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Conversations with Tonya Brown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tonya Brown. 

Hi Tonya, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I didn’t set out to be a writer. In fact, I didn’t really know I wanted to be one. 

My interest first started when I read the story of Mary Stuart, better known as Mary, Queen of Scots. She endured so much heartache and wrong done to her in her short life that I was moved by Mary’s tragic story. I started wondering what it would have been like for her, had she had a trusted advisor who wasn’t out to advance their own cause, but truly was concerned for her safety and success. 

That is when my first book character was born. He came out of these imaginings, and I started writing while I was in grad school. It was more of an escape mechanism from the grind of textbook readings and essay writing. I would write when I had a little free time or when I needed a distraction. The process was slow as I alternated between writing my story and researching the customs, clothing, food, and so forth of 16th century Scotland. 

At some point, my husband started asking, “When are you going to finish this book so you can get it published?” I’m sure the fact that I had started it five years earlier had something to do with his impatience. I finally buckled down and became serious about getting the story finished. I visited Scotland in order to get a better feel for the people and customs of Scotland and to tour some of the many places that Mary, Queen of Scots would have lived or visited. 

After eight years I finally finished the manuscript. Then came the grueling task of finding a publisher for my story. I was able to obtain a small publisher who took an interest in my book and finally published The Queen’s Almoner in June 2020. 

By then I had been bitten by the writing bug. I realized how much I enjoyed imagining, plotting, and writing stories and all of the research that goes into historical fiction. I immediately started on my next book to follow the Queen series, while writing a few other stories on the side. 

I have dabbled in Fantasy, Women’s Fiction, and Middle Grade Fiction (I am a 5th grade Reading/Language Arts teacher so that was a given!). But I have found that I enjoy writing historical romance the best. In my historical fiction books, you will usually find three things: 1) there are always animals involved, 2) someone will fall in love, and 3) someone will die. Love, tragedy, and furry friends is my motto, I guess. 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Launching a book has definitely not been all smooth sailing. My first book, The Queen’s Almoner, was released in June 2020. As everyone knows, we were in the beginnings of a global pandemic at that time. Everything that wasn’t considered a necessity was beginning to close. In my small town in Ohio, things were very much up in the air as to whether places should stay open or close down. Should we wear masks, or shouldn’t we? Should we gather in large crowds? How large is a large crowd? This made it difficult to plan the book launch that I had dreamed of giving The Queen’s Almoner. After a few setbacks and wondering up until the very last minute whether it was actually going to happen, I was able to pull off a fairly successful launch with many precautions in place. But in the following months, bookstores were closed and opportunities to conduct book signings and participate in book festivals was sadly lost. I, along with many other debut authors during the pandemic, had to resort to Zoom meetings and online events to try to connect with readers and get the word out about our books. It’s a testament to our creativity and wild imaginations that we could manage to keep our heads, and still sell books during this crazy time. 

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I write historical fiction. I like to take tragic events and the people involved and give them a fresh look and voice. I try very hard to stick as close to the true narrative as I can while adding my own imaginings and making the story interesting. When writing fiction that can sometimes be a challenge because a lot of times people expect the fictional book to portray the true story even though it is fiction. My hope is that someone will read one of my books and be inspired to further study and read about the real people and places they represent. Although I am a teacher by profession, my books are not meant to teach the whole historical story. I hope they will be a springboard to launch readers into further inquiry and discovery. 

Risk-taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
There is always a risk involved when you are putting your work out there for the world to see–and judge. You think you have a great story, but not everyone has the same opinion. And people aren’t afraid to share their opinion. My book is my baby and although not as valuable to me as my flesh and blood children, it is still a creation of my own making that I have lovingly crafted. I have put a lot of time, effort, and heart into it, so of course, I want everyone to love it as much as I do. But in the end, it is unrealistic to think that everyone will love it, and I must brace myself for the naysayers and expect that there will always be at least a few that think I could have done better. 


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