Thursday, November 24, 2011

Writer Spotlight: Simon Toyne

On Coffee and Roses I like to bring you news of exciting authors who are either waiting to be published or published and worth checking out.

This week, I'm really excited to welcome the very lovely (and ridiculously talented) SIMON TOYNE into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight...

When did you first decide that you wanted to write?

I’ve always written. When I was 9 or 10 I handwrote a book of poetry, riddles and jokes, got my dad to photocopy it at work and then sold it to my family for 5p a copy. Later, I studied English and Drama at university then slid into a career in television where I wrote scripts and voice-over commentary for nearly twenty years. In that time I also wrote a couple of spec screenplays that didn’t get produced. Sanctus is the first novel I’ve written, but I’ve been a professional writer my entire adult life and writing is just like any craft – the more you do it, the better you get.

What interests you as a writer?

People. This is true of the work and also the extraordinary people you meet in the course of researching and then publicizing your books. If there’s no human dimension to the work then it’s hard to get excited by it.

Do you have a typical writing day? If not, when is the best time to write for you?

I find my children act as a useful, organic timing device – particularly during term time. I get up early, around 6am, and work for a couple of hours until either my son or daughter trots into the office and demands breakfast. I often get half the day’s word count done in these two hours (I try and write 1,000 good words a day). I then stop to do breakfast, school run and dog duties then am back at it at around 10am. This is when I switch the internet on and deal with anything else that needs doing. Because I’m lucky enough to be published all over the world there’s usually a book coming out somewhere in some form or another so I like to support them as much as I can with their PR activities by doing articles and interviews. I try and get these done by lunchtime then take a break before getting back to the book. The kids come home at 3pm so that’s my deadline for getting the word count done. I may do a bit more in the evening (or a lot more if I’m running behind schedule). Whenever I’m close to finishing a book all of this goes out the window and I tend to work exclusively on the book from dawn ‘til dusk, 7 days a week until it’s done.

Which authors inspire you and why?

Anyone who’s a better writer than me – of which there are very, very many. I read a lot and widely. Reading good writing reminds you where the bar is and keeps you honest and sharp.

What are the best things about being a writer?

Being able to work from home so I can take my kids to school every day, pick them up afterwards, eat every meal with them and never miss a sports day or carol concert.

And the worst?

It’s very solitary. You sit alone for months on end listening to the voices in your head. This is also a very good working definition for insanity.

Tell me about Sanctus

Sanctus is the story of one woman’s search for her own identity, played out against the backdrop of the eternal fight between good and evil. It’s a bit like a feminist critique of patriarchal religion wrapped up in a high-octane, modern thriller. If that all sounds too worthy, then it’s also a page-turning holiday read.

Sanctus is enjoying phenomenal success, being published in over fifty countries and translated into twenty-eight languages. What has the experience of this been like for you as a debut novelist?

It’s unbelievable. I wasn’t even sure the book would get published, let alone in so many countries. The plus side is that it has enabled me to write full-time and I get invited to various places when the book comes out there. This year I’ve been to Norway, Italy, Switzerland, Canada, America and Romania. Seeing your book in foreign bookshops is a surreal and amazing experience. The down-side is that I spend so much time doing PR for each launch that I hardly have time left to write. I’m in no way complaining but it’s something I wasn’t prepared for. This, coupled with a tight deadline for delivery of the second book, has meant my laptop has become an extension of my body. For example I’m writing this now in a café in Ravenna, Italy as I wait for someone to come and pick me up and take me to the airport. I seem to spend a lot of time alone with my laptop in strange places these days.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished the second book in the trilogy – The Key – where the ripples from the huge revelation at the end of Sanctus spread out into the wider world and the consequences of what has happened have to be faced by all the central characters. The slow-burn ‘will-they-won’t-they’ relationship of the two main characters is developed further, only with a very large apocalyptic shadow hanging over them.

Do you have a dream project you would love to write?

The book I’m dying to write is actually the third book of the Sanctus trilogy. I’ve got final edits of The Key to do then I’ll start work on it. It’s all planned out and I can’t wait to start. It brings the story to a final, revelatory ending. The conclusion of this book is an even bigger surprise than the one at the end of Sanctus or The Key. Its working title is The End of Days, which gives you a hint at where it’s heading.

What would be your top three tips for aspiring writers?

1. Write. Read. Rewrite (repeat).
2. Don’t over analyse, just get the first draft done. You can change it as much as you like once it’s on the page and no one else has to see it until you’re happy.
3. Switch off the internet when you’re writing.

Anything else you'd like to say?
Love your hat. x

Sanctus is released in paperback today (24th November). You can follow Simon on twitter (@sjtoyne), on facebook and on his website.

Thanks so much to Simon for stepping into the Writer Spotlight (from an Italian café as well!) Sanctus is an incredible book - it's a cliché to say a novel is a page-turner, but in the case of this book it is entirely deserved. Many reviewers have compared Simon's writing to Dan Brown, but in my opinion Sanctus is better by far: its plot is more creative, the pace is better and the characters are people you can believe in. I loved it and I can't wait to read The Key!

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