Toni says," I’m a native-born Southerner but I currently live in the Midwest with my son who’s a math teacher. I was residing in Orange County, California but when I hit age 65, he decided I’d better “come home” so he could keep an eye on me! We’ll see…"
Toni, welcome to the blog. Tell us when did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
I’ve always loved to read and writing just naturally seemed to follow it. I’d read a story, then find myself thinking over certain parts—the beginning, the ending—and rewriting it with my own spin. Sometimes, it would be, “what if…?” or “If this had happened instead…” I loved English class, especially Composition, although I hated standing in front of the class and giving reports. I’m a terribly shy person, almost agoraphobic, and going to conventions and being in the public eye terrifies me but I do it.
Anyway, I’ve always like adventure stories—Tarzan, Flash Gordon, Roy Rogers—anything that had plenty of action and cheeky humor, and little dashes of romance, like the Three Musketeers, Robin Hood, Treasure Island. I also like mystery, thrills and chills, and the supernatural. So, I write what I like, and generally my stories have some or all of these elements in them. That’s why I like to say I don’t write romances but romans, which were the stories the wandering troubadors told, stories combining adventures, action, supernatural elements, and love.
When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
Most of my stories deal with the hero or heroine’s search for belonging. This is especially obvious in my Sinbad series and the Kan Ingan Archives series, and a little less so in the Chronicles of Riven the Heretic. Sinbad’s a smuggler and a very successful one but all he wants is a home and family, and once he achieves that, he discovers that he’s also become a very law-abiding, and rich, man in the process—all because of the woman he loves. Aric kan Ingan loses all for love but regains it, only to lose it again because he’s still searching for that one perfect love. Riven kan Ingan, his ancestor, tried to find acceptance by being a social climber and marrying into wealth. Instead, he fell in love with a barbarian warrior woman and ended up becoming the progenitor of a race of kings.
So, if there’s a message in my stories, it’s that everyone wants someone to belong to and sometimes that someone may not be whom they expect. Other than that, I just want people to read my stories and enjoy them.
Briefly tell us about your latest book. Series or stand-alone?
Currently, I’ve got two books in the burners. Sinbad’s Pride, third in the Adventures of Sinbad series and Serpent’s Tooth, and these two books couldn’t be more different. They came from the same mother but they’re definitely fraternal twins. Sinbad’s Pride is sci-fi, set several centuries in the future, and Serpent’s Tooth is a contemporary horror novel.
What are the hooks for the books?
The Sinbad story deals with family obligations. It begins with Sinbad arranging, against his better judgment, a marriage between his infant daughter and an adult cousin—and if that doesn’t pique readers, I’ll be disappointed! It progresses from there to his realizing that coming home and becoming his grandfather’s heir involves more than he expected…namely that he’s going to have to do certain things that are politically motivated, such as taking concubines to cement relationships with their families. This is especially difficult since Sinbad loves no one but his wife and has never looked at another woman since the moment he met her—and now he’s being told he has to have not one but two other women in his life as secondary wives? Whoa! Things go downhill—or up—from there, depending on where you’re standing.
Serpent’s Tooth opens with a famous rock star contemplating suicide. The choices he made to bring him to this moment provides the story, which involves a naïve midwesterner’s corruption by Tinsel Town and his attempts at redemption.
How do you develop characters? Setting?
I have absolutely no idea! Sometimes a word or phrase or a scene just pops into my mind and I start expounding on it. I’ve always said that if I think about something for three days and can’t get it out of my head, I have to write about it. That’s generally true, although recently, I’ve hit a kind of slump. So far, I’ve managed to hold the ideas at arms-length for several months. The book I’m working on right now, The Seventh Mothman, I’ve fended off for almost two years!
LOL. That happens to me as well.
It’s been said that in sci-fi/fantasy, you can set a story wherever you want and no one can refute it and that’s so, but you still have to have a realistic basis floating around somewhere. It can’t be too fantastic or far-out or you’re going to lose your audience before you’ve even captured them. So a little believability is always needed.
Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
I Know I should, but I don’t. No outlines, no character studies. I did that with Wizard’s Wife, had an outline, extensive synopsis, a list of characters, etc. Then, I promptly lost it. It turned up again about a year ago then disappeared again. I had three chapters written but had only one in the computer, so I scrubbed it and started over and wrote the whole thing from scratch. I keep telling myself I should write all the ideas down but I’m so darned lazy, I just never do it.
Mainly, I just sit down and start pounding the keyboard. So far, I’ve worn out five computers and eight printers.
LOL. That's serious pounding.
How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
For sci-fi/fantasy? Not much. Generally the whole things is made up or based on some medieval lifestyle which I tailor to fit the story. I have a couple of books on life in Ancient Times/the Middle Ages which I consult faithfully for my novels. I used them extensively in the Chronicles/Archives series. Also, if I hear or read an interesting fact about a specific time period, I write it down for future reference. I have a notebook just for that sort of thing. For something like Serpent’s Tooth, I did use a bit of observation about kids in the ‘80’s idiolizing rock-and-roll stars, but because I was never a “teeneybopper,” I got most of my information from watching much, much earlier TV shows such as American Bandstand and Ed Sullivan, etc. I remember the night the Beatles were features and Elvis Presley, and I wove that adoration and idolatization of those singer into the story.
What are your current projects?
Sinbad’s Pride, third entry in the Adventures of Sinbad. In this one, Sinbad is in his thirties to forties (The earlier books were about his childhood and youth). It shows his changing attitude toward the things he’s always held dear as he matures, and how his love for his wife matures along with it, and also the things he has to do, sometimes against his will, because of the responsibility he now holds. It’s being published by Double Dragon Publishing.
Serpent’s Tooth covers 25 years in the life of a very successful rock star—how he was discovered, and the things he’s done that come to so appall him that he chucks it all and disappears at the height of his career. When he reappears 20 years later, he thinks he left all the unpleasantness behind but just when he’s again found happiness, the past rears its ugly—and deadly—head.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
My website is www.tonivsweeney.com. I update it weekly. I also have a newsletter, and if anyone wants to be put on the mailing list, they can send their e-mail addresses to firstname.lastname@example.org. I also have a My Space, Facebook, and YouTube accounts also a blog page at amazon.com’s Author Central. I also blog of various blogging groups, such as the Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers and The Wild Rose Press.
Thanks for a fun interview, Toni.