Q&A with author Toni Andrews
June 15, 2009
Toni Andrews is doing a virtual book tour for her new release, Cry Mercy, and today she’s here to answer a few questions for us. As part of the tour, you can send Toni a self-addressed stamped envelope, and she’ll send you a signed bookplate for your copy of the book. For more information about that, and links to her other blog appearances, check out her virtual tour site.
Cry Mercy is the third book in her Mercy Hollings series. The heroine is a hypnotherapist with the power to “press” others into doing what she wants. To find out more about Mercy (or about Toni’s romance novels written as Virginia Reede), you can visit Toni’s website or her blog. Toni also produces a book-related public access show, So Many Books, and you can watch episodes online.
On to the questions!
Cry Mercy is the third book in your urban fantasy series. Can you tell us how you first got interested in the genre?
Oddly enough, I hadn’t even heard the phrase “urban fantasy” until after I wrote the first book in the series, Beg for Mercy. Miriam Kriss, my agent, had just agreed to represent me, and told me that she would be offering the book to several editors who were interested in buying in that genre.
I’d read Anne Rice, as well as the first three or four books in Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, but that was about it. I hadn’t thought of the Mercy Hollings books falling into the same category—I don’t have any “creatures” of any kind in my book, just people with extra abilities. Mercy, for example, is a telepath and has the ability to compel people to obey her.
As soon as the first book came out and reviews started to appear, I found my work compared to that of other urban fantasy authors. I was especially amused to learned I’d been “influenced” by a number of books I’d never read! But I have to thank those reviewers because whenever I learned about an author who had supposedly inspired me, I picked up one of their books. That’s how I started reading Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs, both of whom are wonderful.
Then, I joined a group called The Deadline Dames and found myself in the company of several terrific Urban Fantasy authors: Keri Arthur, Jenna Black, Jackie Kessler, Devon Monk, Lilith Saintcrow, Rachel Vincent, Karen Mahoney and the yet to be published but utterly fantastic Rinda Elliot. I’ve been working my way through their books and having a wonderful time.
Mercy has a lot of ethical concerns about the use of her mental abilities, and she’s come up with a set of rules about using them in her hypnotherapy work. How important are those moral considerations when you’re writing her?
Mercy’s ethical struggles are vital and ongoing. Imagine if you could compel people to obey you. Do you think you would only suggest things that they truly want and are only in their best interests? Could you resist doing some things that are in your self interest? I’d probably lose my resolve the first time some underpaid, overburdened customer service clerk told me, “Sorry, there’s nothing I can do.”
Mercy has a hypnotherapy practice, and has resolved to only do things that her clients request. If someone wants to quit smoking, she’ll make damn sure they do—on the first try. But, even within the confines of her profession, Mercy has to make sure that what her clients say they want are what they need. In the second book, Angel of Mercy, a woman who asks Mercy to help her “stop making so many mistakes” turns out to be a battered wife. She needs Mercy’s help, but in an entirely different way.
How has your heroine grown as a character by Cry Mercy?
She’s beginning to learn that she can’t do everything alone—that it’s okay to let people help you. It’s difficult for her to have that level of trust. She tells herself that she keeps others at a distance so that she won’t accidentally harm them. But it’s pretty easy for readers to see that Mercy’s actually afraid that, if they find out what she is, they’ll reject her. After being abandoned at birth and then given up by her adoptive parents as an adolescent, she’s got some serious rejection issues.
The internet is a fantastic tool for readers, because it makes it easier to learn about new books and connect with authors. Has the web affected your writing process at all, or is it mostly just helpful as a way to get the word out about your books?
Honestly, I don’t know how anyone researched a book before the internet. From the hospital procedures for Sukey’s heroin overdose in book 1, to Tino’s gang tattoos in book 3—everything was learned online.
One excellent resource is the “Contact Us” link on virtually every web page. There are thousands—maybe millions–of subject matter experts out there, and they love being consulted by an author. I’ve gotten information this way from doctors, police officers, district attorneys, child services officials, gang counselors, priests, private investigators and more, and the list is still growing.
The Mercy Hollings books are all available in various electronic formats, and I read them on my Kindle. Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share about the growing e-book market?
Most people don’t realize that, with the exception of a very few authors who consistently make the bestseller lists, most books are only on the shelf for a short time, and then they disappear. The first two books in the series are already out of print – Angel of Mercy was completely shipped out of the publisher’s warehouse within ninety days and, even though I get emails about it every day, the publisher has no current plans for a reprint.
But e-books are forever. I didn’t realize how well Kindle sales were going until I got my last royalty statement and found that Beg for Mercy, my 2007 release, is still selling quite well. The Mercy books are also available in other e-formats directly from the publisher, including .pdf for those who prefer to print them out. Here are some links: Beg for Mercy & Angel of Mercy.
I like paper books – I like how they feel and smell and look lined up on my shelf. But an entire generation of people is growing up that doesn’t have that sentimental attachment. And I want them to read my books, too.
Every reader I know is always on the lookout for new recommendations. Can you tell us about a few books that you’ve enjoyed recently?
Oh, so many! But, for your blog readers, I’ll stick with the urban fantasy titles. Black and White by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge is really fun and different. Also, Deadly Desire by Keri Arthur, Strange Angels by Lilith Saintcrow, Magic in the Blood by Devon Monk and The Devil’s Due by Jenna Black. For young adult urban fantasy, Rachel Vincent’s My Soul to Take is terrific. Also, for all you vampire lovers, watch out for a terrific anthology coming out in July called The Eternal Kiss. I’ve previewed a couple of the stories, and it’s going to be terrific.
What should we look for next from you?
There will be more visits to Mercy Hollings’ world, of course. I’m also working on some straight-ahead women’s fiction and a contemporary romance.
Donna, thanks so much for hosting a visit on my Virtual Book Tour. And readers, don’t forget to send me your Self Addressed Stamped Envelopes (get my address here), so that I can sign a book plate and send it to you so you can affix it in your own copy of Cry Mercy!
Thanks for joining us today, Toni!