Book Feature & Interview
Toby Neal is an award-winning, bestselling author of mysteries, thrillers, and romance with over 30 titles. Make sure to check out my Instagram post for a giveaway of Freckled: A Memoir of Growing up Wild in Hawaii.
My mother-in-law has read all of her fiction books and recommended her biography which I loved. It was so interesting to read about her growing up in Kauai in the 70s.
I reached out to Toby and she was kind enough to answer a few questions for the Nonfiction November Book Party and sponsor a giveaway too!
For fans of The Glass Castle and Educated, comes mystery author Toby Neal’s personal story of surviving a wild childhood in paradise.
“We never call it homeless. We’re just “camping” in the jungle on Kauai…
We live in a place everyone calls paradise. Sure, Kauai’s beautiful, with empty beaches, drip-castle mountains, and perfect surf…but we’ve been “camping” for six months, eating boiled chicken feed for breakfast, and wearing camouflage clothes so no one sees us trespassing in our jungle hideout. The cockroaches leave rainbow colors all over everything from eating the crayons we left outside the tent, and now a tractor is coming to scrape our camp into the river.
Standing in front of the tent in my nightgown, clinging to my sister as we face the tractor, I know my own truth: I just want to be normal.
But Mom and Pop are addicted.
Addicted to Kauai’s beauty, to drugs, to surfing, to living a life according to their own rules out from under their high-achieving parents’ judgmental eyes. I’m just their red-headed, mouthy, oldest kid. What I want doesn’t matter.
But I’m smart. I will make a different life for myself someday if I keep up my grades no matter what happens.
No matter how often we run out of food.
No matter how many times I change schools…or don’t go to school at all.
No matter how many bullies beat me up for the color of my skin.
I might be growing up wild in Hawaii, but I have dreams I’m going to reach, no matter how crazy things get.”
What’s on your TBR for Nonfiction November?
Move Fast, Travel Light by Alexandra Fuller, One Breath by Adam Skolnick
What is your favorite nonfiction read of 2021?
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder
Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?
Road tripping and camping in the USA. I am working on a new memoir called PASSAGES: Camping in Changing Times, about my travels in an RV long term through COVID and climate change. I am writing it in weekly chapters that you can read on my travel blog at https://tobyneal.substack.com/
What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller, The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Favorite nonfiction audiobook?
To be honest, my own memoir, Freckled: A Memoir of Growing up Wild in Hawaii. Sara Malia Hatfield, the voice actress, brings her Hawaiian heritage to the table to pronounce the pidgin and Hawaiian words in the narrative perfectly, PLUS a ton of emotion. It will sweep you away to another world that no longer exists.
What genre of nonfiction are you most drawn to?
I like everything from business and positivity/self-help/spirituality to memoir and how-to! I tend to read personal memoirs the most as I also write them.
Why is reading nonfiction important?
There is just something so grounding and real about reading what is TRUE, or at least, as true as a writer can make it. Don’t get me wrong, I love fiction too and read in a variety of genres, but a good ol’ informational deep dive into a topic (like something by Malcolm Gladwell, I’ve read all his books) or a personal memoir that’s inspiring, can really be more important in the world than a made-up story.
And this is coming from a woman who’s written over 40 fiction books and only TWO memoirs, lol!
But I say all that to say that I enjoy reading truth-telling, even when it hurts, like Nomadland …which really made me cringe and feel sad a lot of the time.
What are some common misconceptions about nonfiction titles?
Mostly, that they’re boring! And for memoir, that they’re whiny and self-indulgent sob stories. Both of these misconceptions CAN be true but are not in the hands of a skillful writer.
Authors: How does nonfiction play a part in your writing?
Most of my mystery and thriller fiction is inspired by real-life crimes, trends, or events; and most of my romances (I write romance under Toby Jane) are inspired by an interest I want to explore more deeply: for instance, my latest, available now on Kindle, is called Somewhere in Montana and it’s about alpaca ranching, which I researched for the book. I may never own an alpaca but I can learn all about it for a story!
My mystery/thriller line, the Paradise Crime Mysteries and Thrillers, is set in Hawaii where I am a resident…so those deal with Hawaii issues and culture, and the setting is the Hawaiian Islands.
For those books, too, I do a lot of research to frame crime-solving in a realistic way. People say they always learn something new from reading my books; I consider that a huge compliment, and that’s the gift of nonfiction and how it supports a fictional work.
I love writing fiction, but to me, the greater challenge as a writer is to ‘make life into art” through the skillful writing of memoirs. It’s much more challenging to write a meaningful, relevant, and absorbing tale from life than to invent one.
I enjoy doing both and find a balance in that.
Wild And Beautiful Hawaii With Toby Neal
Don’t forget to check out the latest #nonfictionbookparty post over on Instagram. I’m hosting a daily photo challenge, tons of giveaways, author guest posts, and much more!
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