I’ve known of today’s featured Idaho author, Loni Townsend, well before this blog ever came into existence as she once upon a time was a co-worker with my ex. Only once I moved to North Carolina, did I discover her writing efforts. I quickly grew to love her Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#ISWG) posts that appear on the first Wednesday of each month. Now that I live back in Idaho, I still have yet to meet her in person, but I’m sure we will say hello in the flesh one of these days.
Official Bio: Loni Townsend. Wife. Mother Writer. Ninja. Squirrel. By day, she writes code. By predawn darkness, she write fantasies. All other times, she writes in her head.
People call her peculiar with a twisted sense of fashion, but don’t let those understatements fool you. Her behavior is perfectly normal for a squirrel disguised as a human. That’s part of being a ninja—blending in.
She makes her home in Idaho with her sadistically clever—yet often thwarted—husband, two frighteningly brilliant children, and three sneaky little shibas.
1. Please provide a brief synopsis of your most-recently released book.
Unfortunately, I’m a slow writer. This World Bites, my humor fantasy novella, released in February of 2015.
It’s her first day on a new world, and Cera’s already found trouble. Michael, her guardian, is bitten by a zombie and will soon join the undead ranks. Everyone tells her there is no cure, but Cera won’t give up. She’ll face off with zombie hordes, demon slavers, and black market informants if it means she’ll find a cure for Michael. But it turns out, she’s not the only one hunting for something. Something is hunting her.
2. Tell us a little bit about what motivates or inspires your writing.
I was a tween, binge-watching Sailor Moon, when the idea of a guy getting sucked to another world popped into my head. I was deep into my magical princess phase at that point, so this guy from another world certainly needed to win the heart of a fellow powerful female. Throw in a bunch of other supporting roles with hard-to-pronounce names, an evil fairy who wanted to rule the world, some magical creatures to help my heroes, and I was golden.
Over two decades later, Derek was still with me. He had his lopsided, boyish smile and arrogant charm, but he and his story of getting sucked to another world had grown and matured just as I had. I figured if he was able to stick it out that long inside my twisted brain, he deserved to have his story told.
3. As an Idaho resident, what do you most enjoy about living here?
My favorite adventures include riding the rapids in a friend’s rubber raft, running through wine country, and occasionally jumping out of an airplane. This summer, my best friend and I hope to cross ziplining off our list. All of these are accessible here.
I also like the cost of living, the fact that I could pay off my mortgage and still save up for my kids’ education, and that I have a job I enjoy. I’m a Java Programmer and there’s something wonderful about bossing around a computer while designing and writing tools to help people be more efficient. Oddly, my writing has come in handy many times when reviewing customer-facing verbiage.
4. Describe some highlights of Idaho’s literary community.
The people in Idaho are wonderful. Just through starting a critique group (inspired to do so after reading one of Jeri’s posts and deciding that was exactly what I wanted), I have made connections which has gotten me invited to sales events and even participating in an anthology. The people here are always aiming to help others succeed, either by giving their advice on what works and what doesn’t, or hooking you up with someone who can point you in the right direction.
5. What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?
Squirrel Talk is a peek into my life, both writing related and not. As my bio says, I’m a wife, mother, writer, ninja, and squirrel. I started the blog for the same reason I started writing–Derek. He kept me awake at night. Since no one likes to suffer alone, I posted all my ramblings online, where they belong, of course.
Most of my posts are related to my writing, since that is what dominates my thought process a good duration of the time. Other things include technical tips I find useful (for example, I posted a quick and dirty tutorial about throwing together an ebook) or what I’ve learned through my own studies (like my love for good typography). Lately, though, my offline life has been seeping into my online one, so visitors are bound to find a few laments here and there.
6. What does your drafting and/or editing process entail?
I pour my thoughts out in whatever form I can manage with the miniscule amount of time I have. It might be on my phone, though I prefer a full-sized keyboard at my disposal. If it’s something quick, I’ll type it in Google Docs so that it synchronizes across all my accounts. If I know I have a dedicated time to spend on writing, I’ll pull up yWriter to organize all my scenes in a logical flow.
Of course the other part of writing is making sure other people like it. I’ve got a number of online critique partners as well as a local group. I will hit everyone who is willing to give it a read just to get an opinion on what works and what doesn’t. Is it just something one person is hung up on, or do multiple people have issues? Then, when I’m finally satisfied, I hire an editor to give me a final pass.
7. Are you traditionally published or self-published?
I opted for the self-publishing route, because I’m a habitual DIYer.
Many of the skills for putting together a book, I already possessed because of my programming background. E-Books are HTML disguised as a fancy zip file. I found I could use cascading style sheets to control indents, font size, and even add some creativity with small caps. I downloaded tools like Sigil and Calibre, just so I could control and obsess over clean code. I wanted to know how it was done.
Having conquered that with my existing skills, I figured why not tackle the print version while I was at it. I found The Book Designer and poured over the advice to determine what I wanted and needed to pull off a beautiful interior. While perusing The Book Designer’s site, I stumbled upon the e-Book cover design awards. Joel Friedlander would critique the covers, noting what works and what doesn’t. I did my best to pay attention, and dove into creating my own through self-study.
8. Can you offer one or two helpful tips for fellow writers when it comes to marketing and publicity?
I suck at marketing, so I’m not sure you want my advice. But if there was any I’d give to someone I don’t wish the worst for, it’s make connections. Meet other writers, readers, and reach out to them. Connect with them personally before trying to sell them something. Relationships are worth more than rollercoaster sales.
9. What future projects can we look forward to?
Isto, the sequel to Thanmir War, is my focus and passion at the moment. Though, I hope to complete Murder Most Fowl this year, the second of the Cera Chronicles.
10. Is there anything else you want your potential readers to know? What passions drive your life?
Be yourself, even if that self has the identity of a squirrel who struts around in goggles and corsets. It tends to leave an impression on people.
You can connect with Loni Townsend and her social media sites via her author website and blog.
Is there anything else you’d like to know about Loni Townsend?
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Thank you so much for this opportunity and having me on your blog, Jeri! And someday, we will meet in person. 🙂
Nice interview, thanks you two. Loni, did you do the Thanmir War cover all by yourself? I remember you asking for opinions about the color scheme way back when, but did you work it up from scratch?
I did! I had taken a walk around a book store to see what type of covers attracted me, decided I liked the stone appearance of a particular book, tossed around ideas with my sis-in-law, and then set about designing it based on the symbolism I’d previously cooked up for my characters. I had to redo it too because I didn’t know printing required 300 dpi and I’d done my first one in 96. My husband is the one who suggested the glowing green cracks.
Hi Loni, great to meet you and to learn about your process. I’m also a DIYer so I appreciate your tips and advice. I’m going to check out the Book Designer’s Site. Thank you for that tip.
I love this: ” I figured if he was able to stick it out that long inside my twisted brain, he deserved to have his story told.”
It’s so true. When a character is in your head…they don’t leave until they’re completed on paper. Your books sound fascinating!
Thanks Jeri, for another insightful interview!
Thanks Lisa! I find it fun analyzing what works and what doesn’t for different people. The Book Designer is one of those pages I visit monthly to see what feedback he gives for covers. He also has information on internal formatting and ebook formatting.
Great interview Jeri. Interesting to read that Loni is a slow writer and has accepted this. I have never published a book and have the intention of doing so. There is no time limit yet I often feel I am not pushing enough.
I do like the Loni describes herself as a “Ninja”.
I know the feeling of not pushing yourself enough. I have felt it many a time, but realize life just has a habit of getting in the way. 🙂
So in addition to all these writers Idaho has zombies too?
Yep. You should see me without my morning Red Bull. 😉
Wonderful interview with Loni. I love her sense of humor and the premise and cover of her book. Thanks for the lovely introduction to Loni, Jeri. 🙂
I’m glad you enjoyed the interview, and thanks for commenting! I know I had fun writing the book, so hopefully other people have fun reading it. 🙂
This was a nice interview, Loni. The squirrel writing family life suits you.
Thank you, and thanks for stopping by, Sheena!
Great to read more about you, Loni – even though I follow Squirrel Talk. Does moving to Idaho (Boise) class me as an Idaho writer? I’ve floated the Boise River – back when I was healthier. And sequel to my debut novel is set near Moscow, when I get it finished.
If you call Idaho your home, I say you’re an Idaho writer! 🙂
Hi Loni, I could relate with you! I too am a slow writer but a determined one. I like your approach…an idea that germinates once in the mind must find the words. I also liked your honest and somewhat funny answers. Wishing you great success with your book.
Thank you! Being slow is a good thing in some aspects. It lets all those ideas mature before making it onto the paper, right?
Connecting with other writers and networking is so important.
My half-brother has lived in Idaho for 40 years and loves it. And while I’ve only done indoor skydiving, I have ziplined. You’ll love it. Very peaceful.
I’m looking forward to it!
I think I knew most of these! And the stuff about coding your own books is not a surprise; I’m sure you’re way more particular about that than most self-published writers. 🙂
Patiently waiting for Michael/Cera book 2!
I am particular. I start twitching when it comes to messy HTML.
Enjoyed the interview, Jeri. I’m also a slow writer but I’ve learned to not beat myself up over it … well, mostly. Idaho sounds wonderful. I’m still exploring my new home in Oregon but I look forward to branching out with upcoming road trips.
Sometimes it’s tough not to feel bad about being slow, but hey, we get things done eventually! Hope you enjoy Oregon, and Idaho if you take a road trip this way. 🙂
Nice to see Loni here. I’ve followed her blog for quite some time now. What a great pitch for Idaho! Almost lures me to move there.
Tossing It Out
Idaho is a wonderful place!
Enjoyed the interview, Jeri. I don’t normally read fantasy but who doesn’t enjoy a good zombie story now and then?! I’m also a slow writer but I’ve learned to not beat myself up over it … well, mostly. Idaho sounds wonderful. I’m still exploring my new home in Oregon but I look forward to branching out with upcoming road trips. zombie
Thanks for the great interview, Jeri. I enjoyed ‘meeting’ Loni.
It’s so true that the artistic community is a small one, and we seem to keep encountering the same individuals in different scenarios in different places and times.
Like Loni, I am a firm believer in networking for writers. It helps rejuvenate our artistic juices whenever we are in need of refuelling.
It’s the connections that count. 🙂
Loni’s awesome and it was fun to read about Idaho. That’s an area I know very little about – it’s great that you have such a wonderful community of writers there.
Nice to meet you, Jeri! And hi, Loni!!
Hi Julie! Thanks for stopping by!
We share a love of typography!
That we do!
HTML disguised as a fancy zip file – now that’s funny.
The world is always better when you’re a Ninja, isn’t it?
It is indeed, Ninja Captain. 🙂
I like your quote about sucking at marketing.
This is me too, I feel like I am begging on the street for change, I become apologetic for doing it.. I guess we (authors) have to gain the ability to pawn our product, like everyone else.
Thank you for sharing with us.
“I become apologetic for doing it” <– Me too! I tend to feel like a schmuck when I try convincing someone to buy something (and not just my books).
I like what Loni says about the character of Derek being stuck in her head for so long that he deserves to have his story told. And the title “This World Bites” is awesome 🙂 Great interview, Jeri, and nice to “meet” Loni here
Good to meet you, and glad you like the title! Derek still has a few more books, but he’s putting up with me and my slowness. 🙂
Nice to meet Loni here, although I’m not a fan of her genre. I think the cover of her book is terrific. Lucky she is so skilled at coding that translates into self-publishing.
Having the technical skills certainly helps when it comes to understand why something looks off.
Being a slow writer isn’t a bad thing, right? 🙂 What is slow to one can be fast to someone else. I admire you for pursuing the self-publishing and hope that you have lots of success. I love that you are a programmer by day, but are using other aspects of your imagination to write. Bravo.
Thank you! And yep, I agree, speed is relative. So long as we keep on writing, right?
Hey there, Loni! 🙂 Nice to see you. Entertaining interview, though I expect nothing less. You always make me smile (or laugh, depending). Hope the writing is going well. Keep stocked up on Red Bull. No zombies allowed.
Nice to see you too! And I got a fresh 24 pack of Red Bull waiting for me to break into. 😉
I really enjoyed learning more about you Loni! As an aspiring writer, who is very slow at writing, it is very inspiring to see that writing a book – no matter how long it takes – can still be done!
Thanks for stopping by! I hope to be reading an interview here with you about your book someday. 🙂
I need to go find your quick and dirty ebook tips. I tried to learn it and kept slipping into brain fog.
You may be a slow writer, but the books are good so they’re worth the wait!
Thank you! And the quick and dirty tips were actually included in the IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond, if you didn’t want to go hunting down the post. 😀
**Be yourself, even if that self has the identity of a squirrel who struts around in goggles and corsets. ****
Thank you, girls! x
Thanks for stopping by!
Loni, just wanted to congratulate you on publishing your book, and to let you know I think your cover is pretty awesome! Good luck.
Thank you, Joel. I love stopping in to see your monthly e-Book cover awards and enjoy reading your comments. It means a lot to me that you approve of my cover. 🙂
If a character sticks with you for two decades, you just have to write about him! I hope there are many more characters in your head waiting to make an appearance on the page.
One of my friends said I’ll never be lonely because of all the voices I have in my head. 😀