Wednesday 7 November 2018

Author Profile and Interview with Cynthia Toney

Author Profile and Interview with Cynthia Toney

Cynthia T. Toney is the author of the Bird Face Wendy series and also a historical fiction novel set in the 1920’s in the south. She has contributed to one anthology. She tirelessly supports other Christian authors and is dedicated to supporting Catholic Teen books and authors. Cynthia took some time from her busy schedule to answer 20 questions for the readers here at Book reviews and More. So, here in her own words is Cynthia:

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you nurture that dream?

I wanted to learn to write while still in school, long before I thought I might become a writer. I could handle short compositions but nothing longer than a page. It didn’t help my confidence that a professor made fun of my assignment in class! I had tried to inject humor into my writing, but I guess he was looking for something high-brow. I later knew I needed to become a writer when I kept trying to rewrite others’ advertising copy while working in advertising and marketing design. I tried to write greeting cards, but no one was interested in my work, LOL.

2. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

Perhaps an advertising and marketing designer until I retired. But if I had my whole adult life to do over, I would’ve studied to become a veterinarian.

3. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?

My husband simply would not give up on me. He gave me emotional support while I sought my first publisher and waited for the first book, now out of print, to be published. He encouraged me and praised my books each time a new one was published. I think my mother would have been a big supporter, but she passed away before seeing the first book.

4. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

When I read Betsy Byars’ Bingo Brown series, I loved the humor so much. I wanted to write stories for the age group she did and told myself I could create a story at least as good as one of those.

5. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

When I start thinking about writing a new story, I open up to random ideas at first. Sometimes I jot them down, but I don’t have the whole story formulated. Then I try to come up with an opening line or two that might grab the reader by giving the main character’s emotional state. At first, I think only about how I want the story to start and to end. Then I try to decide what needs to happen in the middle to make that exciting. So, I build and fill in from those three points. 

6. Is your writing process different for contemporary fiction compared to your historical fiction offering.

Not much, but I found an outline of sorts proved necessary for my historical, The Other Side of Freedom, whereas not so much for the contemporary novels. If the story requires an outline for me to keep track of everything, I write short chapter summaries. That way, I can print them, cut them apart, make notes, and rearrange them to study. 

7. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?

I have never been able to accomplish mental tasks while listening to music or television in the background. Maybe a train on nearby railroad tracks. I find the rumbling soothing, and the horns don’t bother me.

8. What of your books was the hardest to write and why?

Other than the first one, which took ten years because of personal and career interruptions, my historical novel took the longest. That was probably due to the research required to make the setting and events believable. 

9. One of the greatest strengths in your books are the characters, they are so solid and believable. The characters you create, are they reflections of people you know, composites of different people you know or entirely your creations?

Thank you for that. My characters are usually completely imagined or a combination of many people I’ve known, sometimes only for a brief period of time. If a characteristic or trait either impresses or annoys me, I often think how I might use it for a character. But a writer must be careful when combining traits because, if traits appear together in a character, they must combine in a way that still allows the character to be believable. So, in real life, would or could someone who is or does a certain something also be able to be or do a certain something else?

10. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated: "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

They often feel as real to me as my Facebook friends I’ve never met online! In the same way, I imagine them talking and moving about in their daily lives. I do think of what they might do next in the same novel or in a different setting with different people around them. I imagine that’s also how other authors develop their sequels. 

11. If you happened to get glimpses of Wendy from the Bird Face series could you see yourself returning to that character at a different point in her life?

I could. I’m planning to give her some space for right now, like a mother would give a teenage child who, after many trials, has proven herself to be trustworthy. 

12. What were some of your favorite books and authors when you were younger?

As a child, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. In high school, The Scarlet Letter, which I believe was required in ninth grade.  The period when I began reading a lot of novels and true-crime was my twenties. I remember reading Helter Skelter and The Thorn Birds, as well as many of the best-sellers of the time. Before that, I suppose I stayed busy with high school and college assignments. I’m sure I read other books in my youth, but I can’t remember them now.

13. You spend a lot of time promoting other authors and supporting them and their works. How and why did you develop this habit?

Once I became an author, I met so many good authors, many of them Catholic and Christian who were overlooked. Their books were better than the best sellers from big publishing houses! The difference in their success was that those with well-known publishers had big-budget marketing supporting them. I also noticed that Catholic authors of YA novels suitable for Catholic teens had not organized into a cross-promotion support group. That’s how the Books for Catholic Teens Facebook group came into being. At first, A.J. Cattapan and I didn’t know if we’d find enough of us to create a working group. Boy, were we surprised! From there, the group known as Catholic Teen Books formed, with the website

14. Who are some of your favorite authors or books now?

I thought Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab, and A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz were very clever. I just haven’t had time to read any more books in the series for those. 

15. If you could only recommend 10 Catholic books, what would they be?

These are some I’ve recently read and enjoyed, and I bet you haven’t seen a list quite like this. Nothing classic here. Non-fiction is listed first.

Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World by Jean M. Heimann
Marie Antoinette, Daughter of the Caesars by Elena Maria Vidal
Italian Louisiana: History, Heritage, and Tradition by Alan G. Gautreaux
Crusader King by Susan Peek,
Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body by Erin McCole Cupp and others,
A Shepherd’s Song by Janice Lane Palko, 
Falling As She Sings by C.J. Sursum,
The Boys Upstairs by Jane Lebak,

Instead of completing this list with two more books, I recommend readers visit the Catholic Teen Books website and select one of its many wonderful novels for tweens and teens. I’ve read most and can’t choose only two from among them. 

16. All your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. Some authors monitor torrent sites and have their publishers contact them to remove their content. Do you do so are have someone do so for you?

My publisher was not having much success with that, so I subscribed to Blasty from Google. They remove those bootleg sites from Google searches for my books so as to minimize people finding them there. 

17. Your eBooks are only available through Kindle, are you concerned that you might be limiting your readership by not being on the Kobo, or iBooks platforms? 

My publisher tried Kobo for one or more of my books, but we didn’t sell any there. We also discussed iBooks, and there was a reason we decided not to pursue that, but now I don’t remember. I think it had something to do with Amazon. Amazon keeps changing its policies, so I might bring up the subject of iBooks again. 

18. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

First, I think good parents should teach their children how to think. Today’s institutions of higher education, and some secondary schools, seem to teach students what to think, not how to think for themselves. Higher education should teach students to research primary sources of information such as Church and government documents and not rely solely on watered-down or politically correct rewritten history. 

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

I perhaps wouldn’t need 10. My bible and books on survival and those I’ve read about foraging for edible plants would be most needed.

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists particularly those looking to have their art reflect their faith?

Be not afraid.

Thank you, Cynthia, for responding to our 20 questions. And I look forward to the book you will publish next. And if you have not read her books give them a chance they are all excellent reads!

Books by Cynthia T. Toney:
The Other Side of Freedom

Bird Face Series:
8 Notes to a Nobody
10 Steps to Girlfriend Status
6 Dates to Disaster
3 Things to Forget

Contributed to:
Secrets: Visible & Invisible 7 Amazing Stories - Catholic Teen Books
Gifts Visible & Invisible 8 Christmas Stories for Teens
Ashes Visible & Invisible 10 Stories for Teens

Author Profile and Interview with Cynthia Toney. 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for this in-depth interview, Steven!