Monday, April 30, 2012

Author Interview, Tonya Cannariato

Hello, everyone and thanks for dropping by!

Today I'm excited to say you're about to see this blog's first interview!! Read on, dear reader, for writing tips and How-To ideas from a published author (ain't we swanky!).

I am very proud to present......

Tonya Cannariato, author of Dust to Blood (Red Slaves), which came out last week! Read to the end of the interview for links on where to find the book! Don't forget to check out Tonya's blog for excerpts, more information, and anything new!

Tonya, let me start out by thanking you for spending this time with us! As you know, I have your book ready and waiting on my Nook! I’m excited! How about you tell us a little about yourself?

I've lived a lot of different places over the years, first because my parents were in the foreign service, and then because I like getting new perspectives periodically by shifting my home base. I'm an avid reader, and have always greatly admired Anne McCaffrey; when I read that she hadn't published her first book until she was 40, it seemed like a message to me. At the same time I discovered the community that is NaNoWriMo, so dove in on the deep end. It's taken a little more courage to edit and release that work, but now I have "Dust to Blood" published and completed, and it's just as satisfying as I had hoped.

What first inspired you to write?

I have a memory of binding pages of squiggles together and calling it a story before I could write cursive, because I couldn't spell out the words I wanted to convey. So I can't remember not writing. It was never really a question. I had a couple of great English teachers in High School who also encouraged me, and told me the best way to hone my skills was to write daily. I've kept journals ever since. It wasn't until I read an interview with Stephenie Meyer and she said it was a dream that gave her the central scene of the Twilight Saga that I realized I had the creativity to sustain a novel-length story on a regular basis.

When The Muse strikes, what do you have to have written down, right away, to keep the idea alive?

I actually don't usually write it down right away. I talk about it. I poke at it with mental sticks. It's not until I get a sense of the shape and size of it that I start writing. At this point I'm linear enough that I want to start at the correct beginning and write through until the end, so I need to know where those points are before I start.

Do you need a specific environment to write in?

Nope. Just a recording medium. ;)

Do you listen to music to set the mood?

If I listen to music, I'm generally so fixated on that sound--especially if there are lyrics--that I get too distracted to form my own coherent words. On the other hand a bit of light classical or New Age tone pictures in the background in the other room can help keep the energy calm and my girls quiet enough that I'm not jumping up every 10 minutes to let them in or out.

Any specific location you feel most creative in?

Mostly my office, at my computer, but during NaNoWriMo 2011 I discovered a nifty app for my iPad called "My Writing Nook" that let me capture a few more sentences while in the car, at the doctor's office, and other random places.

Do you storyboard?

I'm a confirmed pantser at this point, so I'm looking for that central motivating scene, how to get there (i.e. the beginning) and how to tie it up. The rest is a journey of discovery. If it's interesting to me, I'm pretty sure it'll also be interesting to my readers. And wikipedia is my friend; when I need the answer to what kind of military hardware was in use in 1992, it's easy to find enough of what I need that I can proceed without delay to the real meat of the story.

I have read of a few authors who annotate their writing to back fill those holes later, but at this point I really like the portability and uncluttered feel of My Writing Nook, where it's a lot harder to make a note that I would then be able to rediscover easily in the editing process.

Since you're a pantser, how do you find the structure for your work?

I've read so voraciously over the years, I think the three-act structure is pretty well ingrained in me by now. So for the drafting phase, I'm really grateful to the NaNoWriMo folks for setting up a tool that inspires that OCD side of me to want to keep ahead of the scheduled word count, and the competitive side of me to win something I set out to complete.

The real challenge, then, comes in the editing phase. I'm thrilled to have discovered Scrivener as a way to break down a massive Word document into scenes to be able to arrange them into logical chapters and annotate holes in a way that facilitates doing that back filling I mentioned earlier.

(Check out this link for my thoughts on Scrivener. A+!)

The premise of your book is absolutely unique! What was the inspiration?

Truly, it was a dream. I lived in Moscow from 1978-80, so I recognized the buildings and setting from that experience. What was startling was the man who showed himself bleeding dust.

Is Red Slaves a series? How many books do you have planned so far?

Yes. Three. The core idea is that Communists have only succeeded in maintaining their power by draining the magic from the mythical beasts of their countries. So the logical next step in the series is to visit China and North Korea and see whether our heroes can upset any apple carts there.

What characteristics do you think really distinguish your heroine?

She's a little straight-laced--I would almost say prudish--and very much of a loner who has her nose perpetually stuck in a book. I like that she's intellectually curious, and follows the scientific method in testing her theories. But she's not so stuck in rationality that when confronted with the outlandish, she can't be mentally nimble as well.

Do you feel that your world-travel and the work of your parents in the Foreign Service has influenced your writing style?

Style, maybe not. Content, certainly. I think my style is much more influenced by my journalism training. The first draft of my book really read like a journal--it made writing it a lot easier on me, for sure!--and I'm very conscious of trying to offer my readers a singular perspective from what seems a reliable narrator for a story that unfolds in a rather unexpected direction.

What makes your book really stand out?

Not too many Americans have first-hand experience with Russia and Communism, so I'm pleased to be part travel guide to a really fascinating country and culture. From follow-on dreams, I knew the general areas where Anne and her crew needed to travel, but when we lived there I was in elementary school and travel restrictions were rampant, so I got to let my fingers do the walking and discovered some truly awe-inspiring corners of the country. It was part of my own experience of magical realism to discover that there were real places that closely matched dreamscapes I'd never visited in real life. At a certain level, having that tie-in makes me wonder whether my fantasy really is that far removed from reality.

Do you have any reading recommendations?

The author who really inspired this series is Katherine Kurtz. Her Adept series is set in modern-day Scotland, and explores spirituality in the context of magic and reality that really grabbed my attention. She repeated the formula with the Templars of the middle ages, and describes her reality-based fantasy as crypto-history: A different take on the realities in front of us, granting the possibility that there might be more magic in the world than the modern world normally grants. I would recommend either of those series. And her Deryni series.

In fact, if you ask me for reading recommendations on too much deeper of a level, I'm likely to pull an Anne-like librarian mode on you and start drilling down to genre preferences and style preferences. So I'll cut myself off here.

Is there anything else you’d like to say for our readers?

Writing is such a singular journey, it's strange to be at this end of it and starting to see people reacting to my words. But ultimately I think the balance between personal and group experiences is what gives us the inspiration to be able to craft anything coherent. Unless you have the discipline to pull back from either extreme I don't think you'll either start or finish a new work.

Again, many, many thanks to you for joining us and I'll hope you'll keep us apprised!

Check these links out for more information on Tonya, her book, and what's up next!!

Get her book here!



Want to know more about Tonya's book??

Check out her blog and her Publisher!!         

Want to chat with Tonya? (She's totally awesome, I promise!) :D :D

Give her a shout out on Twitter or Facebook!


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