Toni Bunnell

I am a singer songwriter on the folk scene, broadcaster, hedgehog rehabilitator and wildlife biologist.

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How long have you been writing for?

I have been  writing songs for fifty-five years and fiction for nine years.

What’s the average word count for the books you write and how long does it take you to write your average book?

60,000. On average it takes me three months to write the first draft.

What is your writing routine?

I write every afternoon and have no fixed word count that I am for.

How much do you research for a book before you start writing?

This is totally dependent on the subject matter. If I feel that some research is necessary, then I engage in that prior to starting to write.

What do you find most difficult about writing a book?

Nothing in particular. I enjoy the whole process. I don’t have any difficulty coming up with new ideas for a book. As with song-writing, I act on any inspiration I receive.

Which of your books are you most proud of and why?

Probably The Nameless Children, and its sequel The Dead Space. The idea behind the story was quite new to me and involved several characters in two separate periods in history. I loved letting my imagination run away with me.

Which of your books was the most difficult to write and why?

Possibly The Dark Mirror, a scientific psychological  thriller with a supernatural twist. I am a scientist but not in the field that the book deals with. Hence, I had to do some research to ensure that the facts surrounding the story wrer accurate on every level. This involved improving my knowledge of antibiotic resistance and the mutation of bacteria. I should add that I wrote and published this book before the recent pandemic kicked off!

Which self-publishing platform do you like the most and why?

I don’t have one. I promote my paperbacks at author events. Other than that, I produce book trailers that I post on my website and occassionally on Facebook.

Would you publish with a traditional publisher if they contacted you? Why?

I had my first book published by a traditional publisher after I had self published it. The book in question was a non fiction work: Music Makes a Difference: A Practical Guide to Developing Music Sessions with People with Learning Disabilities. The book sold well in the self published version. And later when traditionally published. The only difference was that I received minimal payment from the publisher of the traditionally published version. As things stand I will continue to self publish my fiction and nonfiction works.

How many unfinished or unpublished works do you have?

Three that require further editing.

Do you prefer creating stand-alone books or series?

I write both.

What’s one character you wish you would have created? What do you find compelling or interesting about this character?

Lyra in Phillip Pullman’s books. She is a very compelling character and draws you along with her through the story.

Which book do you wish you would have written? Why?

The Binding. Absolutely brilliant. The best book I have ever read. Superb on every level.

Do you find it challenging to write characters of a different gender, race, or culture than you? Do you do any special research for these characters?

I don’t have a problem writing characters of a different gender. To date, I have not written characters of a different race or culture.

What does success as a writer look like for you?

When a single person contacts me, or posts online, to say that they have enjoyed my book. That means everything.

Writing can be a lonely job. Do you take any special steps to ensure you remain part of the world?

I don’t need to take steps. I run a hedgehog rescue which entails engaging with the public on a regular basis. I also perform on the folk scene and work three allotments.

Constantly sitting and writing can be physically debilitating. How do you take care of yourself, physically?

Walking border collie twice a day plus working three allotments for the past thirty years. Perfect for keeping fit!

Do you read your reviews? How do you deal with bad ones?

Yes occasionally I read the reviews. Only ever seen one bad review which I ignored.

What books have you read that were particularly inspiring?

The Binding.

Do you have a favourite author? A favourite book?

The Binding.

Do you plot your stories in great detail before starting to write, or fly by the seat of your pants?

A bit of both. In the early years I wrote whatever came into my head, but when I began writing The Nameless Children I found I had to keep a record of what the characters were up to. Nowadays I put more thought into how the story might progress and I generally know how it’s going to end.

Of all the characters in your stories, which is your favourite?

Possibly The Fidgit, a faery-like character that I dreamt up. The book is named after him.

Have you based any characters on real people? If they found out, how did they respond?


What’s the best thing about being an independent author? The worst?

The best: no deadlines. Nothing bad about it at all.

Do you make a living selling your books?

No. That was never my intention. Even if I had been asked this years ago my answer would have been the same. The path that I followed was perfect for me in every way: as a wildlife biologist I lectured in a Tertiary College for five years, followed by sixteen years lecturing full time in a university. Add to this the opportunity to travel in the UK and Germany performing my songs in folk venues and it could not have been better.

What advice would you give to a new author?

Don’t procrastinate. Pick up your pen and write whatever comes into your head. Leave the editing until later.

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