Monday, October 14, 2013

Toby Neal - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on bestselling Author Toby Neal. She is author of the Lei Crime Series.

Author Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Suspense

Website: Toby Neal
Blog: Google +
Twitter: @tobywneal
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Facebook: Check Out Facebook
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Author Description:
Toby Neal was raised on Kauai in Hawaii. She wrote and illustrated her first story at age 5 and has been published in magazines and won several writing contests. After initially majoring in Journalism, she eventually settled on mental health as a career and loves her work, saying, "I'm endlessly fascinated with people's stories."

She enjoys many outdoor sports including bodyboarding, scuba diving, beach walking, gardening and hiking. She lives in Hawaii with her family and dogs.

Toby credits her counseling background in adding depth to her characters-from the villains to Lei Texeira, the courageous and vulnerable heroine in the Lei Crime Series.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Congratulations on your novel: Twisted Vine. What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Twisted Vine is out and already on sale for .99! Grab a copy here:
It’s the 5th in the Lei Crime Series, and was supposed to end it, wrapping up a lot of subplot threads, but I found I couldn’t say goodbye to Lei just yet so I’m hard at work on #6, Shattered Palms.

Here’s the blurb: The island of Oahu is skyscrapers and rainforests, beaches and boutiques—but Special Agent Lei Texeira is drawn into a shadow world connected by death and the Internet.

Mysterious suicides draw Lei and her team, including tech specialist Sophie Ang, to hunt a criminal who plays with the thin gray line between right and wrong. Lei stirs up a hornet’s nest on the investigation as her past reaches out in a twisted vine of old loves, new technologies and dark vendettas.

You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?

ABSOLUTELY. While social media will NOT make up for a bad or even mediocre book, it’s a cheap and effective way to get word out about your work through relationship building. Is it EASY? Or instant? No. I said relationship building, didn’t I? *grin*

Twitter is a way that your message can potentially go around the world, almost instantly. It’s been a huge place to connect with other writers and potential readers for me. Once we get to liking each other, we continue the relationship building on Facebook, G+ or Instagram. It’s fun once you get the hang of it!

Do you do book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

Yes, I do. I’ve really enjoyed speaking at my local Rotary Clubs and at book clubs. As an “indie” my books aren’t available in most stores, but I go wherever I’m invited! Next speaking gig is Nov. 13 at the Five Palms Restaurant in Wailea, Maui. Want to come?

If you can’t make it, follow me on Instagram at tobyneal0
Or on Pinterest:
And my website/blog is really active and has everything:
Or meet me on Facebook!

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

For me the most important decisions happened early on when I planned a series with Hawaiian-themed flowers and plants with a foreboding feel—I also knew I wanted a “classy yet creepy” look to the covers. I have professional photographer husband who shoots the photos for my covers
, and an amazing cover designer, Julie Metz. Julie takes the photo we do and, once we’d decided on font and tone, they are consistent with each other and fairly easy to do. That first one was a beast, though…

I do get readers involved at the title stage. My next book coming out is a contemporary fiction, my first non mystery! I was stumped on a title and even the cover photo. My FB reader fans were a huge help as I nailed down the title, Somewhere on Maui (an Accidental Matchmaker Novel). Look for it next month on all platforms!

What writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?

I am not currently in one, but was for some years. We focused on the quality of the writing. I think that is where groups can be most beneficial.

Between your book writing, blogging, marketing, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do your sort of play it by ear?

I try to do 1200-2000 words a day of fresh writing and I’ve always got projects in editing and rewriting stages. I work in the mornings and I’m also a clinical social worker in private practice, so I see clients in the afternoons. Yes, it’s a full schedule!

Has the advent of ebooks changed anything in your writing, getting the book to your readers and the relationship with your readers and fans?

My story around getting published is symptomatic of the times—in 2009 I got my first agent for Blood Orchids after two years of querying. We did a rewrite, and the “on sub” process began as I worked on Torch Ginger and then, Black Jasmine. My agent, frustrated with not being able to sell any new projects, retired. That left me back at “square one” but by then I knew the books would sell if I could just get them in front of readers. So I self-published, and it was the ideal fit for me. I’ve primarily used social media to get the word out about my books. I’m very prolific and do 3 or 4 books a year. Trad pub would have been too slow for me!

My readers’ enthusiasm and commitment to the books keep me writing as fast as I can without lowering the quality. In fact, I’m proud to say I’m improving as a writer through all the hard work!

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

I have had good results from book giveaways. As a new author, it was a great way to get the word out about my work, and since the books are a series, if they like the freebie they go back and buy the rest. It’s been great. Lately, though, Amazon is no longer supporting this as well in that books given free have been dropping very low in the rankings…so right now I’m trying a .99 c sale instead!

Does living in Hawaii create a unique selling and marketing situation? Does marketing online help in situation?

It’s a mixed blessing, living here. On the one hand it’s really been an insurmountable challenge for the print books with the high expense of shipping/postage. On the other, people LOVE a vacation read and many many people have been to Hawaii and want to recreate that experience, those memories…though, granted, I write about the “darker side” of paradise. Hawaii residents are some of the most passionate and outspoken supporters of the books…I find, in general, Hawaii people to be generous, enthusiastic, and loyal to those they embrace. I do a lot of marketing online and push the ebooks because of the shipping challenges and even travel challenges to other islands. Everything’s expensive over here!

What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?

I recently got a wonderful Kirkus Review for my latest novel, Unsound. It was such a thrill to read the positive assessment of the book and of me as a writer! I do have a lot of reviews on my books. I think they touch something in readers, who respond by reviewing. That’s my only explanation…I do ask readers to leave a review when they email or contact me to say they liked the book…it’s one thing to tell me, but more important to tell others who might enjoy it!

Since the first time I visited Hawaii, there is one island that has always intrigued me. Have you ever taken your readers to The Forbidden Isle, Niihau? Just the mystery of the island and inhabitants get me digging through the internet.

I have written about every other island! And that’s a place begging for a book, I agree! Maybe I can work that in to Lei Crime #7.

Author's Book List
Unsound - A Lei Crime Companion Novel
“Toby Neal weaves a spell-binding suspense that pulls you in with breathtaking scenery, flawed characters, and brilliantly twisted psychology.”
Gae-Lynn Woods, author of the Cass Elliott Crime Series

Only a volcano can cure some things.

Dr. Caprice Wilson, police psychologist, has spent her life unraveling the mysteries of the human mind—only to find herself in a deep crisis. Caprice prescribes herself a walkabout and goes hiking on Maui—but the solitary retreat she has in mind does not go as planned. Caprice faces an enemy she never knew she had and wrestles with questions of hope, identity, loss, and the nature of psychopathy in a cat-and-mouse game with survival at stake.

Order the Book From: Amazon
Twisted Vine - Lei Crime Series 5
The island of Oahu is skyscrapers and rainforests, beaches and boutiques—but Special Agent Lei Texeira is drawn into a shadow world connected by death and the Internet.

Mysterious suicides draw Lei and her team, including tech specialist Sophie Ang, to hunt a criminal who plays with the thin gray line between right and wrong. Lei stirs up a hornet’s nest on the investigation as her past reaches out in a twisted vine of old loves, new technologies and dark vendettas.

“Toby Neal scores a royal flush in this fifth of an unmissable crime series for mystery fans!”
J.C. Martin, author of Oracle

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Stolen in Paradise - A Lei Crime Companion Novel
One betta fish, two dead biologists, three trysts, four suspects and thirty-five pairs of shoes add up to complicated days in paradise for Special Agent Marcella Scott. Marcella gets into sand way over her Manolos investigating the death of a prominent scientist washed up on a Waikiki beach with a bullet hole between the eyes. BioGreen, a genetically-engineered algae that could solve the world fuel crisis, has been stolen from the development lab—a hotbed of intrigue where everyone on the project has something to hide. Marcella also has a secret vice, more dangerous than expensive shoes—and it leads her into arms that are too close for comfort. “Toby Neal’s usual breathless suspense plus Agent Marcella Scott’s sexiness feed this reader’s addiction!” Noelle Pierce, author of upcoming Constellation Series

Order the Book From: Amazon
Broken Ferns - Lei Crime Series 4
The island of Oahu is warm breezes, skyscrapers and green mountains—but a daring young thief is out to make a statement, and Special Agent Lei Texeira’s new career is already on the line.

Lei Texeira has made a difficult transition from detective on Maui to the FBI on Oahu—and her first big case as an agent draws national media attention. With her typical jump-first, look-later style, she pursues her quarry from Oahu to the outer islands, rousing old conflicts and new heartbreak.

“Crisp, well-written and full of local color - Broken Ferns is another page-turner from Toby Neal.”
Greta Van der Rol, author of Morgan’s Choice

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Black Jasmine
The island of Maui is turquoise ocean, stunning vistas, and whalesong-but organized crime has a hidden hold, and Detective Lei Texeira tracks evil that hides behind a beautiful face. Lei and Stevens find a haven on Maui-until their new life as a couple is interrupted by murder. When a nameless teenage girl dies in an apparent vehicular suicide, Lei can't rest until she finds out what really happened. She blazes through all the wealth and poverty of island society in her quest for justice, rousing a deadly foe-even as she faces the personal demons of commitment and revenge that threaten the only real love she's ever known.

"Toby Neal's stories have a relentless, charged energy that heats up every page."
-- Holly Robinson, author of Sleeping Tigers

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Torch Ginger - Lei Crime Series 2
"If J.D. Robb's In Death series went on location with Kaui Hart Hemmings' The Descendants, you'd have Toby Neal's Torch Ginger."

The island of Kaua`i is remote jungle, golden beaches and ancient culture—but transients are disappearing in paradise, and only Detective Lei Texeira notices.

Lei transfers to the island of Kaua`I, where she uncovers a pattern of disappearances that may be related to a bizarre cult—or is it just one madman at work? In Lei's world, everyone is guilty until proven innocent.

In the midst of the biggest case sleepy Kaua`I has ever seen, Lei must also untangle the mysteries of her heart and discover who she loves.

Order the Book From: Amazon
Blood Orchids - Lei Crime Series 1
Fast-paced crime mystery with a touch of romance, readers call Blood Orchids "un-putdownable"!

"Sometimes in crime fiction you stumble across a character who lives on beyond the book's end by virtue of their psychological complexity, and the richness with which the author has drawn them. Will Graham, Jack Reacher, Alex Cross, and now they have a worthy female counterpart in Lei Teixera. Blood Orchids is that rarity among debut novels, in that it satisfies on every level. A powerful new talent is on the scene, whole-heartedly recommended."
-Drew Cross, former police officer and author of BiteMarks

Hawaii is palm trees, black sand and blue water—but for policewoman Lei Texeira, there’s a dark side to paradise.

Lei has overcome a scarred past to make a life for herself as a cop in the sleepy Big Island town of Hilo. On a routine patrol she finds two murdered teenagers—one of whom she’d recently busted. With its echoes of her own past, the murdered girl’s harsh life and tragic death affect Lei deeply. She becomes obsessed—even as the killer is drawn to Lei's intensity, feeding off her vulnerabilities and toying with her sanity.

Despite her obsession with the case and fear that she's being stalked, Lei finds herself falling in love for the first time. Steaming volcanoes, black sand beaches and shrouded fern forests are the backdrop to Lei's quest for answers—and the stalker is closer than she can imagine, as threads of the past tangle in her future. Lei is determined to find the killer—but he knows where to find her first.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
eBook Author’s Corner and HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle
Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.

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