Author Interview: Toni Lawrence
Updated: May 23
Welcome to this latest edition of my author interviews series. I’m delighted to introduce you Toni Lawrence, gamer, anime fan and author of Signs of the Twelve! Toni has some great insights into what it means to be new to this community and industry, and I really enjoyed reading her answers. I hope you do too.
Hello Toni! Thank you for taking part in my series of author interviews. As always, would you like to start off by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Hello back to you! Well, my name is Toni Lawrence, I’m a 27 year old writer who published her first collection of short stories, ‘Signs of the Twelve’, last year. It’s my debut piece and hopefully, there will be plenty more where that came from in the future!
As someone who is very new to the writing industry, and community at large, how have you found it so far?
Honestly, at first I was incredibly overwhelmed. You very quickly realise there are other writer’s who are very similar to you- they write the same genre, have approached their writing journey in the same way- but they may be at a different point to you. Some will have had professional help, others would not. Some have many reviews, some have very little; but everyone supports you. No matter what part of your journey you are on, no-one in the writing community judges you. They tell you to keep on going, they push you to reach that goal and pursue it, and that in my opinion is a wonderful thing. It’s one thing to tell your friends and family you have writer’s block or you need your 5th cup of coffee to get you through this chapter, but having a community in the same boat as you who understands; it’s magical.
Most people start off their writing careers with a novel of some kind, what inspired you to work on short stories for Signs of the Twelve
Actually, Signs of The Twelve came round because of a book. I have a 393 page manuscript that is just sitting on my computer, which I finished and afterwards thought, ‘Oh sweet Lord I have to edit this thing now’.
The thought of it was daunting to me, and I didn’t want to go from writing straight into editing. I wanted a break in between to approach it with fresh eyes, and it was actually my Mum who suggested I write some short stories. I follow a well known magazine called Mslexia on Instagram who post daily prompts to encourage writers to- well -write! I just so happened to stumble on a picture of a bull, which I clicked on and saw it was a prompt for the star sign Taurus (my sign). So, I challenged myself to write a short story based on it. I put a bath on and challenged myself to write a short story in the time it took for the bath to run. I decided to do my Mum’s sign as well (Virgo), did my research and took pen to paper.
Low and behold, I had two stories under my belt, and a week later I found myself sat in a coffee shop hand writing piece after piece without a moment of rest, but one thought really bugged me; what am I meant to do with all of these?
Writers- I think we have it in our heads that our debut should be a novel. That it has to be this long and detailed piece to say to the world, ‘Hey, I’m here!’. Wrong. The moment I realised, actually, these pieces are really good and I’m proud of them- that was when I decided to publish them. Because they are still pieces of literature; I still put my heart and soul into them. The length doesn’t matter, some pieces are meant to kept short and sweet.
What inspired you to write about such tough topics?
I remember I had a conversation with a friend of mine about the representation of lgbt+ characters in books. Both of us discussed how, quite often, the lgbt+ community can be written in such a way in novels that it doesn't reflect true life, that it doesn't deal with real life issues that is incredibly common in the lgbt+ community.
I had a thought of, what if he was brought up in a place where him and his partner couldn't be together? A place where they would not be accepted and they would have to live their lives constantly chasing, but never being able to reach? The thought deeply saddened me, and I discussed with him if it was ok for me to write a piece dedicate to him; that was how Leo was born. And from that I decided I wanted to discuss other topics that I felt were rarely spoken about, or if it was- I felt it wasn't given enough justice.
Taurus speaks of a young women being abused by her partner, but being unable to leave because she is deeply in love with him. Scorpio was written for my partner who was struggling with the diagnosis of his Mother's breast cancer, and I wrote it at 1am, blurry eyed and slightly delirious, because I wanted him to know that she would make it through.
Pisces is dedicated to my own Mother, who I actually asked to help me write it. She worked with children all her life, and no matter what question and antics they threw her way, she always knew just the right the words to say. When the young girl asks her Mother who is it ok to love, the answer is exactly the words I knew my Mother would say to me: Love is love and comes in many shapes and sizes, there is no right or wrong answer.
Growing up, many people looked down on single parents, and I wanted to show that just because you raise a child single handedly, if your family is what society would regard as 'not the norm'- you are still loved, and family is what you make it!
Do you have a desire to work on a novel in the future? Or are you keen to stick to short stories or any other form of writing?
I have a manuscript, but will I publish it now? No. I feel it isn’t the time, and after I published ‘Signs of the Twelve’, I knew exactly where I wanted to go next. There was no question about it, I had a project in mind and I got straight down to it immediately.
When this current project is over...I’m ashamed to say I have at least another 3 projects in mind! Another set of shorts, a novel, and the ‘possibility’ of another.
That is a very big ‘possibility’, and it will depend on how my readers react. If they want more, then I will for sure give them more.
How easy did you find the writing process? Would there be anything you would go back to do differently?
Comparing writing a full length novel to suddenly writing a collection of short stories, wow there is big difference!
For me, the filler was what kept me stuck, moving my main characters from point A to point B. You have to make it flow, you have to keep your readers engaged and make it all seem natural.
Short stories? Yeah, you don’t have to do any of that! You just jump straight into the heart of the story; the no nonsense approach, which I really have come to love. It took me 11 months to write my first manuscript, and yet it took me 9 months with 2 months of editing to finish Signs of The Twelve. I found it flowed so much easier from me, and having the ability to write different genres, to write various characters from all walks of life; it was exciting, and that was what pushed me to finish it.
How have the recent world events impacted your writing? Do you find that you’re writing more, less?
For me a lot less, but that is because I am the worst when it comes to procrastinating! I’ve been like it since I was at school, that the moment I set my foot in the front door at home, my ability to concentrate would switch off. Because if there is one thing that I can find to distract me, you bet I will find it!
I do all my work at a coffee shop nearby where I live, and they have become so accustomed to me being there that they not only know the plots to my work, but know my drinks order off by hand and have joked about being characters in any of my upcoming pieces.
Little do they know… I plan on doing exactly what they have asked.
Never ask a writer to write you into one of their pieces folks!
I saw on your Twitter bio that you’re an anime fan. What’s your favourite anime? Mine is currently My Hero Academia.
I adore My Hero! I’m a huge fan of the manga series which is currently...all over my bedroom floor.
I have so many favourites, I’ve just finished all 18 mangas (yes, 18. In a row, non-stop, back to back) of Anonymous Noise, which is a fantastic music manga that I first saw as an anime then decided to read.
Death Note, naturally a classic, but I’m currently watching the re-make of Fruit Baskets (it was one of the first animes I ever watched when I was younger, so this is a ride for me!) and Tower of God, which I first read on Webtoons. The story is absolutely superb, and the fact that it was made into an anime- it made me so happy to hear the response it received. The artist is incredibly talented, and story telling such as that deserves to be recognised.
Are there any fun facts we should know about Toni Lawrence?
Fun facts...oh my, you may be opening a can of worms on that one! I’m madly into astrology, which may be a little obvious with the nature of Signs of the Twelve! But I’m also a gaming fan, I’m a massive Final Fantasy fangirl and I’m currently trying to boss my way through some of the titles while I have an excuse to! What else...well I’ve been a pole dancer for coming up to 5 years now. It was a sport I was always interested in and I promised myself, ‘I will go upside down, then I’ll stop’. Safe to say, that never happened, and it’s always a fun one to bring up in conversation!
And lastly, would you like to tease any readers with what to expect from you in the coming year or two?
I’m currently nearing the end of my second set of short stories, which will be an- interesting?- take on the Signs of the Twelve series. I had the thought of doing this before I had even published SotT, and now that it is mostly done and beginning to come together; I grin just at the thought of it.
I can say- and I haven’t revealed this to anyone par those in my close circle- that the title will be ‘Darkness of the Twelve’, so you can read into that however you please!
After that, as I mentioned, there are projects in mind, but the order in which they will happen may depend on the response from Darkness of the Twelve.
Why? Well...you will have to wait and see!
Thank you so much to Toni for taking part. It was a genuine joy to read through Toni's answers and I hope you shall all seek her out via the links above!
Make sure you subscribe to my website as I have plenty more in store over the coming weeks.
Until next time, keep reading.