Friday, November 25, 2011

The Same Six Questions - Toni Dwiggins

Welcome to this holiday weekend edition of The Same Six Questions! Today's guest is author Toni Dwiggins.

Hi, Andy! I’m a third-gen Californian who migrated from southern Cal to northern Cal. What I like most about my state is that one can go from the ocean to the mountains in one day, with a lunch stop in the desert. I like it so much, I’ve set my forensic geology series in those settings. My hobbies are reading (natch), kayaking and hiking and skiing, playing the recorder (a starter flute), and watching pelicans. Random stuff: my favorite food is cheese (I’m with you, Wallace and Grommit). My guilty pleasure is the TV show Man Vs Wild. At the top of my travel wish list: Barcelona, Machu Picchu, and Mont San Michel in France. Where I hide the bodies: in my books.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

Badwater came out as an Indie ebook and paperback this summer (also at B&N and Smashwords). It’s been a really fun experience, and a lot of work. The part I like best is the ease of interaction with readers.

The book is about two forensic geologists—a young woman and her father-figure mentor—whose job is to analyze earth evidence at crime scenes. In the Death Valley case, they must do more than solve the immediate crime, they must also prevent a radiological disaster and survive to tell the tale. The book is a bit of a hybrid, part mystery and part ecothriller.

Here’s a short blurb:
Forensic geologists Cassie Oldfield and Walter Shaws embark on a perilous hunt—tracking a terrorist who has stolen radioactive material that is hotter than the desert in August. He threatens to release it in America’s most fragile national park, Death Valley.

But first he must stop the geologists who are closing in.

As the hunt turns dangerous, Cassie and Walter will need grit along with their field skills to survive this case. For they are up against more than pure malice. The unstable atom—in the hands of an unstable man—is governed by Murphy’s Law. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.
And it does.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I come from a family of writers. Dad was a newspaper aviation reporter, and then wrote books on the topic. Mom wrote a couple of B-movie scripts. Aunt and Uncle wrote westerns and detective stories. When I was twelve, I barged into a meeting of hardboiled writers in their living room—having just finished reading Gone With The Wind. I announced, with tears and snot running, that GWTW was the best book that ever had been written or ever would be written. A lot of polite coughing and a few snickers and one muttered you try it. The next day I wrote a short story about a little girl who loses her favorite doll, simply heartbreaking, and sent it to the New Yorker. Got my first rejection slip. And then just kept on trying.

3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

It was a story called SNOW DEVIL about a woman out nordic skiing who encounters a killer and foils him—using her ski-waxing skills. It got published in a sports magazine. After a lengthy detour writing textbook material, I came back to fiction and wrote my first novel. Full-length lengthy! (Interrupt, about a terrorist trying to take down the country’s phone system. It was published through TOR Books.) I still have copies of the magazine with my story, and quite a few author copies of Interrupt.

4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

When I sold my first writing professionally. It was an article about backpacking and bears. I’d been whining to my aunt and uncle, the western writers, that the great American novel I was diddling with just wasn’t coming together. To start a writing career, they said, write what you know. I knew backpacking, and I’d encountered bears.


5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

Hap Miller, a sardonic health physicist (his job is radiation protection) who simply took over the book in the first draft. I’d like to find out if he’s as compelling in real life as he was to my protagonist in the book. And then I’d probably try to reform him.


6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

A giant hamburger.

My father once took part in an experiment in which creative types were given LSD, on the theory it would increase their creativity. Two weeks after taking the drug, he was driving on the freeway and looked in the rearview and saw a giant hamburger chasing him. He always got a laugh when he told that story, but there was no amusement in his eyes. He’d panicked, terrified he was losing his mind.

Should I find a giant hamburger on my doorstep, I’d fear the same thing. Psychological terror is more threatening to me than giant spiders (although I’d avoid those, too).

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Thanks for stopping in and sharing with us, Toni! For more of Toni, be sure to visit her Web site.

To meet your next great indie author, be sure to stop by on Monday, when my guest will be Cliff Ball!