Tonya Plank worked as a criminal appeals attorney in NYC for many years. A ballroom dancer and a longtime balletomane, she writes the acclaimed dance blog, SWAN LAKE SAMBA GIRL. Her first novel, SWALLOW, a dark comedy about a young Manhattan attorney suffering from Globus Hystericus, won the gold medal for best regional fiction in the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Awards, the gold medal for women's fiction in the 2010 Living Now Book Awards, and was a finalist in the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards and the National Indie Excellence Awards. She is currently working on her second novel.
Lawyer, dancer, writer, this lovely lady has a lot going on. It's about time she got featured at SBR, and uplifted this editor's spirit, with her effort and her terrific answers.
10 Questions for Tonya Plank
1) How long have you been writing?
I've been writing since college - since childhood really - but I've been writing fiction seriously for about eight years, when I started my first novel. Swallow. Before that, I wrote several short stories in college but never tried to get them published, and as a lawyer I wrote several law review articles for publication. I wrote Swallow, during nights and weekends, while I was working full-time as a lawyer.
2) How are you marketing your books?
I sought lots of reviews from top Amazon reviewers, book bloggers, and professional reviewers (like ForeWord and Midwest Book Review). I also entered Swallow into several contests for small presses that also accept self-published work - and it actually won a few awards! I did giveaways on Goodreads and Library Thing, and I made a book trailer, loaded it onto YouTube, and promoted it on sites like Blazing Trailers. I also joined the Kindleboards and Mobileread.com and promoted it there a bit. I've also done some advertising and sponsorship activities, mainly on Kindle Nation Daily and Goodreads.
3) Tell us why readers will like your latest book.
Swallow is about a young Manhattan attorney, Sophie, who has just graduated from law school, moved to New York, landed her first job and received a marriage proposal from her longtime boyfriend, when she is suddenly stricken with a little-known but actually not uncommon psychosomatic disorder known as Globus Hystericus, or Globus Sensation. With Globus, you feel a large knot, or ball, in your throat and it can make it very difficult to eat, speak, and sometimes even breathe. But it's purely psychological; there's nothing actually there. It wreaks havoc on Sophie's life, causing rapid weight loss, mental and physical fatigue, and making it difficult for her to argue in court on behalf of her clients. So, the novel traces Sophie's journey from figuring out what is causing her problem, to taking steps to get rid of it. I tried to make it somewhat humorous though, so it's not all dark! Bloggers and reviewers have called it entertaining and engaging. Since Sophie is a criminal appeals attorney (as was I for many years), the novel also provides a portrait of the New York criminal justice system, and what it's like to be a public defender, working on behalf of indigent defendants.
Swallow won several awards, as I mentioned above, including gold medals in the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Awards and the 2010 Living Now Book Awards. It was also a finalist in the ForeWord Book of the Year Awards and the National Indie Excellence Awards. It's received many very good reviews, and was recommended on Vanity Fair.com by VF contributing editor, James Wolcott.
Although it's about a specific disorder, I think many people can relate to the anxieties and self-esteem issues Sophie suffers from, and will find the psychological and lawyerly aspects of the novel educational and entertaining.
4) How do you edit your books? Do you have help?
Well, with my first book, I had an agent. She wasn't able to find a publisher for me, but was very supportive of my desire to self-publish. The book had gone through several revisions under her. I had also edited heavily based on suggestions teachers and fellow students in my writing workshops had given me (I took about three novel-writing workshops total, where the whole book was critiqued). That was how I edited the first book. With the second, which I am writing now, I will probably seek the advice of my writer friends. I may hire an editor if I feel the need (and have the money).
5) Where are your books available?)
In ebook form, Swallow is available at:
Barnes and Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Swallow/Tonya-Plank/e/2940000906439/?pt=BK&stage=bookproduct&pwb=2
And in the iBookstore on the iPad.
6) What have your reviews been like so far?
Most reviews have been very positive; a couple have been critical but the reviewer still seemed engaged with the book and its themes, which is what's important to me. I've received many reviews, mostly from bloggers, and I've listed most of them on my website, here: http://tonyaplank.com/reviews
In particular, here is a full link to one of my favorites, by the Review Broads: http://www.thereviewbroads.com/2010/08/book-reviews-swallow.html
7) What do you deal with at your blog/website?
On my website, I have links to my book, the reviews, the awards I've received and the interviews I've given. But on my blog, which is titled Swan Lake Samba Girl, I mainly write about dance and arts events in New York. I used to be a ballroom dancer (I still sometimes dance, but it's become too expensive to do regularly), and so my blog was originally about my experiences ballroom dancing. It's since expanded to include all forms of dance, and anything else I find interesting - books, art gallery openings, etc. It's actually received some good press - from James Wolcott at Vanity Fair, and it was written about in the Wall Street Journal, and was mentioned on CNN.com.
8) Have you found reader discussion groups for your genre?
Well, my book is really general fiction, or literary fiction. The closest genre it fits into would be legal mysteries, since so much of it is about the practice of law, and there is the mystery of the disorder itself. I have found some discussion groups of that genre, mainly on Amazon and on Mobileread.com.
9) Would you like to review your favorite Smashwords writer?
I'm currently reading Waiting For Spring, by R.J. Keller, and am really loving it. It's a literary novel that's very realistic, very character-driven, and beautifully written. The author has a way of bringing you into the lives of her characters, making you feel like you're experiencing the action with them. For lighter, reading, I like J.L. Penn who writes sweet, funny chicklit.
10) What are you working on now?
Right now I'm working on a novel about a group of young people who all witness a shooting from various perspectives. It will be a courtroom / urban drama.
Now hear this: her award-winning book is only 99 cents at Smashwords.com. It's Not Yet Rated. Come on, let's help this dynamic writer get her groove on. Download and enjoy a great read, and write a good review and post it, and then go to sleep smiling, knowing you've done your good deed for the day.