About Toni Mari:
I was born in May, so my Chinese zodiac sign is, wait for it, the horse. My connection to horses goes deeper than just training them. I think like a horse. I crave company. I like routine. I’m easily bored and look around to create my own excitement. I could eat cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And I need the outdoors, especially grassy land. When I’m driving, I find myself studying grassy lawns and highway medians, assessing the quality of forage and imagining fencing it in for my beasts to feast on. “Boy,” I think to myself, “Valentin would enjoy sticking his nose in that grass.” I worked in Philadelphia for a few years, and became miserable. Too much cement!
My horses live in my backyard. The window next to my desk looks out on my pastures. When I need inspiration, I simply pull back the curtain and gaze at my horses. I absorb their tranquility and joy. They are, of course, grazing. If the door is open, I call their names. They will obligingly lift their heads and with a switch of their tails, tell me to get back to work.
What inspires you to write?
I have spent years training horses and kids and it has never been boring. I want to share the heart wrenching feelings of bonding with a horse and the exhilaration of participating in a show. The ribbons and trophies barely scratch the surface of the blood, sweat and tears that go into equestrian sports. Every time I am with horses, I have an exciting moment to share. I want to inspire and entertain readers with my stories.
Tell us about your writing process.
I have used each method, outlining and seat of the pants, and flip flop between the two as I write. I begin with a brief, basic outline, start writing scenes that are occupying my mind, and then go back and toy with the outline. I follow the outline again, until a scene I am writing inspires a new story line, so I go back to the outline and work it in. Often, the new inspiration comes from introducing a new character or writing a situation with an old one that needs to be expanded. Sometimes, I will take one character and follow them through my whole outline, making sure their story line is consistent and complete. I use Scrivener, which I am learning and like a lot, and I also use Word and handwritten notes. In Scrivener, if I write a line describing something about a character, I copy it and paste it in the character’s document to keep track of the little defining details, such as who has light brown eyes and a pointy chin, etc. I have bad short term memory, and double check my details often.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I do ask my characters questions. I also say dialog out loud to see what it sounds like as well as acting out reactions physically to make sure they are believable.
What advice would you give other writers?
Check and double check the details of your descriptions. I lose my involvement in a story when a scene stops being believable. Did you say the character was tired, then how would they have the energy to pace the room? Did you say the sun was shining and it was hot, then why would the character zip up their jacket? That kind of thing. Beta readers help with these details, because they bring a first impression that the writer can never have since the story has been in her head for months.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I started out doing the traditional route with agent queries. I did have some positive responses, but they took such a long time that I self-published while I was waiting. The fact that an agent requested to see my book, read it and took the time to write back some suggestions for improvement encouraged me to believe that my stories were worth writing, and rewriting. Once I self-published and experienced the flexibility and control I had over my work, I became reluctant to turn it over to someone else. But to be successful doing it yourself, you must be prepared to work hard and take a distant, professional view of your work once it is done. You are not your book. Step back and hear the response you get from every reader, pro or friend, because if you want to sell your books, You have to be willing to tear out parts you may like if they do not communicate to your reader. I listen to every comment and decide if my intent was misunderstood or if that was exactly the way I meant for them to feel.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
People will always read and they want fresh, up to date, relevant stories. Keep up with the times, learn what the people want and include it in your work. Book publishing is changing just like every other industry out there. Technology drives the change, but there will always be reading.
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?: Teen and women’s fiction
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print