Toni RogersMTAR: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Toni:  A native of Arkansas, I have lived much of my life in the breath-taking Ozark Mountains where I married my high-school sweetheart with whom I raised two children, a son and a daughter. The only “real” job I’ve ever had for which I brought home a paycheck is that of high school English teacher. I don’t know if I should attribute my proclivity to read obsessively to my profession or if it is the love of reading and writing that led me to the occupation. I suspect the latter is truer. I am a sometimes singer, lover of laughter and beauty in all forms, light sleeper, heavy thinker, and proudest mom ever! I cherish the therapy that is writing, the ability to examine hurt and discontent, to explore pleasant possibilities through prose and poetry in order to keep life’s passing moments eternal. I give much of myself to others, but I still leave a little mystery for myself. I try to always see the world at 360 degrees. I believe there are times for calm, but I long for moments to let go with reckless abandon. I aspire to create contemplation in others but never to manipulate. I am spiritual without being religious. I am philosophical, and not always practical, assertive in my beliefs but not aggressive. I use satire to settle arguments, but I would fight for the people I love.


MTAR: How does your teaching experience affect your writing?

Toni:  Teaching writing keeps me constant and current. I do not teach by “telling” but by “showing,” and, being around teenagers all day every day gives me insight into what young people think; visiting with them and reading their writing gives me an appreciation for what they feel. Not surprisingly, what I discover over and over each year is that “the more things change the more they stay the same.” The way my friends and I felt when we were kids is the way kids feel today.


MTAR:  What inspired you to write your first book?

Toni:  My husband, children, and I were on our way home from a vacation in Georgia where we’d toured historical southern homes. We’d stopped in Jackson, Mississippi for the night, and I had a dream. It’s the scene in the book where Noti and her parents pull up to the antebellum mansion for a tour. In the dream, I was the little girl, and my experience was much the same as Noti’s. I woke up shaken, feeling an overwhelming reality to the dream. I immediately told my family about it, and they all agreed that it was a powerful image. Over the years, each telling of the dream to various audiences received much the same reaction. Almost everyone told me that I should write a book inspired by it. And there you have it!


MTAR: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Toni:  Truly, several messages exist in the read. Perhaps, most profound for me is the strong, independent confidence of my female protagonist, Noti. In fact, I wish for every woman and girl the belief in herself to not just survive all of the paramount obstacles we are fated to face in our lives, but to actually arrive at the other side stronger for having had the experiences. I also wished intensely to highlight the ugliness in discrimination against others as well as the danger in allowing others to hold a profound influence over our gift to think for ourselves and make rational decisions on our own.


MTAR: Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

Toni:  I’d love to provide a resolution to Ryli’s story if my readers determined there was a great enough demand for it.


MTAR: Can you tell us about your upcoming book, the sequel to Primary Possession?

Toni:  After having come to terms with her haunting ancestry, as Noti heads off to college, she hopes that life will now be something closer to normal. It won’t. Even as she makes new friends, they remind her so much of her childhood companions that she cannot escape an almost constant homesickness. Furthermore, she meets a dazzling Casanova who seems determined to earn her affection; however, there is always the boy who has adored Noti her entire life, and if anyone deserves her love, it’s him. Worst of all, she finds herself tormented by three images that look entirely too much like her – pale, blue-eyed blondes. The only distinction is that they are all ghosts. Noti tries to tell herself that these manifestations aren’t personally related to her, so surely they will not affect her. They will. Even worse, so will the malevolence responsible for their deaths.


MTAR: If you were a super hero, what would be your superpower?

Toni:  I cannot imagine any superpower greater than the ability to “heal,” to rid suffering both mental and physical.


MTAR: What makes you laugh?

Toni:  Laughter is more about affection than humor alone, and, for me, that involves family. My family and I are very close, including my mom, siblings, nieces, nephews, and, of course, my husband and children. When we are together, we make each other laugh all the time. People outside this relationship might not find us funny at all, but that we will crack each other up whenever we get together is a forgone conclusion.


MTAR: What would your fans be surprised to know about you?

Toni:  I am obsessive-compulsive with a propensity toward celebrity crushes. Today, I am loving Tyson Ritter, the front man for the All-American Rejects. J