When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I first began to feel the urge when I was around eight. I fell in love with Charlotte's Web and wanted to be able to make people feel the way that book and those characters made me feel.
That, and the fact that I always liked the fictional worlds better than I liked the real one. (Pass the Prozac, please....)
(Laughs) The day my agent told me how much she was asking as an advance for my first published novel. It took her fifteen minutes to get me to stop laughing. I thought she was kidding. up to that point, I figured I'd be lucky to get maybe a couple of thousand dollars.
You've said that Sidney Sheldon was your mentor (even though he didn't know it), and that reading him helped you learn your craft. What other writers have influenced you?
I LOVED Judith Krantz's Mistral's Daughter. I wasn't all that wild about her other books, but I have always loved that one!
How does your personal life influence your writing?
You were a romance writer with Silhouette (as Toni Collins), but now write more in the Fantasy/Sci-Fi genre. Why the change?
Which one? (Laughs) Chasing the Wind is the first in a series involving a man who has, shall we say, special abilities he doesn't understand. Is he a prophet...or is he the result of an illegal experiment. When he marries and is about to have a child of his own, he must face the truth about himself to save his wife and unborn child from the forces of darkness.
Final Hours is a love story. One reviewer called it a love story that's not a romance novel. Jamie Randall is a successful man who appears to have it all--a beautiful wife, twin sons, wealth. Then, trapped in an underground garage during an earthquake with a freelance photographer, Kate McAllister, he starts to question everything he's done. And for the first time in his life, he falls in love.
You're a huge advocate of e-books and self publishing. Why?
Don't get me wrong--I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to have been not only published, but promoted and paid very well for my work. But as you've pointed out, I've switched genres. My agent and publisher were against this. I had proposals that were rejected because they "weren't glamorous." I'm not from that glamorous world, and to be truthful, I have no interest in it. I fought it for a long time before I finally realized I was better suited to today's options in self-publishing.
Honestly, I think this is the future of publishing. Period.
As a published writer, you have a following to self published books. What advice can you give to the unpublished with no following who want to take this path?
Learn to promote yourself and your work online. Join writers communities. Blog, blog, and blog some more. Be a regular presence on Facebook. Amazon and Barnes & Noble, too. join their online communities. Post reviews. The more of an online presence you maintain, the better you'll do. Some first-time authors who have done all of these things are having amazing success.
Do you have an agent right now?
Only for my previous books. Maria Carvainis is and always will be the agent of record for those fourteen novels.
I couldn't begin to venture a guess on that one! I've been out of that loop for a long time now, but I think the bottom line is a good story from a writer who can be a professional--present a well-written manuscript as free of errors and typos as possible. Don't nag, don't make unreasonable demands, be willing to do the work.
Tell us about the writers group you belong to.
It's a small group. We meet once a month at my church. There are seven of us. Four are church members. Two--William and April, join us via Skype. For a church group, we get pretty rowdy sometimes, and four-letter words aren't banned....
What advice can you give to writers on how to improve their craft?
I'm not a big believer in creative writing course. I think the best thing an aspiring writer--or any writer, for that matter--can do is read the types of books they want to write. Learn from favorite authors. That's what I did.
Any words of encouragement to those trying to break in?
Two words: self-publishing.
Thanks, Maria, for giving me the chance to talk about my work. Hope everyone will stop by my blogs...or better yet, give the books themselves a read!
Norma, thank you, for joining me today!
Be sure to visit Norma's blogs (see below) and read Norma's books!