T. K. Toppin came to me after being recommended be J. C. Cassells as one of her favourite reads.  Something about she ‘seems to  have a mad crush on Aston West, you know!’  T. K. is a science fiction romance writer based in Barbados and a very lovely lady to boot.

I am running her interview today to celebrate the release of her new book ‘To Catch A Marlin’ published through Ring of Fire Publishing.   This is one to look out for.   Here’s the blurb for To Catch A Marlin…

In the tail end of the 24th Century, Special Inspector Michael Pedroni pursues a beautiful and elusive vigilante, Jax Marlin, in a wild cat and mouse chase that will take him from Earth to the Bacchus Dome and beyond.

Jax Marlin is not your average criminal; she seeks out evil-doers and law-breakers, doling out justice in whatever way she sees fit. But lately, she finds she’s been gift-wrapping criminals specially for her favorite copper.

Four of the world’s leading criminals are determined to form an alliance. Jax is determined to stop them. Hot on her heels, Inspector Pedroni finds himself questioning the difference, if any, between her justice and his. More than that, he wonders why, when he’d had her in his grasp, he was unable to slap on the restraints and bring her in.

Both want the same thing — to stop criminals. But the growing attraction each has towards the other becomes a dangerous hindrance.

Let’s give T. K. A big round of applause.

Who would you like to collaborate with (being living or dead) and why?

It would probably have to depend on whether or not I can ‘gel’ with them. As writers, we all have our personal style or voice, unless the other person is similar to you. I mean, what if you got the chance to work with your literary idol, only to realize that they didn’t have people skills, thought you were a moron, insisted on doing things their way, and were quite selfish in sharing their thoughts about what you’re collaborating on. That being said, I am completely open to the idea, so long as the objective is to reach the same goal and all egos are checked at the door—under lock and key, too.

At the moment, I’m collaborating with my brother on a story, but having known him all my life, it’s easier to get into his brain. And when we don’t see eye to eye…I just ignore him for a while. I’m allowed cuz he’s family. J

What would be the best piece of advice you would offer a new author?

Write what you want, and write what you love. It’ll come out in the writing and your readers will see it. In doing so, eventually your trademark voice and style will grow and flourish. Also, develop a thick skin for the critiques, wide open ears for the advice, and a diplomatic mouth to keep you out of trouble. And read, read lots of books from all sorts of genres. Read good books, read bad books, read stuff out of your comfort zone. Oh, and never give up if writing is your dream.

Is routine important to you?

Yes and no. Yes, because routine is structured and you come to expect that you do certain things at a certain time, and it’s like a comfort, knowing that it’ll happen and your brain accommodates for it and get’s you in the right mindset. For writing, I try to do it in the afternoon, when all my day job stuff or book marketing (groan) is done and I can shut off the main computer, crack open my laptop, disappear in the bedroom and just write.

But then, who doesn’t like a little fun and excitement when serendipity steps in and messes stuff about? It kind of breaks up the dull routine, which I’m all for unless it comes with headaches and stress.

What genre would you like to write a book in (that you haven’t yet)?

Oh, SO much. But, I tend to muddle things up and cross-over like mad within my own genre. For instance, in my science fiction, I throw in mystery, romance, and detective-sluething stuff, all mixed together with techie stuff and thrills, spills, adventure, etc. But, one day, I’d really like to write a plain and simple murder-mystery and try my hand at fantasy. There’s this tale about dragons that I’ve had simmering on the back burner for some time now…

Do you listen to music during all processes of writing?  Do you listen music you know or new music when writing?

Sometimes. Mostly instrumentals, since singing disrupts the thinking process. Recently I’ve been hooked on this group called Two Steps From Hell, and their Invincible album is just wicked! Driving music just geared to make you write epic scenes full of adventure and action. I also mix it up with movie scores (Two Steps From Hell also do movie scores), mostly from movies like Transformers, Gladiator, Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean. Sometimes, I throw in some classical music, nothing dreary, but lively stuff.

Regular music, mostly rock, is for during the editing process. Sometimes. But mostly, it’s for when I’m working in my day job, which is a graphic artist.

Have you read a romance novel?  Do you think you could write one?

Yes. And yes. But I probably won’t write erotica…I’d be giggling too much from embarrassment.

What sport did you play as a younger person?  Were you good at it?

I sucked at sports. Still do. That being said, I prefer (if I had to) sports like cross-country stuff, or rock-climbing (and trees), or even hiking. But generally speaking, I’m the most laziest person on Earth and the thought of sports, even watching it, is exhausting.

When you are coming up with an idea, do you look at the market for trends?  Or do you write for you?

I write for me.

Where do your ideas come from?  Do you have a standard formula for plots or do stories come to you as a whole construct?

They just sort of come in bursts. Like, while doing things, a thought bubble will form and grow bigger. I add in a little bit more from my mind-well, throw in a dash of seasoning, a pinch of spices, and some herbs for flavour. J

When you start a new story, do you have a title for it?  Does that trigger the story?

When the thought bubble forms, I immediately think of a title for it…and character names. I’m one of those people who NEEDS a title and character names and names of places and things in order to proceed further. I’m thought-bubbling out a new story right now, and all I got is a generation ship that needs a name and a title and it’s stumping me so much that I can’t come up with a good enough plotline to drive the story along. But I’m getting there. I keep a hoard of names in a notebook.

Do you see the future of fantasy and science fiction as bright?  If so, which authors are driving it?

I’d say it is. There’s just so many great and fantastic authors in this genre, I can’t list them all. I think what really got me into my sub-genre (SFR – science fiction with a dash of romance) were writers like Pauline Baird Jones (The Key, Girl Gone Nova) and Sara Creasy (The Song of Scarabaeus, Children of Scarabaeus). They write with a character-riddled flair and just enough tech to move the story along, and the romance, is a slow, building love affair. What they wrote, how they wrote it, was just wow! They took normal SF and bumped it up with powerful characters. They are so many others, like KM Tolan and his Dancer series and TM Hunter with the Aston West series (both space opera), JC Cassels, Heidi Ruby Miller, and Cary Caffrey have jazzed up SF and SFR to an almost urban, street-level style…like glam-rock meets hip-hop. Think Suckerpunch mashed up with Ultraviolet (minus the vampires).

For fantasy, I see a new breed rearing up from the usual suspects. To name a few that stand out in my mind: Ashley J. Barnard and her Fox series, a dark fantasy, modern characters with a historical twist. Kevin James Breaux for his truly amazing Soul Born trilogy. It’s dark, loaded with fantasy elements and the characters are amazing. And Diana Illinca is another, a young adult writer with her Zirconya series.

What themes are being overused?

Vampires.

Are movies of books ruining the book?

I’m not sure. Some movies stick pretty close to the book, others, not so much. What they will do, depending on the movie, will make me buy the book if I haven’t read it yet. I don’t know if this works for others, but in my book (pardon the pun) any publicity is good publicity. Whether it works in either’s favour depends on how bad the movie/book was.

Do you see ebooks threatening traditional publishing?

Yep. We live in the future…or the future is now! Ebooks are here to stay. We’re on the cusp of a full-blown techno-age where babies are born with the latest smart phone wedged into their chubby hands, and genetically programmed to download stuff in their sleep. On the flipside, the rampant upsurge of techo might also spur traditional books into becoming expensive collectibles, like antiques to be treasured and revered.

Do you prefer to read established authors or debut authors? How do you choose which ones to read?

Both. With the established authors, you know what to expect and of course their next book is a must-have! But there’s also a huge slew of new authors, just waiting to be read. I hate missing out on things (though it’s the story of my life), and discovering a new author is listed high among the things I hate to miss. If it’s got an interesting premise, I’m in. (While not everything can be perfectly written, and personally, if the story is good, I can overlook a few things. But consistently bad…no. I know I’ve come a long way since I pushed out my first book. I’m hoping I’ve improved, but what would crush me worse than terrible writing, is a terrible storyline).

What is it about fantasy that appeals to you?

Like any good book, in any genre…escapism. A medium in which to (safely) unbend your mind, open it up, see mind-altering things, get high, be wowed… Oh, you meant to write it? Well, I haven’t quite gotten there yet. When I can safely distinguish between a wood nymph and a dryad, I’ll get back to you. Wait, aren’t they the same thing? I’m almost there then. J

Can I get an autographed book? (lol)

‘Course you can! Just send on your mailing addy.

Do you have a group of people that you show a new story to? How much impact can they have on the whole story?

I do, yes. Most Saturdays, I post snippets from my books or works in progress through a forum where you showcase SF and Fantasy tales. The impact I receive from these snippets I offer are amazing, and I can judge how certain scenes work or don’t. That aside, it’s a great place to hang out and just shoot the breeze. Through this group, I’ve met some incredibly talented authors!

Do you set yourself a word limit for each book?

No. Personally, I like reading epic tales that seem never-ending with breath-taking excitement and adventures. I mean, who wants a great story to end, right? But when I’m writing, I don’t set word limits—it’s distracting.

Do you have a target each day?

No. I write when it comes, if it comes at all. I never tell myself I’ll write 1K words or bust. If I can’t write, I re-read what I have written, just to get back into the swing of things. Failing that, I play computer games or read a book or watch TV.

Do you write constantly or have breaks between books?

Yes. I need a period of decompressing where the only stressing thought I have is why I lost another life in the computer game I’m playing, or what to make for dinner. Finishing a book, after investing so much time into it, is like saying goodbye to a friend. It can be gut wrenching at times and everything you write afterwards takes on some element or shadow of the story you just said goodbye to.

Do you have characters running around your head?  Do they dictate events and their histories to you?

Most of the time. I can, at will, tell them to shut up and rejoin the real world for the required time period…but they’re usually always talking behind my back and I can hear them. They’re not very good at whispering.

After so many books, how do you keep them unique?

Well, I’ve published three, one about to be released, bring it to four, but in total, I’ve actually written five. Is that ‘many’?

How do I keep them unique? By taking breaks and drilling it in my head that it’s time to move on. That formula has been working so far, so I think I’ll stick to it.

What is your biggest (self-imposed) time waster?

Procrastination.

Do you remember the first time you saw your book in a shop?

In a small, tuck-away, new and second hand bookstore, where my first book is sold. It just looked buried amongst all the other books, looking all sad and lonely. I try not to think about it too much because I just want to scoop them up and bring them back home with me.

Do you read other people’s writing?

Yep.

Would you read mine?

Yep. J

I have a new release coming out Friday October 26, called TO CATCH A MARLIN. It’s published with Ring of Fire Publishing.

Also, there’s my previous releases, the Lancaster Trilogy (covers below), all of which you can find the book links from my blog: http://www.tktoppin.blogspot.com

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