Tony describes himself as a ‘refugee’ from the city of Flint, Michigan. In the 1970’s, his hometown was considered to be the Mecca of America’s blue collar workforce. All of that changed in the latter part of that decade when the automobile industry began laying off workers by the Tens of Thousands. An American way of life was changed forever and Tony was there to witness it firsthand.
In the 1980’s, as a young man, Tony found himself in Oklahoma City, where he held the dubious honor of being the ‘highest earning bartender’ in 3 states. So his employers would tolerate his propensity for witnessing to customers, co-workers and on one occasion, a professed Satan worshiper, from across the bar. Tony would tell these people he would encounter about how ‘Jesus could change their lives,’ and many listened. For this, however, he was denied membership at a local church. The reason? He ‘fraternized with sinners.’
In the mid 1990′s, Tony was in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There he broke traditional ‘fry-bread’ with a very old Native American couple in their modest pueblo home on the reservation. They talked about religions, about ‘hospitality,’ and about the priceless thousand year old clay pots that lined on their mantle.
In the 2000’s Tony was living in Indianapolis, Indiana. He and wife Karen went there knowing that they had no jobs lined up, no house to live in, and no family or friends there to help them. They were about $40,000.00 in debt and they had two small kids in tow… but they also believed that God had sent them. Within less than four years, God not only allowed them to get completely out of debt and buy a house of their own, but they bought several – some for rental properties, and some to fix-up and resell. In both ‘paying it back’ while ‘paying it forward,’ Tony continued in his witnessing efforts, speaking to tenants and to those whom he would help to purchase their very own first homes.
In the 2010’s Tony and Karen moved to NW Arkansas where they currently live and where they continue to seek God’s guidance every day.
Tony Cleaver’s debut novel, A Chain Of Flames, is a story about how different people – some on the front of society and some on the fringe – are able to find their way to God . . . or how God leads them, despite their disasters, their difficulties or their levels of malcontent. In creating uniquely rich characters, with intricately interwoven story lines, Tony draws from the extraordinary events of his own personal experiences.
What inspires you to write?
What inspires me to write is generally my desire for connecting with people- not just in a passive measure, but by a more integral method. I like to relate to folks on a deeper level in concerning this mad dash that we all find ourselves in. I mean seriously- ‘life is nuts.’ …and it’s grand, and it’s sad, and it’s happy, and it’s … all those things. So I try to put some sort of commonality into all the wonderful absurdity; because we’re all in it together.
Tell us about your writing process.
It’s a rhythm as much as a process. I have to feel it naturally as well as know it categorically. I write from my gut and then refine as I go. Then I refine some more, and some more, but I try to leave a little of the initial ‘rawness’ intact within the story… to feed the soul, as well as the mind.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Not really. But I do sort of ‘channel’ my characters at times. Sometimes I will catch myself staring into space and then speaking as if I was the character that I am doing dialog for. In their voice, and everything! I know- crazy, right? Then I have to look around and make sure that no one has heard me. Or I’ll look outside my window and make sure that there’s not a van with rubberized walls pulling up in the driveway.
What advice would you give other writers?
Don’t write like anyone else. I don’t care what that hack of a college professor told you about writing. You should write like ‘You.’ Don’t try to be Stephen King or Mia Angelo or… anyone else. You be you. Then it’s real- then it’s pure.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I prayed about it. …’nough said.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think we’re entering a sort of golden age with eBooks and with on demand publishing, too. I know that they’ve both been around for a while but I think that self-publishing for the masses is ‘ripening’ or ‘coming of age,’ if you will. At first, there was (and maybe even continues to be) a sort ‘frenzy’ on the part of both writers and readers. Suddenly, it became possible for just anyone to publish a book and place it online, and for whatever price they decided. That has its good points, and its bad points. To some extent, it takes control away from the big money-grubbing publishing houses – or ‘gate-keepers’ – and allows for unique and new voices to enter the scene. However, just because someone is able to do a thing, does not necessarily mean that he or she should be doing it, regardless of how low the price is. But I think this is where the idea of an Indie Author renaissance comes into play. As the movement continues to mature, the market will naturally adjust itself. As the novelty continues to wear off, I think that readers will become more willing to pay a few dollars for quality and begin to ignore all the perpetually free or ridiculously cheap stuff that is out there. The ‘cream’ of Independent Publishers will rise to the top and we won’t have to succumb to being force-fed by traditional publishing. All and all, I think the future of book publishing looks very bright.
What genres do you write?
Christian Fiction, General Fiction
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print