Interview: Wendy Toliver
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Current Song: Law & Order: Criminal Intent score music
Whether it's performing in front of a camera, sharing a book with her young sons, or writing a tale of her own, Wendy Toliver likes being a part of a good story. Her debut teen novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF A TEENAGE SIREN, has been released as part of the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies. Wendy and I recently talked about playacting, playing the flute, and playing the freelance game.
Congratulations on your SECRET.
Thank you, Little Willow! I am extremely excited and honored to be a Simon Pulse Rom Com author.
I love mythology. For readers who aren't familiar with the myth of the siren, care to explain, and share the basic premise of your novel?
According to Greek mythology, three Sirens lived on an island. They played beautiful music for passing sailors, luring them closer, right into a wall of deadly rocks. But when Odysseus heard their song and lived to tell about it, the Sirens threw themselves into the sea and drowned.
When I read that one of their bodies had been found washed up on a southern Italy shore, it got me thinking. What if one or two of the Sirens didn't drown after all? What if at least one had lived long enough to pass her Sea Nymph gene down to a daughter? What if that gene, after over 2,800 years, had somehow found its way into the chromosomes of Roxy Zimmerman, a plain Jane, fun-loving, 16 year-old band girl? And that is the premise of THE SECRET LIFE OF A TEENAGE SIREN.
The book cover, designed by Amy Saidens, reveals that Roxy plays the flute. Do you play any instruments?
I’m very pleased with the artwork on the cover. Thank you, Amy! I played the flute ages ago, as well as the piano. I still play the piano whenever I get the chance, but please don’t ask me to perform in front of anybody with ears. On the other hand, I’m a natural at the kazoo.
Did you write the book before or after you landed the book deal? Did the publisher approach you to be a part of this line?
First came the book, then came the deal.
Did you title your book before, after, or while writing it?
The title came while I was writing it. After Simon Pulse bought it, we thought about changing its title but in the end, everybody agreed to keep it THE SECRET LIFE OF A TEENAGE SIREN. I’m glad because I think it’s a perfect title.
You've also written non-fiction. Tell us a little more about your freelance work.
Let’s see … I wrote two books for Chapelle/Sterling’s Little Giant Encyclopedia series, one on wedding etiquette and one on inspirational quotes. I also helped write a number of how-to and decorating books for the same publisher. I’m a freelance cover copy writer for Hachette Book Group USA (formerly Warner Books) which is a blast. And from time to time I write magazine and newspaper articles and do advertising-type projects for local companies.
It sounds as if you have quite a menagerie of pets in your household, as well as some munchkins. Do your husband and little boys ever act as proofreaders?
Yes, we have a whole zoo here. No, they don’t proofread, but they’re very good about giving me a little writing time now and then. They’re my biggest fans (next to my mom). One of my favorite “author” days so far was talking to my first grader’s school about my job.
Rumor has it that you, like me, are a singer and an actress. (We have to make sure we don't make sailors crash on the rocks, though.) What has been your most rewarding experience or performance to date? Are you still pursuing either path?
Oooh! I bet you have more exciting stories than I do, but I admit it’s been a fun little hobby.
My most rewarding performance was probably acting in an episode of Touched by an Angel, which was produced right here in Utah. The audition, call backs, costume fitting, hair and makeup, private trailer room, reserved parking place, craft services, voice-overs, paychecks … all of this made me feel like a real star! Along with the regulars of the show (Valerie Bertinelli, Roma Downey, Della Reese, John Dye), I got to rub elbows with Jennifer Morrison who’s now starring on House.
I want to get back into acting someday, but with my young family and my writing, I’ve put it on the back burner. I’m sure Hollywood can wait a few more years. Ha ha!
Finally, what are your ten favorite books of all time?
Good question. I think we’re so lucky these days. Not only do we have all the classics, there are amazing new books hitting bookshelves every day. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:
1. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
2. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
3. Emma by Jane Austen
4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
5. Kissing Coyotes by Marcia Vaughan, illustrated by Kenneth J. Spengler
6. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
7. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
8. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
9. Where the Wild Things Are written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak
10. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares