Houston native Tonia is a blogger, mentor and author. Always an avid reader, she earned her degree at Louisiana State University. The experience provided the foundation for her novel Fashionably Deceptive, That was the beginning of her three novel series. She has recently released her new book in the series Punishment is Due. Tonia the author prefers to be addressed by her mononym, Here, she tells rolling out about her juicy new novel.
Why did you write this book?
I’ve always been a writer, even as a child, but it wasn’t until college that my short stories began to turn into novels. What started off as three college roommates spinning a tale about all of the craziness and drama of college life, turned into Fashionably Deceptive.
What’s the story behind the title?
I’m the absolute worst at coming up with names, hashtags, etc., but I have friends that are great at wordplay. When I need to come up with a name for just about anything, I get a room full of my friends together or send out a text, and we just shoot ideas back and forth until the right name falls out of the sky. Punishment is Due is the only project of mine that had a title before the full book idea had even come to fruition and that was named by myself alone. I knew that Diana would be the type of character that had to learn tough lessons and get close to her comeuppance before evolving.
What was your regimen to complete this book?
As a former English teacher, I will always stress to novice writers to organize their plot and have ideas to develop your characters before writing a full book, however, I ‘ve always been the type of writer that can just sit down and spin a tale from the top of her head. But I must also admit that I am a dreamer and someone that can spend hours daydreaming about just about anything, whether it be the current state of my life or allowing myself to get lost in the story of one of my characters. These daydreams often become the basis for my tales, and I keep a notepad next to the bed and in my purse to record random thoughts as they pop into my head.
How do you stay at the leading edge of your craft?
Before I was a writer, I was a reader, and part of being a reader is always learning and growing. Between always being open to personal and professional growth and reading to stay on top of trends and fads, one of the best teachers that has propelled my writing career has been life. When I finished writing Fashionably Deceptive, I was a 21-year-old college graduate that thought she had experienced it all, but really didn’t know anything. I knew all about relationship dysfunction, or at least I thought I did. But let’s just say high-school-sweetheart-bae was nothing compared to 20-something-all-toxic-everything-bae.
Let’s face it. The characters that we most relate to in books are the characters that either remind us of ourselves or the characters that we can aspire to be. I mean, didn’t we all want to be the baddest like Winter in the Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah with a daddy like Santiago to spoil us rotten? Or a boss chick like Jada that had a man her equal in the Soul Mate Dissipate series by Mary B. Morrison, even though she didn’t need one?
Do you think there are any widely held misconceptions about what you do? If so, what are they and how do you work to dispel them?
Everyone thinks they can write a book. And with the ease of self-publishing, more people are taking the steps to put their work out to the masses. I’m all for following your dreams, but I believe in following and trusting the process. The work that you release to the public is often the world’s first introduction to you. And you can’t afford to skip out on hiring professional editors, graphic designers, etc. When new authors reach out to me, I always refer them to either my editor or one that works with their genre and encourage them to make sure that their work will be relevant years from now. If I pick up a book, I don’t want to have to get on urbandictionary.com to look up a phrase that is no longer relevant or be turned off by a cover that is outdated.
Name two of your top role models; one from your industry and one from outside of it.
If you’re at least the age of 30 and are a lover of African American literature, I’m sure that you probably remember Black Expressions, and still possibly owe them some coins. And even though Black Expressions has come and gone, I still credit this service for broadening my horizon when it came to reading books by Black authors. Since I was a college student, when this mail order book club was at its prime, I can remember rushing home to read books by literary greats like Zane, Mary B. Morrison, Terri Woods, Terry McMillan, Eric Jerome Dickey and E. Lynn Harris, just to name a few. I have always been a writer, but reading books by authors with stories like mine and skin that resembled mine, was a constant reminder that there were not any limits to where my writing could take me. I can’t name just one or two authors that inspired me, because there are several, and their footsteps have paved the way. And being that the next step in my journey is to venture into screenwriting, I can’t end my answer without mentioning Shonda Rhimes. It was just a few years ago that we were still trying to get a seat at the table. But it is women like Shonda that teach us that the only limits that we have are the ones that we place on ourselves.