March 1, 2009

Meet Author T. V. Sweeney

So, tell us a little about yourself? What is your typical day like?

A little about myself... Let's see...I'm just your typical genteely-raised, shy Southerner who ran away from home by hitching a ride on a Conestoga wagon which broke down on the snow-laden plains of Nebraska, where I was stranded until I caught another wagon train headed for sunny California.

A typical day? I wake up, get up, get dressed, drink breakfast, lunch, and dinner, then go back to bed. Seriously, I get up and have a cup of hot chocolate, read the Orange County Register and wonder once more why my name isn't it (if only in the Obits!), then settle myself in front of the computer and go through the job sites and employment listings--sending out resumes and e-mails. Around 6:00 PM, I work on a manuscript, do an interview, or fight with my computer to force it to let me finish a trailer. So far, I've won, but I've a feeling it's just biding its time before it pounces! Around 10:00 PM, I try to watch a little TV but I've yet to see a complete episode of anything. I always fall asleep about 20 minutes into the show!

When did you start to write and how long did it take you get to published? How many stories did you finish before you were published?

You mean writing seriously. Right? Not the fact that when I was nine, I was drawing comics and typing stories on my manual typewriter? Or did a little writing for the college newspaper and actually started a novel while I was in college? (That story later became Bloodseek, by the way.) I began to write seriously after I was stranded in Nebraska. I mean, there's nothing else to do when all you can see out your window is miles and miles of miles and miles...most of them under a blanket of snow in winter or covered with cornstalks or cows in summer. I had very little money for such frivolities as I wrote my own. I dug out that manuscript and finished it and wrote a sequel and a third novel and a fourth and... You get the idea. I took them to work and shared them with all the other readers who were my co-workers and one of them dared me to get one published. "You won't do it!" was the way she put it, with a jeer, so--of course--I had to make a liar out of her, didn't I? I had my honor as a future writer to uphold! (Wish I could let her know what she started! Maybe she'll read this!)

How did you break into publishing?

I'd like to say I sent a manuscript to a well-known publishing house, they recognized my genius, and contracted my book on the spot! Didn't happen. I did send the book I'd just finished, a little Lovecraftian ditty entitled A Bit of the Dark World, which I am currently editing, by the way. (I remember I thought I was being so shocking because the antagonist and the heroine went skinny-dipping! Whoa, have my attitudes changed! In Shadows--my vampire series-- they're naked two-thirds of the time!) Back to the explanation--I sent the manuscript to Kensington Publications and got a very nice, handwritten rejection with suggestions. Not wise to the ways of editors at that point, I didn't know to act on those suggestions and re-submit so I just put it in my "Rejection Folder"--yes, I actually have one--and went on to bigger and better things. (Wonder if that editor's still with them? Nah, probably not.) So I wrote another book--the third version of Bloodseek--and decided to send it to Blue Jay Press which was very active in SF/fantasy at that time. I didn't have their address, so I called Read All About it, a local bookstore, and asked them to look it up for me. The clerk gave me Bluebird Publications' address instead. OK, so I have the name wrong, I thought. I sent the manuscript in, they answered. Wrong publisher. They only did children's stories but they liked the writing. Did I perchance have a young adult story laying around somewhere? What a surprise! Yes, I did! I wrote them. Send it, they pleaded. So... (have you figured out the punchline yet?) I didn't have a story. I had to sit down and write one--which I did--in two weeks (Spacedog's Best Friend) and sent to them. They accepted it... Bingo!--I'm a published writer!

What influenced you to write?

What--or who...? I've always loved to read. My parents--everyone in my family--loves to read. My father never got past the eighth grade but he always had a book handy and he loved science fiction--and James Bond. So on his birthday, I always got him the latest Ian Fleming book and some SF. I got my first book when I was a year old--a cloth one which I tried to devour. It still has my teeth prints on it! (Yes, I still have it!) In the seventh grade, my teacher encouraged all her students to write short stories and read them aloud and I was right up there...back then I wrote about horses and vampires. I still throw in a horse once in a while (Bargain with Lucifer, Dark God Descending) but somewhere along the line, vampires took precedence. In college, I had two teachers who made learning so much fun that I incorporated their expertise into my stories...18th-century literature and Chaucer and Shakespeare. I've dedicated books to all three. Thank you, Drs. Snipes and McMillan, and Mrs. Comer! If I hadn't loved to read, the 3 months I spent in the hospital after an auto accident would have been sheer torture!

What inspired you to write romance?

I didn't really think I was writing romances. I ascribe to the "romans" theory. Those were the stories told by wandering minstrels and troubadors during the Middle Ages--tales of heroic young men on quests and beautiful, endangered heroines with villains with magical powers and lots of supernatural elements. That's what I thought I was writing and somehow "romans" became "romance" and here I am!

What genre or sub-genre do you write? Why did you choose this genre?

I think it's more like a cross-genre rather than a sub-genre. I've written about five "straight" romances--and by that I mean with no supernatural elements at all--but all the rest have some atmosphere of the supernatural about them. If I have to pick a subgenre, I guess it's paranormal romance.

What difficulties does writing this genre present?

I don't find many difficulties at all. The supernatural covers a vast amount of territory, since every culture has its own pantheon of the paranormal. If you ever exhaust one, you can just dig into another, but I doubt depletion of such a vast supply will ever happen, not as long as we authors put our own spin on them. Ireland and Romania seen to be the chief centers of interest, but--there's a whole world out there, with its indigenous monsters and creatures, just waiting to be immortalized in literature! Anyhow...I've found that, if you stick to the very basics within the genre, you can go wild with the specifics and make up just about anything you want. Who's going to prove you wrong?

What motivated you to write your current book?

My current mean the one I'm working on right this minute? That one is a rebellion against the vampire genre, I suppose you could say. Shadows. It poses the question: When is a vampire not a vampire? And the answer: When he's simply a second species of Mankind and not a supernatural creature. I also think that's why it's having such a difficult time being accepted by a publisher--because it's bending the rules a little. I've tried to give logical and natural reasons why these people avoid sunlight...why they are repelled by garlic...can't look at religious object...have wings...and--above all--why they have to have human blood while appearing as otherwise normal humans, but it's still being looked at as a "traditional" vampire story. So--I decided to enter it in the ABNA (Amazon Break-through Novel Award) contest instead!

If you mean the current book to be published, Jericho Road (to be out in March from Lyrical Press) is a romance set in Georgia during the Vietnam War. One of the man characters is a returning vet, newly-married who is haunted by both the atrocities of the war as well as his relationship with an Afro-American soldier in his platoon. Besides those problems, he's in a conflict with his father who's a dye-in-the-world bigot and doesn't want foreigners in their town. When the daughter of the family begins a romance with a Part-Native American doctor, everything explodes.

How much time do you devote to writing each day?

When I was working full-time, I wrote after I got home..usually 3-4 hours a night and all day on Saturdays and Sundays. Now that I'm temporarily "at leisure," I write a little more, about 5-6 hours a day, generally from 6:00 PM to midnight or beyond, if I get inspired.

Tell us about your other works, books, stories, etc.

Where to start? (This is where it gets embarrassing because I feel that I'm just doing nothing but bragging. Can I ask one of my fellow writers to take over for this segment? Linda? Mary? Are either of you two around?) I'm just going to list them by Publisher, would that be all right?

Books in Motion (three audio books): Walks the Shadow Trail, Vengeance from Eden, The Last Voyage of Sinbad Singh

PublishAmerica: The Rose and the Dragon, Dragon in Chains

Double Dragon Publications: full-length, unabridged editions of Walks the Shadow Trail, Vengeance from Eden, Sinbad's Last Voyage, Sinbad's Wife, Bloodseek, Blood Curse, and;Murder in Old Blood, Bloodseek, The Irish Lady's Spanish Lover (by Icy Snow Blackstone). All available in print, ebook, or Kindle. Scheduled for 2009: A Singing in the Blood, Sinbad's Pride.

The Wild Rose Press: "Love, Vampire Style," "Demon in Blue Jeans," Three Moon Station (by Icy Snow Blackstone)

Lyrical Press: scheduled for March, April, May 2009: Jericho Road, Earthman's Bride, When the Condor Returns

Leucrota Press: Blood Sin scheduled for June, 2009

Wolfsongs anthology (out in December) "Ill-Met by Moonlight."

Sounds of the Night magazine: "Sometimes Love Returns." (February, 2009 issue) "Ill-met by Moonlight" appears in the premier and a poem "Epitaf" was in the second issue.

Amazon Shorts: "Sidewalk Sale," "Shadow's Crossing," "One for Eternity," "Victory for the Hawk," "The Lover in the Lake," "Love and Adler's Brain," "The Witch, the Wolf, and the Sellsword," "The Best Dentist in Orange County," "Paradise Redundant," and "Variation on the Theme of Man." (available in Kindle)

What are you working on now?

I'm currently struggling with a paranormal story called Wizard's Wife. I just finished editing Blood Sin for Leucrota Press and Jericho Road for Lyrical Press.

How do you write? Are you a panster or a plotter? Is it your characters or your plot that influences you the most?

Sometimes one, sometimes the other. I could conjure up a plot--an impoverished European nobleman buys a ranch in the American West--and then the characters emerge to play it out. I start thinking dialogue--"Why do you love me?" he asked, suddenly. "God knows," she answered, "because I sure don't!" or description--not necessarily in the order it will go in the book, such as: Once, in a reminiscent moment, he told her how the other cadets teased him shortly after he'd been sent to the Academy. Because of his coppery ringlets, they'd called him "Sweetheart" and "Dearest" and one morning, he'd awakened to find the curls adorned with bright pink ribbons knotted so tightly they had to be cut off with a knife. He'd used that same blade on his hair and had never let it grow past the nape of his neck again. I might think out the very last line of a story and build the entire novel around it. I may think up a character--a halfbreed who hates his father's people and then falls in love with one of them--and it goes from there: The Rover disappeared around the bend in the road, taking Sinbad to his last voyage.

What was the most usual way you came up with a story idea? I mean, I’ve gotten a plot idea from a song I heard, from brainstorming with a classmate. What unusual thing caused you to think, ‘hey, I could make that into a story?’

I think all my "flashes of genius" are unusual. You've already heard about Three Moon Station. The inspiration for "Demon in Blue Jeans" was a song I heard when I was a Doctor's Assistant, beack in the '80s. I think the title was "Somebody's Knockin'." It was a Country/Western song about a woman who discovers the devil outside her door, and the lines, "I'd heard about him but I'd never dreamed he'd have blue eyes and blue jeans..." stuck with me. I could just see her peeping through the fisheye and seeing this gorgeous hunk with perhaps tiny horns on his temples. That image stayed with me until 2007, when I finally gave up and wrote the story. Talk about long-lasting! I've been talking with someone and said something and thrown out, "And that would make a good story, wouldn't it?" so they come from all places. I also wrote a story from a dream, once.

If you could spend an hour talking to anyone from any time in history, who
would it be? And Why?

I know the people who know me are thinking I'm going to say Dracula, but I'm not...perhaps Cleopatra, a very strong-willed, determined woman. I'd finally get the low-down on her and Julius Caesar and Mark Antony...did he really sleep with his mouth open so she could drop grapes into it?

Tell us some of the things interviewers are saying about your story or stories.

How much space do we have? (Just kidding!) "Love, Vampire Style" has gotten some very good reviews: Though Love Vampire Style is just a small bite of a story, it’s a good bite, and, with a great main character and a savory love story, it’s well worth your time to read. I’ve always enjoyed anything written by Ms. Sweeney, and Love Vampire Style is no exception. --Margaret Marr, Nights and Weekends; Love, Vampire Style may be short but if you want to sit back and enjoy a paranormal delight, sink your teeth into this story.--Long and Short Reviews

Others: Murder in Old Blood-- I haven’t read a vampire novel this good since Ann Rice’s Interview with the Vampire... This is an author to watch; she’s sure to go places in the vampire genre.--Margaret Marr, Nights and Weekends. Bloodseek-- From arresting cover graphics to Toni V. Sweeney’s impeccable approach, her marvel of beautiful linguistics, brisk humour before a grim mood unearths the ineffable...Toni V. Sweeney carves yet another sensation.--Eugen Bacon, Sinbad's Last Voyage: ...the best thing Ms. Sweeney has written so far... You'll be hard-pressed to find anything like Sinbad's Last Voyage, so if you're looking for a romance that's not another of the cookie-cutter offerings out there, this is a great place to start.--Margaret Marr, Nights and Weekends, and one last one from Ms. Marr-- Ms. Sweeney brings her characters to life so well that you'll really care about what happens to them... Vengeance from Eden will go on my bookshelf as one of my favorite westerns to date. (I think she likes me!)

What is your all time favorite book?

I'm afraid I'd have to divide that between Dracula and Gone with the Wind--and if that isn't a diversity of interest, I don't know what is!

How do you do research for your books? What’s the most interesting bit of research you’ve come across?

It depends on the book. In Shadow Lord, I wanted to make certain even the most mundane things--what we take for granted today--were as accurate as possible, such as...cigarettes and fire arms... Did they have cigarettes in the early 19th century? If so, what did they use to light them? Couldn't whip out the ol' Zippo. A candle or burning twig from the fire is okay, but what if there's no fire around? What if there's a dance and you're taking a breather on the terrace and want a smoke? I discovered that cigarettes were around in 1809 and were called cigaritos. Matches were invented around that time and were known as lucifers. They were very dangerous because they could ignite just from touching each other. I also discovered that handguns were very common weapons as far back as the 13th century. For Bloodseek, I did a lot of research into medieval betrothal and marriage customs, for even though the story is a fantasy set on another planet, the culture is similar to that of the 12th century, so I took what I found and changed it just enough to make it more appropriate to an alien lifestyle. I think one of the more interesting bits of information I found was when I was researching a fictional biography of Vlad Tepes, the man known as Dracula, a little something called the "Morning Gift," a present bestowed on a bride after her wedding night by a grateful husband. Dracula's gift to his bride is the execution of a man who conspired to assassinate him. She asks instead that he make the man's life her "Morning Gift" and let him live instead. He agrees and banishes the would-be murderer from Transylvania forthwith.

Discovery and History Channels are wells of information to be stored away for future use.

What advice would you give aspiring writers today?

The usual: Be determined, be persistent, and be tough!

How do you like your fans to contact you?

I have a website, and there's an e-mail address, if they're driving past, they can wave!


LuAnn said...

Great interview! Glad I stopped by.

Mona Risk said...

Great interview Toni. I like your humor in answering.

Mary Ricksen said...

Toni you are amazing. You churn these wonderful books out while I am stuck on the same one.
By the way, nice butt in your trailer. Which is also incredible.
You make it all look so easy. And it's not easy at all!

Barbara Monajem said...

You are incredibly prolific, Toni!

Toni V.S. said...

Thanx everyone for the gracious comments.

Nightingale said...

I've read several of Toni's books and each of them is as fresh and imaginative. Her voice rings true through each and every one. Blood Sin is next on my TBR. I've had a sneak preview of Shadow Lords and it is awesome.

Cindy Jacks said...

Wonderful interview, Toni! Congrats on all the titles!

Rita Vetere said...

A fun and interesting interview! Congrats on all the titles!

Toni V.S. said...

Thanx for the kind words, Linda. Remember--Shadows is an entrant in the ABNA contest this year, too.