Author Spotlight: TOBY FROST

On my blog I love to bring you authors I love who I think you’ll love too. Today I’m thrilled to welcome the brilliant TOBY FROST into the Author Spotlight. Author of the utterly fab Space Captain Smith series, he is now writing a new, darker fantasy series, the first book of which – Up To The Throne has just been published. 

Toby Frost author pic

When did you first decide that you wanted to write?

I first started writing when I was about 12. I can’t remember why, or what it was that pushed me from reading novels to writing them. My first efforts were scribbled in a small blue notebook, along with illustrations. I don’t remember either the text or the story being especially good!

What interests you as a writer?

So many things! Firstly, there’s a sense of exploring and creating. You’re showing the reader people and places, but you’re also creating them, so in a way you’re discovering them as well. I often find myself thinking “What if this happened?” and then following the story from there.

And then there’s characters. People are just fascinating, whether your book is set now, in the past or in the distant future. You’ve got to have strong characters that the reader cares about. That means that, whoever they are, what they’re doing has to make sense. I love seeing what happens when two very different characters clash.

For me, concepts like theme and subtext take second place to the story and characters. Because I write fantastical stories, I’m often writing about something in the real world through a surreal, magical lens. But it’s always got to feel convincing. I find history fascinating, and I often steal bits and pieces to make my writing more believable. Whether you’re talking about a trip to the shops or a journey to Mars, the reader has to think, “Yes, that’s what it would be like.”

Toby Frost SCS Books 1

Are you a plotter or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I never know how to answer this question! I think about what I’m going to write for a long time before I start. I’m often pondering a second book while I’m writing a first one. I think I’m probably more a plotter, but I do sometimes have moments where I stop and think “Hey! Wouldn’t it by better if I just did something completely different?”. So maybe 75% plotter.

Do you have a typical writing day? If not, when is the best time to write for you?

I don’t, really. I don’t find it difficult to write, and I’m lucky in that. I don’t have to be in a particular mood or even a place. Having a day job, I tend to work in the lunchtimes and evenings, but I’d be just as happy writing at other times. Preferably on a luxury yacht or my own private spacecraft.

Toby Frost SCS Books 2.jpg

What inspires you as a writer?

Pretty much everything! I’ve come to think that writing is a way of interpreting and processing the things I experience, albeit in a metaphorical and indirect way. Also, I’m influenced by history, by places and by other fiction, written and visual. So I’m always soaking up ideas and influences, although a lot get discarded. I don’t think I can switch that off – not that I’d want to!

What are the best things about being a writer?

One of the best things must be seeing my own work in bookshops. To see your own novel for sale with a great cover is amazing. A few years ago, I did a reading at a steampunk event and a man came up to me afterwards. He said that a friend of his had got very depressed after a death in the family, and my books had helped cheer him up. That was a pretty excellent moment, too.

And the worst?

It’s hard to think of any. Maybe the expectation that some people have that you’re extremely wealthy? If I had to point to one moment, it would be a couple of years ago at a writing convention, where I was on a panel with another author who I was trying to impress with my literary knowledge. I climbed up onto the stage and whacked my head on a low-hanging beam. After I’d finished staggering around clutching my head, I went on to do the panel, but my aura of genius was gone (if it had ever been there!). Goodness only knows what I said after being hit on the head.

Toby Frost book pic

Tell me about your new novel, Up To The Throne.

It’s a fantasy story set in an imaginary city in a magically-enhanced version of the Renaissance. Giulia, the lead character, returns to her home city after several years, to take revenge on the man who tried to kill her. She’s clever, skilled and still burning with anger, but the world has moved on, and her enemy is no longer a criminal but a rising politician with designs on the throne. Killing him could throw the principality into chaos. As she closes in on him, she starts to realise just what taking her revenge will do to the people she cares about, and has to make hard choices.

How have you found writing a darker fantasy series? Has it required a different approach to your Space Captain Smith books?

It is different, because it stresses different things. Usually, I worry if I’ve gone for very long without telling a joke. Here, it’s more that I’ve got to keep the atmosphere up, and keep the story moving. The same basics of character and storytelling are still there, but a more serious story needs a more engrossing plot. However, in terms of actually writing it, it’s been very similar. Things have inspired the writing in much the same way, and the characters and setting of Giulia’s fantastical Renaissance come together in much the same way as the Space Empire does in Space Captain Smith.

If you could have a dream cover quote from any author, living or dead, who would it be?

“It filled me with laughter, joy and hope for the future.” – George Orwell.

What are your top three tips for writers?

Well, first up, a disclaimer: the more I write, the less comfortable I am in telling other people how to do it. I don’t think there’s a set route to good writing, much less to getting published. But, since you asked…

1) Practice. Get used to the experience of turning thoughts into words. The main cause of books never getting into print is that they’re never finished. Practice not only improves your writing, but gets you into the habits of writing and editing. The task of putting words down becomes much less daunting once you’ve got accustomed to it.

2) Learn about writing. In the past, I would have said “Read more books” here, but it’s not just reading: it’s understanding and learning from books, TV shows, films, real life and anything else. You can learn a lot reading good-quality novels outside your usual genre. Personally, I get a lot out of reading how-to books (Stephen King’s On Writing is particularly good), but it varies from person to person. One very good way of learning is to go to events or join a writing group. My own writing improved vastly after joining the St Albans writing group.

3) Persist! It’s easy to be put off by your first few rejections, but you have to get used to it and carry on. If the first book you write isn’t a massive success, don’t give up. Start work on another project (but don’t throw the first one away! You never know, after all). Keep learning, keep going to events, making contacts, finding out new things. You might find that something you couldn’t get traditionally published works well as a self-published book, or vice versa. The important thing is to stay enthusiastic about your writing and always keep trying to improve and succeed.

Do you have a dream project you’d love to write?

I’ve got two! The first is a series of epic fantasy novels set in the same world as Up To The Throne. They’d have a wider setting and be about more powerful characters, but they’d tie into the Giulia stories and tell a grander, longer story. The other project is a set of linked novellas with an ensemble cast, about the futuristic secret service glimpsed in the Space Captain Smith books. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve started work on both…

Thanks so much for braving the Author Spotlight! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Only that Up To The Throne is available on Kindle and in paperback. Just click this link!

How fab was that?! I’m a huge fan of Toby’s writing and can’t wait to read Up To The Throne. You can find out more about Toby at his website, on Facebook at tobyfrostauthor and follow him on Twitter @isambardsmith. Watch out for more Author Spotlights coming soon! 

The Day We Meet Again is coming soon!

I had the idea for The Day We Meet Again two and a half years ago, walking through St Pancras Station in London, when I saw the statue of Sir John Betjeman for the very first time…

Everything appeared in that moment: Phoebe and Sam – the two people who would meet and fall for one another when their trains were delayed; the question of whether you should put your life on hold if love takes you by surprise, even the journeys both of them would take. It doesn’t always happen like that, at least not for me. But the story was instantly one I wanted to write.

As it turned out, Phoebe and Sam would face more delays until I could get them onto the page. But they refused to leave until I did. This year, on 5th September, they will finally star in my tenth novel.

Watch out for a big, sparkly announcement about The Day We Meet Again this Friday (31st May) at 5pm – and keep watching this blog, my TwitterInstagram and Facebook posts for lots more exciting things….

I can’t wait to share Phoebe and Sam’s story with you. It’s been a bit of a long wait, but it’ll be worth it!

TDWMA Proof Spines Stack

 

I have a new single!

One of the things I want to do more of this year is get back to music. I’ve been a singer-songwriter, session vocalist (working with producers across the world) and band vocalist since I was 19, and music has always been a huge love of my life.

M Session PicBut in recent years music has taken a back seat to books and being Mum. While I still gig with my band The Peppermints (who you might know better as The Pinstripes from my third novel, It Started With a Kiss), I haven’t done much with my own songs.

I recorded an album About Time, in 2011 which I self-funded and I’m so proud of it, even if there are about seven boxes of CDs now gathering cobwebs in my shed! It was a dream to record my own music – followed by my book soundtrack EP that I wrote to accompany It Started With a Kisscalled Last First Kiss in 2012.Booklet

For a while I’ve had my music on Soundcloud (click the link to see all my tracks, which you can hear for free) and Bandcamp, together with my music page on Facebook. I’ve written a lot of new songs in the last twelve months, which I hope to record soon – updates when they happen!

I’m currently writing about a musician in my forthcoming novel, The Day We Meet Again – and it’s made me miss music more than ever. So, I’ve decided to bite the bullet and release a single! Why not, eh?

GIVE ME A REASON was originally on the album, and I love it.
You can hear it below – and it can be yours for only £1 – just click this Bandcamp link.

Enjoy! And if you like what you hear, leave a comment below xx

NEW VLOG – My BIG P-Day Surprise!

When I agreed to meet Cathy Bramley for lunch on P-Day for Somewhere Beyond the Sea, I had no idea what she’d secretly planned…

Instead of a quiet lunch and stock signing at Waterstones Birmingham, Cathy had arranged for my wonderful friends Jo QuinnRachael Lucas and my lovely agent Hannah to travel from all over the country to give me the BIGGEST surprise. I have never had a day like it!

I filmed a vlog on the day – you can see how utterly delighted and shocked I was! Apologies for the squeals! I’d expected publication day to be a quiet, little celebration but it turned into the biggest, sparkliest, most amazing P-Day of my career. And it meant so much. I didn’t feel alone, like I’d feared I might. The love I felt from everyone – my lovely friends and the brilliant booksellers at Waterstones Birmingham who were there, everyone who sent me gorgeous messages on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – has been absolutely phenomenal and I am completely overwhelmed by it.

Thank you, too, if you’ve bought Somewhere Beyond the Sea in paperbackebook or the utterly wonderful audiobook narrated by Clare Corbett and Jonathan Bailey. Thank you for believing in the story I wanted to tell. It means more than I’ll ever be able to express.

So, here’s the vlog (including the spookily fab accordion player we met playing Somewhere Beyond the Sea as we left the bookshop!). Enjoy! xx

New vlog series – MEET BILL BROTHERSON

I’ve filmed a series of vlogs about Somewhere Beyond the Sea – talking about the characters, the locations I chose for the book and what it was like to write the book.

I’m also giving you some exclusive snippets about hidden gems in the book, revealing who I’d cast in the movie version (*coughs* *looks around for any film producers in the area*) and telling your what it was like to be involved in the amazing audiobook version of my story.

Here’s the next: Meet BILL BROTHERSON (he’s a baddie. Altogether now, BOOOO!) 

Happy watching – and let me know what you think in the comments below! xx

New vlog series – MEET ELINOR CARNE

I love finding out about the making of films and TV series, and those cast and crew interviews that always happen before a new programme or movie comes out. So, I’m doing it with my new book!

I’ve filmed a series of vlogs about Somewhere Beyond the Sea – talking about the characters, the locations I chose for the book and what it was like to write the book. I’m also going to give you some exclusive snippets about hidden gems in the book, who I’d cast in the movie version (*coughs* *looks around for any film producers in the area*) and what it was like to be involved in the amazing audiobook version of my story.

Here’s the next: Meet ELINOR CARNE (The Victorian astronomer who once lived in the house Seren and her friends are trying to save from development…)

Happy watching – and let me know what you think in the comments below! xx

TALKING GRIEF – Somewhere Beyond the Sea

When I was writing Somewhere Beyond the Sea, my Dad suddenly passed away. How do you write a book with grief as a key theme when you’ve just lost someone you love?

This is an intensely personal vlog, but I wanted to talk about the experience of what I learned about my own grief while putting Seren and Jack’s grief on the page. Also, how hearing my words spoken back to me, in a key scene read by the actor Jonathan Bailey in the audio version of the book, made me realise what I’d written.

This was tough to film and hard to watch back, but I think it’s right to share it. We don’t talk about grief, which is one of the main reasons I wanted to talk about it in Somewhere Beyond the Sea. Often books like mine are dismissed as ‘light’ and wrongly criticised for shying away from the issues that really matter. I hope this demonstrates how wrong that assumption is.

Thanks for watching x

New vlog series – WILL IT BE A FILM?

It’s the question I’m asked more than any other as an author (and the one I secretly love…) – if Somewhere Beyond the Sea was made into a film, who would I cast in the lead roles?

In this mini-vlog I talk about why having a film or TV adaptation of your book is every authors’ dream, tell you who my original Jack was when I was writing the story and reveal why my casting choice changed when I heard the audio version of the book, read by Clare Corbett and Jonathan Bailey

Who would you cast? I’d love to know!

Happy watching! xx

New vlog series – MEET CERRIE

I love interviews with the cast and directors of upcoming films and TV series, where they give a real insight into their individual roles and the production as a whole. So, I decided to do the same with my new book!

I’ve filmed a series of vlogs about Somewhere Beyond the Sea – talking about the characters, the locations I chose for the book and what it was like to write the book. I’m also going to give you some exclusive snippets about hidden gems in the book, who I’d cast in the movie version (*coughs* *looks around for any film producers in the area*) and what it was like to be involved in the amazing audiobook version of my story.

Here’s the seventh: Meet CERRIE AUSTIN… (I loved writing Cerrie’s story in Christmas in St Ives, which changed her story in this book – I’ll tell you why…)

Happy watching – and let me know what you think in the comments below! xx

New vlog series – MEET KIERAN

Have you seen the interviews that cast and directors give when a new film or TV series is about to be released? I love them! I love getting an insight into the characters, locations and behind-the-scenes stuff of a new film. So, that got me thinking: why not have a go myself?

I’ve filmed a series of vlogs about Somewhere Beyond the Sea – talking about the characters, the locations I chose for the book and what it was like to write the book. I’m also going to give you some exclusive snippets about hidden gems in the book, who I’d cast in the movie version (*coughs* *looks around for any film producers in the area*) and what it was like to be involved in the amazing audiobook version of my story.

Here’s the sixth: Meet KIERAN MACKLIN… (if you’ve read the prequel novella, Christmas in St Ives, you’ll recognise him – lots of fun with a serious side he keeps hidden…)

Happy watching – and let me know what you think in the comments below! xx