Exclusive Interview with

Toni Kief

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When did you start writing?

I was part of a metaphysical group that was ending and a friend, James Johnson, said he wanted to write. With no thought I answered, “If you write, I’ll write.” Within days we started a joint cookbook. It is based on women from history and myth (Dangerous Dishes and the Food they Inspire). It was such a wonderful experience that we both have continued writing and have several books each.

Toni Kief
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What makes writing your passion?

I have no idea. It isn’t anything I thought about doing, but now I’m hooked. Since I’ve retired, I work on it daily and have no plans of ever stopping.

Toni Kief
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How long have you been writing?

I started writing at the age of sixty, and I hate for you to do the math, but I have eleven years now.

Toni Kief
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What was the feeling when you published your first book?

I spent some years with short stories, so I didn’t publish a book until 2016. I don’t have the words to describe the incredible feeling of self-pride and accomplishment. I have a photo at my first signing, and I’m smiling so hard that my face looks like it could explode.

Toni Kief
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What’s the story behind your choice of characters?

My first book, Old Baggage, was when I saw a “older” woman walking near the railroad tracks kicking dirt and cussing. I looked at the passenger in my car and said, “That SOB got 49 years he ain’t getting’ fifty.” From there I did my first book based on escaping an abusive marriage and finding a new life. My second book I thought of a name, Mildred Petrie, and she wrote the next four books. I have no memory of thinking of the situation, although every time I start a new one, I know I need a new gambling type crime.

Toni Kief
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What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?

Marketing is ongoing and sucks up so much time for limited reward. Although it is starting to improve almost daily.

Toni Kief
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How do you get over the “writer’s block”?

I have a couple things I do now. After the cookbook I joined a flash fiction group, so I may do writing from a prompt. I also put the name of the project under my pillow for when I sleep at night and hope for inspiration. Even without writer’s block, I read and read some more. When there are no words I stay busy marketing the existing books. I stay busy and am open to any suggestions.

Toni Kief
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We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?

I have a couple things I do now. After the cookbook I joined a flash fiction group, so I may do writing from a prompt. I also put the name of the project under my pillow for when I sleep at night and hope for inspiration. Even without writer’s block, I read and read some more. When there are no words I stay busy marketing the existing books. I stay busy and am open to any suggestions.

Toni Kief
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If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?

Join or make a community. When isolated we have the tendency to spend days/weeks reinventing wheels. With Susan Brown, we built the Writers Cooperative of the Pacific Northwest. We work together on the publishing and marketing. Having that community has been golden with inspiration and motivation. We do report in every two weeks about what is accomplished. We also book events for our writers and public attention and sales helps too. My advice to new authors is Read, read, make small goals (because they will grow on their own) edit like a maniac and find your community.

Toni Kief
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Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?

I have received a lot of good reviews, but some bad ones come through. As a forced optimist I believe that those harsh reviews tell me of a problem, and also give my 65 five stars more credibility.

Toni Kief
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What is the feeling when you get a good review?

A good review gives me validation and encourages me to keep on imagining and writing.

Toni Kief
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Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

After my first novel, Old Baggage, I had a couple exes check to see if they were in the book. The best was my first boyfriend from high school 53 years ago. I did use our first date, because it fit. I explained to him the meaning of fiction and then congratulated him for maintaining the same ego he had when he was 17. The short answer is kinda, I might use experiences as a spring board to a different story.

Toni Kief
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Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?

I have only some of Libby Donovan because I never would stay with an abusive person so long. But I did have a rough marriage and I worked some of the emotions into that. My Mildred Unchained series, I deny it but there are some similarities with Mildred Petrie in attitude and love of going to dinner buffets.

Toni Kief
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What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?

The covers are very important, because no matter how good the story if they don’t pick up the book it won’t be read. But over all it is the story that is the biggest value.

Toni Kief
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Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?

I love meeting with readers. I’m one of the most outgoing member of our group. We always put me at the front door because I really like people and think they are potential friends. We have been doing a lot of the holiday bazaars and I had an event last week with another author who was shy. I came away with the need to order more books and laryngitis.