After her first heartbreak, Tori found solace in two things: reading romance novels and listening to an after-dark radio program called Lovers and Other Strangers. Throughout the summer and fall of 1990, the new kid in town found reading fiction and writing her own short stories gave her a much needed creative outlet. Determined to become a published author, Tori amassed stacks of notebooks and boxes of filed-away stories, most only half-finished before another idea would overtake her and demand to be written down. Then, while on parental leave with her second baby, one story formed and refused to be packed away. Between teaching full-time, parenting, and life in general, it would take almost seven years before the first novel in her first trilogy would be completed. In the process, Tori finally found her stride as a writer.
At present, on her off-time, Tori not only enjoys reading, but also listening to an eclectic mix of music as she walks the family dog (Skittles), attempts to turn her thumb green, or makes needlework gifts for her friends and family members. She loves to travel, collect and make miniature furniture, and a good cup of tea during a thunderstorm or a blizzard. Under it all, she is always intrigued by history, the supernatural, vampire and shapeshifter mythology, romance, and other dangers.
What inspires you to write?
Anything and everything. Weird / funny / interesting ideas come to me from the most mundane tasks. I’ll be helping my daughter to clean her room, and I’ll start to wonder, what if I found a magical creature of some kind under the mound of clothing and toys? Or I’ll be walking to work and I’ll pick up an idea from a dog that’s gotten off of his leash. How did he get there? Where did he come from? There are stories all around us, fiction and non, and I find them all so fascinating. I get frustrated sometimes because I can’t write them all down!
I also find myself frequently inspired by my dreams. I’m able to control my dreams to some extent, and occasionally I can read as well. They’re often vivid and reflect what’s happening in my life, where I’ve lived in the past and at present, and work themselves into plots. I try to write them down whenever I remember them, and I have several unfinished works on file that had their origins in my subconscious.
Finally, I’m inspired by the authors and filmmakers I love. I like to write in response to books and movies, either in homage or in critique, presenting my own perspective on the theme, characters, genre, or setting. I have eclectic tastes, and I love doing research. I also secretly hope to one day write a book that educators will want to add to their classroom lists!
Tell us about your writing process.
I’m a believer in outlines, but I don’t follow them religiously. My plans often change midstream, as I get to know my characters and they begin to take over the story. What I thought to expect in the plot I originally imagined alters itself in surprising ways, and suddenly I’m writing by the seat of my pants.
When I outline, it generally starts as a list of events that I see happening. I’ve tried using spreadsheets, notebooks, scraps of paper, and even the old-fashioned plot diagrams used in my classroom. And I’ve found that the plot diagram, with its clear headings, has helped me the most with determining the (potential) movement of the story. Then, the notes I’ve made eventually make their way in abridged form to a spreadsheet so I can quickly skim through key events in the plot, assigning dates as necessary, and colour-coding what happens to each character or specific locations important to developing conflict. I find the spreadsheets are helpful for keeping track of subplots, and they take up less space than a timeline.
I also create rough character sketches before I begin writing, so I have an idea of who is involved and how they will react in different situations. I add to them as needed. For the character sketches, I do find a spreadsheet is helpful in keeping track of physical and personal attributes.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
They’re always in the back of my head, mulling around like guests at a party. I tend to listen in more than talk to them, but sometimes we do have short conversations. For example, if I’m having a hard time deciding whether my protagonist will choose A), B), or C), I will have her think or talk about those options actively in the story. How she speaks or thinks about her choices will help me know what to write next. They’re very real people in my mind, individuals in a world that is almost tangible though it only exists in my head and the pages of my books. I speak of them and think of them in as much familiarity as I do my friends and family, my students and my colleagues. My conversations aren’t terribly long or sustained, but they are highly enjoyable.
What advice would you give other writers?
Read as often as you write, to improve your understanding of good and less-good writing. And write often. Try to do a little every day, as it all adds up. Make friends with other writers, both new and established, because they will be both your trampoline and your parachute. Write about what you love, because that passion will be clear in your voice. Write about what you know, because you’re familiar with it and that makes it more real and believable to your readers. Write about what you don’t know — do research, build a world in your head, and take chances. Keep writing.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
When I first submitted a manuscript in 2010, I wasn’t yet aware of the proliferation of self-published books on the market, or how easy that could be. It seemed the thing to do to find a publisher, and indeed, I had always dreamed of having a publisher say that my work was worth their support. Those acceptance letters are always a real joy. My publishers have all been terrific, helping me with the editing process to make sure the final product is as polished as possible. I think if I’d rushed into self-publishing, I might have left many, many errors in the writing. At the same time, I can definitely see the appeal of going straight to Smashwords or Createspace and releasing my own work with complete control, and no waiting. I tried using Createspace for the students in my Writer’s Craft class in 2012/13, publishing excerpts of their best work in an anthology, and I found that the process of uploading and fine-tuning stories was both easy and challenging. I do think I will be exploring self-publishing further at some point in the near future.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think that e-books are a trend that is not likely to go away any time soon. They’re much easier to buy and store than print, especially for people living in small homes or apartments, and they’re cheaper than traditional books. For me, e-books are addictive, actually! But on the other hand, lovers of print books aren’t going to disappear, either. There is a special pleasure in holding bound pages, smelling the paper and the ink and the glue, flipping to the bookmark or (shifty eyes) folding down the corner of the page. I think that e-books are a terrific option but my heart will always belong to print, and there are many, many people like me. It may be that book publishers will produce more high-quality print books to make them more decorative or collectible than ever.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
Paranormal romance, horror, fantasy, romance
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print
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