My very first guest blogger is Toni V. Sweeney, a terrific author of sf, horror, fantasy, vampire fiction and more. We first began corresponding when she started to review my Raine's Landing novels, and we have been corresponding ever since. Here she is, talking about the influences on her work:
A special thanks to Tony for having me as his guest. We’ve only met through the Internet but I count him as a friend and applaud the novels he’s written. In a recent blog, Tony spoke of places he’s visited where he got the germ of ideas later flowering into novels. I haven’t traveled that much, and certainly not outside the ol’ US of A, but I have used the locales I’ve lived in as settings for some of my novels…specifically the Nebraska Panhandle (yes, there’s one there, too) in Serpent’s Tooth, Walk the Shadow Trail, and Vengeance from Eden, which were written for Nebraska’s celebration of statehood) and Middle Georgia and the Golden Isles in Jericho Road.
None of these have the haunting chill of Tony’s books—except Serpent’s Tooth, though demon worship in Nebraska does sound a little far-fetched when spoken out loud—but I think I managed to depict the loneliness of the sand hills, as well as the tight-knit conformity of a small Southern town fairly accurately.
There’s one thing more than any other that’s influenced the way my books are constructed, something people have come to call my “style.” (Hey…I’ve got a style now, how about that?) I suppose I’m a child of my time…and my time was the early 50’s, when moving pictures were the most popular form of entertainment before the Boob Tube usurped it. In those days, there were not only dramas and westerns but sweeping epics of adventure, costume dramas of pirates, Robin Hood, rogues and rascals and villains. Nowadays, you rarely see those, except for an occasional Indiana Jones rip-off or if Cinemax steps in with The Borgias. It was the time of Frank Yerby, Samuel Shellabarger, Rafael Sabatini…men who wrote what would probably be termed the picaresque novel, tales of men conquering mountains and nations, and discovering new worlds—simply because they were there. Their stories were made into Technicolor sagas enthralling this little viewer for hours (in those days, you could pay your money and stay in the theatre the entire day if you wished.) And when I began to write, I unconsciously patterned my stories after theirs.
One series—The Adventures of Sinbad—seems to mirror those stories enough that several readers have told me they “absolutely adore” my main character. I admit it’s easy to see him swinging across the deck of a ship, with dagger between his teeth while he hangs onto the heroine with one hand and a rope with the other, a la The Crimson Pirate. In fact, I think I had him do something almost like that in one story…
Other novels open with an incident leading to a flashback. In fact, one novel is simply one extended flashback, returning to the present only in the last chapter. Others are more linear, with cuts to other points of view showing things happening at the same time in other places, the dialogue interspersed with stage direction-like movement. In telling my tales of adventure, romance, violence, danger, and—on occasion—lust, I harken back to those days in those darkened theatres as I shoveled in the popcorn with my eyes glued to that glad bead-silvered screen. Good or bad, that’s just the way my mind works, and so far, it’s successful. The results are—in several reviewers’ opinions, “readable and enjoyable tales…outside the box”…which I owe to two things: my imagination and those childhood entertainments.
And then television came along…and opened the box even wider…
Toni V. Sweeney was born after the War Between the States and before the Gulf War. A native Georgian, she has lived on both coasts, thirty years in the Midwest and is now trying for thirty more in Nebraska. Her first novel was published in 1989 and she currently has 27 novels in publication. Her last novel The Wizard’s Wife, was released in February, of this year, and her latest novel, Runaway Brother, written under her pseudonym Icy Snow Blackstone, will be released by Class Act Books in August, 2011.