As part of the All Authors Blog Blitz taking place today, I am proud to have my first blog interview with Toni Allen - tarot reader, astrologer and author. With that, let's launch right into it.
Toni can you tell us a little about your background?
As a child I was always making up stories in my head, but mainly only wrote them down for school. I studied photography at college and it’s still one of my greatest passions, being able to capture a single moment and show others how I see the world around me. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I realised that other people don’t relate to the world in quite the same way as myself, and it was only through a long process of self-discovery that I acknowledged the word psychic to explain the many weird and wonderful things that happened around me. As a child I assumed that everyone else had prophetic dreams, saw ghosts and knew what was occurring in other places at the same time. To me this was all normal, a part of who I am.
While at college someone introduced me to Tarot and, due to my early years of self-discovery, I immediately understood the symbols and was able to read the cards without ever having picked up a book on the subject or had any training. Becoming a Tarot reader gave me a platform to use my psychic abilities and help other people with my ability to see beyond the physical realm. As a teenager I was always intrigued by astrology and would do things like sit in the pub with my friends, scribble down birthdays and announce, “Did you know that even though eight people are here we only have Sagittarians and Taureans?” My friends would reply, “Who cares?” And I would say, “I do,” and had to work out why we had homed in on each other. Consequently I learnt astrology.
I now work full time as a tarot reader and astrologer.
You can find out more about me on my blog at http://toniallenauthor.com/
How'd you make the transition to becoming an author?
I started writing novels years ago. Stories populated my head and so I started to write them down. A few poems came along too.
After I started reading tarot I went out and bought a few books on the subject to see what others were thinking and, to be frank, I found them quite irritating because they just gave the meaning of the card but not the reason why it should mean that in the first place. I was already teaching a small group of students and handing out information sheets, and one student said, “You’ve got the making of a book here,” so I started collating my material and putting into book form. Hence the System of Symbols, a new way to look at tarot evolved from my teaching notes.
What kinds of things do you write about?
With my fiction I think a friend of mine put it very well. She said, “I’ve got it. You’re books do have a theme, they’re all about ordinary people that extraordinary things happen to.” These extraordinary things usually have a paranormal twist of some description, but in my experience they are not impossible. My main characters are not ghouls, or vampires they are just ordinary folk…oh yes, and usually there’s some kind of investigation or mystery unfolding as the story progresses. The next novel I’ll be releasing, Visiting Lilly, is a detective mystery, with a paranormal/sci-fi twist.
That's very ineteresting. Now, can you tell us a little about your latest book?
Being Richard is a story about a very ordinary man who just happens to be an immortal. He wasn’t born immortal. A sacrificial ritual to protect his tribe from an advancing army backfires and instead of killing Sunbeerka, gives him eternal life. So now he’s 2,562 years old, looks like he’s thirty and is yet again scrabbling around for a new identity so that he doesn’t appear to be too young for his alleged age. Choosing to become Richard Ridley, who died as an infant, proves extremely challenging.
He doesn’t want to be Richard, but his nemesis appears in the form of Gilbert Hawkins who works for a secret government department that is hunting down immortals, and is forced to become Richard.
On first meeting Gilbert Sunbeerka asks,
“How long have you been observing me?”
“Long enough to know that you’ve way out lived your four score and ten. Before Julian you were Mike; and killing Bobby off just after the war was a real mistake, maybe one of your biggest. Records, Richard, records and photography, they really have been the bane of your life in recent years, even though you’ve proved extremely camera shy.”
There was no point in answering him. He was my worst nightmare come true, all of my fears realised into one forty something man leaning against my gate thinking he was clever. Those sharp brown eyes were scrutinising me, eyeing me up and down, searching for answers in my face and eyes, and the way I smiled or frowned.
“I have all of the evidence,” he said, turning his collar up against the fine mist of drizzle that had begun to grey the surrounding green.
“I’m sure you do.” I pushed myself off the gate and headed back towards the cottage.
Gilbert admits that he too is an immortal, although he was born like it. It’s not until one of them is wounded that the differences in their immortality start to show; and questions arise as to whether Gilbert is immortal or lying. Persuaded that all the The Department wants is for him to track down other immortals, Sunbeerka plays their game, but cannot rest until he’s discovered how baby Richard really died. Researching the dead child’s family leads him to uncover dark family secrets, living relatives with blood on their hands and murder. Life becomes dangerous, even for an immortal.
Which do you prefer writing - fiction or non-fiction? Why?
Now that’s a really difficult choice. I think it has to be equal. I enjoy writing non-fiction because I love sharing my knowledge with other people. When people say they have learnt something new from one of my books that gives me a real buzz. With fiction I’m more compulsive addictive. People appear in my head and I have to write about them, they have a story that needs to be told. I enjoy getting to know my characters, but sometimes they’re like naughty children and run off and do their own thing, which is exciting and part of the fun.
What's the most difficult thing you've encountered in your journey as an author?
Finding the time to write all of the novels that I want to write. I have several finished novels waiting to be tweaked ready for publication, but I’m also working on a new project.
Also finding the right platform and audience for my work. I’m not a natural at social media, but I’m having a go and slowly but surely connecting with people who enjoy my style and content.
What words of encouragement would you give to any potential authors out there?
Never give up, never give in. Keep writing. When you’ve finished one piece of work send it out if you’re looking for mainstream publication, but start on your next manuscript, don’t stop writing. In your more creative times always keep a notebook of ideas. A word or two, a scene, any idea that pops into your head. This will become your source book when less creative times leave you feeling dispirited.
Finally, where can readers find your books?
Being Richard is available from Amazon US | Amazon UK for Kindle and in paperback. iTunes and from Lulu.
The System of Symbols, a new way to look at tarot is available from Amazon US | Amazon UK for Kindle and in paperback. iTunes and from Lulu.
You’ll also find my books on Nook and other platforms. You can join me on my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ToniAllenAuthor or my blog http://toniallenauthor.com/ to find out more about me and my latest books.
Thanks, Toni, for taking the time to speak with us today and share your experiences. We look forward to hearing about your success in the future.