A voracious reader since she was a toddler, and an ordained spiritualist, Tonya Cannariato has now presided over the marriage of her love of reading and her love of writing. She’s lived a nomadic life, following first her parents in their Foreign Service career through Africa, Europe, and Asia, and then her own nose criss-crossing America as she’s gotten old enough to make those choices for herself. She’s currently based in Milwaukee with her three loves: her husband and two Siberian Huskies. She suspects her Huskies of mystical alchemy with their joyous liberation of her muse and other magical beings for her inspiration. She loves to sleep, to watch her interesting dreams, some of which are now finding new life in written form.
Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
I’m a happily married Husky mom, with a day job as a web marketer.
Tell us (briefly) about you…
I was born into a foreign service family, so I’ve lived a lot of different places, so don’t have the firm sense of being rooted to a place I see in most people. In some ways I almost don’t consider myself American, since the culture still has the capacity to surprise me.
…and a bit about what you’ve written…
My favorite genre to read growing up was Fantasy, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that’s my writing inclination as well. On the other hand, my unconventional perspective bleeds into even that, so the stories I write tend to be a blend of several conventions. Demetional is mostly scifi romance, but it has components of spiritual inquiry and literary tendencies. Similarly, my debut novel, Dust to Blood, isn’t quite historical fiction (it’s set in 1992) since it includes a mystery and dragons.
…and what you’re working on right now.
Right now I’m hard at work on the follow-on novels in the Red Slaves trilogy. I’m hoping to knock out those drafts during NaNoWriMo.
What are your earliest book-related memories?
I don’t ever remember not reading, so some of my earliest memories were actually of reading books to my younger brother. I also remember my mom’s frustration with me, since I’ve always abandoned myself to the story, so she had a very hard time getting me to respond to questions or directions when I had my nose in a book.
What are your three favorite books?
I can’t actually answer that; the better question, I think, would be my three favorite worlds, partly because my favorite books pile up on top of each other as part of the world-building for a larger series. Top of that list is Anne McCaffrey’s Pern. She has at least 20 books in that world, and while some are stronger than others, they all represent a world that is my happy place. Next would be the experiences Madeleine L’Engle described across worlds in her Wrinkle In Time series. I love the intersection of philosophy and science and emotion she outlines in those books. Finally, in recent years, I’ve become a great fan of Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series. The speculation about what might happen should the comfortable, modern life we live without magical beings be disrupted by their sudden re-appearance really makes me happy.
How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
Mostly, I look for books that will absorb me to the exclusion of anything else so I finish them in a sitting. There are generally a handful at a time that I’ve started, but that didn’t suck me in that way, but that I’m also not willing to give up on. And, at the moment, I’m starting my second graduate-level class, so I’m reading a lot more textbooks and secondary research materials (i.e. non-fiction) than I typically do.
Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
tune out the rest of the world.
To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
If I find a book that moves me, I want to live in it for as long as possible. That means I will return to that book on a regular basis. I think I’ve reread the Anne McCaffrey series a dozen times over the years. I see owning books as a reminder of what I enjoyed, and am wont to pick one off the shelf when I need to relax and reorient myself without reference to outside sources.
How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Highly—in fact, that’s why I started blogging. Friends come to me for book recommendations on a regular basis, so I see myself as a bit of a book matchmaker.
What do you look for in a good book?
Clear story arc and character development, a strong sense of individuality and place, and some representation of the unusual. I don’t only read fantasy/scifi, but I notice that even when I read mysteries and romances, those that inject some sense of a world beyond our senses are the ones that resonate most with me.
Why do you write?
To read the stories I haven’t seen anywhere else.
If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
An animal hoarder. I’d love to have a huge space where it would be safe for wounded, abused animals to come for sanctuary.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
What has writing taught you about yourself?
I’m more creative and more disciplined than I had imagined.
How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My closest family has been very supportive. I also get the impression that I’m a bit of an exotic creature to most people, so I have a lot of acquaintances and few close friends, none of whom have had much to say about my writing.
Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
Hrm. I’m having a hard time refuting that; I’m introspective and observant. I don’t, however, always travel with a pen and paper. (For that, I have my iPhone and a cloud-based hook-up with my latest WIP.)
What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Making the decision to pursue traditional versus independent publishing. There are a lot of resources out there for authors who are willing to put in the time and effort one way or the other, but the choice is not dissimilar to choosing to give birth in a hospital versus choosing to pursue a home-birth—you make the choice based on what you’re comfortable with, and live with the consequences for a life-transforming experience.
Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
I’m not sure I’ve been doing it long enough to comment; I am worried that I’ve bounced among genres so much I’m going to have a hard time building any particular audience.
Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I have a couple of plot bunnies that have my name on them, but I have to stay disciplined and finish what I started, first.
How do you deal with your fan base?
Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___
I seriously looked into becoming a midwife; part of the reason I wanted to move to New Mexico was to be near the National College of Midwifery.
Anything else we should know?
I appreciate all these opportunities to share my words with people. Thank you, Mandi for your time and effort with this interview.
Book Links for Dementional:
Paperback link –