to help them love universally and that kind of love demands God's presence in their lives.
You recently had a book published. Would you take this time to describe it to us? How and where can readers buy your books?
I updated it with current information and I am releasing it as an e-book so people in pain can get the book instantly via the web and I am releasing it in hard back and soft back so it can be in prisons and jails.
I wrote the book because my own husband is serving his 27th year of a life sentence with parole and keeping our own friendship and marriage going was important to me, and I thought it might be important to others to keep their families together as well.
As I was writing this, my two year old grand daughter said, "Where's grandpa?" looking at my husband's picture.
I said, "He is away right now."
and she looked, and said, "He is away?" and stared at the photo then said, "He is in the car."
I asked, "He is?"
She said, "Yes."
It effects every aspect of a person's life when their loved one is away.
Where do you get ideas? Character names? Do you find your characters similar to you in any way?
I get my ideas from my real life or from the lives of someone I don't understand and want to understand. I like to try on their circumstance, their body language and their attitudes and see what it's like. Then I ask myself how could this be a journey for them, and how could it be healing? Then I take them on that journey.
Do you ever feel like giving up? Most people don't understand the stress, the work, and the joy of being a writer. How tenuous becoming a writer is. Do you care to share how it feels, what discouraging/encouraging times you've gone through? Who's inspired you the most?
I am always in the process of giving up. I am interrupted by people who don't understand that I'm not playing on the computer but trying to earn a living.
I am a substitute teacher at a juvenile detention center and the kids wanted to "chat" with me when they get out. It is against the rules but I told them, "I don't like to chat."
They were shocked. I said, "Look, I'm a writer, and I am on the moon, I am looking around, and I am writing what I see, and I am taking a step and writing down how that feels and I am inside my character's skin and I am telling the reader what that is like.
Then someone pops up and says, "Hey, what are you doing?" and they suck me out of that world, and back into the room.
So I say, "I'm fine. How are you?"
They say, "I'm just chilling."
I think, "I got ripped off the face of the moon for that?"
The kids laughed and said, "That's cold ma'am."
My kids and my husband understand my nature as a writer because all of them write but my mother and some of my friends don't understand that in order to write you give up time and you can't be out doing other things and still write. It requires you doing some writing in order to have something to read.
I get discouraged by the process of selling your writing, never by the writing process. I don't like having to compete or push someone else to access my writing and come between the reader and my writing and decided if it will sell enough books. I don't like having to live up to anyones expectation but God's and my own. Because I don't think that being judged by anyone else is of as much value. I assure you I am self critical enough to ward off excessive pride. But being a "Professional" writer is about just that. So, I sometimes publish on free blogs and things because I feel that really what I want to do is be a writer and while I need money to survive I can do other things for money if I have to and my writing will be free to entertain, educate and be fun for me as well.
Would you explain how you "chose" (or was chosen) a publisher? Do you just go Einny, minny, miny, moe? Grin. Now, that you're published, can you sit back and relax from the success you've experienced?
I used the scatter gun strategy. I hit a bunch of publishers. In my case after the first run I wanted to go with a different publisher because I wanted the book to be available for people in pain immediately and world wide because the books I sold in other countries were received and useful there as well as here.
The publishers I talked to, and some did call me personally, told me they needed to be assured of more sales than the 2.4. Million incarcerated, the jails and schools and average of 10 people waiting on the outside for someone incarcerated. However, they loved the book and were wishing me well.
I have decided to use my daughter as the publisher for the book because she is good at looking at the pros and cons of using a printer and print on demand as opposed to other ways to publish. I am getting it out there as an e-book first then we will decide on how to get it into the stores as soon as possible.
Currently the old book is selling at a very high mark-up used and that crushes me as the book is designed to help people not gouge them. My thrust is to get the information out there more than to be republished. I have been published through main stream channels and I guess that allows me to not feel bad about self-publishing. I don't think anyone should feel bad about it but there is a stigma and it is silly.
I love the book, "The publishing game." I recommend that book to everyone interested in writing and being published.
Do you mind telling us some of your likes and dislikes? Hobbies, interests? Where would you like to travel if you could?
I love horseback riding, doing art, theater, film and television projects. I am currently learning to be an esthetician so I will have more time to live the life I want to live. I want to travel all over the world. I like the unknown, mysteries and things like that. I don't like it when people hurt each other or animals in any way. I have been guilty myself and I don't like that either.
Would you give us your blog or webpage so everyone can check it out? Anything else you'd like to share? Promotional information?
Thank you so much for sharing the news about your very worthwhile
book with us, Toni and also a peek into your writing world!
If any of you know of someone in this situation, steer them to Toni's book.
Don't forget to leave your comment for a chance to win "Prisoners of Love."