Writer Wednesday – Tonya Cannariato

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.

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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?
Highly.

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?
My dreams.

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?
With gratitude.

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 –
http://www.amazon.com/Dementional-Tonya-Cannariato/dp/0615690602

eBook Link:
http://www.amazon.com/Dementional-ebook/dp/B0091VOOUQ

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Bonus: Book Review – Dementional by Tonya Cannariato

Title: Dementional
Author: Tonya Cannariato
Format: Paperback
Written & Published: 2012

Mark Inman has two loves: particle physics and Sarah. Just moments after the wedding, his Higgs Bossom program work goes terribly terribly wrong, and he leaves his very new bride with the promise that he won’t miss his wedding night.

Except he soon finds himself in another universe, seemingly parallel to his, where he’s a lizard-esque creature instead of human.  Sarah’s still there, and she’s just laid three eggs, which they start to care for.  When he soon finds himself in another universe, where he’s closer to human, although able to climb and with much less body hair than he expected (note, I think they put this line in so you knew he wasn’t a monkey, but it seemed really weird to me), and it’s before his wedding to Sarah, and he has his parents and a brother (that he didn’t have in ‘reality’ or any other dimension)…

I’ll stop there.  The book is written in first person, and there’s not that much dialogue.  So for most of this, you’re getting the observations of the main character.  Unfortunately in this book, the main character is a scientist, thinks like a scientist, and talks like a scientist, so if you like big words that you’ve probably never had the need to use ever in normal life, you’re going to love this, because every now and then, the author throws one in that just kind of stops the flow of reading.  I don’t know if it’s the case of the author trying too hard or what.  (I’ll let you in on a secret about me – I’ve read thousands of books in my life, but I somehow managed to suck at spelling and vocab, so I hate reading books that feel like I need to keep a dictionary handy just in case…)

Regardless of the author’s intent, this comes across really stiff.  What I felt like I was missing was the emotion of what was going on.  All of a sudden the MC is a lizard, and all we get is “I need to find Sarah, and observe this new life.”  I wanted to feel what he was going through, suddenly being a lizard and all.  Also, some of the details that he feels the need to tell us just seem weird to me.  (Did we really need to know that he could adjust his wedding garb properly so he could get to his junk if he needed to pee?)

Also, there were jumps in story that really bothered me.  For example, a character that was introduced in one jump was in another jump, and there was no surprise that she existed whatsoever.  I would have at least expected a comment that said something like “oh, so she was here too…”

If you know nothing about the publishing industry and don’t want to, skip this paragraph.  But I got the book, and the first thing I noticed was that the margins were wrong and the paragraphs had an extra blank line between them but no tabbing.  Also, the font was not one we usually see in books anymore – I think it was Times New Roman; the font as sort of gone out of style in the past decade.  Another red flag was that the cover price was only $7.99.  I know that if you don’t know the business you might not understand, but the book is underpriced for the average market.  This is usually a dead give-away that there is something amateurish about the production of the product.  (Or, if not, you’re presenting your product this way and hurting yourself.)  Unfortunately in this case, it’s not just perception.  Oh, and I handed the book to a couple of other author buddies that are published together on a small press, and said “looking at formatting alone, would you read this book?”  They noticed more things than I did.

There’s also the issue of the title.  “Dementional” is not a word.  “Dimensional” is, as is “Demential” (although spellcheck doesn’t think so), and either would have worked in this case.  Clearly, I am very irked by little details.  If there was a reference in the book to why that was the title, I didn’t see it.

Also, for the record, I talked to somebody who has seen Cannariato’s other book, and she said the formatting in the other one is beautiful, so I don’t know what happened to this one to fall so far off the mark.

My summation is this.  If you’re an analytically and/or scientific person, or you yourself have traveled to the lizard dimension via a bump on the head, I think you’ll like this more than I did.  There were a few things the author did that needed a bit of tweaking.  And I very seriously think the layout issues need fixed for future printings of this book (which the author should totally do).  With that said, I think if you catch it laying around and need something to read, it’s fine.  Because of that, I’ll put it solidly in the three out of four pages rating.

I don’t know why this is required, but here it is:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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