Toni Anderson is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, RITA® finalist, science nerd, professional tourist, dog lover, gardener, mom. Originally from a small town in England, Toni studied Marine Biology at University of Liverpool (B.Sc.) and University of St. Andrews (Ph.D.) with the intention she’d never be far from the ocean. Well, that plan backfired, and she ended up in the Canadian prairies with her biology professor husband, two kids, a rescue dog, and a laid-back leopard gecko. Toni started writing while pregnant with her first child and never stopped. Her greatest achievements are mastering the Tokyo subway, climbing Ben Lomond, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, and surviving fifteen Winnipeg winters (fingers crossed). She loves to travel for research purposes and was lucky enough to visit the Strategic Information and Operations Center inside FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. in 2016, and she also got to shove another car off the road during pursuit training at the Writer’s Police Academy in Wisconsin. Watch out world!
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
I’ve been an avid reader my whole life but in my late twenties, when I was doing my second postdoc, I suddenly began trying to write a novel. After that I was hooked. And the thing I love most about being a writer is the fact I have a creative release for all the story ideas wheeling around in my head. I also love the control and independence I now have over how I spend my time.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
I write FBI Romantic Thrillers which run the gamut from serial killers to espionage to terrorist plots. There is a new couple for each book, but characters can crossover between series. If you want to find out more check out my website https://www.toniandersonauthor.com
3) What projects are you currently working on?
The next book in my new Cold Justice – Most Wanted series, COLD DECEIT. This one features a Forensic Anthropologist and a Hostage Rescue Team member. It’s early days.
4) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
Well, although awards are always nice, the most significant achievement of my career is definitely being able to financially support my family. I’ve been writing for 23 years, and the industry has gone through seismic shifts in that time, but those shifts have allowed me to thrive and I’m very grateful for that. Where do I see myself in five years? I’d be happy with a steadily increasing reader base and growing sales. I’m in a pretty wonderful spot right now so I’d love for that to continue. Oh, getting a film deal would be pretty cool.
5) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career?
Most rejections I’ve received have ultimately led me to a better place, so I’d say don’t sweat it. That’s hard in the moment but I think it’s important to acknowledge that a rejection is a legitimate decision—maybe you don’t fit that particular publishing house, or your work truly isn’t ready for the big leagues—but not necessarily a bad one for you and your career. There may be a better route for you to take or maybe you need to work harder on your craft. You need to develop a thicker skin and, after the initial sting fades, more on. Forget about it.
6) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel?
I write pretty much every day, but I need large blocks of time to get into the story. I do write broad-stroke outlines. I used to outline in much more detail, but I discovered I only followed the main turning points anyway—the crimes and evidence tend to take over some of the plot :). Generally, it takes me 3-4 months to draft a novel. Then there are many many edits 🙂
7) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
It’s never too late or too early to become a successful author. Storytellers evolve at their own pace.
8) Are you an avid reader and have you always been? What’s the first book you ever read that really touched you emotionally and moved you? Who is your favorite author? What book are you currently reading?
I am an avid reader. As a kid I always had my nose in a book. The first series I remember going gag-ga over was Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumbies. I was obsessed with horses. My favorite author…I have so many! Suzanne Brockmann, Laura Griffin, Milla Vane, Meljean Brook, Rachel Grant. And I’m currently in the midst of inhaling all the St Cyr books by C.S. Harris which are fabulous.
9) The Pandemic was a challenging time for some writers and creative individuals but also for others it was time that they needed to focus on their creative passions. Which side of that spectrum do you fall on? Are there any lessons or nuggets of wisdom that you gained during the Pandemic that help you within your writing career? Did the quarantine stifle your creativity or did it make you even more driven to get things done?
The pandemic was/is a difficult for everyone and although my routine didn’t change, I suddenly found my husband teaching biology in the open room behind me, and my kids studying remotely in their rooms (as opposed to on the other side of the country). It has sucked and I’m glad we have gotten some normalcy back. However, I’d take that disruption any time if it helps to keep them healthy. Creatively, well, honestly being creative has been hard for a few years now and I tend to have to cut myself off from social media for long periods to get anything done. Right now, I am craving a little solitude to restore some creative juices—I have a deadline I’d like to meet 🙂
10) What are your thoughts about how the publishing industry as it is being represented today? Do you lean more towards traditional publishing or self-publishing as a preference? Does being a hybrid author interest you?
Right now, I’m self-published all the way. I have some books with publishers but, according to my last agent, NYC would still consider me a newbie writer and I have zero time or patience for that. I’ve sold a lot of books; I’ve won a lot of awards. Plus, I like the control I currently have over my career. Maybe if I was a faster writer, I’d consider trying for a hybrid career but I’m sadly not a fast writer 🙂 Who knows what will happen in the future but, right now, I’m very happy as an indie.
What about you?
I think the publishing industry today is better than it has been in the past, but I think they have a lot of issues with them. I won’t lie and say that secretly a part of me still desires to be traditionally published but I have leaned more into self-publishing for the moment because I know that getting traditionally published for someone who isn’t a household name or with friends already in the industry would be next to impossible. I ultimately would like to be traditionally published as well as self-published but I just couldn’t wait any longer for someone else to make my dreams come true.
11) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
Oh, great question. I actually don’t know the answer. I know that I feel embodied within my books—sometimes as the protagonist and sometimes as the villain. I’d like to believe that my greatest strength might be empathy. Thinking about it, I’m not very good at expressing myself in the real world and I hope I am a little more able to convey my inner self via my books. Difficult question.