I'd become familiar with Tablo.io when I wrote my 30 stories in 30 days. It is a great site for authors but also for readers. It is full of free quality reads, among the bunch is Toni Ramientos' The Ways We Fall Behind. After I started it I was immediately intrigued and had to tell the author. After a couple fan-girly tweets (sent by me) she agreed to an interview. What follows is the result.
V:I'm really enjoying your work on Tablo.io, your book, The Ways We Fall Behind, has such a unique premise, how would you begin to describe it?
T:The way I describe The Ways We Fall Behind to people who ask is that it’s a cross-genre novel about a pair of time travelers who go on a road trip with two children who are being hunted by vampires. That was the original idea for the book and it was meant to be an adventure novel following the wacky adventures of these five kids, something akin to a Percy Jackson adventure arc). I wanted something “fun and easy” to write. Obviously, The Ways We Fall Behind ended up being something very different and was much more difficult for me to sort out than I thought.
V: So you had to rework the story or rather it reworked you. How do you see it now?
T: The way I think of my book now is that it’s a story about two characters, who were the main characters in one story stuck in a supporting role in a completely different story. The main characters, Dot and Malcolm, are stuck in a completely different setting with all of their old baggage that was never resolved in the own story and now, they’re forced to deal with it. And it is so uncomfortable. This made them very different to write because though they were hardly ever the focus of the action, I still had to see the story through them. My goal for my characters—all of them—was believable complexity, diversity, and growth.
V: I love that, those are great pillars to carry into a novel. Is this story different from other things you have written?
T: I had all three of those things in mind constantly as I wrote. Despite it being set up as a plot-heavy, adventure story, The Ways We Fall Behind is a character story through and through. There wasn’t too much that felt different about writing this book aside from the changing of perspectives. In the past, I’ve chosen one character and I’ll see the whole story through their eyes, but here, I forced myself to be more multi-faceted with Dot and Malcolm. They’re so different from each other and see the world in completely different ways, so that was a different thing for me to tackle with this story. For example, I had the overall plot of the story in my head going into the novel but getting to know Dot and Malcolm more made the story completely different from what it was intended to be. Like I said, The Ways We Fall Behind was meant to be an adventure story, but the more I wrote, the more I realized that neither of my characters played a very active role in this story. That was when I realized that it really wasn’t their story. It’s a story they just happened to fall into.
V: That's something Shannon and I have discussed a lot in the past, how characters drive your stories. I think that was why I was so drawn to your novel. The characters truly are unique and very distinct. I could picture them as real people immediately. Clearly your stories are about your characters but do you have any particulars when it comes to your writing? Do you need to be in a complete silence? Does it have to be on your laptop, or a certain time of day?
T: Ever since starting NaNoWriMo, I’ve found it easier and easier to write anywhere at any time. It used to be so difficult for me to find time to write, but, especially this last November, I’ve finally learned that it’s never easy to find time for writing, because there will always be a reason to say no. My writing process has evolved in that way, for sure. Making time, instead of finding time, is one of the biggest things that’s made it more of a process. I’ve learned to write in a lot of odd places just to catch up on my word sprints. From the public bus to airports to the bathroom at a Thai restaurant I went to with my family, I’m able to write. Once I find a place to just sit and write, I’ll usually kickstart my process with a conversation between my characters. I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to get back into the headspace of my characters once I’ve stepped into their shoes again, testing the water for a little bit before I jump in all the way. Whether it’s a conversation that will play a part in the story or just one to get me back into the feel of how they think, it helps me immerse myself back. Especially because my characters are the most important part of any story that I write, I really want them to seem as natural as possible. After I warm up for a bit—which only takes about ten minutes of casual writing—I’ll just take off from there. When I write, and especially with The Ways We Fall Behind, I imagine the scenes as I’d see them in a film, so the descriptions and actions are very clear in my head for when I flesh them out on paper. Unlike in a movie though, I try to keep a “360” view of my scenes, so I’ll try and pivot the “camera” in my head for certain scenes so the reader “sees” as much as possible when they’re caught up in the story. I’ll usually try to write for at least thirty minutes at a time, just listening to music or half-watching a show I like, until I either have to go somewhere or my shoulder start to hurt from sitting hunched over my laptop for so long. I’m definitely a tense writer.
V: Yes all artists can relate to the body aches and pains we give ourselves for our craft. I like how you have your characters begin with a conversation. So often we as writers get caught up in the idea of word counts and if we're writing than it all has to be used, when the reality is writing for writings sake can be just as rewarding; especially if it eventually turns into something. What's your favorite book?
T: My favorite book is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and it has been since I read it for the first time in seventh grade. There hasn’t been a book that’s impacted my life as heavily as The Outsiders. I remember being assigned to read it by my teacher and starting it in class only to steal the book and take it home because I just couldn’t put it down. I think it was also one of the first books that just made me feel for it’s characters. The Outsiders is a book about a group of boys who are looked down upon for being “hoods” and “troublemakers.” Or at least that’s what it sets out to be, but the whole narrative is told through the eyes of Ponyboy Curtis, a boy whose grown up as a greaser, and how his view of his friends and situation completely contradicts what society thinks of them. When she wrote this book, the author, S.E. Hinton, she was sixteen and in an age where women authors were struggling to gain recognition. As a young female writer, I’ve always looked up to her as a role model and I’ve look to The Outsiders as an example of authentic and impactful writing from the first time I picked it up.
V: I like the idea of you stealing a book because you were so engrossed in the story. Do you belong to any fandoms?
T: Yeah, definitely, I’ve always loved watching cartoons and this is definitely the time for good animation on television. Gravity Falls and Steven Universe are two examples of this and I absolutely love both shows and what they try to accomplish. I don’t actively participate in the theorizing and sleuthing part of the fandoms, but I do have a good time reading through the theories and enjoying the shows themselves as new episodes come out. I’m not sure if this fandom is very well known but my favorite animation studio is Studio Laika and I’m an avid follower of their work. ParaNorman is my favorite movie of all time as well. And of course, I’m a Potterhead through and through and love everything to do with the wizarding world.
V: YES Harry Potter through and through. Actually we both nerded out a bit about Fantastic Beasts...anyway back to the interview, if you could have any super power what would it be?
T: I’d love to have the power to turn invisible, but with the technicality that I could also turn anything that I touch invisible as well. The thought of having to be completely naked to use my power is just too uncomfortable, I think, and just too inconvenient. I would love to turn invisible when I try and go places but don’t want to be stopped by people that I know on the way. Or maybe just to get some nice alone time, like just sitting on a bench and listening to music and just invisible. Hopefully no one would try and sit on my though.
V: Hahahaha, I love the introvert tendencies coming out. Do you have anything new in the works?
T: Yes, I’m actually working on writing and recording an EP! I’m a musician as well as a writer so now that I’ve finished the first draft of this novel, I’m using this break between revisions to release some music. I study music at university since that’s what I’m majoring in, so it’s always been one of my biggest dreams to be able to share my music with other people. I write personal, folk-indie music with a lot of complex chord progressions and instrumental layers along with my voice, so I’m excited to get that project off the ground in the new year. I go by the name “All I Reap and Sow.”
V: Wow! I'm excited to hear it! I'd love to keep chatting with you but I feel I've bothered you long enough. Where can readers find your work, literary or musical?
T: My writing is published on a website called Tablo. I’ve found it as a really nice, easy to use platform for my writing and I get a lot of feedback. There you can read my NaNoWriMo novels from both 2015 and 2016, “As We Know It” and “The Ways We Fall Behind.” I also have a personal poetry blog at allireapandsow.tumblr.com.
Thank you Thank you Thank you Toni for a delightful interview. Honestly guys if you're looking for something FREE and INVENTIVE to read, check out Toni's work.