Author Interview: Meet Tonya Cannariato

I’m sharing my blog space today with Tonya Cannariato, who is not only one of the nicest people that you’ll meet on Twitter, but also a very talented writer who has just released her debut novel, Dust to Blood. I can’t wait to start this one, it looks most intriguing…



 Without giving too much away, tell us about your new book?

The underlying premise is: What if Communist regimes became so powerful because they stole magic from their population? Then, because the Soviet Union fell, if the magic had been embodied in some sort of magical being, what would those beings have to do to reclaim the magic that had been stolen from them? Obviously, there are still other Communist regimes out there, but this story has always been intended to explore the wider array of those countries, so we’ll be seeing more of Anne and Ivan as they try to find the magical beings from China and North Korea (hence, the series title, Red Slaves).


Where do your ideas come from?

Literally… I had a dream. Every so often I revisit places I’ve lived in my dreams, so I recognized that I was in Moscow. The thing that shocked me was the person we were visiting. He lived in a decrepit old-style Soviet apartment building. When we went into his apartment, there were tracks along the ceiling where he’d been confined. And he showed us that he wasn’t human by pricking his finger and “bleeding” dust. It was such a compelling dream, soon after I had read an interview with Stephenie Meyer about her source of inspiration for the Twilight Saga, that I decided to synopsize it and see if anyone wanted to read more. Obviously, I got some interest, and ran with my story-ball.


Who is your most fascinating character, and why?

Ivan, for sure: He doesn’t know his past and is relying on people he’s only recently met to help him find his roots. He embodies the Russian passion for life and as the story evolves takes on a much deeper significance for the culture.


Are any of your characters based on people you know or have met?

One characteristic from a very minor character came almost verbatim from my current next-door neighbor, who has a very big heart and rescues cats. In fact, she did care for a cat with Spina Bifida for 12 years—and it is hard to end a conversation with her.

My husband also laughed at a few characteristics from my protagonist, saying she seemed very like me, with her aversion to morning and love of books and reading. I say there are a lot of people like me if that’s all you want to base the similarities on. But then, depending on what other characteristics you add, the individual can become someone entirely new.


How do you plan to promote your novel?

I’m lucky that I had spent time on social media for several years prior to pursuing the novelist’s dream, so I have quite a few connections there that I’ll be relying on. But my husband and I both have a background as journalists, so we’ll be sending out press releases to local media as well as working with some paid promotion services to ensure that at least there is awareness of what I’ve done.


What can readers expect from you next, and when can they expect it?

I’ll be contributing a short story to an anthology from Katarr Kanticles Press this summer and have my second novel planned for release a little later in the year. I’m committed to annual participation in NaNoWriMo, since that structure has worked really well for me to complete my first two novels. I just discovered there’s a JuNoWriMo, too, that I’m toying with participating in—I can see, though, that it would be easy to overload my commitment plate with writing while I work a day job, so I’m trying to be careful to be realistic.


What is your writing routine and how do you balance your writing with your other commitments?

Unfortunately, I still haven’t developed a full-blown routine for writing; I journalled regularly for decades, so putting pen to paper has never been an issue for me. I also started out as a journalist, so writing on deadline doesn’t intimidate me. I now have a career in web marketing that already requires 40-50 hours of my week, and do some freelance work to supplement our income. In fact, my blog started as an offshoot of my work. I decided that if I were training people on blogging and social media, I needed to finally start my own blog. I also knew that the only way blogging works is if you find something you’re passionate about and can talk about in its endless variations. The only thing I could think of that has never waned, wavered, or varied in my life is my love of books. I hadn’t thought, when I was younger, that I would ever have the discipline (or inspiration!) to write a full-length novel, so I started off just doing reviews and author interviews. Since I seem to have found a community of supportive writers, now, based on that effort, I don’t think I’ll stop that process, either—though I notice that my time constraints during the writing/editing process mean I’m not as available for those efforts as I had been.


Do you ever suffer from writers block? If so, how do you overcome it?

I haven’t ever really understood the writer’s block dilemma from a creative writer’s perspective. You can always throw something new and wacky at your characters and see where they run with it. However, writing reports… that’s a whole other story. I remember the slog and challenge it was to face my thesis—and my joy that I had crossed the 100-page finish line. That experience had everything to do with the very long delay before I sat down to write a novel. Imagining that you’re going to end up with more than 200 pages in a coherent story sounds very like eating an elephant. For the structure and framework to help me overcome my inhibitions, I have to give great thanks to the NaNoWriMo and #wordmongering communities online.


Name one of your favourite books and how it has influenced your life.

I’ve loved the fantasy genre my whole life, starting first with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time. When I was a girl, though, there weren’t many authors who were writing young female protagonists, so I detoured into Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins, and German horse stories. It wasn’t until I was in junior high, and back in the United States, that I discovered Anne McCaffrey. It occurs to me now that my protagonist’s name is likely an homage to her. She too didn’t start writing novels until she was in her 40s, and she built a world in Pern that has become my “happy place.” I’ve reread all her books countless times, and each time it’s like coming home again: cheering on Menolly as she learns to appreciate her talents; supporting Lessa through her travails and adventures; appreciating the wider perspective Robinton brings to the journalistic ethos; and watching Jaxom and Piemur grow up into worthy and interesting young men, able to step into the leadership roles they’ve been groomed for.


What secret will your readers will be surprised to hear about you?

I’m an animal communicator. I’ve had conversations with animals ranging from horses to cats, dogs, rabbits, and flies. I suppose it’s a different perspective on the whole “voices in your head” thing most authors contend with, but for me it has really highlighted that there is magic in our world when we open our eyes to it. Combine that with my Reiki/Seichim practice and energetic healing, and you might think I’m one of those woo-woo goofballs with my head in the clouds, but my day job keeps me focused on the practicalities of our world. Balancing the two elements is an interesting challenge.


Quick Fire Questions:

5 star hotel or backpack? 5-star hotel—pampering is nice when you’re away from home!

Espresso or latte? Neither—too much caffeine gives me teeth-chattering jitters.

Plotter or panster? Pantser.

Drummer or lead singer? Neither—don’t like the spotlight, but have an unreliable sense of rhythm. Could I sing backup? (I do like to sing; my closest brush with fame was as one of hundreds of backup singers to Barry Manilow when youth choirs from across Berlin were recruited as part of Ein Herz fuer Kinder benefit.)

Favourite real person? My husband

Favourite fictional character? Lessa? The Rowan? Damia? I’m fascinated by powerful women who have their own extraordinary skills.

Burger and chips or Michelin star? Gourmet all the way!

Theatre or cinema? Both! I’m a big fan of the special effects and framing available in movies, but there’s something intimate and powerful about watching a live performance.

Sports car or campervan? Camper van. I’m too practical to want a vehicle where my girls would be unlikely to be able to ride along comfortably.

Safari or Cruise? Both! (Not that I’ve been lucky enough to go on either… yet.)


Author bio: A voracious reader since she was a toddler, and an ordained spiritualist, Tonya Cannariato has now presided over the marriage of her love of reading and her love of writing. She’s lived a nomadic life, following first her parents in their Foreign Service career through Africa, Europe, and Asia, and then her own nose criss-crossing America as she’s gotten old enough to make those choices for herself. She’s currently based in Milwaukee with her three loves: her husband and two Siberian Huskies. She suspects her Huskies of mystical alchemy with their joyous liberation of her muse and other magical beings for her inspiration. She loves to sleep, to watch her interesting dreams, some of which are now finding new life in written form.


Hey Tonya! Thanks for sharing an insight into your book and your writing life with us. Wonderful interview and another campervan girl – yay! I can feel a holiday coming on…

Get to know Tonya better by following her on Twitter @tmycann or visit her website

And don’t forget to check out Tonya’s great new debut, Dust to Blood, here:


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