Tonya Ulynn Brown writes mostly historical fiction, and has a particular interest in the 16th century. Tonya confesses to an unhealthy love for Mary Queen of Scots, so much so that Mary is her number one topic of conversation whenever possible. I might say she’s a little obsessed, and she says that her family thinks so. Tonya lives in rural Ohio, USA, and teaches fourth grade when she’s not writing or enjoying life with her family and their springer spaniel called Oscar (yes of course I got a dog reference in…).
Welcome, Tonya, it’s great to have a longer chat. I hope the book is going well in this strange year! Let’s talk about you as an author: Are there any secrets hidden in your writing?
Tonya: I don’t know that I would call it a secret, but I do use a little hidden imagery in The Queen’s Almoner. The main character has a dream and the dream is rather prophetic. Anyone who knows Mary Stuart’s history will probably recognize the meaning of the dream right away. But don’t worry—if you are not familiar with Mary’s life all will be revealed in the end.
Oh, a little treat for history buffs and Mary fans 🙂 Is writer’s block a thing for you?
Yes, I do get hung up at times. Since I write historical fiction, it usually has to do with an aspect of history that I am not familiar with. When that happens, I have to stop writing and do a little more reading/researching. That usually helps. Another thing that helps when I get stuck is to go back and re-read what I have already written in the story. This helps me get back into the mood of the story and figure out where I want to go next.
So a lot of research is involved in your writing?
Usually, quite a bit. But it just depends on if I am writing in a time period that I am already familiar with. A lot of research goes into the events that happen in a particular individual’s life. If I have written in that time period before, then I will probably not need to research the types of foods they ate, the way they conducted their households, and other important details that make historical fiction so engaging.
How do you get feedback about your story, before it’s published?
I have a really great group of beta readers that read my manuscripts and make suggestions for improvements. They are able to give me insight on things that I am just not able to consider because I’ve been immersed in the story for so long.
Beta readers are the best for blind spots! Do you write full time?
No, I am a 4th grade teacher as well. I currently teach Social Studies and Science.
Goodness! What’s your writing goal for the next twelve months?
I have begun research on a new book that will continue with the child of Thomas, the main character in The Queen’s Almoner. The story will also include Mary Stuart’s son, King James VI of Scotland and I of England, and will focus a lot on James’ involvement with the witch hunts of the sixteenth century.
That sounds very interesting. If you could write a note to someone about to read your book, what would you say?
I take great pains to make sure my stories are as historically accurate as possible. But at the same time, I have added fictional characters to my story, and have used some creative license as well. I try to separate the facts from fiction in the historical notes included at the end of my book, and hope that readers will find the notes useful, should they wish to read further on the subject.
Notes are a good idea. Do you write in more than one genre?
I write mostly historical fiction. However, I do have a women’s fiction story that is finished, I just have not submitted it for publication yet. I have also started a middle grade story, based on what I know my students like to read. But I really consider myself a historical fiction author.
Who helped you most when you were starting out?
My friend, author Janice Broyles, gave me A LOT of advice and guidance years before I was even ready to publish my book. Her insight on querying [publishers], attending writing conferences, and marketing has been invaluable, and put me several steps ahead of the game.
She sounds like a gem. Her books look interesting too – thanks for the tip. I look forward to hearing more from you in the future.
Website: Tonya Ulynn Brown
Blog: The Rose and the Thistle