Sunday, October 19, 2014

Author interview: Cynthia T. Toney

Today, I would like to introduce you to Cynthia T. Toney, an author who has a passion for writing young adult fiction! Cynthia is here to give you a glimpse into her life as a writer and to tell you about her award-winning book Bird Face

Here's a description from Cynthia about her book Bird Face: 

Anonymous sticky-notes, a scheming bully, and a ruined summer send fourteen-year-old Wendy down a trail of secrets and self-discovery. 

At the end of eighth grade, Wendy Robichaud doesn't care one bit about being popular like her good-looking classmates Tookie and the Sticks—until Brainiac bully John-Monster schemes against her, and someone leaves anonymous sticky-note messages all over school. Even her best friend, Jennifer, is hiding something and pulling away. But the Spring Program, abandoned puppies, and high school track team tryouts don’t leave much time to play detective. When secrets and failed dreams kick off the summer, will Jennifer still be around to support her as high school starts in the fall?
Using humor and offering hope, this story for ages 11 to 14 delicately addresses issues of bullying, eating disorders, imperfect families, and teen suicide.

Ready to learn more about Cynthia and her book? 
Read on for the author interview (questions by Alexis in bold font, answers by Cynthia not in bold): 

Alexis: Your book Bird Face won the Bronze Award for Pre-teen Fiction Mature Issues. Congratulations! Why did you write Bird Face, what is it about and how do you feel about winning the award?

Cynthia: Thank you, Alexis. The Moonbeam Children’s Book Award validates my purpose in writing the story. I wanted to show kids who are shy or feel like outcasts or who are growing up in difficult situations that they have the power within themselves to become the person they want to be. When you’re young and at the mercy of others around you who are unkind, it’s hard to believe that life won’t always be like it is right now. I hope the story of Bird Face encourages them not to give up on themselves.

What does your book title Bird Face mean?

Bird Face is actually the common name for an abnormality of the face. The bully character in the story calls the main character that name, and because she is already self-conscious and has trouble making friends, she is crushed when she learns what it means.

According to your blog post about the book Rivet Your Readers, “deep POV puts the reader inside the POV character’s head, allowing the reader to experience what the character experiences at the moment he or she does”. Why do you recommend Rivet Your Readers as the best book to help authors create deep point of view (POV)?

It isn’t the only book that helps in understanding deep POV, but it is a small and handy reference. There are larger volumes that contain chapters on POV, and I use them too. But if improving POV is your focus, I recommend the inexpensive Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View. If you’re just getting started writing fiction, it will help you select the POV and tense to tell your story in.

How have you as a published author, created deep POV in your story? Please share a snapshot of your insight, method and writing techniques.

Bird Face is written in first person, past tense, in the single POV of Wendy, a half-Cajun girl. I never change the POV to that of any other character, therefore the reader can’t know anything except through Wendy’s eyes. I put myself in her shoes and constantly asked myself what she would do, think, or say in reaction to any given motivation. As much as possible, everything she experiences is written as though it were coming from inside me. For example, I didn’t write, I thought I should go. I wrote, I should go.

Who is your publisher? Do you have an agent? How did you get published?

My publisher is SharksFinn Books, an imprint of Port Yonder Press. I learned of Port Yonder Press from a critique partner I acquired after joining American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). I can’t stress enough the benefits of belonging to ACFW. Make the small investment that first year, and the renewal is less after that. Writers can connect with critique groups and receive online courses, among other perks. Members learn about publishers and agents through ACFW, although I don’t currently have an agent.

What is your target audience? Do you only write young adult fiction? Why or why not?

Technically, my target audience for Bird Face is girls from ages 11 to 14, but women have responded well to the story. They say they relate it to their middle school or junior-high years and wish they had read a story like it back then. Men like reading it in order to relate to their daughters and discuss it with them. For now at least, I write only YA fiction. It’s what I most enjoy reading.

Describe your passion for writing. When did you start? Why did you start and where do you want your writing to go in the next 10 to 15 years?

My writing started with trying a number of different types of writing. Greeting cards (couldn’t sell any of that). Catalog and direct-response mail (as part of a marketing job). A decorating newsletter (my own). Articles for online publications (paid and unpaid). Then I had the crazy idea to write a book! I had a lot of interruptions, so it took a decade. But now, writing novels for teens is all I want to do. I have a YA historical being looked at by a publisher, and I’m working on a sequel to Bird Face, so I hope to have another book published in the near future.

Would you say your faith plays a role in your writing? If yes, then please explain how.

Definitely. I asked for guidance in telling the story of Bird Face and help in getting it into the hands of girls who needed to read it. When searching for an agent or publisher, I prayed every day for one who would recognize the book’s value. And the praying never stops, because I need all the help I can get in marketing it.

Are you able to make a decent living as an author or do you have another job?

Because my husband retired and we live very simply, I was able to quit working a day job and concentrate on a writing career. We’ll see if it eventually earns a decent living!

If you were not a writer, what would you like to be?

A veterinarian. I love animals, especially dogs. I help rescue them from animal shelters before they are euthanized.

Describe your writing space.

I use whatever spare room we have, preferably a small bedroom.

What inspires you as an author?

Little everyday things that inspire a character, piece of dialogue, or a subplot. I think readers like to see bits of themselves and their lives in a story that also offers them something new.

Who are your favorite authors?

Wendelin Van Draanen, Betsy Byars, and Judy Blume, all authors of contemporary novels for teens.

What Christian fiction books are on your must-read list and what books from the Christian fiction genre do you recommend? Please name a few and provide a sentence or two as to why my readers should go buy these books.

Two interesting novels I’ve recently read are Crooked Lines and Moonfall: Tales from the Levant. In Crooked Lines, a girl in the U.S. and a boy in India grow up and start very different lives, but their paths eventually cross. Moonfall is a fictional account of the fall of Jericho that provides a glimpse into what life must have been like for the people of that time, told from the POV of a teenage girl.

Why should my readers buy and read your book?

The story of Bird Face is unpredictable. It holds something new for each reader, I believe.

What is your favorite beverage? My own iced coffee.

What is your favorite color and why? Blue, because it makes me feel cooler.

Who is your favorite music artist or choir? Italian singers Ornella Vanoni (female) and Andrea Bocelli (male)

If you could live one place in the world for at least one year, where would you live and why?

Italy--because of the natural beauty, the art and architecture, the music, and the food!

Complete this sentence: As a writer, I ________________ because ___________________________________.

As a writer, I love to revise (call me crazy) because I love improving or adding details that make a story come to life.

Thank you for the interview, Cynthia!

Author bio: 
Cynthia enjoys writing both historical and contemporary teen fiction with a touch of mystery and romance. She holds a BA in art education with a minor in history, and her career began as an advertising designer and marketing copywriter for newspapers and other publishers. She has a passion for rescuing dogs from animal shelters and encourages people to adopt and save the life of a shelter dog or cat. She also enjoys cooking Cajun and Italian and studying the complex history of the Southern U.S., where she resides with her husband and several dogs.

Contact Cynthia T. Toney: 

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