Today I'm interviewing writer TK Toppin, author of the Lancaster Trilogy (or as I prefer to call it, The Josie Bettancourt Saga!).
She's a prolific writer and top talent. She lives and writes out of Barbados where she's currently hard at work on a brand new Science Fiction novel, "Bengaria's War."
Thanks, TK, for taking the time to do this interview. You've been an incredibly busy writer of late. You've just released The Eternal Knot, the third instalment of your fabulous Josie Bettencourt science-fiction novels, and now you're about to release a brand new novel, Bengaria's War. You are one prolific writer! How do you do it? And what's your secret?
Thanks for saying that! It does wonders to my ego. :) I don't know if I've any secret way or how I do it, but thankfully, it just works right now. I've only been at this (seriously) for 4 years, and in those years, I've sort of developed a routine. I split my time with my day job (where I do droll graphic work during the morning hours between watching social network feeds, promoting my books, etc) and during the afternoon hours, it's strictly for writing. I crack open my laptop where the only programme loaded on it is Word, Firefox, and Tweetdeck. So if a client wants something, it'll have to wait until the morning. I decided to do this the moment I got my laptop. And if I was to be serious about being a writer, then that was what I had to do -- close myself off from my day job completely.
It also helps that I've lots of time on my hands and lead a fairly undemanding life
Does Bengaria's War take place in the same universe as the Lancaster Trilogy, or is this a brand new universe?
It's a brand new universe, way, way waaaay into the distant future. Man has colonized star systems, inhabited new planets, built outpost stations from scratch or over existing stars or asteroids.
Where did the idea for Bengaria's War come from?
Honestly, while browsing through a tea shop. It was during Christmas, two years ago, while looking for gifts. I saw these detailed posters on the wall where tea originates from, plantations, tea plant cuttings, the different types of teas, etc. It intrigued me and it made me think just how long tea has been around. It also made me think if it would still be around in the far future, and would those same growing and manufacturing methods be used to keep tea the same -- even the tea rituals and customs throughout the world. So, these thoughts spurred more thoughts, and then people started infiltrating into the thoughts, and faces formed, and a story brewed (pardon the pun), and before I knew it...Bengaria's War was born.
Who would kick who's ass? Ryn Bengaria or Josie Bettancourt?
Hmmm....good question. I think Ryn would kick Josie's ass in a flash. Ryn has conquered her fear, has a mean streak, and isn't afraid to kill. Josie still has a conscience and is best friends with self-preservation.
Was it sad to complete the Lancaster books, sad to have to say goodbye to those characters? Or do you get a sense of closure and completion, knowing that you've accomplished something great writing an entire series? Or are you relieved and eager to explore new territories?
All of the above! Yes, it was sad and definitely like saying goodbye. The final book, The Eternal Knot, was by far, the hardest book to write -- or complete. Since I knew it was the end, I literally dragged by backside and tried to prolong the inevitable. But it was also liberating, knowing that the end had come and I could move on with other tales that need to be told. The sense of accomplishment, too, was amazing! It's not everyday a complete newbie to the literary world writes a book...let alone three books. I really felt as if I had finally done something. So, aiming for world peace is next on my list of things to accomplish. *grins*
Can you see yourself ever going back and writing more stories for Josie?
It's hard to say right now. Maybe in a few years, maybe not. It's one of those things where it just feels right that it ends when it ends. But it could change, I could have another idea spawn while wandering around a coffee shop this time. I won't say no, I'd never write another story with Josie, but I won't say yes, either. I do know that I have two other spin-off stories, in the Lancaster world, but there is no mention of any Lancasters.
I'm also considering a sort of short story serial with one character from the Lancaster world, Loeb, who I find very interesting. His character just begs to have his story told.
A lot of writers are self-publishig these days, but I noticed you published your first three books with Champagne Books. How did you come to publish with them? Was it a good fit, and will your relationship continue with Bengaria's War?
I submitted and queried like a fiend. When Champagne Books replied with a yes (and after I recovered from my blackout), I replied back with an even bigger yes! It's been a great relationship, especially since I came into this as a green newbie. My association with my publisher has taught me a lot, and opened my eyes to many things. I'm still uncertain what to do with Bengaria's War. I think, I may start from scratch again and start querying agents. Failing that, I may try self-publishing and test the waters there. Who knows? I'm uncommitted at the moment.
Would you ever consider self-publishing?
I would. I won't know if it's for me unless I try it, right?
Obviously, we've met because of the internet. The web has provided a brand new platform for writers to publish and showcase their goods. But it's also redefined the 'slush pile' (there's over one million eBooks on Amazon now). Do you embrace these new opportunities, or does getting a book out now seem even more daunting, considering the dearth of competition out there?
Probably a little bit of both. It is daunting, being up against a multitude of others. It gives feeling like a microscopic speck of dust in a vast sea of sharks a whole new meaning. But, I do embrace the way publishing is heading now. We're on the brink of a whole new era - the full-blown techno age (like in my Lancaster books, hah!), and being a part of that, right at the cusp, getting your foot into the door, well, that's a heady feeling. I feel like a pioneer. Social networking now has a whole new perspective going on. It's afforded me the chance to meet so many people, and learn even more. I'm on a rollercoaster now...let's hope I can hang on and not throw up.
Would you ever consider writing in a different medium (film, television, comic-books)?
I've tried comic books...drawing them, creating them. All's I can say, is that it's heap-big-hard work. It exhausted me. I did it at the time when everything was done by hand...no computer enhancing or anything.
I've done animation too, the same hand drawn way and flipping through endless sheets of paper and painting each transfer film. A small team of Disney artists held a workshop through UNICEF, many moons ago, and I was lucky enough to be a part of it I learned so much in those two weeks. I know the hard work that goes into each single frame of animated magic. Now, I just watch it with appreciative enjoyment.
As for script writing...well, I will never say never.
Lastly, what advice would you like to give new writers looking to take the plunge into the fabulous world of novel-writing?
Read lots, and from all sorts of genres. Read all the time. Write, re-write, and write some more. Learn your craft. Listen to advice, open your mind, learn about the literary world, accept criticism, accept rejection. And develop a really thick skin.
And lastly from me, I'd like to thank you, Cary for this opportunity. It's was great having this interview. And for those who want to find out a little bit more about him, click on over to my blog.