Thursday, October 30, 2008

Interview with Author of Three Moon Station

Although author Toni V. Sweeney originally had a very large family (her great-great-great-grandfather had 36 children), recently it has been decimated to just herself, her son and grandchildren, and one cousin living in the Great White North. They are Alsatian in origin, Middle Georgian by region. Anyone wanting to know more about her family should read her short story "Second Interview with a Vampire." It sums us up pretty well.

Toni Sweeney's website:
myspace site:

She can also be found on Facebook and book trailers of some of her books on YouTube.

Book Hookup sat down with Toni recently who wrote Three Moon Station under the pseudonym Icy Snow Blackstone and this is what she had to say:

When did you consider yourself a writer? You know what I mean? The time when you realized that you crossed the line from 'want to be a writer' to 'I am a writer'.

It was in the last century, around '88, if my memory is correct. Due to circumstances which I will pass over because my friends have heard the story so much, it's become tiresome, I was an impoverished single mother working as an insurance clerk in a Midwest clinic. (How poor were you?) I was so poor, I began writing books because I couldn't afford to buy any. Almost everyone at work was a reader, sneaking short "reads" during breaks, etc, so I took the manuscripts to work and shared them with my co-workers. One dared me to submit one to a publisher, and I did. The rest is history...sort of.

Do you feel you have more than one voice in your writing?

I guess I must because some of the things I write about I don't personally believe in, but I put it in because of character development or plot continuity or some other facet. The again, a good portion of my writing is just li'l ol' moi. IT would be interesting to have someone who knows me read one of my books and see if they can pick out which is which.

What kept you writing while getting rejection letters or struggling with writer's block?

Plain old stubbornness! And I'm gonna show them attitude. Of course, I rather doubt those editors I targeted will ever know that a story or book they rejected got published somewhere else--unless I become a front-page, best-selling author, that is--but I get a vicarious thrill out of seeing an acceptance and thinking, "There! What do you think of that?"

As for writer's block...I've only suffered from that twice, and both times, it came after the particularly violent death of someone I knew. One was someone very dear to me,

the other was a co-worker. The first time, my writer's block ran for two years; I'm just coming out of the second one now, after 5 months. Something like

that makes you think, what's the can be gone in a second...and the ol' brain just refuses to indulge itself. Then, someone or something provides that little spark and the seed of a story plants itself and--whether you want it to or not--begins to grow...

Do you use certain tricks that help prevent you from straying from your goal?

I'm exceptionally singleminded--unless I see that what I'm doing is definitely a lost cause, as in the case of a recent manuscript. Two people read it for me, pointed out that I was extremely wrong in several places, and made me realize that I didn't know enough to write the book, so I scrapped it. Perhaps some time I'll do more research and pick it up again but for now, I'm setting it aside. Ordinarily, though, I just plunk m'self in front of the computer, keep a supply of drinkables nearby and start typing!

How did you come to set this goal?

I've always been one to finish what I start (except in certain cases, see above.) That's always been one of my strong points, whether I'm writing a book, doing a project at work, or helping out at a club function. Ol' Dependable, that's me!

Tell me about any workshops you offer?

I'm sorry to admit that I don't do workshops. I don't feel that's I'm worthy--or capable--of telling others how to do anything. I'm on a 3rd grad level in math and my son is a math teacher and is always asking me (since I'm so mathematically illiterate) to give him suggestions on how to help his students who have trouble. I told him if I knew that, I wouldn't be mathematically illiterate, would I? IT would be a case of the blind leading the blind!

What inspired you to write Three Moon Station?

Three Moon Station was written in the early 1990's. I had seen a made-for-TV movie called Murder by Moonlight in which a murderer hides out on the moon while the police are searching Earth for him. That got me to thinking...what if someone witnessed a murder and no place on Earth was safe? How about going to another planet? What if the hit men followed her? The first two chapters were the most difficult to write, however. I just couldn't seem to get them right...I rewrote them probably seven times, then threw all but one away, even though it wasn't the most satisfactory. In fact, in a fit of what I can only describe as--total madness--I actually destroyed the rest of the manuscript! Just tossed it into the trash. Last year, someone I hadn't heard from in 15 years, e-mailed me to tell me he had found a copy of Three Moon Station in his computer files, that I'd given him and wanted to know if I'd like it back? He e-mailed it to me. Except for the first two chapters, it was all there. I transcribed it, added the two chapters I still had, and submitted it to The Wild Rose Press, where it was accepted. We didn't part under exactly friendly circumstances and he could've just deleted it from his files, but didn't. Thanks for that, Brian!

I also have a Black Rose novelette ("Demon in Blue Jeans") with The Wild Rose Press, which was released October 29th. The source for this story was a Country/Western song that I'd heard back in the '80 while I was working as a Physician's Assistant. I think it was called "Somebody's Knockin'" and is about a woman who thinks the Devil—with blue eyes and blue jeans--is knocking at her door. The story has been in my head for 20 years but I only decided to break down and write it last year.

How long will we wait for the next book?

Sinbad's Wife, the sequel to Sinbad's Last Voyage, should be out in November. I'd always like the movie The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and decided to do my own take on the story. My Sinbad is a smuggler, half-human, half-feline--and sexy as all get-out! In the first book, he meets Andi Talltrees, an adopted Navajo, and they spend most of the novel fighting with each other and with various aliens before admitting they are madly in love. Sinbad's Wife puts a twist on the reluctant bridegroom theme with Andi being the one who refuses to marry Sin and tells how he "tricks" her into it and the repercussions of her marrying a man wanted on 5 planets by the United Terran Federation.

How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?

I probably do it all wrong. Either they just pop into my head or I'll see something--like that movie--and elaborate on a specific section of it.

How do you come up with ideas for your writings and why do you feel you choose some over others?

I write what I like to read, that's it plain and simple. Sometimes I have to change things as I go along but generally what I start with is what I end up with. There have been two exceptions to that rule--the heroes of Bloodseek and Blood Sin. In Bloodseek (published by Double Dragon Publications), the hero started out as a Boba Fett-like county hunter; he ended up a knight on a quest of vengeance. The main character in Blood Sin was originally a Mr. Spock-type character, with such a tight rein on his emotions, he was almost an android; he evolved into a hard-drinking, womanizing, Terran-hating alien. About the only thing he kept was his name and home planet!

How much time do you devote to marketing your book and what kind of marketing do you recommend?

Now that I'm out of a "day job," when I'm not sending out resumes and applications, I'm online at blogsites, entering contests, submitting manuscripts, and completing interviews like this one. I spend a great deal of "free" time doing that—early in the morning, late at night. I pass out my business card whenever I can, and a local comics store puts flyers in their sales bags--advertising my latest book--for me. I also take out ads in some of the Publishers magazines.

What are your current projects?

At the moment, I have contracts for three novels with Lyrical Press (one of which--Earthman's Bride--just won first in the 2008 Maryland Romance Writers contest Reveal Your Inner Vixen in the alternate paranormal division) and a conditional contract for Blood Sin with Leucrota Press, and am waiting for edits on those novels. Other than that, I'm editing the first book (Shadow Lord) in my vampire series, The Second Species.

Where do you hope to take your writing in the future?

Wherever it wants to go! It would be nice if I could snag a feature spot on the Science Fiction Book Club, or have one of my books made into a TV movie for the Sci-Fi channel, or--Hey! Have Shadow Lord optioned by Universal--that may all be a daydream, but stranger things have happened, haven't they?

What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing? Any special memories that you would like to share...please, oh, please?

Getting something published at all! When you consider the percentage of accepted manuscripts versus rejections...the odds are almost astronomical. Special memories? As the song says...I have a few... Seeing my very first book sitting on a bookshelf...having my son, who has refused steadfastly to read my stories,download two from Amazon Shorts...having an editor who has published several of my short stories in one of his magazines write me this line in his acceptance e-mail: What I ought to do is hire you to teach some of these (would-be writers) how to write a vampire romance. That really puffed up my ego, Big Time! the song goes on...I did it my way!

How do your friends and family feel about your writing venture in general?

As far as I can tell, they're pretending it isn't happening. I have never had one communication from my family concerning my writing. I don't know, perhaps I'm an embarrassment to them, because I didn't just become a good little homemaker and have a bunch of kids and when the kids were grown, get a part time job to keep me busy. Hey, folks, it wasn't my fault! I tried the "Leave it to Beaver" lifestyle but it rejected me, not the other way around! With the exception of my son's endorsement, and one aunt who religiously buys my book though I believe she has yet to read one, that's it. (You're aware that a prophet is without honor in his own country, aren't you?) Thank you, everyone who isn't related to me and has bought something I've written! (And you know who you are!)

What do you do to unwind and relax?

Believe it or not, I read! And watch TV, although I generally fall asleep before the denouement! I have watched so many shows and never seen the ending and found out who done it! I'm grateful for On Demand which shows reruns of a lot of the series I watch. Now if I could only stay awake while watching that...

If you had to do it over again, would you do anything differently?

I sure would--if I could have the foreknowledge of what happened before. Doing it over again implies that you know how it happened last time, otherwise you're doomed to repeat the same mistake again and again. Oh yes, there are several points in my life where I'd very much do it differently, you better believe it!

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

1. Be determined.

2. Develop a thick skin.

3. Be patient.

Doing # 2 will help you with #1, and vice versa; doing #3 ( combined with # 1 and 2) may just make you a successful author...someday!


Beth Trissel said...

Wonderful interview, Toni. You've had an amazing journey. I think that movie idea sounds great.

Miss Mae said...

Wow, these were some fantastic questions! Congrats on your release, Toni!

Ellen said...

Thanks for the invitation, Toni! It's a wonderful interview and as a fellow Rose I'm wishing you a huge congrats on your release :))


Debra St. John said...

Hi Toni. This was a great've perservered through so much. On a lighter note, "Somebody's Knockin" is a GREAT song! I get so many ideas from songs as well.

Donna Sundblad said...

Hi Beth,

Glad to hear you enjoyed the interview. It's so easy to have a good interview when you have an interesting life!


Donna Sundblad said...

Hi Miss Mae,

Glad you enjoyed the interview, thanks for visiting Book Hookup.


Donna Sundblad said...

Hi Ellen,

Glad you enjoyed the interview. If you're ever interested in promoting your book here, just email me.


Donna Sundblad said...

Hi Debra,

So good to know you enjoyed the interview. Thanks for taking time to leave a comment.