A blog from Tonto Books, featuring musings from the publishing world and some occasional special guest appearances.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tonto Author Profile #3: Mark Jones

The third of the Chronicle's profiles is The Burglar's Dog author Mark Jones:

It was never the intention of pub enthusiast Mark Jones to become a published writer.

But not only has he achieved this, he has also gone on to become Tonto Press's biggest-selling author.

His book The Burglar's Dog gives honest and frank reviews of more than 150 pubs around Tyneside. Disguising himself as a dog (in the book, not in the pubs) Mark gives his own views on our region's pubs, covering everything from toilets to DJs.

"It all started on my website. I never imagined it would become a book. I didn't like the idea at first when the publishers approached me so I turned them down. But they eventually twisted my arm and I agreed, I'd just never thought of it as book material.

"It's strange seeing my book on the shelves. I don't tell people it's me so that I can stay as neutral as possible."

Mark likes to keep his identity anonymous so as not to complicate his work. For the sake of his art Mark consumed 154 pints in 154 venues over a three-month period. "I can think of worse jobs. But at one point it did get a bit ridiculous. I was drinking six or seven pints a night.

"I've been really pleased with the book's response. I never expected it to do this well."

You can read more about The Burglar's Dog and get a copy here.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tonto Author Profile #2: Pete Tanton

The second of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle's writer profiles, today Johnny Lonely author Pete Tanton:

COMIC SUCCESS: English teacher-turned author Pete Tanton has plaudits for his humorous work

English teacher Pete Tanton is never short of inspiration for his humorous writing.

Originally from Alabama, USA, Pete settled in the North East after meeting his Geordie wife Louise more than a decade ago.

He has worked as a travelling violin salesman, a publisher's stockroom assistant, professional musician and bicycle racer before settling down in a teaching role at St Thomas More School in Gateshead.

By pure coincidence, Pete's grandad was born in County Durham so he was familiar with the Geordie way of life.

Last year the 39-year-old was picked from 400 entries as best new novelist by UK publishers Tonto Press, based in Newcastle. As well as the kudos, part of the winning package included a publishing deal for his entry novel Johnny Lonely.

It's the story of a neurotic young musician who leaves his parochial Alabama home town in search of his estranged brother in Los Angeles. It has proved a massive success already.

In 2004, an early draft won the Fresh Fiction Prediction award at the 2004 New Writing North Fresh Fiction Festival.

"The story starts out in Alabama but I think it translates beautifully to Newcastle," the dad-of-one explains. "It's a beautiful and vibrant city but there is still a very small town feel.

"A lot of the kids I work with want to leave and 'make it', but will probably come back. They think Newcastle is small but actually there's so much here, and they'll realise that.

"My book is a comedy, really. I don't think there's a moral message in it. It has happy ending and is hopefully a good, fun read."

Johnny Lonely is available from Tonto Press now.

You can read more about Johnny Lonely and pre-order a copy here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tonto Author Profile #1: Ros Wyllie

The Newcastle Evening Chronicle ran a double-page feature profiling three Tonto writers yesterday. As it was published on a Bank Holiday and misprinted over non-consecutive pages (!) we'll reproduce it here over the next few days. First up, here's More Tonto Short Stories contributor Ros Wyllie:

Who will be the next to light up the literary world?
Mitya Underwood, The Evening Chronicle, 28 May 2007

DETERMINATION: Heaton scribe Ros Wyllie

"I have always been into writing stories, I was a bit of a dreamer as a child," says part-time author Ros Wyllie, grinning.

"It's a very good way to get the fantasies and neuroses out in a constructive way."

Ros spends half her week trying to write witty, intelligent and hopefully best-selling books, and the other half working in children's services at Newcastle City Council.

At the age of 37, she has already had various short stories published, won numerous writing competitions and seen her scripts turned into popular stage plays.

But like so many writers, she is still chasing that elusive publishing deal for the book she has dedicated the last two and a half years of her life to.

"I've been really lucky so far. Some writers spend their lives writing things which never get recognition or published.

"I've been lucky enough to see my work on stage at the Customs House in South Shields, and get my short stories published, I certainly can't complain. Ros, who has kept a diary since she was 17 ("That's 20 years of self-obsession!") thinks part of her ability to write comes from her own passion for reading.

She is a big fan of female authors like Margaret Atwood, Carol Clewlow and Carol Shields, but is always happy to read new novelists. She started concentrating on her own writing 10 years ago, but only for her own pleasure.

And it wasn't until her cousin died suddenly six years ago, aged just 35, that Ros decided to turn her dream of being an author into reality.

"It made me realise you should do with your life what you want. So I gave up my job and went to Brazil for three months to stay with a friend.

"It was really amazing. I wrote the first draft of a novel, A Case of Pomba Gira, about a Brazilian girl looking into the religion Umbanda.

"I wrote it for myself, I had to discipline myself to write 70,000 words, which isn't always easy."

In 2003, Ros, who lives in Heaton, Newcastle, with her partner Paul, decided she wanted more training and did an MA in creative writing at Northumbria University, balancing this with her job as a drugs worker in Blyth.

Her most recent effort, Everything You Ever Want, is "part thriller, part coming-of-age story". Set in a hostess club, it tells the story of two very different women who are thrown together after a murder.

It is her favourite book yet and she has spent hundreds of hours making minor and major adjustments to give it the best chance of being picked up by a publisher.

She is currently in talks with a few agencies in London but after more than two years' work, knows it can be a long and tiring process and that the chance to get published are few and far between.

"I'm three quarters of the way through another play because I just can't bear to look at my novel," she laughs.

"It's had even more encouraging responses, which is great, I'm just waiting now.

"The thing with writing is you can get 19 rejections for every one acceptance. I have to believe.

"Lots of people write for years and are never published, but if you were to give up you might miss your one chance."

One of her other favourite works is a short story called Possibilities, set in the North East coastal village of Seahouses. It tells the story of a how a little girl deals with grief by imagining her absent father living under the sea with mermaids.

"What is really good for people like me in the region is there is so much support from agencies who want to encourage new writers.

"And there's lots of places to look for inspiration. That's probably why the region has a long history of successful authors. I just hope it continues the same way."

You can read Ros's work in More Tonto Short Stories and the original Tonto Short Stories.

You can read the full Chronicle article here. More recent coverage of Tonto Press and our authors can be found here.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

More Tonto Short Stories OUT NOW!

Our brand new collection of shorts, More Tonto Short Stories, is out now and available to purchase from all good book shops! It's a brand new anthology of sixteen fresh short stories by exciting new writers, following the acclaimed original Tonto Short Stories. You can meet the authors and read more about the book (and order a copy) here.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Writers for courses

Get writing this summer!

Yep - we are now taking bookings for our next Creative Writing course. It runs from 23-27 July, so book early to avoid disappointment. The big difference this time round is that it will take place in our own building. The course is practical, comprehensive and fun - ideal for writers looking to develop their writing with a view to publication. The student-centred courses concentrate on prose, covering both short stories and novels. Uniquely, attendees receive practical support from professional writers on improving their writing, AND constructive advice from publishers seeking to discover and develop new talent.

The feedback has been brilliant. We are confident that we are offering something useful to writers. We know about publishing, we know about writing and how to find a home for your work. Writer development is what Tonto Press is based on.
See details of the course here.

Would you be interested in an internet-based Creative Writing course? We don't know - if there are enough interested writers, we'd like to get it off the ground. Let us know on the feedback form.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Moving Story

We did it! On 23 April 2007, Tonto Press made a giant leap for writer-kind by taking a studio at the Brick Works, in Newcastle upon Tyne. Eager as ever, we even moved in before all the building work was complete and were the first to settle in. In the days that followed, all the other artists and makers moved in, establishing a thriving community.

As you can see on the website, the building caters for a variety of creative businesses, with 12 studios and conference room facilities.

Jamie, Hannah and actor Phil Hoffmann stopped by to offer support, eat our food and drink our beer

There was an opening event held on 3 May where press and funders attended to see what we were all up to before the building was officially opened up to all the riff raff – friends, family, and the like – for the first time. It was a great night of networking, with a trip to a local drinking establishment to round the night off perfectly.

What does this all mean for the future of Tonto Press? Well, we have a number of projects in development at the moment. We are poised to release More Tonto Short Stories and will be publicising it and the others in the very near future. We are also developing our educational work, running more creative writing workshops in-house, and are in discussion with various groups to widen the participation of workshops to those other than experienced writers.

Stay tuned for more news…