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Interview with YA author Cynthia Toney


Author Cynthia Toney shares about her two young adult novels, the important issues included in them, her passion to rescue shelter dogs and more in her Q & A interview below.



Anonymous sticky-notes, a scheming bully, and a ruined summer send fourteen-year-old Wendy down a trail of secrets and self-discovery.

Wendy Robichaud doesn't care one bit about being popular like good-looking classmates Tookie and the Sticks—until Brainiac bully John-Monster schemes against her, and someone leaves anonymous sticky-note messages all over school. Even the best friend she always counted on, Jennifer, is hiding something and pulling away. But the Spring Program, abandoned puppies, and high school track team tryouts don’t leave much time to play detective. And the more Wendy discovers about the people around her, the more there is to learn. When secrets and failed dreams kick off the summer after eighth grade, who will be around to support her as high school starts in the fall?


A Cajun family secret, two very different boys, and a fight to keep a grandmother’s love—who would’ve guessed that looking through old photo albums could get Wendy into so much trouble?

Wendy Robichaud is on schedule to have everything she wants at the start of high school: two loyal best friends, a complete and happy family, and a hunky boyfriend she’s had a crush on since eighth grade—until she and Mrs. Villaturo look at old photo albums together. That’s when Mrs. V sees her dead husband and hints at a scandal down in Cajun country. Faster than you can say “crawdad,” Wendy digs into the scandal and into trouble. She risks losing boyfriend David by befriending Mrs. V’s deaf grandson, alienates stepsister Alice by having a boyfriend in the first place, and upsets her friend Gayle without knowing why. Will Wendy be able to prevent Mrs. V from being taken thousands of miles away? And will she lose all the friends she’s fought so hard to gain?

Genre:

Teen/Young Adult (YA), although many parents also recommend it for middle-schoolers as young as 11 years old. 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status can certainly be read without first reading book one, 8 Notes to a Nobody, but I’d recommend the younger crowd read them in order. Teens will connect with 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status more quickly because it deals with dating, among other issues.

How did you choose the title for 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status, and did you design the cover?

The cover design was a collaborative effort with my publisher. Although the series handles some serious issues, my new publisher and I agreed that the covers should be cheerful. The stories are full of hope and contain some humor. I also wanted the covers to tie together yet retain individual looks. When my publisher asked for new titles because she wanted to use “Bird Face” as the name of the series, I thought about the elements of the stories that were numbered. Wendy receives eight notes in book one, 8 Notes to a Nobody, and tracks ten steps in her relationship with David in book two, 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status. It must’ve been divine inspiration that caused me to create titles containing numbers that also employ alliteration and have a sort of rhythm to them. I’m happy to report that I’ve received positive and unsolicited feedback regarding the titles and covers.

How would you describe the book to someone in a text message?

A Cajun family secret, two very different boys, and a fight to keep a grandmother’s love—who would’ve guessed that looking through old photo albums could get Wendy into so much trouble?

Who is your main character and what problem does he/she face?

Wendy Robichaud is on schedule to have everything she wants at the start of high school: two loyal best friends, a complete and happy family, and a hunky boyfriend she’s had a crush on since eighth grade—until she and Mrs. Villaturo look at old photo albums together. That’s when Mrs. V sees her dead husband and hints at a scandal down in Cajun country. Faster than you can say “crawdad,” Wendy digs into the scandal and into trouble. She risks losing boyfriend David by befriending Mrs. V’s deaf grandson, alienates stepsister Alice by having a boyfriend in the first place, and upsets her friend Gayle without knowing why.

Wendy’s problems in a nutshell: She must fight to try to prevent Mrs. V from being taken thousands of miles away, and she risks all the friends she’s fought hard to gain since we met her in book one.

What makes your book stand out from other books like it?

This story uses humor and hope to address issues of adapting to a blended family, having a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s, and struggling through that first innocent romantic relationship. It also has a deaf teen character. I haven’t seen that combination anywhere else!

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

It changed from artist to schoolteacher to veterinarian to commercial artist/designer, I think. I still think about how great it would be to practice as a veterinarian. I could still write in my spare time.

When did you know you wanted to be an author?

In my forties while working as a marketing/advertising designer and copywriter.

What books have influenced you most?

Betsy Byars’ Bingo Brown series made me want to write books containing humor and young teen characters. Judy Blume’s middle-grade and teen novels made me want to help young people handle some of the issues and challenges they face.

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

I rode in a twin-engine plane over a body of water.

Do you have life philosophy?

When I choose someone to add to my life, I choose someone who is kind to animals. That person will likely treat me well.

Ever think about becoming an author yourself? Here's Cynthia's advice to you:

Start now! The more you write, the better you become. Read modern bestsellers and classics in the genre you want to write. You’ll develop your own style. If you don’t feel ready to write a novel, write a short story. Read books about self-editing, plot structure, setting, and character development.

Who is Cynthia Toney? Read on to find out:

Cynthia is a former advertising designer, marketing director, and interior decorator who holds a BA in art education with a minor in history. While employed by a large daily newspaper, she rewrote some ad copy without permission and got into trouble for it. At that point, she knew she was destined to become an author.

When she’s not cooking Cajun or Italian food, Cynthia writes historical and contemporary teen fiction containing elements of mystery and romance. The first edition of her debut novel, Bird Face, won a 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, Bronze, in the Pre-teen Mature Issues category.

With a new publisher for an entire Bird Face series, the original story is now Book One and titled 8 Notes to a Nobody. Book Two is 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status. Look for more books in the series in the near future from Write Integrity Press.

Cynthia loves rescued animal-shelter dogs and the friendly South from Georgia to Texas, where she resides with her husband and several canines.



Rescue dog, Angela, who is blind in one eye, resting.

I haven't figured out how to set up comments on this blog yet, but you can connect with Cynthia through these links.

Website

Blog

Facebook Author Page

#authors #YAfiction #preteenreading #YAnovels #reading

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