Spotlight Interview with Author Tonya Macalino

Spotlight Interview with Author Tonya Macalino



Tonya has stopped by to let the ladies of JR interrogate (*oops* – interview) her…


Tonya thanks for stopping by what story would you like to chat about.

Thanks so much for having me over for this interview, ladies! What an honor. My latest release is Stealing Lucifer’s Dreams, episode two in The Shades of Venice, which is available in the “usual places”.


Tell us a little about Stealing Lucifer’s Dreams.

The Shades of Venice series features sensory immersion artist, Alyse Kate Bryant, daredevil collector of sensation tracks for Lone Pine Pictures’ holographic films. Teetering on the edge of a breakdown after the violent death of her father, Alyse is sent to work on a low-key documentary of the flooded ruins of Venice, now a quarantine camp for the carriers of Sleepers Syndrome. Ball gowns swirl as the syndrome carriers celebrate the reopening of the camp. Alyse’s mind swirls with them as she finds herself falling for the soulful eyes of carrier, Matteo Ranier. But nothing is as it seems at the rebuilt ducal palace and soon Alyse finds herself trapped in the lagoon city’s ruins as the legends of Venice awaken.

Faces in the water

Stealing Lucifer’s Dreams picks up directly where episode one, Faces in the Water, left off. Alyse is fixated on vengeance against the people whodestroyed her life, but she finds her hands tied by the vulnerability of her two closest friends who refuse to abandon her to the ruins of Venice.  Alyse also struggles with her feelings for Matteo, a man willing to sacrifice his soul to save hers.


What inspired you to write The Shades of Venice series?

The seeds of The Shades of Venice series came from a dozen different places!  Alyse’s occupation came from my fascination with the work of Nora Roberts. She can make the job of potato picker sound fascinating and romantic! But she also shows how deeply our jobs become interwoven with our personalities, how they shape us from the inside out. I wanted to find a near-future job that would attract someone just a little larger than life, just a little left of sane, someone trying to outrun the long, slow pull of death. 3-D TVs were just coming out and it made me think of Star Trek’s holodeck. If the foley artist lays the sound tracks into movies, then who lays the sensation tracks into full-immersion holographic movies? Hello sensory immersion artist.


Alyse’s love of legend is mine. All of my books pay homage to the story of place. In this series, the places are Kalispell, Montana and Venice, Italy. It’s fun and just a little surreal to combine the earthy pioneer lore with the more ethereal sea-based folktales. I like to say that The Shades of Venice is one part Laura Croft and one part Pan’s Labyrinth.


When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?

I’m a plotter. I wasted too many years wandering around aimlessly in plot “lines.” I think you can still plot well by the seat of your pants, but only if you have a really strong sense of the rhythm of plot embedded in your mind already. The only things strongly embedded in my mind are chocolate and chaos!

What inspired you to write in your genre?  Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?

As a kid I read a lot of Dragonlance and ancient Harlequins, but my writing had always leaned more toward the magical. Then as an adult I found Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books and fell in love. It was the perfect combination of both genres. Of course, as I made the ideas my own, the genre bending continued to evolve. My stories tend toward the surreal with a break-neck pacing. I call them urban fantasy thrillers. But really, the kitchen sink is in there. Throws my science fiction fans for a loop, but my paranormal romance fans rarely bat an eye!


Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?

Alyse’s bodyguard and trainer, Ben. Gah! He is so tough for me to write. He loves her like a sister and is so determined to be there for her, but he is scared spitless. But at the same time, he is not a gutless wonder. It’s this particular situation to pushes every fear button he owns. I inevitably lean him too far one way or the other and end up having to go back and rewrite him more “true.”


Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?

My husband swears I modeled Gerard of the one-track mind in Spectre of Intention after him, but I refuse to comment!


Truthfully, my characters are a patchwork quilt of different people who fascinate me. I always tell my writing students that the more mysterious someone seems to you, the more your main character will have to dig to understand, and the more fascinating they will be to the readers!


What do you find the hardest part of writing?

TIME! I have two kids that I would swear attend elementary school—except they never seem to be in it! I’m also the Vice President (soon to be president) and the Director of Symposium for the Northwest Independent Writers Association (, so that fills up any spare time I ever thought I had.


Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.

If Alyse did a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde routine, I’d be her Dr. Jekyll. Where Alyse kicks butt and takes names, I’m pretty much scared of everything. I do a lot of public speaking and signings, so folks rarely have a clue that under that beaming grin is a closet full of phobias just waiting to burst! I tell people that’s why thrillers come to me so naturally. Just take a peek at the world through my eyes, that’ll give you a chill any day of the week!


Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Snuggles! I am acutely aware that my little ones are about to turn into rancorous teenagers any second now. I’ll drop almost anything for a snuggle! Gotta get ’em while I still can!


What TV Show/s are you addicted to?

Supernatural—shocking I’m sure! I also love Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Who, and The Vampire Diaries. The kids and I were horribly addicted to Merlin while it was running, so when it finished we picked up a copy of The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. It had to be done.


Do you have a hobby that you like to try and squeeze in?

Once upon a time I did. I made bath and body products to fob off on my friends and relatives. Then a friend convinced me to turn my hobby into a business. Madness ensued. I’ve since closed down the business to focus on writing, but I’m working on publishing the recipes, so my old customers can make the products themselves. I expect it will come out around Mother’s Day. Then maybe I’ll get fewer dirty looks when I walk past the old shop. Kidding! My old customers are sweethearts!


What do you need before you start writing?  Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?

Yeah, sleep. That’s not a joke.


Beyond a clear mind and eyelids I don’t have to prop open with toothpicks, I’m a big believer in butt-in-the-chair, hands-on-the-keyboard. If it’s too loud in the room, I’m up the creek, but otherwise I’ve got a job to do and it’s time to get crackin’!


That doesn’t mean I don’t miss the days of candlelight and soaring music. Those were magical. And every once in a while I’ll still steal one!


Does music influence your writing?  If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?

Oh, absolutely. When I’m power writing, I loop the theme song over and over and over. For The Shades of Venice it is Bring Me to Life and My Immortal by Evanescence. Those songs and that voice completely capture the half-understood truths that swirl around Alyse at all times and the pain that is tearing her apart mentally and emotionally.


Do you write one book from start to finish or are there multiple works underway at any given time?

Right now I have three series, a stand alone, and the recipe book screeching in the back of my head. But I’m a one-at-a-time kind of girl. I really need to get a move on before my ears start bleeding!


Where were you when you got your first contract?  What was the book and who did you tell first?

My first book was Spectre of Intention. And everybody knew it was coming out. I’m self-published. (It’s the entrepreneur in me. I had the professional resources available to me. And there it was…a brave new field. How could I resist?!)


That said, however, I did try to make one of my releases a surprise. Oh, boy. I got in so much trouble! The grapevine, such a devilish thing. And amazingly fast, too!


How old were you when you read your first romance book? 

I cannot even remember. Maybe sixth grade? You have to remember that I was reading the ancient Harlequins. Fairly tame and all about orphaned secretaries with daddy complexes and filthy rich overlords with too much ego. Forgive me. I over-generalize. My favorite was about Lucrezia Borgia. Which I have since lost and am ever so curious to re-read.


Do you have an all-time favorite romance book (not written by you J)?

Dance Upon the Air and The Heart of Devlin McKade both by Nora Roberts. I’ve read zillions of books and loved so many of them, but those two still pop to mind. They are both about women beaten nearly to breaking, but who manage nonetheless to fight their way past the blinding terror and through friends, community, and self-respecting lovers create healthy, fulfilling lives for themselves.


Friends, community, and lovers that prized self-respect in their partners. That just strikes a beautiful, resonant chord in me.


What author causes you to “go fan girl”/ squeal over/anticipate upcoming books?

Hmm. Probably Kelley Armstrong and Neil Gaiman. Rachelle Mead and Julie Kagawa, too. I once did a panel with Patricia Briggs – spent most of it blushing and babbling incoherently. Sigh.


If you still have one of those pesky non-writing jobs what is it?

I am a full-time mother, part-time writer. I do a lot of volunteer work for the Northwest Independent Writers Association for their educational programs to help indie writers achieve professionalism in their field. I also do volunteer work for their literacy program, Writers Making Readers, setting up author events in the community. I’m a bit of a workaholic, so it keeps me out of trouble.


Do you have a favorite movie you have seen in the last few months and an all-time favorite?

Now You See Me. It was absolutely magical. (Har, har) But then what wouldn’t be magical about a couple hours of Mark Ruffalo—or any of the Avengers cast for that matter. Would have loved for the kids to be able to watch it, but it was a little too violent and sexy for wee ones.


Favorite movie of all time? Labyrinth by Jim Henson. David Bowie will always be my favorite romantic bad guy! And Mr. Henson, he was a master of the fable!


What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?

Around May, I will be starting work on Portrait in Veronese Green which is book three in The Shades of Venice series. That one is going to an emotionally intense book to write, so I’m planning ahead for a break at the end of that manuscript! It will probably release in late October/early November. Going to be a busy year!


If you could co-write with another author who would it be?

That would be a tough call, so many brilliant minds out there to learn from! Maybe Neil Gaiman, Patricia McKillip, Nora Roberts or Ursula Le Guin. I keep promising myself a writing retreat where I just focus on tightening up my writing. Now you’re making me all wistful!


How did you hear about the “bunnies” at Joyfully Reviewed?

I actually met Joy at the Lori Foster Reader Author Get Together where she graciously requested one of my books. Lovely lady!

Tonya MacalinoWhere can readers find you?


The Story of Place Blog:







And for the silly side –

What is your favorite type of ice cream? 

Baskin Robin’s chocolate raspberry truffle. And damn them for getting me addicted to it and then discontinuing it!!!


Team Sam or Team Dean? And Why.

Oh, lord. At first I was solidly in the Sam camp, but as the show has progressed I think I’ve moved to Team Dean. I think. Does that make me unfaithful?!


Why the waffling? I grew up in rural Idaho. That earthy what-you-see-is-what-you-get attitude of Dean’s patches up those random waves of homesickness. However, Sam’s introspective personality and academic leanings matches the grown up in me a whole lot better!


Yep, totally unfaithful.

Thanks again for the opportunity to chat with your readers. Please feel free to drop me as many questions as you like. Q&A is always the most fun part of any visit!


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