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SHANDA: How long have you been writing?
TONI: I started writing when I was very young, maybe third grade. In fourth grade I kind of high-jacked this play called Shoemaker and the Elves and turned it into a play that our whole school put on. We got out early that day and I was the hero for about half an hour. It made me realize the power of writing…you can make people think and do things you want them to. That’s a real and sacred power of the pen.
I really can’t recall a time when I wasn’t writing or making up stories or telling tales. My children call it creative lying.
SHANDA: Is there a book or book-related event that changed your life?
TONI: I was never read to as a child. Never. So I guess I did it on my own, but the first book I remember reading was Gone With the Wind. No lie. I was in fifth grade and I fell in love with the whole epic saga. I read it and re-read it and lived at Tara in my imagination. It was obsessive. I think I watched the movie 11 times in a row. Then I replaced that with Jeremiah Johnson, a book Robert Redford made into a movie. Then it was Jaws. Jaws was written so vividly that I actually threw up at the description of the first shark attack. Again, words have power to make people feel and they made me feel like puking!
SHANDA: Do you have a personal or family motto or a favorite quote?
TONI: I adore quotes. All kinds. I love to know what other people think and feel and experience. At the moment the quote that’s on my mirror came from me. I hope that it doesn’t seem too egotistical, but it’s a personal quote that I’d like to share with you all because it’s something I believe wholeheartedly. Lately, I’ve put it to the test and found it to be true. “Strength comes from struggle. When you learn to see your struggles as opportunities to become stronger, better, wiser, then your thinking shifts from ‘I can’t do this’ to ‘I must do this.'”
SHANDA: What is the strangest food you have ever eaten?
TONI: I love, love, love to travel so I’ve eaten all sorts of things. In Asia there was this fruit that was white and slimy and I swear to it, alive. I don’t remember the name, but it was like putting a bite of pear in your mouth that wiggled around while you chewed it. It was creepy and awesome at the same time. I sort of felt like Ursula in “The Little Mermaid,” remember when she ate the little living creatures?
SHANDA: Do you have a favorite day of the week? (Or, Is there a TV show you cannot miss?)
TONI: I’m not a tv addict, but I do get into entire series and watch from one end to the other. “Downton Abby” is the latest conquest. I adored it.
Favorite day of the week? Any day that allows me time to pray in nature, creativity to flow in my writing, and being able to spend time with the people I love. My best days are honestly the days when, as they say, I do something for the first time. Anything. Eat at a new cafe. Make a new recipe. Hike a new trail. Meet a new friend. Add to my limited vocabulary of foreign words. I’m trying to master French right now and it’s going to take me a long, long time.
SHANDA: What books are at the top of your to-read list?
TONI: I just re-read Catcher in the Rye. This summer I went through a bunch of top 100 books to read and made a list of the ones I haven’t read and I was surprised at how many books I have not read. Michael Cunningham is one of the great writers of our era, but he’s a little harsh for a lot of people. He wrote The Hours. I love his writing. I love to read so put any book in front of me and I’m a gonner. Right now I’m reading Crucial Conversations so I can better communicate verbally. It’s something I need to learn, trust me.
I am so grateful for the chance to share my works with you all. I’m so excited because I have a new book coming out titled Taking Back What’s Yours. It’s a self-help, motivational type book that empowers people who have suffered to regain whatever they’ve lost. It has changed my life just writing it. I am also heart-deep into a YA fantasy series that’s different than anything I ever imagined writing, but I’m enjoying it more than anything. I can’t wait to share it with you all. Thanks again and blessings to you all!
SHANDA: Thank you so much, Toni!