Interview with Susan M. Toy
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Today, I have the pleasure of featuring one of my favorite bloggers. Susan M. Toy is a talented writer who is a huge supporter of indie authors. Her blog is an absolute treasure and I highly recommend you stop by the moment you've finished reading this interview!
Welcome, Susan. I'm so glad to have you here today. Can you tell us about your most recent release?
That Last Summer was ePublished in September, 2013, as part of the launch of my new imprint, IslandShorts. I ePublish longform short stories, poetry and creative non-fiction written by me and other authors. http://islandeditions.wordpress.com/islandshorts/
This novella is the first of three I’ve written, and in the future I will also be collecting together several short stories to be published in groupings.
That Last Summer captures the magic of the summer of ’65 in this tale of love and loss of innocence. The lake is alive with boys and girls, water skiing and romancing. Rachel constantly spars with her younger sister, neither girl realizing the extent of life-changing problems that float below the surface for both a friend’s family and their own. Toy writes with confidence and elegance in That Last Summer and, as Juliet says in a famous scene performed around an August bonfire, “Parting is such sweet sorrow … ”
How did you get the idea for the book?
My parents bought a summer cottage north of Toronto, Canada, the year I was born and I spent my first sixteen summers there, living what, now to me seems like an idyllic childhood. The story, while not autobiographical, is based on those experiences growing up next to a lake, living in a bathing suit from dawn to dusk. My father began shooting Regular 8 “home” movies when I was 3, so our summers were forever captured on film. Fifty years later I had those films transferred to CDs to preserve them and cannot now watch without bursting into tears every time – so many memories. So the seed of the story came to me after preserving those films, and I began writing That Last Summer as my entry for a 3-Day Novel Contest. I’ve subsequently entered two more of these contests and have two other novellas completed and ready for editing and ePublishing under IslandShorts.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
Keeping my bum-in-seat and writing the damn thing! For all my writing, this has proved to be a challenge. I have a million things on the go at any given time, stories galore in my head, and I’m easily distracted by any or all of them. I’m especially susceptible to social media. Plus I promote a lot of other authors, so I always have the excuse of “work” to do that leaves me no time for my own writing. (The simple explanation, though, is I’m a terrible procrastinator.) I discovered that writing for the 3-Day Novel Contest, in which you pledge to write a novel over the long weekend at the end of the summer, was just the discipline I required. Right now, I’m trying to get back at rewriting and editing my second novel, but … Oh, look! There’s something else, anything else, I could be doing, instead!
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m editing a non-fiction manuscript for a friend and helping him to publish, and waiting to edit more stories written by Michael Fay that will be ePublished by IslandShorts. I really must get back to the above-mentioned second novel in the Bequia Perspectives Series, though. One Woman’s Island follows Island in the Clouds, is also set on the island of Bequia in the Caribbean (where I live half the year) and involves some recurring characters. This story is told from the perspective of a Canadian woman who moves to the island to put distance between herself and a recent personal tragedy. Her attempt to “live among the locals” does not turn out quite as planned when she becomes involved in solving what appears to be a murder.
What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?
The first thing you should do is ask, “Why do I write?” and keep asking the question on a regular basis. It does not matter whether you want to write for pleasure, are compelled to tell stories, or expect to achieve glory, fame and fortune. You just need to be clear in your mind why it is you are writing, so that you have a goal to strive for and are not disappointed or frustrated all the time. This is your reality check. (I wrote a blog post about this recently. http://islandeditions.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/why-do-you-write-2/)
The next thing you need to do is learn something about your craft. Take writing lessons, join a writing group, associate with other writers. Hone that craft, keep writing as much as you can, and note that even the very best, most accomplished authors know that there is always room for improvement. Always.
If it’s your goal to have your work published, either traditionally or by publishing it yourself, learn about the business of publishing. You should at the very least be aware of how the industry has functioned and evolved over the past three to four decades, and how ePublishing and self-publishing is now changing the landscape. (I have always wanted to teach a class I would call Publishing for Writers. I’m shocked by how little many established and beginning writers know about how their books--whether print or electronic--make it into a reader’s hands. I’ve spent my entire working career working in the book biz, so I believe I might be able to pass on a great deal of information, if others were willing to listen.)
All authors should READ. Period. Read as much as you can, written by a variety of authors (preferably international), in every possible genre–and keep reading. The best way to learn how to write well is to read.
The two best qualities every writer should possess are patience and tenacity—know that it will all eventually come together (even though it may seem as though everything is taking too long) and hang on until that happens.
Finally, promote your fellow authors. Buy their books, read their books, recommend their books to friends and on social media and by reviewing them. And don’t ever do this because you think you might get some reciprocal promotion. Just do it because it’s the right thing to do. You are part of a community now and communities work best when they work together and the individual members support each other. (I wrote another blog post about this, too. http://islandeditions.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/dear-writer-its-not-all-about-you-ya-know-a-reminder/)
I write and publish a promotion blog, Reading Recommendations http://readingrecommendations.wordpress.com/, and support my fellow authors by promoting them in many different ways. There are many other authors who are also writing similar blogs (like Tricia Drammeh!) or offer free promotional services. Consider doing the same on your own blog (you do have a blog, don’t you?) and offer promotional space to your fellow authors. You will be amazed what this can do for your own writing and career. Plus, it will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, too!
That is excellent advice, Susan. Again, thank you so much for visiting with us today.
For more information about Susan M. Toy, her books, and promotion of other authors, plus a few good photos of cats and the tropics, visit http://islandeditions.wordpress.com/about-susan-m-toy/
Where to buy her books: http://islandeditions.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/where-in-the-world-can-you-purchase-island-in-the-clouds/ and http://islandeditions.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/where-to-purchase-islandshorts-ebooks2.pdf
Connect with Susan on Social Media:
To read a sample of That Last Summer, click here: http://www.flipsnack.com/9A6CDD97C6F/fhm84i8m.html
To read a sample chapter of Island in the Clouds, click here: http://www.flipsnack.com/9A6CDD97C6F/fh327e0f.html