As a fan of murder-mysteries and crime fiction, I was very excited when author Toby Neal agreed to participate in my Writer Wednesday feature. Her book, Blood Orchids, is next on my To-Read list. Every time I read one of her interviews or excerpts, I find myself tempted to put aside my current project to pick up her book!
I’m sure you’ll find the basis behind her books as intriguing as I do. Please show Toby some love with your comments…and pick up a copy of Blood Orchids so we can chat about it soon!
For now, I’ll let Toby take it away…
Bio: I was raised on Kauai in Hawaii and make the Islands home after living elsewhere for “stretches of exile” to pursue education. I enjoy a lot of outdoor activities including bodyboarding, scuba diving, photography and hiking as well as writing. I’m a mental health therapist, and my psychology background has helped add depth to the characters in the Lei Crime Series.
Now tell us something about you that your bio doesn’t include. Feel free to make us laugh!
I am a great advocate of the Italian practice of La Dolce Vita—“the sweet life.” Without quality of life, where would any of us be? I highly recommend the practice of napping. Napping has a LOT of health and well being benefits, and the Italians know this and even plan work days around it. They have something to teach us there, and who cares if it makes them inefficient as a nation! The Polynesians here in Hawaii have also long been practitioners of the recreational and therapeutic nap. Try it, you might get addicted! My only complaint about my life here in Paradise is that my current schedule doesn’t allow for napping.
Tell us about some of the unique elements in your books. What inspired you to write them?
Blood Orchids was sparked as an idea by a tragedy that happened in my community—two teen girls were drowned. I was a grief counselor in the crisis team that went to the high school to work with the students in the aftermath. At first we were told they were victims of foul play, though later it turned out to have been accidental. For months after, perhaps because it was so traumatic to hear they’d been murdered, I thought about it, and wondered what it would be like to try and solve such a crime in a small Hawaii community.
Blood Orchids started as a short story. I’d tried to write novels before and always lost interest, but this time I started a story about a policewoman who’d been abused as a child… a woman with scars and flaws, but whose passion drove her to rectify things for others as she tried to solve the crime I was thinking about from my personal experience. I put it on my anonymous blog. Then I added chapters. And lo and behold, about 60 pages in, I realized I had a character I wanted to see grow and develop, a budding love story, and some great psychopaths to spice it all up. I was going to finish the book, and my blog followers were rooting for every installment! I’ll never forget the excitement I felt, realizing I’d found a character I could write about forever.
You’ll notice I said “found” a character. In Jungian psychology, there’s an explanation of these discoveries as existing in the “collective unconscious” of humanity—a deep sea where universal themes, symbols, heroines and villains appear across every culture. To me Lei is a representation of one of these universal characters—the wounded hero(ine) who fights for justice.
Who is (or has been) your favorite character to write and why?
I love writing Dr. Wilson’s scenes. She’s the therapist that works with Lei in the book. That dialogue just flowed, and never needed to be rewritten, because it came from so much of my life experience. I’d love to do therapy with Lei—and through Dr. Wilson I got to!
What is something you think people should know about your book(s) before they start reading?
They’re going to hook you and have you bugging me for the next in the series. You’ve been warned!
When you have time to read, what are some of the authors whose books you have to have on-hand?
I am constantly reading new Indie writers! Some recent new favorites include Gae-Lynn Woods and Holly Robinson.
Tell us about a book that resonated with you (either recently or prior to your writing career).
I don’t write in this genre, but Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager series remain go-to favorites to re-read (and I never re-read, except these). I love the multi-book love story between Jamie and Claire; it inspired me to write an enduring love story across multiple books with Lei and Stevens.
What are you reading right now?
An exciting first draft paranormal mystery by novelist Holly Robinson. We struck up a friendship, and now we’re beta-reading each other’s drafts. I highly recommend her Sleeping Tigers novel!
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received regarding to your writing/books?
“It kept me up late, I couldn’t put it down.”
“I lost sleep reading this.”
“I had to find out what happened!” Apparently the book is a page turner. I can go take a nap now!
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers?
Dear readers: I think you’re like me—you like to see someone damaged still be a hero. You love animals, and dogs particularly. You love justice, and for bad guys (and gals) to get their just deserts. You enjoy solving mysteries and puzzles. You root for a good love story, and hate child abuse, and like everyone, you wish you could go to Hawaii more often. Through the Lei books, we’ll do all of the above together.
Where can we
stalk find you (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, website, blog, etc.)?
Thank you, Toby, for taking the time to drop by! I’m very excited to check out Blood Orchids. Best of luck with the series!