Please welcome the lovely and talented Tonya Royston, author of the Sunset Trilogy. Her second novel in the series, Silence at Midnight, was just released by Black Opal Books. Congratulations on this success!
You had originally planned to self-publish this series, what compelled you to have it published by Black Opal Books?
I never expected to get a contract from a traditional publisher. I submitted my story to Black Opal Books so that I could say I at least tried. When they gave me a three-book contract, I knew I needed to take it. And I’m glad I did. I learned a lot about editing and publishing. They taught me a lot and I’m sure I would have made a lot of mistakes if I had tried to self-publish The Sunset Trilogy as it was my first. That said, I am taking those lessons learned and moving on to self-publish my next series, The Gypsy Magic Trilogy.
When it was finally released by a publisher, how did it feel?
Surprisingly, it was terrifying! I was so worried that I reread the book several times after it was released to make sure I was happy with it. I felt like I was on a stage in front of the virtual world with the worst case of stage fright. Even though I got over it, it’s still scary. I don’t think that feeling of stage fright will ever go away, but it’s because I really just want people to enjoy my stories.
Some authors prefer to write down their stories by hand, while others are happy to start typing it out right away. Which style suits you best?
I wrote The Sunset Trilogy by hand because I work on a computer all day. But it was very time consuming. I’ve forced myself to start writing rough drafts on my laptop to save time now, but every now and then I’ll sit down with a notebook to write a new chapter.
When you first started writing this series, you already had a full time job with a Government Contractor, how did you manage to find the time to write your stories?
I wrote in the evenings, on weekends and even while on vacation and on holidays. I disciplined myself to write three pages each day. Even if it was bad, I had to write something. However, I often found that by the time I got through three pages, I kept on going. It was hard to find the time. Sometimes I didn’t start writing until after nine at night after my son went to bed. But it was a great escape from reality!
Was there a particular moment that gave you the epiphany to incorporate wolves into the Sunset Trilogy?
I had the idea about a character who could communicate with animals, but when I decided to turn it into a story, I realized using domestic animals wasn’t unique enough. Lots of people have dogs, cats and horses. So giving the character a wolf seemed like a natural decision. It just came to me. Maybe it was all of the werewolf stories I had been reading that made me think of wolves. Except that I wanted a supernatural story involving a real wolf!
Are any of the characters drawn from anyone in your life?
The closest one would be the little boy, Ryder, who is rescued in the beginning. He’s a lot like my son. Even at three, he didn’t talk much. An editor thought that was strange, but since my son didn’t talk a lot until he was about four, I didn’t think anything of it. Other than that, Laken is kind of like me since she prefers to be alone, but I can’t communicate with animals like she can even though I wish I could!
The names of the characters are quite interesting, how did you come up with them?
Laken was the name of a character in a soap opera I remember watching in high school. I have no idea how I remembered that name! As for the others, I’m not sure. They just seemed to fit the characters.
You are an animal lover and that passion is evident throughout the series, particularly wolves. Did you do any research on them?
Yes and no. I did more research after I wrote the rough draft. I just figured wolves would act a lot like dogs, but with a wild edge. And I was right about that. Interestingly, there are things that happen in Book 3 that seemed a little far-fetched. When I did some research, I found out they are in fact possible. In one scene, Dakota does something and you’d wonder how he could bite someone hard enough to do that. But I found out that wolves have one of the strongest bite forces of any animals. Their jaws are even stronger than that of some big cats including jaguars and tigers!
Your stories are richly detailed, particularly the scenery, did your home in Virginia provide some of the inspiration?
No, actually, the story is set in northern New Hampshire. I spent a lot of time up there at one point in my life and I loved it. I remembered it very well and all those days hiking in the mountains and taking scenic drives were etched into my memory.
Prior to writing the series, had you taken any creative writing courses?
No. But I read a lot. I found that to be the best teacher of all. It helps me study vocabulary, descriptions, dialogue, etc. I pretty much taught myself.
Did writing the stories come naturally to you?
Yes, I think so. It’s the kind of thing that if it’s too hard, I wouldn’t have enjoyed doing it since it took up so much free time. And I have very little free time as it is!
How long did it take you to write Shadows at Sunset?
The rough draft took me nine months. Then I spent another four months on serious revisions and rewrites.
There is a sense of intrigue and a mystical feel to the story in Shadows at Sunset that is reminiscent of the Vampire Diaries. Were you aiming for that kind paranormal mood?
Yes, I love The Vampire Diaries! The scenes in that show inspired me to write again. Even though my story is a very different theme with no vampires, the show helped me find my own creative spark.
Speaking of the television series The Vampire Diaries, you were fortunate enough to meet with one of the actors from the show, Ian Somerhalder, which is absolutely phenomenal! Both him and his wife, Nikki Reed from the Twilight movies, are very compassionate about helping animals around the world. Did your love for animals help make a connection with Ian?
Of course! I was impressed with all that Ian is doing through his foundation and it’s the only reason I started following him on social media. Anyone who loves animals and wants to help them is a hero in my book. However, I also met his team at ISF through that experience. They are a wonderful group of people.
After meeting Ian and Nikki, do you think it helped fueled your passion for helping animals?
I’m not sure about that. I think I had that passion before I met them. I love watching what they are doing and I hope they make a big difference in this world. But even before watching The Vampire Diaries and having a chance to meet them, I have supported animal rescue organizations and wanted to help animals more. I’ve always said if I win the lottery, I’d build an animal sanctuary!
There is a special contribution associated with your current novel where twenty five cents per copy will be donated to the Ian Somerhalder Foundation. What made you decide to do this?
I wanted to help animal causes through my sales as soon as I knew I had a story to publish. I want to give back through the money people spend on my story. It was important to me to make this commitment and share that with my readers.
Not only is a portion of the proceeds being donated to the ISF, Nikki and Ian recently shared a fabulous photo of them on Twitter featuring your book, Shadows at Sunset. What was your reaction to seeing it?
My reaction was the same as the day my book was released. Pure terror! I had a glass of wine that night to relax. But seriously, it was kind of surreal.
Did meeting Ian and Nikki leave any lasting impressions on you? Did it change you in anyway?
No, I don’t think so. It was an amazing experience and I admit I still have fun looking at all of the pictures. But I think I’m the same person I always was.
What kind of impact do you hope for your series to have on teens?
I hope it will give them a better appreciation of wildlife, especially wolves since they draw the most fear and hatred. Another message in the story (although it isn’t apparent until the third book) is that money doesn’t buy happiness. These messages aren’t just for teens, though. They are for everyone.
Now that you are a full time writer, how are enjoying this change of pace?
I was a full-time writer for all of three months until my former company offered me the opportunity to return to work part-time and be able to work at home a few days a week. I went back to work in December and it was a good decision because it has given me more resources to use in promoting the book. I have a long way to go before I can earn enough to write full-time.
You recently went through a cancer scare, do you embrace life in a different way now?
That experience had a huge impact on me. I don’t think I would have started writing again if I hadn’t gone through that. I realized that life isn’t forever and if you have a dream, you need to pursue it.
In terms of seeing life in a different perspective, what kind of advice or everlasting words would you like to give to your readers?
Just what I said in my last answer – if you have a dream, pursue it now. Don’t wait. Work hard and never give up. Lastly, don’t allow any negativity to get you down. Keep working for what you want, no matter how hard it gets. It will be worth it in the end.
(Photo of Tonya by Bobbi Lee Photography)
Awesome social media links:
Tonya's website - http://tonyaroyston.com/
Amazon - www.amazon.com/Tonya-Royston/e/B0139ZRPDM/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/TonyaRoyston
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Tonya-Royston-Author-409934569109204
Synopsis for Shadows at Sunset, Book 1:
Laken Sumner isn’t your average teenager. Ever since she realized that wild animals could hear her thoughts, she’s spent more time in the woods with them than with other children. Even her wolf is a better friend to her than most people. She trusts him—so much so that she follows him out into the wilderness in the middle of the night to find a lost little boy. But the boy’s disappearance is only the beginning.
Synopsis for Silence at Midnight, Book 2:
Eighteen-year-old Laken Sumner has just escaped from a stranger and a pack of wolves in the dark rain on a lonely mountain road. Normally, with her ability to communicate with wild animals, who can understand her thoughts, she wouldn’t worry about encountering the predators. But these wolves didn’t respond to her. She tries to shrug it off, afraid to reveal her fear to Noah, her boyfriend and the deputy sheriff.
Synopsis for Gypsy Magic, Book 1:
Gracyn Pierce is starting over. She has a new home, a new boyfriend, and a new horse. Everything is perfect, or so it seems. Because Gracyn left a secret behind. In her quest to erase the memory of that stormy night, she forces herself to study hard, her sights set on an Ivy League college.
But her attempts to stay focused are derailed when the neighbor suspected of murdering his sister returns to town. As if that isn’t enough, her senses begin to change in ways that aren’t physically possible. As hard as she tries to find an explanation, there isn’t one.
Gracyn soon learns that things are not what they appear to be. Even her sister who took her in is hiding something. Will Gracyn continue pursuing her goal of getting accepted to a top-notch university, or will the secrets of the past and present ruin her future?
In : March 2016
Tags: "tonya royston" "ian somerhalder" "nikki reed" "the vampire diaries" "the sunset trilogy" "the gypsy magic trilogy"