As an author, Tonya’s moved by the effect humor and narratives have on readers. That observation illuminates why her stories often convey messages inviting personal exploration. She is enthusiastic about crafting stories with beguiling characters, adding dashes of snappy humor, and engaging dialogue that leaves her fingerprint on each page.
Her fiction and non-fiction stories are published in numerous anthologies, e-magazines, local press, and literary magazines. She’s a member of Poets and Writers. Tonya Penrose is her fiction pen name.
Time to chat with Tonya!
What is your latest book?
Welcome to Charm. It’s the first in a planned series with World Castle Publishing. It’s a romp with a twist that released on May 2. I invite your audience to fall in love with the characters living in the beguiling mountain town of Charm. It’s not on any map which character Abby Drake discovers. Did that hook you? I’m ready to move there, if I could just find it and so are my editors.
You’ve written a lot of books. Do you have a favorite?
My books are like children. You’re not supposed to have a favorite, but Welcome to Charm and Old Mountain Cassie: The Three Lessons are tied. They’re more than enjoyable and unique books. They gift the reader with something personal…meaningful insights on how to live from a high-minded place and chase the joy.
Do you write under a pen name? If so, can you tell us why?
I write under the pen name Tonya Penrose. I figured if my first novel was a one-star clunker, I’d drop my head and come up with a new pen name and try again. Fortunately, Cassie and my other books have found a lotta love, so Tonya Penrose lives on.
How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?
My way of writing is atypical. I don’t seem to possess a drop of loyalty to any one genre. My stories flirt around with multi-genres. A reader will find romance, mystery, humor, inspiration, magical realism, well you get the idea. Typically, one genre will dominate the novel and the others tag along adding color and zest.
Do your books begin with ideas for characters or plots? Something else?
This great question gives me the chance to explain how the genesis for a novel comes calling. When I’m untethered from my day-to-day doings, ideas are set free. My characters love to appear while I’m taking a walk. They’ll drop me into a scene to observe. I hear and see what’s unfolding. I know. It’s strange, but it’s how every story short or long has come. The Muses know me well and always set the hook fast.
For example, in A Secret Gift, Halley Bowen has been summoned to an attorney’s office learning she has an anonymous benefactor offering her the chance to live her dream life, but there’s a hitch. In a specified time, she must experience and find grand love in order to write her romance novel with authenticity.
Once I’m engaged, the characters start chattering away at me. I sit down with a blank screen staring at me and take dictation. I never outline, plot, or know the ending.
Here’s something my cozy publisher shakes her head over. Whenever I announce I’m writing the next book for the Shell Isle Mystery Series, my publisher asks for a hint about Page and Betsy’s next adventure. I always tell her I haven’t a clue, (don’t pardon the pun) but my two sleuths are hollering for me to get my quill moving. She can’t grasp how I write a mystery and don’t plot the clues, outline the story, know the suspects, and who did the deed. I don’t know whodunit until the end. And, between us, in all three books, I guessed wrong. Yep. Totally missed it. But hey, the not knowing keeps me showing up in my writing chair each day.
Once in a while, after finishing a book, I care so much about the characters that I write a sequel for them in my head.
Do you ever know what happens to your characters after the book ends?
I always know. It’s funny because I feel like I can tap into them anytime and see what they’re up to. For the last few months, Old Mountain Cassie visits me asking when I’m writing her next book because she’s bustin’ to teach more secrets on how to ‘live life amazing.’ She’s also begging for us to do a workbook. So, a resounding yes, my characters live on and on.
How many unwritten books are in your head? How do you decide which ones come to life now and which ones stay on the back burner?
My unwritten books are like planes circling an airport waiting to be cleared to land. They’re always up there, and more show up if I dare acknowledge them. I’m guessing 5 or 6 are flashing landing lights at me. Old Mountain Cassie, A Secret Gift, Shell Isle Mystery Series, and Charm are all written as series, so it’s good those planes are flying around. I don’t make the decision which novel is next. It’s who shows up and talks the loudest.
Do you often write characters you wish you were friends with in real life?
Absolutely. If I don’t feel a strong like quotient to my characters, I won’t tell their story. I adore them all except my murder suspects. They’re a dodgy lot that I’d steer a wide berth from saying hello. I weave a lot of humor dialogue into all of my stories, which endears the characters even more.
How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?
Every single day I’m in my writing chair. I never know what’s coming out of their mouths next. And that’s fine by me.
Were you “born to write,” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?
I wrote and illustrated my first book when I was around six years old. Judging by my parent’s expressions, as they tried to figure out my drawings, I knew words had better be my jam.
Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why??
A synopsis is spawned from the devil. No one with a beating heart hates writing them more than me. I can never get a synopsis to capture the essence of my story or its soul. And please don’t give me license to carry on about how publishers want a different length to track with the query. Now that I have a literary agency representing me, I hold hope this enterprise will improve…I hope.
We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?
The cover design is primo with me. It’s the book’s first impression… it’s face. Except for Red, White, and Boom, I came up with the concept for my book covers. I find the photo/illustration and send it to the publisher along with my ideas for layout. The designers start tweaking, and from that point, I strive to drive them crazy with color preferences.
How would you define your style of writing?
Simply complex. Oh, you’d better toss in a heavy dash of eclectic.
Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?
Automobiles. I like to be in control. 😊
What do you think of people who talk in movie theaters?
That they talk too much. 😊
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
My daughter, Lindsay.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever given?
What was the most valuable class you ever took in school? Why?
My most valuable class was 4 years of journalism. I learned how to find the real story hiding, ask tough/insightful questions, and write snappy headlines and catchy ads. It poured the foundation for my writing.
Have you ever walked out of a movie? If so, what was it?
Mommie Dearest. Just thinking about it sets me off. 😊
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
That I can’t decide what my biggest peeve is.
What simple pleasure makes you smile?
A beige bliss iced espresso with almond milk. Large, please. Hold the whipped cream.
CONNECT WITH TONYA
Great interview. I have read all of Ms Penrose’s books; each special in their unique way and I cannot wait for the next one.
A super interview, Tonya and Lisette. I don’t read a huge amount of fiction, but I shall put you on my tbr list!