Q&A With Toney Larson
Toney is a prolific novelist and part of the North Sanpete Writers involved in the anthology project.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I knew I wanted to be an author from a fairly young age. I loved to tell stories and read a lot, but I didn’t really embrace it until college when I wrote my first full novel.
When did you write your first story and how old were you?
I had various stories that I had written since I was young. I wrote a silly little piece in 6th grade about one of my classmates being an alien that my teacher appreciated and another the same year about WWII that my Social Studies Teacher liked. But my first full length novel was when I was in college.
How long does it take you to write a short story?
It depends on how inspired I am to write it. Some stories just flow and others are a little more stubborn. But I would say a few hours to a few days, depending on length and inspiration.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I have a great schedule. Since I homeschool and my husband works from home and his hours aren’t set, I write from when I wake up to 1130am. Then I switch over to Mom mode and take care of the day-to-day stuff. I switch between projects by day to keep my mind activated and productive when I get stuck on one things. I tell my brain it has until X time to find the answer to the problem, and it generally comes through for me.
Is it different working on an anthology than writing on your own?
Yes. With the anthology, I have very strict timelines and themes to meet. This last year was holiday love and it’s a little different than I normally write. And I had to get it out quicker than I usually do. It’s nice having that accountability and seeing what other writers do with the same prompts. But I also like doing my own things and digging deeper. I don’t think my short stories are my best work and view them as a fun side project.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know if I have a distinct quirk. I write a rough draft, then I edit, edit, edit, edit, get a second opinion, edit, edit…. I like to include some sort of twist or spin, something compelling, and something thought provoking. I enjoy drinking hot chocolate while I write and can’t be interrupted or it destroys my flow.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your stories?
Generally from real life with a hint of “What if…” or “What’s the twist?” When I wrote my first novel “Growing Amaranth,” I took the Rapunzel fairytale - which is about emotional abuse - and said, “What if she didn’t have magic to help her? How would she cope with it?” Since most, if not all, of the retold fairytales at the time had magic helping the heroine, and as a person without magic, it was hard to see how to fix my problems without it! So my fairytale series started out with non-magic premise and people solving their own problems in an epic fantasy setting.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I have six kids and I home school. So lots of cleaning, cooking, and learning. This year we’re focusing on history and going through the timeline from the stone age through modern day. We talk about people, inventions, art, literature, events, all the things, then we have lots of hands-on projects. Mosaics, viking shields, death masks, hieroglyphics, and other such project adorn our walls and its so much fun. I also enjoy painting, playing the piano, and am currently learning Welsh. Dw I’n hoffi dysgu cymraeg a hanes.
What does your family think of your writing?
My kids love it! They are huge fans of my books and are mad at me right now because I read the first part of my current manuscript, book 4 in my fairytale series, to them and left them on a cliffhanger. They’ve been asking for the next part for months, but I haven’t shared it with them yet. My husband is supportive and foots the bill for my editor and cover designers, but he doesn’t like the time it takes up. It's been better with the morning schedule we have now. My extended family thought it was silly, but now that I have six books out, they’re starting to realize it's more than just a little hobby thing.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your story?
I generally get surprised by how the story turns out. The characters often take over and I cant force them into my original plot outline. They’ll get to the end for me, but often take a scenic route rather than my straight path.
Do you have any advice on how to be a better short story writer?
An important part of short stories for me is an interesting twist. There’s nothing wrong with a short story that is there just for a nice read, but the ones that stay with me catch me off guard or get my gears spinning. I suppose going into the short story knowing where you want it to go so you keep the word count down and only include what is crucial to the story. I’ve only written a handful of short stories so I’m not an expert by far!
How many stories/books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve written eleven books so far. These are only the ones with completed rough drafts, not all the books planned out or started. Right now, I think my favorite is “He Will Never Know.” It’s my first contemporary romance. I wrote it in about five days and it just came together. It's shorter than my books, but I liked the message and flow of it.
Growing Amaranth - Rapunzel - Published
Unmasking Cassandra - Cinderella - Published
Engaging Helen - The Riddle - Published
Companion riddle book - Published
Pursuing Hannah - The Snow Queen - unpublished
He Will Never know - published
Egyptian Catfish - unpublished
Surviving the Moment - published
You are the chosen one - unpublished
Steampunk Greek mythology
Psyche - unpublished
Contemporary romance Greek mythology
The Lightening Between Us - Unpublished
Twelve Days of Christmas
What do you think makes a good story?