This past week I sat down with the lovely and talented author Tonia Brown, who I must admit I have a secret crush on, and candidly talked about all things of interest. We discussed her next book projects, how she researches before she writes a new novel, zombies, westerns, movies, and yes, even naughty naughty sex. So if you’re offended by the Rabelaisian ramblings of two adults with a bit of a kink for ribald fun, please, do not read the following discussion. The following is meant for mature readers only.
However, if you like books and sex (not necessarily in that order) then by all means proceed.
INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR TONIA BROWN
Tristan Vick (TV): When I open your blog I love the fact that explicit content warning pops up. It usually almost always means porn. But then I see your books and am like ... hehehehehe ... and once the giggles subside I browse through your blog posts and find that you have sort of a fondness for sex and a healthy sexual expression yourself.
So my first question is: what is it about sex that fascinates you?
Tonia Brown: Ha! That is a hell of a question, hon. I was raised fairly sheltered, and in fact married as a virgin. When I finally got a chance to explore my sexuality, I was in my first and only committed relationship. My husband gives me a lot of room, within reason of course, and puts up with a lot of experimenting. (Again, within reason, as he puts is. Haha!)
I think perhaps coming into my sexuality as an adult rather than experimenting as a teen has left me with an adult fascination with it as a topic. Plus, I have a tendency to obsess about stuff I love. And who don't love sex? Be it by your onsies or with the one you love, it just does the body good, ya know?
TV: It seems you're pretty liberal (and open) when it comes to your sex life. I admire that, and I must say, your husband must be hell of a man to respect and love you for who you are.
You use sex in many of your novels, sometimes as a plot and sometimes as a theme, and I think this is where we are similar as writers (other than the genre we both write in--which is also similar). In your book Lucky Stiff you have a character which is, shall I say, a sex professional? How did you come up the idea with the plot and what was the inspiration behind the character Peter Lyle?
Tonia Brown: Everyone wants to know about my Peter. Ain't he grand? Lucky Stiff was the result of two different things at that time in my career. First, I was asked to write a zombie erotica by a small publisher. I took the job only on the condition that it wasn't the zombies getting their smack on, because I didn't think I could pen such a thing. She vehemently agreed. (She just wanted a book with both sex and zombies.)
As I wrote it--the book was called The Blooming, by the way--I began to wonder what conditions I COULD write a zombie having sex under. Voodoo became the obvious choice. The second thing that brought it about was a romance company had just put a call out for zombie erotica as well, so I penned Peter just for them, which is why it is explicit with a 'happily ever after' ending. (They like that sort of thing) But after I was done I found I overshot their mark by 30k words. Ooops. Peter found a home with another company which went under, so now he is back in my hands. Where he was always meant to be.
TV: You write about another 'sentient' zombie in in Badass Zombie Road Trip. What is it about the icky old brain-dead zombies you don't like? And why do you say, as you do above, that you don't think you could pen such a thing at that time? Was there something that put you off classic dead-head zombies, or did you just want to break the mold?
Tonia Brown: Oh it wasn't the traditional zombie that put me off. It was the traditional zombie fucking his brains out that put me off the idea! Ha! As for sentient zombies, I love to write them because they are different. There are SO many post-apocalyptic zombie tales out there, I just want to give folks something a little different to read. And there is the fact that talking zombies make for great dialogue. Still, I have written my fair share of traditional zees. Skin Trade and The Cold Beneath are both pretty straight up zombies, it is the situation of the novel that is unusual. Oh, and that also goes for my upcoming Gnomaggedon. It has traditional flesh eating, virus created zombies. But it takes place in a fantasy world, and the zees are all gnomes. Well, mostly gnomes. (That is DnD gnomes, not lawn gnomes.)
[*DnD = Dungeons and Dragons.]
TV: Yes, Gnomaggedon has caught my attention and I am definitely looking forward to its release. Tell me about Zombie Kong, as I have not yet read that one. Pretend I'm a big Publisher and you're pitching the story to me. Ready, set, go!
Tonia Brown: Actually Zombie Kong was an anthology that James Roy Daley, the fellow who put out Badass for me, put together. My story, My Life was Saved by a Cup of Coffee, was a sort of slice of life vignette that tells the tale of a guy who wakes up to find his wife has taken the kids and left him. It is a brief look at how he deals with the loss, while at the same time Zombie Kong is attacking his suburb. He is left with a life changing experience after a near brush with death under the big undead ape's foot.
Tristan Vick: I was wondering if I may be allowed to link to you and your blog from my website: www.tristanvick.com I have a INDY SUPPORT section where I promote fellow Indy authors and authors I like.
Tonia Brown: Yes please, thanks for that.
Tristan Vick: Great! Thanks.
So, when we last met, we we're talking about books and sex, then suddenly I am looking at some sexy (and highly professional) nude photography which I * conveniently* received in the mail from someone who shall remain nameless. Which got me to thinking, earlier you said your husband allows you to get away with following your sexual urges 'within reason' ... and I have to wonder... what does 'within reason' mean exactly?
Of course, if it's too personal, we can skip it and move on.
Tonia Brown: Not to personal, I am an open book when it comes to my sexuality.
Things intimately involving my husband I will have to dance around, as he isn't one to kiss and tell. I suppose what I mean is as long as it doesn't involve another person (without his knowledge, and so far all requests for such activity have been vetoed, lol!) or anything terribly dangerous or demeaning. Role playing, light S&M, dirty talk, the inclusion of various apparatus in the bedroom, stuff like that is all fine.
On an even more personal level, I am a consummate masturbator, and love my variety of vibes and other toys, which the husband is very comfortable with me owning and using (and that is probably all I can say about it).
TV: Ahhh... the good old days of masturbation. I used to have time for such things. Not recently. Having kids sort of gets in the way of any such ‘happy time’.
Tonia Brown: I make time! Haha! Seriously though, it is part of my anti insomnia routine... nothing like a good hands-on session to relax you.
TV: Okay, so it seems I have to get us back to talking about books... but my mind is too far in the gutter to find a good segue... so I shall ask the obvious, read any good book lately?
Tonia Brown: Sure. I am reading the High Moor series by Graeme Reynolds. It's about werewolves, and it is awesome. I'm in the middle of the second one right now. I highly recommend them.
TV: I just finished the first Hunger Games book and am beginning the second. Yeah, I know, I'm sort of late on the whole Hunger Games craze. Guess I just couldn't catch that bandwagon. I also am part way through Jonathan Maberry's Rot and Ruin series.
But to be honest, I rarely read fiction. I almost read entire non-fiction. Science mostly. Physics books, psychology, economics, neuroscience, all that sort of stuff. People often ask me how much research I do before I write a novel, and I have to be honest, I do very little. Apart from the occasional Wiki read through, watching films involving a specific genre or time period, or reading through some books of like genre to get the ‘flavor’ of the writing style down.
So that brings me to my next question, do you ever do any in-depth research for your books?
Tonia Brown: Oh, yes. Lots and lots of research. Especially for the Railroad! series. Although I enjoy westerns and the time period it is set in, I knew practically nothing of the real history of that era.
The same with steampunk. I am not an engineer. So lots reading on mechanics and steam trains. Also, I have recently scored an engineering friend so he is a great help with ideas and making the inner workings of the professors inventions sound plausible.
TV: I am currently writing a retro steampunk novel myself, but it's set in the 1930s America. My research for that was watching films from the 1930s so I could get some of the vernacular down. Or as they'd say, the "lingo." The mechanical bits are easy for me, I suppose because I’m a bit of a gear-head wannabe, but for the rest I just tend to do some quick Wiki read throughs. If I need to find a quick schematic of 1930's era Empire State Building with dirigibles, for example, and want to figure out exactly what they called everything I Wiki it. That sort of thing.
Tonia Brown: Oh yeah I watched a crap ton of westerns before I started the first chapter of Railroad! just to get the feel for it.
TV: Did you have a favorite Western?
Tonia Brown: When I wrote Gnomaggedon, I set my laptop up at the table the guys were playing DnD at and just basically took notes. Haha!
I am a huge fan of True Grit. And believe it or not I love the remake more. Other than that The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly tops my list. And the Korean The Good, The Bad, and The Weird can't be beat.
TV: Yeah, the new True Grit was wonderful. The old one is classic, but the new one is so beautifully done.
Tonia Brown: And it’s truer to the novellas.
TV: Good to know! I also really loved the 3:10 to Yuma, with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale.
Tonia Brown: Oh I don't think I've caught that one. I'll need to put it on my list.
TV: The Outlaw Josey Wales is one of my favorites.
Tonia Brown: Pale Rider is good too.
TV: Yes indeedy. Sorry, I could go on forever about westerns, and cinema in general. I'm a huge movie buff. Television too. I am going to watch the finale to Spartacus tonight! I can't wait. It's been the most violent and sex filled show I've ever seen! But amazing acting and storytelling nonetheless.
Tonia Brown: I actually don't have a satellite any more. I wait and watch whole series on Netflix when I grab time. Which isn't often.
Tristan Vick: Well, if you haven't seen the new Spartacus, I highly recommend it. It's good drama topped with sex, killing, and more sex!
Tonia Brown: Sounds like my kind of show!
TV: Lots of penis shots too.
Tonia Brown: HAHA! I like how you stuck that in there.
TV: Haha. Okay, so my last question is this, after your Gnomageddon book what do you have planned? What's your docket like for your next year (give or take)?
Tonia Brown: Railroad! 7 is posting right now, and I just finished Railroad! 8, and should have 9 done later this year for posting. These will be released online as novella volumes, then get collected into the full three part omnibus next February.
Other than that I am working on another humorous piece called Hauling Ash, about a guy who gets mixed up with the FBI and the Mob at the behest of the corpse/ghost of his dead uncle. I also plan on a penning Gnomaggedon II: Gnome Alone later this year.
I currently have a novella about a serial killer werewolf sitting with a publisher waiting to hear back. Hopefully I will know something about that soon.
TV: Sounds great! I'll be looking forward to those. Well, thanks Tonia for taking the time to chat with a fellow author (and fan, I might add). It’s been a pleasure!
Tonia Brown: Yeah me too. Thanks again
AFTER THE INTERVIEW: Some Closing Thoughts
As the conversation meandered at the speed of thought, I was surprised at how friendly, open, and warm-hearted Tonia Brown was. She graciously agreed to do the interview full well knowing in advance that it was going to be about “books and sex,” and she never shied away from a candid or personal question. This is to her credit. So many people I talk to are so tight lipped about sex, not just their own sex life but sex in general, that they literally grow sick even thinking about it. This cannot be healthy. Sex is a natural part of being human. It’s far better, in my opinion, that we find ways to discuss sex matters in a healthy, safe, and respectful fashion rather than treating it like some kind of illness.
I just wanted to say I truly appreciate Tonia’s openness and courage, because it takes a lot of it to be so up front and honest about something many people find taboo or controversial (but, I would add, shouldn’t be).
As such, if any of my readers found the above content found in this interview offensive, then please direct all comments toward me. I take full responsibility for the content of this interview, and Tonia was nothing but a darling and a sweetheart, not to mention one helluva fun lady to talk with! I hope we’ll be able to find the time to talk again soon and maybe, if I’m lucky, someday hang out with the lovely lady in person.
Thanks for reading!
By day I am an educator and a cultural ambassador. By night I entertain notions of being a literary master. In reality I am just a family man and ordinary guy who works hard and loves writing just about as much as I love my family. Just about.