Where Honesty Never Ends.
The Review Board is pleased to present our first Author Spotlight for June, Toni Allen. This interview was conducted by our very own Mini Truth. Miss Truth, take it away!
1) Toni, I know that you are a Tarot Card Reader, can you please tell us a little bit about that and what it entails?
Sex & Tarot
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A: Tarot cards are a system of divination, comprising of seventy eight cards. Each card has a meaning, the cards in a spread being drawn by either myself or the questioner, with more cards giving a fuller picture of the situation in question. The art of being a tarot reader isn’t just about knowing the interpretation for each card, but how those meanings adjust and change according to which cards sit alongside each other during a reading.
Many people think of tarot readers as fortune tellers, someone who will predict your future, as if it is all laid out in advance. In truth divination is about looking at possibilities. We all have free will and a tarot reading shows the potential of your life and of particular situations. There is always the possibility of making a better future for ourselves.
My work as a tarot reader is not so very different from that of a counsellor or life coach. Using tarot cards I help people resolve their problems, offer guidance, look at future trends and help them make positive choices. Many people consult me when they have a specific problem and I use tarot to explore the situation so that my client has clear insight into possible outcomes.
2) On your website you say, “I am a born psychic…” please tell us, when did you know this and how?
A: When I was very young I believed that everyone was exactly the same as me and that it was a normal part of life to see ghosts, to stand next to someone and know how they felt, to be standing in one place and know what was happening elsewhere at the same time, and to have dreams that came true. I accepted this and never questioned it as out of the ordinary. I rarely spoke to other people about it, just acted on what I experienced: like the time I ran out of school during class because I knew something dreadful was happening at home. When I got there I found that my dog was gravely ill, and sadly she passed away. I was about nine at the time.
My parents were very ordinary people, and if I ever mentioned seeing a ghost, I was told it was my imagination. I recall saying, ‘The groceries will be delivered late today, the man’s van has broken down.’ When this happened my mother looked at me and said, ‘How on earth did you know that?’ but the word psychic was never used, I was simply labelled as peculiar.
It wasn’t until I was about twelve that I started to talk to my friends about how I felt and what I experienced. It was one of my friends who said, ‘Well, you’re psychic, aren’t you.’ From then on I started to explore what this meant and how I was different from other people.
3) Now, as odd as this question may sound to you, there are some of us that do not understand or are curious. Most people that have the gift of sight and decide to write, write autobiographies, such as your book “The System of Symbols; A New Way to Look at Tarot”.
All of your other books are literary fiction. Why did you opt to write in the literary fiction genre?
The System of Symbols: A New Way to Look at Tarot
Amazon (and other fine retailers)
A: My book “The System of Symbols, A New Way to Look at Tarot” is all about how to read tarot cards, not an autobiography. It came about because when I was teaching a small study group I gave out worksheets, and one of my students said I had the making of a book. Hence I set about collating all of my material and building it into ‘The System of Symbols.’
I write fiction because I’ve always had a vivid imagination and thoroughly enjoy the process of writing. For many years I kept a dream diary and some of my early stories were generated from the scenes and characters that floated into my dreams. I’m a great believer in reincarnation and many years ago when I was reading chapters from one of novels to my writing group one of the other members said, “You can’t use those place names in a fantasy novel. They’re all real names of cities in an ancient civilisation. You do realise that, don’t you?” Not being a great historian, I did not know that. Her comment made me wonder if I was, in fact, not writing fiction at all, but a true history of those people.
Ideas for my novels always start as one of the main characters appearing to me while they are doing something interesting. I then sit with that character and wait until they tell me their story. Sometimes I wonder if my characters were once real people, or whether their story is a more generic theme that needs to be explored through them. Whichever way round it is, they keep appearing, I am compelled to write about them.
4) Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like growing up having the gift of sight? Was it something that others openly accepted or did you have difficulty blending in?
A: It was very difficult. My parents swept everything under the carpet and made logical excuses. She’s a daydreamer. She makes things up. She couldn’t possibly have known that. When asked who told me something I had mentioned, but couldn’t possibly have known about, and I said that no-one had told me, and that I simply knew; I was accused of lying. I soon learnt that it was wiser to keep these things to myself.
At school the problems didn’t start until my teenage years. I had friends I thought I could trust, but they went and told others what I had said, and I was quickly labelled weird and a witch. Eventually I learnt that it was easier to only have one or two friends, because I simply didn’t have the same interests as other people. I didn’t fit.
I’ve never done well in crowds because I can feel how everyone else feels, and that’s pretty exhausting, to be bombarded with everyone else’s emotions all at once. From an early age other children at school would bring me their problems, and share their greatest heartaches and secrets with me; even if we weren’t special friends. I took this in my stride and listened and healed them, regardless of the fact that the very next day they might act as if they had no idea who I was. Only recently have I discovered that some of those secrets they never told anyone else but me. I feel very privileged that they trusted me.
5) Here is a random question. If you suddenly found out that you only have 1 year left to live, what would be the top 3 things that you would want to do before you go, your “bucket list”, if you will?
A: I’ve thought long and hard over the answer to this question, and it’s only because I’ve caught myself saying, ‘I really must get round to doing that,’ that I’ve come up with the answers.
1.I’d rush off and do a world cruise. There are so many places I haven’t seen yet, and if I only had a year, a cruise would be a great way to cram in as much as possible.
2.To see the carved bust of Queen Nefertiti, housed in Berlin’s Neues Museum. Every time I see photos of this amazing portrait I’m moved to tears, so it would be a real treat to see the original artefact.
3. I’m sure that I’d have a novel on the go at the time of being given my one year warning, so I’m sure I’d want to finish it. I could get round to that on the world cruise.
6) Do you have siblings? What is your family like?
A: I have one sister who’s two and a half years older than me. She now lives in Namibia with her husband. They own a fishing tackle shop and run deep sea fishing trips. My father passed away nearly ten years ago and my mother is still alive.
I think I will have to say that my family has complex dynamics and, discretion being the better part of valour, say no more.
7) What is your favorite holiday and why? Please share with us one of your most treasured holiday memories.
A: My favourite holiday is going down to Dorset, camping. I love being out in the fresh air and close to nature. There’s something so special about living in a tent for a week or so. To hear the rain on the canvas and the wind in the trees makes me feel alive and part of something greater than myself. Hearing distant waves hit the shore, to sit in a field and watch the wildlife, all of these things make me very happy.
Dorset is a beautiful part of England, and we camp very close to Chesil Beach. The scenery is breath taking and there’s an abundance of interesting history to discover. J. Meade Falkner’s classic novel Moonfleet is based all around The Fleet, the lagoon between Chesil Beach and the mainland. His tale is of smugglers and I’ve often walked along to old Fleet church where their contraband was supposed to have been hidden.
My most treasured memory has to be watching the sun set over Golden Cap. Golden Cap sits between Bridport and Charmouth in Dorset and the cliffs are the highest point on the South Coast of England. You may say it’s just a sun set, but when the sky is shot pink and gold and the sun lowers itself onto the cliffs, it’s stunning. We can see it from the camp site we stay at, and every evening all of the other campers stand to watch the sunset. It’s a silent, unspoken ritual, as if we’re all sun-worshippers, in awe of the power of nature.
8) Do you still remember your first crush? Who was that person & how old were you?
A: I do hope the man I’m going to mention isn’t reading this. (blush)
I must have been about eight years old and he was our music teacher at school. He was very tall (Well, all men were when I was little! But he was certainly taller than my Dad.), and he had very dark hair and a wicked sense of humour. Often he would do silly things to make us laugh when he came into class; the one in particular I remember was his Charlie Chaplin impersonation when he was swinging a walking stick and doing the Chaplin walk.
Every time I was anywhere near him I would go bright red, and in class I couldn’t take my eyes off him; for all the wrong reasons. (blush-blush) One year at Christmas we had a fancy dress competition and I went as a snowman, the entire costume made out of crepe paper. Mr Williams (Gosh! I‘ve mentioned his name) judged the competition and when he awarded me first prize all the boys called out, “That’s not fair. You chose her because you fancy her.” He quickly threw back at them that he had no idea who was under the costume as you couldn’t see my face. My face, under the snowman head, was, of course, absolutely bright red.
Unfortunately I never learnt any music, and I still don’t know one end of a tambourine from the other. My infatuation with him appears to have laid down the roots for the type of man I find attractive, as I still go for tall, dark haired men with a sharp wit. Now fancy that!
9) Now that we’ve gotten to know you a little better, we’ll ask about your books. Could you share with us the premise of Being Richard (which I happened to very much enjoy, by the way)? How did you come up with it?
A: I’m absolutely thrilled that you enjoyed Being Richard, thank you so much for taking this opportunity to say so.
The graveyard I refer to in Being Richard is a short walk away from home. One Christmas my partner and I had been walking around it, and we saw all of the musical Christmas trees and other gifts that people had left for their dear little ones they had lost. There was a cacophony of different music playing, and I was deeply fascinated to see that some of these children had passed over many years before, yet still the gifts were laid. The children’s graves have a special section, slightly away from the adults. I often wonder if this is so that they can all keep each other company.
Now, you might wonder why I was wandering around what to some people might appear to be such a morbid place. As an astrologer and keen genealogist I enjoy reading the inscriptions on the gravestones. Some of my ancestors are buried locally, and many of the family names on the gravestones appear in the local census.
It was some time after our visit that the main character for Being Richard walked into my head. I simply saw a man, of about thirty, hurrying away from the children’s graves late at night. It was dark, and he was afraid, anxious, but I never felt that he was a bad person. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Well, who are you? What on earth were you getting up to that you don’t want anyone else to know about?’
From there you might well think, well, that’s it, she’s got the story; but that isn’t how it works for me. I sat with my character for about six months before I knew enough about him to start writing anything down. Every so often he would spring to mind and I’d sit with him a while longer, and gradually his life story unfolded. He needed a new identity. He was going to take the identity of one of these children. Why? Because he was an immortal. How does one cope being immortal in today’s society, with security cameras everywhere, and photo IDs and all kinds of other technological infrastructure. The dilemma of how to get round this, and the authorities catching up with him, became the main outline for the story.
The next thing that occurred to me was how ‘safe’ would his new identity be? Did this child still have living relatives, and if so, what were they like? Furthermore, how did the child die? That final question became a mystery that needed to be solved, and generated the main thrust for my novel.
Finally there was my immortal’s back story. Was he born immortal? Or did he become immortal? Most importantly, how old was he? We see him as a good looking thirty year old guy. But what’s his real age? In order to unfold his past he would need a companion to relate his personal history to, otherwise it all has to be told through internal dialogue; hence Gilbert Hawkins was created. Here’s a man who also claims to be immortal, the same, someone who will never leave Richard. But is he really immortal?
With those themes firmly set in my mind, I was ready to write Being Richard.
10) Your newest novel Visiting Lilly, what is that one about and why should we read it?
A: Visiting Lilly is a mystery/thriller with a paranormal twist.
Detective Inspector Jake Talbot investigates a seemingly innocent visitor to a residential care home for the elderly, and uncovers a dangerous family hiding a forbidden romance that crosses the boundaries of time.
The story opens with a young man of twenty seven, attempting to visit an old lady, Lilly, in a care home. It seems like an easy enough request, but young Frankie is chased away. When Lilly’s grandson make a complaint to the police Detective Inspector Jake Talbot simply cannot understand the problem. So, he pokes his nose in, and discovers that Frankie is exceptionally intelligent, but somewhere off the normal spectrum. One of Frankie’s bizarre beliefs is that he’s been visiting Lilly in the past, when she was young and beautiful.
To a down-to-earth cop like Talbot this is all crazy mumbo-jumbo, but he likes Frankie and can’t see why he shouldn’t visit Lilly. As both Lilly and Frankie’s families add pressure to keep the two of them apart, Talbot digs deeper and deeper. Murder is mentioned and suddenly Talbot is forced to work on his own, away from all the back-up and support he’s been used to having.
Christmas is fast approaching and Talbot’s personal traumas are always triggered by seasonal memories. His colleagues say he’s washed-up as a cop, finished, not knowing his extended leave is a cover. Talbot goes it alone, risking everything.
Anyone who has a heart will enjoy reading Visiting Lilly. It’s a traditional mystery thriller with Frankie and Lilly’s romance as the hub of the story. All they want to do is see each other, but Lilly is very old and might die before they ever get a chance to meet. There’s a race against time, and a no-nonsense compassionate detective unravelling the mystery, methodically, and at times, with searing dry humour.
Visiting Lilly is currently at the pre-production editing stage. Booktrope team members working on the novel alongside me have already said how the story has moved them to both laughter and tears.
Thank for stopping by the Truth’s Coffee Talk segment of The Review Board. It was an honor to spotlight Toni and a pleasure to have all of you read it. Feel free to like, share and subscribe. Have a terrific day!