Author Interviews

* you can find the original interviews and much more on my 'everything writing' blog (http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com), including author spotlights, guest posts, book reviews, flash fiction or poetry - new items posted 6am UK time Monday to Saturday and writing exercises at 6pm very weekday.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Author interview with Toinette Thomas (revisited)


Back in March 2013, I interviewed author Toinette Thomas for my interview-only WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author Toinette Thomas. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Toinette. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
ToinetteToinette: Hi Morgen. I currently live in Chesapeake, VA, but grew up in Dallas, TX. My husband and I have been married for seven years and I have been writing for about three years. I currently work as a teacher’s assistant, but write because it’s what I love to do.
Morgen: What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Toinette: Fiction works best for me, specifically fantasy, but not YA. I have nothing against YA, I just have difficulty trying to appeal to a teen audience. Lately I have been dabbling in many other genres. Not that I will publish in all different categories, but I feel I’ll become a better writer if I challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone. I’m currently practicing at romance, sci-fi, and biography (obviously non-fiction will be a greater struggle).
Morgen: The only non-fiction I write is about writing. :) What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Toinette: So far, I have one book published, c. It is the first instalment of what I hope will be a four part series. I current write using my nickname Toi, but have considered using a pseudonym in the future, should I venture into genres that my current fans may not follow.
Morgen: You’ve self-published – what lead to you going your own way?
Toinette: I think like most indie authors, I started out wanting to be traditionally published. I followed all the rules and waited for responses, whether they be acceptances or rejections. The responses never came, but I kept on submitting. While I waited to hear from the great publishing houses in the sky, I looked into other options. After about a year of researching self-publishing, I gave up on traditional publishing and not because of a lack of responses. I fell in love with the idea of owning my work and having complete control over it, whether I became a great success or not.
Morgen: It’s the way I went, and it is liberating. Are your books (going to be) available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Toinette: Yes, my books are available as ebooks. I read ebooks, paper books, and even listen to audio books. I love stories and will get them any way I can.
Morgen: :) Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Toinette: Since it’s just the one book for now, I guess I’ll pick my favourite character. Even though I know what coming up in the sequel and that my answer will change, for now my favourite character is Giovanni. He’s the main character of the first book and all the ones to follow. I think that if a movie was made about my book, a new unknown actor would have to play him. The casting agent would have to scour the world to find just the right person to pull off the unique qualities of this character, because CGI can only do so much.
Morgen: Which author(s) would you compare your writing to?
Toinette: I’m so fresh on the scene that I don’t think I’m ready to compare myself to other writers. I can say that I’m influenced by the writing J. M. Barrie, Harper Lee, and most recently Erin Morgenstern and another indie, like myself, Katie Jennings.
Morgen: Did you choose the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Toinette: I control it all. I have an artist that I work with, but the process is a collaboration. Things like this are the reasons I’ve chosen self-publishing.
A friend of mine had a children’s book published so, of course, I bought it and loved it. When we got together to talk about it, she mentioned that she was satisfied with the way it turned out even though she couldn’t use the images that she, herself, had drawn, had to adjust her original title, and had no say in the final cover. She was pleased with what her publisher put together and I was happy for her, but I don’t think I would have felt the same. Even after all that, she was still mostly responsible for the marketing of her book, but there were certain things her publisher did and didn’t want her to do.
Morgen: There is that likelihood with any publisher. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Toinette: Aside for working on the sequel to Eternal Curse, I am also working on a collection of short stories. The idea here is to let my fans see other things from me, before they categorize me as a one-move player. I want people to see that I have other ideas and can write different kinds of stories.
Morgen: I write allsorts which is probably why I don’t get writer’s block because I think it keeps my brain fresh. Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Toinette: I can honestly say that I’ve never been without something to write about. There have been days where I wasn’t able to sit down and write because of circumstances, but I always have ideas flowing and words coming out, even if they are words that don’t make it into a final product.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Toinette: I try to plot my stories. When I get an idea, I go ahead and work it out to completion with notes and outlines. I think this give me a good guide to work from that I can easily add to or take away from as I write. I’ve also discovered that setting writing challenges for myself helps to develop my stories more, because it forces me to look at my work from different angles...When it’s all over, I usually post my challenges as informational blogs.
Morgen: Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Toinette: I don’t think I have a set method for creating characters when I start out. Usually when an idea comes to mind, the characters are already there. I do have to work at creating support characters to help the story movie along.  I have a tradition of deciding what purpose I want a character to serve and then picking a name with a meaning that reflects that purpose. I think characters are made believable by the situations they are put in. Giovanni wouldn’t be very believable as business tycoon because that’s not what he was imagined for.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Toinette: A little of both. I think that with anything, the more you do it the better you get at it. I do have a system in place to help me write the best of my material. I used to tell people that I had no system at all. When I’m in the initial stages of writing, it is pretty much a free for all, but once I’ve completed a work (which could take up to a year), I set it aside for at least a week without looking at it or thinking about it. Then I go back and read what I wrote, and make changes and corrections as I see them. After another week’s rest from the work, I read it again line-by-line backwards. After this ridiculous feat, the story is ready for my pre-beta readers. Once I’ve reviewed and applied or rejected insights from my pre-betas, it’s off to my editor, who uses another set of final beta readers before making final editions.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
Toinette: I don’t know if I have to, but I know I choose to. Even though I write fiction, I want what I write to seem real and believable. I research names, concepts, places, ideas, and other similar works. I put forth great effort to produce something worthy of the time it takes to read it.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Toinette: I mostly write in third person and have dabbled in first, but second has eluded me. Still working to master first and third, second person will just have to wait.
Morgen: You may not want to in novels. Some authors just use it for certain chapters. I’ve not done that yet in novels but I love writing short stories in it. Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Toinette: I do write poetry, but my poetry is like my painting; it’s just for me and only a mother could love it. I’m getting into non-fiction by way of biographies at the moment. I love stories and some of the greatest stories never told are the tales of someone else’s life. I started writing short stories a few months ago and have taken a liking to it. It’s definitely something I will be pursuing from here on.
Morgen: Do let me know if you use second person. :) Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Toinette: I do actually, at least two. Sometimes I get ideas for stories that seem to just haunt me and won’t go away until I write them. At this time, I have two stories that I don’t really like. I can’t part with them, but I also don’t have to publish them.
Morgen: You could always test them on other readers (I have a 5,000 word limit on http://shortstorywritinggroup.wordpress.com which you could try if they’re short enough). Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Toinette: I received one email rejection and a countless number of non-responses. At least in some cases the agents or publishers did state ahead of time that if I didn’t receive a response by a certain time, to consider it a rejection and to rethink my submission. I didn’t really have any trouble dealing with this reality, mainly because I tend not to expect much from others in the first place. I just can’t wrap my head around the idea of someone wanting to invest in me and my writing when they don’t even know me. That’s why I wish there was a way to submit applications to get to know authors instead of just submitting work and hoping that someone will like it enough to make an investment of it. As a self-published author, I guess even that doesn’t apply anymore.
Morgen: Submitting is a fairly faceless process but editors know their audience so they have to go for what their readers would want). Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Toinette: I enter competitions sometimes, but it’s usually for the ones that come with non-monetary prizes. I do however, like the contests I’ve found at BookRix.com. It’s a good way for me to test my skills.
Morgen: Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Toinette: For a traditionally published author, I do think agents are vital. As an indie, having one would be just another expense. I guess if I had a library of ten or more books, an agent would be helpful at getting me into certain circles of influence and helping me get into fairs, conferences, etc...
Morgen: How much of your marketing do you do?
Toinette: I do all the marketing and boy is it hard. I have however taken a new approach to the whole marketing scene. I’ve decided not to spend too much time trying to sell people my book or trying to get them to follow me as a Z list celebrity. Now, I’m focused on making friends and acquaintances, and sharing what I have with them. I’m focused on getting you know what other people have going on in their lives and finding a way for my small world of writing to fit into their dynamic existence.
Morgen: I think that’s an approach that works. I know many of the authors have sold books directly because they’ve guested on my blog (readers of their post have left comments that that effect and the authors have told me their sales spiked so we like to think it was because of that). Ultimately, the focus is on them (so I actually sell more for them than I do of my own) and about half my ‘traffic’ is for older posts dotted around the site so even if it seems a bit quiet at the event, you never know when someone will stumble across it. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Toinette: Reviews are hard for me. I just can’t stand seeing a bad review, whether it’s for my work or someone else’s. On top of that, I have trouble writing reviews. I take too much time rereading books to make sure I’ve really gotten them so I feel I’m doing the review justices. I don’t like writing bad reviews and am always afraid that I’m overrating the good ones. I know what I like and that’s enough for me, but I worry about trying to please other people, especially since I’ve never gone out of my way to do so in the past. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a nice person and will do anything to help those who are important to me, but I’m not a people pleaser, though I am trying to be.
Morgen: It’s really hard not to take a bad review personally. I’ve had one lady on Goodreads say she’ll never read anything of mine again (having read my monologue Feeding the Father) which is a shame because she’d read some of the others (including April’s Fool) and said she’d loved them. It’s all a matter of taste. Feeding the Father is based on a true story so I guess too ‘true’ for her. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Toinette: Know what you want. Know why you’re writing. Have a plan. Writing isn’t hard. As the most intelligent species on the planet, writing should come naturally to us all, not withstanding all the rules of grammar and technique. What is a little more challenging is telling a story, and even more so, a good story. If your focus is publication then you have a long road ahead of you, but if you are true to the writing process, publication will work itself out, either through traditional means or self-publication.
Morgen: If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Toinette: I know a lot of people who would say Jesus, or Ghandi, or Einstein right away, but for me I’d have to pass and here’s why. Everyone has that one celebrity they want to meet, but in the back of their mind, they know that it would be a complete disaster because they wouldn’t be able to contain themselves or handle the excitement of the celebrity’s physical presence. I’d rather have dinner with someone who didn’t seem too far and beyond little ole me. Maybe Audrey Hepburn, J. M. Barrie, and Shirley Temple, would make for good company. I haven’t really thought this through, but these names just came to mind.  I think I’d save Jesus, or Ghandi, or Einstein for a meet and greet at a Hollywood Ball, a Presidential celebration, or something more formal.
Morgen: If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why? Toinette: I’d pick the day I got married. I didn’t have a traditional wedding in the sense that everyone I ever knew was there and that an exuberant amount of money was spent to make it the “perfect day” for me. My wedding was all about my husband and me declaring that we’d be best friends for the rest of our lives; plus we had the most amazing home cooked food that people are still talking about.
Morgen: That sounds like the kind of wedding I’d have. I did come across an author who married at a writers’ conference. Now that is appealing. :) Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Toinette: I like the phrase, “Nothing gold can stay,” by Robert Frost. Its meaning entered my heart years ago and I still cling to the idea now. Youth is within me, but life goes on. Things change whether we want them to or not, such is nature...and so much more.
Morgen: Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Toinette: I lend my eyes and mind to beta reading from time to time, and am getting the knack of blogging.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)
Toinette: Oh, this could take awhile so I’ll just mention the important stuff. I collect: comic books, vinyl records, action figures, greeting cards, and childhood memories. I like to cook and bake, and I enjoy listening to music. My third love after my family and my writing is cinema.
Morgen: I’m a big cinema fan. My lodger (housemate) no.1 (I have two) and I have season tickets to the local cinema Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Toinette: There are countless blogs that have been very helpful to me, but these two are the ones I go to the most: Jo Harrison at http://www.writersblockadminservices.co.uk/ and Laura Pepper Wu at http://www.30daybooks.com/. The Smashwords style guide is a great tool for self-publishers at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52. Linkedin is a great place to network and gain valuable industry specific knowledge at http://www.linkedin.com/. Lastly, http://www.bookrix.com/ is a great forum for authors and aspiring writers to test their material and gain valuable insight.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Toinette: I try to make the most out any associations I make especially when it comes to networking, so therefore I find them all useful. I have a presence on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterestYoutubeBookRixStumpleUpon, and Google+. It’s not unusual for me to be a late starter, so I have no problem admitting that I just recently discovered GoodReads and plan to become active with that soon. Also, I have a blog now. Even my Amazon and IMDB accounts have social applications to them. It seems that all sites these days are a forum in one way or another.
Morgen: You’re certainly out there. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Toinette: I think the world of writing is getting bigger and this isn’t necessarily a good thing or a bad thing.
Thinking in terms of global expansion: when the world was a small place, before the Americas were discovered, things were simple. People knew their limits and boundaries and were content to fellowship with people of their small communities. With the discoveries of new worlds came the desire for change and expansion and the possibility of new opportunities. 400 hundred years later, the world was so big, but people were once again settled and comfortable fellowshipping within their massive local communities. Then came the internet and all the limitations were taken away. There was no more need to expand. New opportunities came while long-standing traditions faded away.
I fear that is where writing is heading; soon there will be nowhere left to expand and there will be no limitations. Limitations may not be the right word; maybe regulations and standards. However, this does not mean that writing will stop and that author’s won’t be published. After the market is flooded and the wave of resentment settles, I think a new kind of prestige may come out this current publishing revolution, and the possibilities will be limitless and unimaginable. I just hope I’m able to keep up with it.
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Toinette: How does it feel to know that thousands of people turn to you and your blog for the best interviews? You have to know how awesome you are and that you are well respected.
Morgen: They do? :*) Thank you for saying so. I have interviewed over 700 authors (and publishers, editors and agents) since June 2011 and it’s astounded me how many people want to be involved. It’s hard work (a full-time job and then some) but it’s been two of the best years of my life because I live and breathe writing. We have to, don’t we. Thank you for joining me today, Toinette. All the best with the rest of your series.
I then invited Toinette to include a synopsis of her book…
A doctor in search of purpose and an outcast searching for acceptance meet online and discover that they may be just what the other has been looking for. Mira’s believes in what she knows and Giovanni knows better than to think he truly knows anything. When Mira decides to meet Giovanni face to face, for the first time, at his secluded country home, their journey truly begins.
Eternal Curse: Giovanni’s Angel is available from:
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If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on the mixed blog but everything else (see Opportunities on the main blog) is free.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have this blog, http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com, on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
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