AN INTERVIEW WITH TAWNY STOKES
Today folks we have young adult author Tawny Stokes over for a chat.
GNOH – First things first, what should we call you, Tawny or Vivi?
Tawny’s my real name, and we’re talking about my YA work, so let’s go with that. Vivi can stand out in the hall.
GNOH – Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a multi-published Canadian author. Have been published since 2004. First with a few epublishers, then 3 different NY publishers, and now I’m self-publishing. I love to read, am a huge YA fan, watch movies, kickbox, go for long walks, love the water, and fuzzy kittens. Sounds like a dating ad. J
GNOH – A blue Mohawk, it is one of my big regrets that I never had a Mohawk, do you ever have the urge to have one again.
Not a Mohawk, but I do have to fight the urges to have blue or pink or purple hair, I’ve settled on dark blood red. Suits me more.
GNOH – Vampires and fluffy bunnies, are pretty much at the opposite ends of the spectrum, what is the appeal of these two things?
It’s probably a duality thing. I definitely do have two sides. One is dark and scary, and the other is fluffy and fun.
GNOH – So what made you want to become a writer?
Money. Is that too crass to say? I started writing short stories for adult magazines to make money. Then it turned into something else. I’ve always been a writer, since I was little, but never thought it could be a viable career.
GNOH – Who are some of your literary heroes and influences?
Stephen King is my biggest hero and influence. I grew up on his work. Love him still. More recently, would be Suzanne Collins who wrote Hunger Games, and Michael Grant who wrote the Gone series, which is very Kingish. I’m a huge fan of JK Rowling, you have to respect a woman who engaged an entire world to read, not just one book but seven.
GNOH – How would you describe your writing style?
Dark, intense, fast-paced.
GNOH – What made you decide to write young adult fiction as well as adult fiction, and do you approach them in a different manner?
Personally, I wish I would’ve started in YA. My voice naturally lends itself to that genre. I guess I started in adult fiction because that was all I knew at the time, this was before Rowling burst onto the scene. Then in early 2010, after reading a lot of YA, which is still my fave genre to read, I decided I would try my hand at it. I sent what I’d written to my then agent, and she loved it. She was the one that told me I had a YA voice.
I do approach them in different ways. I have to. And sometimes I do find that I tend to go a little overboard, I had to rewrite Demon Whisperer twice because my voice went a little too adult in some parts. In reference to how the main character reacted to things. His attitude was too adult in some places.
GNOH – Was it a conscious decision to use two different names?
Yes. I always knew I’d write under my real name one day. At the time I created Vivi Anna, I didn’t know I’d be writing YA under Tawny Stokes, but I knew I’d be writing something different.
GNOH – And what made you decide to write supernatural fiction?
It’s where my brain naturally goes. I don’t think I could write something contemporary without some kind of ‘thing’ jumping out of the dark. It’s probably from 30 years of watching horror films and reading horror books.
GNOH – It’s a rather over crowded market, how would you say your stories stand out from the crowd?
I think they stand out because I’m not afraid to go there. I like to look at the edge then take a running leap over. I’ve read a few YA books that I could see where they were going and it was going to be so good and scary and gory, but then the author took a step back. No!! I hate that. If you set it up to go there, go there!
GNOH – Could you tell us about your novel Static?
Static is about a groupie who will do anything to get close to her favourite band Malice, but when she does, she gets more than she bargained for and starts to change into something inhuman. The band’s roadie, Trevor, comes to her aid, but he wants something from her too.
GNOH – Salem is a punk rock groupie, is she in any way based on your experiences as a young punk rocker?
Maybe a little. I was never a groupie of one band. But I did go to a lot of gigs when I was teen, so people got to know me. I could always be found in the middle of the mosh pit. Which was funny because I was so little. 5’5’’ and barely 100 pounds at the time. But what I lacked in stature I made up in attitude and a big mouth. J
GNOH – So who are your favourite punk bands of all time, and what do you think of the current state of punk? Personally it makes me hang my head in shame at times.
I think the punk of today, isn’t really punk. Really even the punk scene in the 80’s that I was involved in, wasn’t really punk either. I mean it was a social movement in the 60’s/70’s, about the inequality of the haves and the have nots.
The bands I loved were old school, The Clash, the Buzzcocks, Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols, The Damned, Dead Milkmen, SNFU was a local band I loved. Gen X with Billy Idol. Who I did end up worshipping.
Today, I do like Green Day, Sum 41, Papa Roach, some others, but I don’t consider them punk, just rock.
GNOH – Did you base the band on any real bands out there?
Nope. Just my thoughts of what would be a cool band of killers.
GNOH – Is there a message in the book?
Maybe, be careful what you wish for. You might get it.
GNOH – Your second novel is Demon Whisperer, can you please tell us about that book.
Demon Whisperer is about Caden Butcher, a young exorcist, who has to fill his father’s shoes when an accident renders his father crippled and puts Caden in a coma. After he wakes, he has certain abilities that helps him become one of the best exorcists in the business. But then a nasty demon comes a calling, and Caden has to put it down before it can expose Caden for a fraud.
GNOH – How did you come up with the idea for the book?
It started with the character of Caden Butcher, I’ve been playing around with the idea of him for a long time. Then came my love for the movie Constantine. I know lots of peeps hated it because of Keanu, but I loved it. So I thought what if being an exorcist was cool, maybe Caden could be popular because of it. And voila the Demon Whisperer was born.
GNOH – The novel deals with exorcisms, do you believe in demonic possession?
No. At least, I don’t’ want to believe it’s possible. Probably why I can’t watch The Exorcist though. I’ve tried, time and time again, but just can’t sit through the whole thing in one sitting. I can watch it in bits and parts. It does affect me.
GNOH – How much research did you do for the book?
A lot. More than I normally do for a book. I read a book written by an exorcist, I did some research on the Order of Exorcists. Read up on the ritual. Watched some Supernatural. J I used bits and pieces from different sources and put them all together.
GNOH – When plotting the book out, how much work did you do in creating your own world, sets of rules
for how the demons act?
I always take time before writing to world build. I make notes of do and don’ts, what the world looks like here, what is out and what is hidden. Then I’ll start writing, and then end up changing stuff along the way to suit my needs.
GNOH – There are some odd folk out there that claim books like this attract children to the dark side, what
do you say to these people?
The same type of people said the same thing when teens were listening to rock in the 50’s, and heavy metal in the 80’s. I haven’t met any of these people yet, so I’m not sure what I’d say. I don’t’ much care what others think.
I mean, I read horror books, and watched horror movies when I was young, and I turned out okay… Um, huh, maybe I should change that analogy…
GNOH – Is this going to be a one off, or can we expect any follow ups?
Static is a one off, although I have been getting tons of mail to write another book about Salem and Trevor, so that may happen.
But the Demon Whisperer is definitely the beginning of a series. The next book is called America’s Next Top Zombie.
GNOH – As well as writing novels, you are also trying your hand at screen writing, how is this going?
It’s hard to break into movies and TV. HARD. Way harder to do then to get a publishing contract with a big NY publisher.
But it is truly my first love. I am determined to break in, so I will keep at. I have 3 producers that I have made close connections with, so it’s just a matter of finding the right material to do together.
GNOH – How does screen writing differ to writing a novel?
Screenwriting is ALL about the idea. It’s having a high-concept idea and being able to pull it off. It’s also all about who you know and timing. You still have to be a good writer, but personally I see that as second to the idea.
Writing a novel, it’s ALL about execution. It’s about the way your write, and how you write. The idea is important but it’s your writing that matters whether you will be successful or not. It’s the reverse in Hollywood.
GNOH – Can you tell us how MTV and The Demon Whisperer?
I connected with a producer last year, and we have been trying to get something going. We shopped one TV pilot that didn’t fly, so we were looking for something else to do, and I sent him the finished manuscript of Demon Whisperer and he LOVED it, so I wrote the TV bible for it, worked on a pilot for it, and now it’s being looked at by MTV.
GNOH – So what does the future hold for you?
Hopefully many many things.
I’m hoping to sign with a new agent and work on a new high-concept YA series with her. Will keep self-publishing more Demon Whisperer plus more adult books under my Vivi Anna name. And right now I’m working on a TV idea with the same producer that we will hopefully take to China.
YOU CAN PURCHASE TAWNY’S BOOKS BY CLICKING THE LINKS BELOW