Interview conducted by Denise Fleischer, GWN Blogger
Denise: What inspired you to write mystery fiction? How did you learn the fundamental elements of crafting a novel of this genre?
Toni: I can safely say that crime and mystery fiction was my first love. Around the age of 12, I discovered the crime fiction writer, James Hadley Chase. My elder sister used to be one of his die-hard fans. I too fell under his spell. As I grew older, through her, I discovered a few others, such as Mikey Spillane and Jeffrey Archer. What really captivated me about them, especially James Hadley Chase and Spillane, was their ability to mesmerize the reader and keep you hooked from beginning to end. I noted the way they were able to stimulate a reader’s power of visualization with vivid descriptions, using an economy of words – prose that is very spare – along with tight plotting and sparkling dialog. It has a cinematic quality. They seemed to make a studied effort not to let words get in the way of mental imagery. In engaging with this type of fiction, you become not just a reader but a participant in the story, and you’re swept away emotionally. To some extent, this is what poets try to do. All this stuck with me and I think, subconsciously, it began to influence my approach to writing fiction.
Denise: Why did you choose a fictional island off the coast of Saint Lucia to be the setting for your novel?
Toni: Who, at some point or other, hasn’t fantasized about being rich enough to acquire their own little corner of world, where you can be free to create your own way of life and your own reality? Elysian Island, a fictional three-and-a-half square mile island off the coast of Saint Lucia, represents this dream which only a select few will ever be able to achieve. Because of the nature of the story I wanted to tell, I had to create a fictional, self-contained world that, socioeconomically, is vastly different from the main island yet is actually part of it. A separate and private domain run by foreign investors and expats, free of interference from the mainland government. This scenario is not new to the Caribbean. Most of the Caribbean countries actually comprise of the main island surrounded by smaller satellite islands, some of which are private acquisitions, and a sort of status symbol. Recently, The UK’s Telegraph newspaper cited a growing trend among multimillionaires of renting rather than owning islands, because this gives them the freedom to island-hop whenever they feel like it. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/11729783/Your-own-private-island-cheaper-than-the-average-London-home.html
Denise: Who is Rudy Phillips and what direction has his life taken him?
Toni: Rudy was born in Saint Lucia but left permanently for England with his aunt at the age of nine. He ended up becoming a journalist. He’s single, very handsome, highly intelligent and witty, a charmer and a bit of a womanizer. He takes pleasure in the fact that women find him irresistible. He’s easygoing and, for the most part, has been content to take life as it comes. Lately, however, he has been feeling a sense of emptiness and somewhat disillusioned with the mundanity of his job and his limited income. He feels his life is missing some spark and longs to try something different.
Denise: How does he cross paths with an owner of a successful stock-trading firm?
Toni: He first met Bridget while she and her husband, Lord Edward Tennyson, were on a brief visit to England.
An editor of one of the tabloids Rudy occasionally works for, found out about the visit and asked Rudy to try and get an exclusive interview with Lord Tennyson. After meeting Rudy, Edward Tennyson introduces him to his wife. Rudy and Bridget are immediately attracted to each other. Although he knew all about Edward Tennyson and his controversial and colorful life back on Elysian Island, Rudy had known very little about his wife and had had no idea that Bridget was so young and beautiful – nor could he have anticipated that she would have such a powerfully mesmerizing effect on him.
Denise: Why does he pursue Bridget when she’s married and totally out of his league?
Toni: Sometimes the emotional attraction between a man and a woman could become so intense and powerful, it almost takes on a life of its own. This kind of all-consuming force is no respecter of persons or social norms. It will not be denied. Throughout the ages, it has brought down kings, destabilized nations and in some cases changed the course of history. Often we just surrender to it and all sense of morality goes out the window. The craving it ignites in us becomes uncontrollable and we want what we desire, no matter what. If it’s forbidden, we want it even more. This is the situation Rudy finds himself in.
Denise: He knows that she’s not only an independent woman, clever and ambitious, but that she has a plan and she wants him to set it in motion. Doesn’t he see the danger involved and that he can go down pretty hard?
Toni: The problem is that although his rational mind shows him the pitfalls – including the fact that Bridget is married; the two of them barely know each other and they come from completely different worlds – his heart overrides all of this. It’s more or less the same with Bridget. What’s more, Rudy begins to mull over the possibility that their friendship could potentially open new doors of opportunity for him. Remember that this is all happening at a time when he’s beginning to feel a sense of dissatisfaction with his life. At Bridget’s instigation, he begins to see a way out and he’s willing to take the gamble, even if he risks wrecking the couple’s marriage and putting his reputation, maybe even his life in danger.
Denise: In the end, does he learn his lesson?
Toni: Ultimately, his experiences on Elysian Island prove to be quite traumatic. As for his affair with Bridget, it forces him to confront the reality that not all women are pushovers. Bridget is not the sort of woman who is willing to put up with the supremacist male ego, or the traditionalistic notions that many men have about a woman’s place in the world, and in relationships. Rudy is in for a rude awakening.
Denise: What was the most difficult part of the book to write?
Toni: I didn’t find any part of it particularly difficult to write. Probably the most challenging part of writing not just this book but any book is that I always write the first draft longhand and type it up as I go along. The problem with this is that often, I can’t understand what I’ve written – my handwriting is so bad. But I find that by doing it this way, the inspiration flows easier and much clearer and it feels more natural.
Denise: Why did you choose self-publishing over traditional? What are the pros and cons?
Toni: Actually, I queried dozens of literary agents in the US and the UK, and a few publishers who accept unsolicited submissions but none of them wanted to have anything to do with me. Several of them didn’t even bother to respond. I don’t suppose it helped matters that I am an unknown approaching them from outside of their own countries. I came close to giving up but thanks to a dear friend in Canada, I held on and refused to let the dream die. I allowed her to read part of the manuscript and she loved it. She had been working on a novel she planned to self publish and encouraged me to seriously consider doing the same with Between Two Fires.
As to the pros and cons; on the plus side you can now publish your work when you want to, in the way you think best and from virtually any part of the world. I share the view of many writers who have gone the self-publishing route that this empowers writers. It allows them to take charge in creating the future they want for themselves rather than solely depending on a handful of individuals to determine whether or not they deserve to have a career as a writer. Earning higher royalties than you would with traditional publishing is another plus, if you succeed.
Of course, this freedom comes at a cost. Your book must be top-notch and able to compete with those produced by traditional publishers, in terms of its editorial quality and its ability to impress readers. You also need to have a promotional game plan that is well thought out and creative in order to connect with potential readers. That calls for a lot of time, energy and hard work – all the more if you’re trying to do it while working at a fulltime job. All in all, the publishing world has arrived at a watershed moment.
If you think about it, over the past 150 years a relatively small number of persons have acquired the books that helped to shape national identities and cultures – probably a few dozen editors at the most. That’s an incredible amount of power to give to a small minority. Self published writers are saying to readers, I trust you and I believe that you should have equal power to choose which books you think deserve to be read and enjoyed. Personally I don’t see anything wrong with that.
Denise: What are you currently writing?
Toni: Between Two Fires is the first volume of a trilogy. The series is called ‘Dread Desires.’ I’m now working on book two of the series. I expect to complete it in time for release during the Christmas season.
Denise: How are you promoting it?
Toni: I will begin promoting book two closer to the release date. At the moment, I’m focused on promoting Between Two Fires.
Denise: What is its publishing date and how can we purchase a copy?
Toni: Between Two Fires is available as an ebook and paperback at all major online bookstores, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords.
Toni Williams Bio
Born in Saint Lucia, Toni Williams has lived most of his life in the Caribbean. He’s a journalist and former newspaper editor, and a Reuters Fellow (Green Templeton College, Oxford University). Presently, he does mostly freelancing, including editing the St. Lucian lifestyle magazine, Dazzle. He’s finally pursing his lifelong dream to become a fiction author. He blogs at Caribbean Book Blog which provides writers and readers with updates on new books and the latest developments in the global publishing industry.
Author Website: https://toniwilliamsbooks.wordpress.com/