Andrew Toy lives with his wife and dachshunds in Louisville, KY. He is currently editing books of nearly every genre and is a writing coach for aspiring authors. He and his wife are trying to adopt their first child, and he is using the means of writing and editing to accomplish the goal of enlarging his family. Check out some more of his writing and upcoming books on his popular blog: adoptingjames.wordpress.com.
Tell us about your novel
Easy. Think Narnia for grown ups. In most children’s fantasy books that we all grew up reading, all the adventurers are kids, with no pasts or big life issues to contend with. In The Man in the Box, Robbie is juggling a shaky career, his adolescent teens, marriage problems… there’s just no way a guy can properly handle all that day-to-day stuff while continuing to succumb to the temptation of retruning to this fantasy world he discovers in a cardboard box. But the fun of the book is that he tries, like we often do when some outside force catches our attention.
What first inspired you to start writing?
Writing in general or writing this book? I love telling stories. Not just any stories – good stories. Stories that will grip you, and leave you wondering what’s going to happen. I also dabbled a little bit in my own experience with addiction in this book, which I think many readers can relate to.
How long did it take you to get your first book published?
Well, I started pitching it halfway through the writing. So it took me two years to write, and three years to find Dave Mattingly of Blackwyrm who agreed to publish it.
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Where do I start? I’d say, if you want to write forever, like most authors do, jot down any and every idea you ever come up with. On napkins, your hand, receipts, your dog’s ears, wherever. Because one day you’re going to be done with the book you’re writing now, and you don’t want to be caught standing off in the corner, saying, “Now what?”
What qualities do you think are needed to be a successful published author?
I’m sure I’m not the only one to day it: Perseverance. That’s one for sure. But also, one that’s – weirdly enough – quite overlooked: Creativity and originality. After editing many books, I get the feeling that people feel like if they can write a few complete sentences and string them together that they have a knack for storytelling. There is a difference between writing and storytelling. To become a successful published author, I believe you need to mirror those two qualitites together, as well as great marketing perseverance, and a great pitch.
What would you say is the most enjoyable aspect of writing?
The action scenes for sure! Putting my characters in completely inescapable situations and tossing and turning at night working out how they’ll get through some of these messes.
What is the one moment in your career that you feel most proud of?
Every time I sell a book, my pride puffs. And of course, I say a little prayer that the buyer will absolutely love it and come back for more. I recognize that as the author, the consumer is putting their complete trust in me to engage, entertain, and respect their needs for a compelling read.
Which has been your most difficult novel to write and why?
The Man in the Box for sure. Mainly because I’m dealing with two separate worlds at once, and then finding ways to entwine the two and have Robbie still be Robbie in both worlds.
If you could change just one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be?
Many authors would say, “Make it easier for good writers to be published.” I say, “Make it harder for bad writers to get published.” I would rather an untalented writer to discover that they’re not up to writing earlier than later in their life, so they can pursue other, more suitable dreams.
What are you reading at the moment?
At the moment: Elizabeth the Queen by Sally Bedell Smith and Life of Pi.
What house of Hogwarts would the sorting hat put you in?
The one Ron gets put into because I’m kind of weird and awkward like him. Unless I’m on my game, but that’s pretty rare.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was the only one in junior high who preferred to write during class (not school-related stuff), rather than sleep or eat or pass notes.
What books have influenced your life most?
Oh, man. There’s this baseball book called Bottom of the 33rd by Dan Barry. It’s about the world’s longest professional baseball game. Sounds like a snore-fest, right? Well, he takes this endless game and examines it from every angle, every perspective, giving the game a fresh glimpse from wherever he takes you. It’s brilliant. It’s innovative and daring. Also, Crichton’s Jurassic Park. He had the courage to take a somewhat childish concept and present it to adults.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Cliché as it may be, I would say C.S. Lewis. He was diverse. He was creative. He was pure. Always very pure. He never compromised his core beliefs or values when writing fiction, yet nothing was cheesy, and his stories were always entertaining.
What are your current projects?
I’m reworking a literary novel about a little girl who’s trying to cope with the death of her mother and deal with her hypomanic father. I’m also stringing together events and characters for an all-out epical apocalyptic novel (or series). Lots of fun, laughs, and scares. Like The Man in the Box, the Everyman will totally relate, and have a great time as well.
About The Man in the Box
Work provided Robbie Lake the perfect escape from his family. But his life is turned upside down when he is unexpectedly fired. When he finds a new way of escape through a cardboard box, everything changes. The imaginary world of his childhood has evolved in his absence and is now more savage and hostile than even he could have dreamed. Robbie is drawn in by the excitement of his secret world, but will the cost of abandoning his family prove too high?