Author Interview: Toni V. Sweeney

The Basics
Toni V. Sweeney (awa Icy Snow Blackstone)
Genre(s): horror, sci-fi adventure (Toni); contemporary, paranormal, futuristic romance (Icy Snow)
Publisher(s): Leucrota Press, Double Dragon Publishing, Lyrical Press

To Other Authors

What are the three MOST important pieces of advice you would give to a brand new author?

  • 1. Develop a thick skin. There are many editors/publishers out there who like to dole out the insults just because they can—and they will. Let it roll off. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and send that manuscript somewhere else. (Later, when you’re a famous writer, you can thumb your nose at them!)
  • 2. Nothing comes without hard work. Think of how long it took George Herbert to get Dune published, or Barbara Taylor Bradford.

  • 3. To thine own self be true; thou cannot then be false to any publisher. It doesn’t hurt to accept suggestions and edits, if they help the story, but one does have to maintain one’s own integrity and know when “to fold and when to hold ’em.”

What’s your favorite way to advertise?

  • I do a lot of blogging and interviews. I have my own website, my space, facebook accounts, and my pseudonyms will soon, also, so the latest novels, trailers, etc., go on there. I also have a newsletter. Whenever I go to conventions, I print up post-size cards with book cover, brief blurb, and review excerpts, to put on the “free” table, as well as my business cards, and these I hand out everywhere. There’s a comic store in Tustin, California, which puts a flyer about my novels in the sack with each purchase, and I’m looking for one here in Lincoln to do the same. I post trailers on YouTube. I tell as many people as possible. It’s surprising how I manage to introduce, “Oh by the way, I have a new book coming out,” into a conversation! (How many times have I used the word “I” in this paragraph?)

What hard-knock lesson did the publishing world teach you (can be your own experience or someone else’s that you learned from)?

  • One of the very first manuscripts I sent out was rejected by a well-known, New York publishing house, which was also just starting out at the time. The manuscript was sent back with a personal letter listing its faults and what to do about it. I, in my infinite ignorance, “filed” the letter, and set that manuscript aside. Had I But Known…! Later, I learned that editors don’t send back personal letters unless they’re interested! So, when Leucrota Press editor Danielle Kaheaku called me to explain why she was rejecting Blood Sin, I asked her to speak slowly because I was taking notes. I went to work as soon as the call was finished, resubmitted the story, and she accepted it.

For the Readers

What are you reading, if anything, at the moment?

  • I just finished Night of Demons by Tony Richards. I had previous read his horror novel, Dark Rain, and wrote a review of it which was posted on Tony e-mailed me and asked me to do a pre-review of its sequel which I was delighted to do. It’s a great story. In my review, I liken it to Law and Order meets the X-Files. I enjoyed the first book immensely and the second one is just as well-written.
  • Next, I’m starting on The Unscratchables. It’s a hard-boiled, crime story but all the characters are cats and dogs! So far, it’s hilarious and very entertaining. The author is very adept at transposing human attitudes onto animals and there are so many plays on words that I can’t keep track of all of them.

Do you prefer ebooks or print for your reading pleasure?

  • Personally, I like print books. I like to be able to look back at the cover while I read or flip through pages. I find it difficult to see the covers on a “reader” or to scroll backward and forward. That’s just my own idiosyncrasy, however. Conversely, I take my Palm OS with me whenever I go anywhere I’m going to have to sit and wait a while—doctor’s offices, etc. It’s much easier to slip that into my purse than hanging onto a big, bulky book. I’ve heard that some schools are going toward e-books as their textbooks and I can see than would be cheaper and take up less room, and I admit that I can see how this would be convenient space-wise and financially. In a couple of my futuristic stories, the characters mention that a person owns “real” paper books, so I expect some day it may come to that—actual books becoming rare–but in the meantime, I’ll continue to lean toward preferring the tangible item.

Name three of your all-time-favorite, read-them-over-and-over books.

  • Wow, that’s a difficult one. I’ve read so many books, some of them several times. I suppose I’d have to say Bram Stoker’s Dracula, for starters. I have about five editions of that. I just ordered the sequel written by the author’s grandnephew, also. Only three, huh? Hmm. Let’s see. Vice Avenged, by Lolah Burford. This is a book I’ve had for probably thirty years. The original thing that drew me to it was that it was issued with two covers and I bought both because I couldn’t decide which I liked best. It’s a Regency romance about a young wastrel who dishonors a young woman on a bet, and the ramifications of that act on himself, her, his friends, and their families. It’s an entertaining story where there are no real villains or heroes but everyone is a pleasant mixture of both. And the third book? It’s a toss-up there. I’d have to say either one of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series about Chicago’s only practicing wizard, or Charlaine Harris’ tales of Sookie Stackhouse and the vampires of Bon Temps, Louisiana. I’m a faithful follower of True Blood, although I was tremendously disappointed by the way the Dresden series was handled on the Sci-fi Channel.

Idle Curiosity Compels Me to Ask

– What inspired you to be a writer?

  • That’s a difficult question. As long as I can remember, I’ve been writing. I have a memory of being around five-year-old and writing the two words “cat” and “rat” on a piece of paper and showing it to my parents and feeling proud. I also remember wanting to write more words and feeling frustrated because I didn’t know how. My mother loved the movies and we went to the theater several times a week. My father was a comic book fan and he used to buy me DC comics filled with the adventures of Superman, Batman, etc., so he aided and abetted my imagination. My parents had a friend who was an x-ray tech and she would give me the 18″ x 2′ sheets of paper which were placed between the films. I would draw my own comics on them. When I was seven, I received a toy typewriter, and later a small portable and I started writing in earnest. So—out of this long and rambling explanation—the answer is that my family and my own imagination were my inspiration.
  • Jumping forward several decades, I owe my being published to a fellow co-worker. Pam Woods. Everyone at the clinic where I worked was a reader. They always had a paperback handy during breaks. I would bring my manuscripts and they would pass them around. Once day, Pam asked me if I had ever submitted one anywhere. (She knew I hadn’t.) She dared me to send one out, actually said, “I know you won’t do it.” How could I ignore such a dare? I did. It was rejected but the publisher was interested in another story (anyone who knows me knows this tale). I told them I had just what they were asking for. They requested it. I wrote it, sent it in, and it was accepted. A little belatedly—thank you, Pam!

– What do you do immediately after finishing a manuscript?

  • Lean back, breathe a sigh of relief, and say, “Okay. Finished. Now, what story do I do next?” (Renee note: sounds like me.)

– Do you talk to your characters or your muse or both?

  • If I ever start talking to either one, the boys in the white coats will probably be lurking outside the door! No, I don’t talk to my characters, but I do sound out the advice of others about what I’m planning to have them say or do to get their reaction to whether it’s feasible or realistic or not. Sometimes I even listen to their advice!

Promo Section

~ Most Recent Release ~

While my alter egos have been very busy recently, I’ve only had one novel released under my own name this year, although I do have the third book in the Adventures of Sinbad series –Sinbad’s Pride—coming from Double Dragon Press in early 2010. I suppose I should let the pseudonyms take a vacation and do some work for myself for a change.

My most recent book is Blood Sin, which is the first in the series The kan Ingan Archives. I created my own galaxy for this set, so whatever happens there doesn’t have to adhere to any of our rules. The kan Ingans are the ruling family of the Emeraunt Galaxy and have done so for nearly three millennia. Everything that happens to them is recorded in the Royal Archives, and supposedly, this series can be found there, if one cares to delve far enough.


In the distant past, the kan Ingans sent an exploration team to a newly-discovered planet in another galaxy. Most of the team was slaughtered by the inhabitants and the ruler of Arcanis—the Margrave—decreed that the planet would be under quarantine from then on. The name of that planet? Need you ask? Terra (or Earth, as we know it.) Two thousand years later, another margrave decides to try again. This time, they are greeted with peace, the margrave himself travels to Earth, and falls in love with a young woman he meets, Elizabeth Sheffield. He marries her, makes her his margravine, and the trouble starts. The Margrave already has an heir, his twenty-year-old nephew Aric, who was taken from his mother when he was twelve and raised to be the next ruler. Now, Aric has lost his place as Crown Prince and he isn’t happy about that. Others in the kingdom are also displeased that an alien now shares the throne with their leader. They question the Terrans’ odd customs and their warlike characteristics. They worry that the child Elizabeth gives birth to is part-alien, its loyalty to Arcanis questionable. (That’s a theme I carry over into a good many of my books: the outsider, the “different” one because of age, sex, race, or species, who has to fight to be accepted.) Elizabeth and Aric hate each other and make no pretense of trying to keep it hidden, and then, the unexpected happens…through a set of circumstances they themselves don’t understand, Aric and Elizabeth fall in love, and in doing so, they seal the fate of both the Empire and the kan Ingans who rule it.

Blood Sin was released as an e-book and in print by Leucrota Press in August, 2009. Another series, the Chronicles of Riven the Heretic, details the early years of the kan Ingans, though one doesn’t necessarily have to read that series in order to enjoy the other one. The Chronicles is published by Double Dragon Press. Mention is also made of the kan Ingans in the Adventures of Sinbad, as well as Three Moon Station, tying all these novels together in the same universe and time frame.

~ Coming Soon ~

My next book is a departure from my other novels. It’s called Serpent’s Tooth, and is a contemporary horror story about “sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll…and demon worship.” Part of it is set in Hollywood and part in the sandhills of western Nebraska. The first part is Faust-like in its story of an ambitious Midwestern college student who goes to California, is “discovered,” makes it big as a heavy metal rock star, and gets involved with a devil cult. When he wants out, he has to disappear, leaving his career and life in the spotlight behind. So, he goes back to his roots in Nebraska, hiding out in the Sand Hills. Twenty-five years later, he meets a former fan and marries her…and the horror he thought he had eluded begins again.

I think the story has an interesting format because part of it is told in flashback—juxtaposing what is happening to the hero in the current world with some corresponding event that happened in his former life until both come together in the second half of the book. This novel also has a link to one of my other novels, by the way. The hero, Travis Brandt, is the great-grandson of Will Brandt, the protagonist of one of my Westerns, Walk the Shadow Trail. This fact is mentioned in the novel, when Travis tells his new wife that he’s part Pawnee.

Learn More
– Website:
– MySpace:
– Facebook:
– You Tube:
– Blog/Newsletter: Mailed out monthly; anyone wanting to be on the mailing list should write to me through “Contact Me” on my website.
– Yahoo Group:

Thanks, Toni!!

Join me next week for Cheryel Hutton.

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