WHO ARE THE KINDLE ALL-STARS?
A series of 20+ short interviews with the team behind the Kindle All-Stars short story anthology ‘Resistance Front’ posted daily in the run up to its publication.
Please be sure to check any relevant images and links for each individual at the end of their interview.
Today, I talk with Toni Dwiggins
FS: How did you come to hear about the Kindle All-Stars project?
Toni: I saw a post on Kindleboards called “I’m looking for a few good writers,” and I had to check that out. Anyone who is looking for writers is going to get my attention. It’s like seeing a post along the lines of “I’m looking for someone who likes coffee and scones”—I’m there.
Once there, I saw that there were some very dedicated people involved, and a couple of very big-name writers. I was intrigued, and not a little intimidated.
But the clincher was: “all proceeds will benefit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.” Enough said. I wanted to join that project.
FS: What’s your contribution called?
Toni: ‘Excerpt from BADWATER’. BADWATER is book one in my Forensic Geology Series. ‘Excerpt’ is self-explanatory. Hmmm…I think I need a new title.
FS: And without giving too much away, what’s it about?
Toni: Two forensic geologists—a young woman and her father-figure mentor—are working a case in Death Valley. They’ve been called in by the FBI to use their geological skills to track mineral evidence from a stolen shipment of radioactive waste. They are up a canyon following a lead when someone sabotages their car, leaving them with no food and little water in the hottest place in the US in the middle of summer. The story is how they survive that ordeal, and how they learn that the radioactive material has been unleashed, and just how fragile the harsh desert can be.
FS: What was the main inspiration behind it?
Toni: I love the outdoors, I’ve hiked and camped in Death Valley, and I always thought it would make a great setting for a story. I’m writing a series about forensic geologists, and for the first book I wanted a setting that was both enthralling and dangerous—Death Valley. And then I learned that there used to be a radioactive waste dump on the perimeter of the National Park.
FS: Did you write it specifically for the Kindle All-Stars, or was it written prior?
Toni: I adapted it from a scene in my book BADWATER. The scene was pretty much self-contained, but I did need to make some changes so that it would stand alone. Also, I needed to write a new ending.
FS: Obviously the primary goal behind this anthology is to make some money for disadvantaged and abused children. But secondary to that, it is to promote fresh, new writing talent – the punk rock of literature – and show that Indie writers are out there, dedicated and working hard to produce Class-A work.
If people take notice of what you’ve written for this anthology, what do you hope the outcome is of that attention?
Toni: I hope to find readers who like the kind of stories I write. My stuff is something of a hybrid—part mystery, part thriller, part adventure. I think the piece in the anthology gives the flavor of the book, and of the series. So—I’m looking for my audience.
FS: How do you write? Are you a plotter? Do you fly by the seat of your pants? When do you write, and where? I write at night, at the dining table, when the kids are in bed and the place is finally peaceful and quiet. And I work everything out on paper before I sit down to write. What have you found works best for you?
Toni: I’m a plotter—until I get sidetracked and then I’m pantsing.
I’m writing a series so I already have the main characters set, and the framework of the story–the protags are forensic geologists. So there must be a crime or two, and there must be earth evidence for my characters to analyze.
Next I come up with a setting/theme. The stories concern environmental issues; for instance, the third in the series is about an undersea experiment gone wrong, in a nearshore hypoxic zone.
Next I get to know my villain(s)–what motivates them, why they do what they do, what kind of havoc they wreak, how they threaten people and the environment.
The conflicting goals of the protags/antags lead to scenes. I usually sketch out the major scenes all the way through–kind of an in-depth outline. Invariably, I detour from the outline in the writing, as the characters come more alive and chart their own course—the seat-of-the-pants part. But I always refer to my outline, to be sure I don’t head off into la-la land.
I write at a computer beside a window looking out on trees and, usually, squirrels. My cats love the squirrels. SQUIRREL!!! A bit of a distraction now and then. I’ve tried writing at Starbucks but that’s more distracting than cats hissing at squirrels.
FS: How did you find the editing process with Bernard? I found it to be like a smack in the mouth and a pat on the head at the same time, saying “I like this” at one point, to a specific sentence, and then “You need to stay in Active Voice!” the next. I learned a lot, and I think I have a much stronger piece of writing now than I did when I submitted it. What was your personal experience?
Toni: Short, sweet, and blunt. I’ll quote from the first email I got from him:
“I love your writing, but … I don’t like how it ends. At all. I don’t know what your thoughts are on fixing it, but I hope you have some, because everything between the intro and the end are kickass.”
He was right, of course. The ending worked only within the context of the book. As a standalone, the piece needed something new. I tried to make it kickass.
FS: Is there anyone in particular who’s contributed to the anthology that you’re excited to be included alongside?
Toni: Wow, that’s a tricky question to answer. Everybody? Let me say this: I’ve been reading excerpts of the other contributors and I’m honored to be included with all these writers. Some real talent here. I’m partway through Bernard’s Whitechapel book…and wow. Then, of course, there is Harlan Ellison. I read his stuff way back when and was hooked.
FS: We know that there will be a KAS 2 at some point. Plans are already afoot. Is there a dream name you’d like to see involved in it the next time around? Me personally, getting published in a book that includes a story by Alan Dean Foster is one of those “Wouldn’t it be great if one day…” things that I can now tick off of the list.
Toni: Since my genre is mystery/thriller, I’d go for a writer like Dennis Lehane or James Lee Burke or Laura Lippman. Hey, a girl can dream.
FS: So when you’re not helping to fight evil, what do you get up to in real life?
Toni: More writing. Squirrel-watching. Cat-calming. Coffee-drinking. Whenever I can: hiking, skiing, kayaking. Book club with friends. A lot of family time. My younger daughter is studying in Bordeaux this year and so hubs and I are going to France for some R&R and wine and cheese and touring.
FS: Are you working on anything now? Anything you’d like everyone to know about?
Toni: I’m just doing final edits on book two in the Forensic Geology Series. The title is VOLCANO WATCH. It takes place in my forensic geologists’ home town—Mammoth Lakes, in the Sierra Nevada range. A volcano is rumbling, and FEMA has sent a rather psychopathic emergency-ops guy to get the town ready to evacuate, and the mayor’s body has just been found in a glacier.
I hope to have the book up by December. Then onto book three.
FS: And to your readers – both potential and existing – is there anything you would like to say? They might be reading this months after Resistance Front has landed, wanting to know more about you. What would you like to say to them?
Toni: That I am absolutely thrilled when somebody reads my stuff and enjoys it. That I’d love to take them along for some mystery and adventure—get them out into the environment!
FS: Thats it! Time’s up! Hopefully we’ll the chance for a much more in-depth chat at some point in the near future when KAS is out on sale!
Links to BADWATER: