Toby Neal is a very busy woman living amongst the lush palms and beautiful sand and sea of Hawaii. She’s the author of close to a dozen books and counting. I recently showcased Shattered Palms from her popular LEI CRIME series.
Learn more about this fascinating and gracious woman, and get to know more about her books.
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Aloha, Toby, so lovely to have you here all the way from Hawaii. Tell readers how your best friend would describe you in 20 words or less.
She has described me as kind, funny, disciplined, passionate and creative! (She’s a writer too, so we’re never short on words!)
Ha! I know what you mean. Are you a full time writer or do you have a day job?
I am a clinical social worker in private practice as well as a writer. I am doing well enough as a writer to leave my practice, but I worked very hard to get all my degrees, and I LOVE helping people heal and overcome, so I doubt I’ll ever leave my therapy work entirely, though I may cut back—because right now I have too many clients!
I work on my writing business in the mornings and see clients in afternoon/evenings.
You are busy. Do you have time for any extravagances?
Art. Yeah, I know, that’s a thing for rich people, right? But I’m also a creative person myself, and my husband is a full time photographer/artist, so we love to support fellow artists. I’ve been collecting paintings and other art as we could trade/haggle/payment plan since we got married in 1986, and I love to be surrounded by gorgeous art.
Aww, that’s wonderful. I love art too and galleries are regular stomping grounds for me. Do you have any favorite curse words?
“Son of a beehive!” and “Shozbot!” Sometimes I will indulge in the occasional F bomb, like when I stub my toe really bad.
😉 How about a motto you live by?
I enjoy mottoes and slogans and use them all the time in my therapy practice to help clients. For myself, I use “Anything worth doing, is worth doing excellently” and “the best revenge for a dysfunctional childhood is a life filled with joy” I also like “it is what it is” to help accept things that can’t be changed.
All good ones! Let’s talk about your writing. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My clients, Hawaii, nature, interesting news articles/investigation pieces I read.
What is the best advice you’ve received as a writer?
Stephen King’s On Writing: “ideas are like fossils and the writer just uncovers them.” I also like his formula of putting interesting characters in a situation and letting them fight it out. He emphasizes discipline and writing every day, which I do.
Great book and agree about writing every day. How would you define your style of writing?
Cinematic, fast-paced, dialogue driven, with lyrical bits
What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?
I enjoy writing love and friendship scenes, setting description, and action. I hate writing departmental meetings reviewing a case (which is a part of police work)
Do you outline, plot and structure, or do you just sit down and write?
I outline about ¾ of the book and let the last fourth be filled with surprises (even to me) and I write character bios and a logline before I start a new book.
Interesting about the 3/4 formula. What is the genre of your book?
Police procedural mystery with romantic twist.
Yes, I featured Shattered Palms here back in March. Why do you think people should read it?
For fun, to get away to a little-known part of Hawaii (cloud forest on Haleakala) and to be engrossed in a powerful story.
I love the cover and I know that Shattered Palms is the 6th book in your popular LEI CRIME SERIES. Here is the blurb:
Maui is lush mountains, cloud forest and exquisite birdsong—but for Detective Lei Texeira, arrows break that peace.
Someone is stalking poachers that are capturing Maui’s rarest birds, and Lei pursues the case with her usual leap-first, look-later style—but will she be able to catch a killer, save the birds, and still make it to her own wedding? Shattered Palms is a roller coaster ride from the top of Haleakala to the beach and back again, with extinction at stake.
“Toby Neal creates a captivating balance of the beauty of the islands contrasted with the ugliness of murder, and complicated by the trials of Lei’s personal life. A must-read for Neal fans.” —Thomas K. Matthews, author of Rejection.
Sold via Amazon
How long did it take for you to write Shattered Palms?
Four months (first draft).
What was the inspiration behind it?
My husband’s work for Nature Conservancy on Haleakala and his work with endangered native Hawaii birds. I fell in love with them!
How are you marketing your book?
My email list, KDP select, my fan base, exposure on other blogs/etc
What is the best way for someone to support your book, aside from buying it?
Share it with others!
Absolutely. And since submitting your interview to me, you’ve released Book 7 of the Lei Crime Series called Dark Lava. It’s receiving excellent reviews! Here is the cover and blurb.
Maui is sacred places, ancient artifacts, and the dark lava of deepest passions.
Nothing ever goes easy for detectives Lei Texeira and Michael Stevens. An investigation into heiau desecrations must take a back seat to the emergence of an enemy who targets those closest to them, leaving shrouds as a calling card. Lei and Stevens face challenges of the body, mind and heart in this seventh in the bestselling Lei Crime Series.
“Neal is a powerful writer, and her prose is often effortless and elegant.” Kirkus Reviews
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Toby, let’s have a quick lightning round to finish off.
Aside from people/pets, what is the ONE item you would save if your house was on fire? My paintings and jewelry!
Favorite place you’ve traveled to or would like to travel to? Italy. I’ve been three times. I love just about everything about Italy and have some relatives by marriage. Ah, la dolce vita! They really know how to live—wine, lovemaking, great art, afternoon naps, affectionate family life…what’s not to love?
Name a food you can eat everyday. Apples.
Favorite style of music? Classic rock and any kind of guitar music.
The best gift you’ve ever received? My husband gave me a Kari McCarthy painting this year for my birthday. Best present ever! Mike gave me a tiny painting the size of a matchbox all wrapped up and said, “all I can afford of her work, honey” and I was in raptures, and had to hit him when he was just teasing and he’d bought a much bigger piece and I could pick it out at her studio. We met, and it ends up she’s painting one of my own photographs. I’m so thrilled with the whole experience. She’s expensive and only getting more so, so I’m going to have a real treasure that I’ll enjoy every day feasting my eyes on.
That’s an amazing story, Toby. You are a lucky woman! Name something you cannot go a day without. Hugs and smiles from the ones I love!
Sweet 😀 Thanks so much for coming by Eden’s Exchange, Toby. I wish you continued success and look forward to more of your books.
Readers, please find Toby at all her virtual homes below.
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Connect To Toby
Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. After a few “stretches of exile” to pursue education, the islands have been home for the last fifteen years. Toby is a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her books. Outside of work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life in Hawaii through beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography and hiking.