Interview with JJ Toner

Published 2015-04-18.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
1. Reading. I have about 20 of books on my to-read list.
2. I like to go to the cinema about once per week.
3. Gardening. We have a quarter acre that needs constant attention.
4. Facebook and Twitter take up a couple of hours each day.
5. Dreaming up ideas for my next book.
6. Supporting my 3 children and 2 grandchildren.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Through contacts with other writers, mostly, although Amazon send me suggestions that sometimes catch my eye.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. I wrote 5 SF stories as a younger teenager. I have them still in a copybook.
What is your writing process?
I spend 3-6 months outlining each book before starting to write it.
Draft 1 takes about 3 months. I try to write 1,000 words per day.
My editor tears draft 1 to pieces. Putting it back together again usually takes another 3 months.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Nope, but it was probably something by James Thurber. My parents were very fond of his stories. In my opinion, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the greatest short story ever written.
How do you approach cover design?
I have a talented cover designer. I dream up the basic idea and she brings it to life.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - humour and satire to die for.
Perfume by Patrick Süskind - a wonderful, timeless story, beautifully written.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré - the ultimate spy story by a master craftsman.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - A classic story of the great depression.
Butcher Boy by Pat McCabe - A tour de force in Irish idiom and a crazy, incredible story.
What do you read for pleasure?
WW2 historical fiction, thrillers, spy stories, Science Fiction, WW2 history. I've read almost all of Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther books, for example, and all of Robert Harris's work.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Apple iPad. I also have a kindle (mark I) but there's no comparison.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Twitter and Facebook.
Describe your desk
It's a 3-legged table (the fourth leg is broken). The desk's style is "cluttered", but I do a tidy up every 6 months or so. The room is tiny - smaller than a prison cell - but it has a window without bars.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I went to school in a Christian Brothers school in Ireland. I was one of the lucky ones: I was bright and avoided the beatings for the most part. My parents were avid readers, and I caught the craze early on.
When did you first start writing?
I wrote a few stories in my teens in the 1950s, then nothing much until 1995, when I lost my job. I have been writing full time since 2007.
What's the story behind your latest book?
ZUGZWANG is a short detective story, set in Munich in 1933. Adolf Hitler is the new Chancellor. A municipal police commissar and his assistant must catch a brutal serial killer in spite of interference from the SS. The story is FREE on Smashwords.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I went through the usual mill of querying agents and gathering hundreds of rejection slips from both sides of the Atlantic. As soon as self-publishing became an option, I jumped at it. No regrets. My books are selling well.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Sometimes when writing a book, the story comes alive. It's like magic. Difficult to explain.
What do your fans mean to you?
My fans (readers) mean everything to me. They validate my work. Without them I have no basis for writing any more.
What are you working on next?
I'm between books. I have been writing WW2 historical thrillers since 2007. I think it's time to switch to something new. I may write a SF book next, a dystopian story for young adults, perhaps.
Who are your favorite authors?
Douglas Adams, John le Carré, Steinbeck, Robert Harris, Patrick Süskind, Pat McCabe, Jim Williams, Alistair McLean, Thurber, Flannery O'Connor, Patrick Campbell, Frank O'Connor, Wodehouse, Eoin Colfer, Colin Bateman, Chis Brookmyre, Richard Dawkins, Asimov, Sheckley, R A Lafferty, Ray Bradbury, Philip K Dick, and lots more...
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Books by This Author

The Sepent's Egg
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 82,780. Language: English. Published: September 20, 2021. Categories: Fiction » Historical » General, Fiction » Romance » Historical » 20th Century
Berlin 1938. Max and Anna are in love and want to get married, but their union is against Nazi laws, as Anna is part-Jewish. A Gestapo officer agrees to authorize the marriage, but only if Max infiltrates a Marxist resistance cell, the Red Orchestra. This is not an assignment that Max can refuse. If he succeeds, Anna will get the wedding she longs for, but many brave resistance fighters will die.
Rogue Android
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,520. Language: English. Published: December 29, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Science fiction » Cyberpunk
The four systems of the galaxy are awash with well-behaved androids, but one of ours has gone berserk. Send help!
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,320. Language: English. Published: April 3, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense
A young man living on the Dingle peninsula in Ireland meets a visitor from London with fatal consequences.