Today, I'd like to welcome Toni Williams, author of “Between Two Fires” to The Thursday Interview. Before we get started, a quick intro!
I was born in the Eastern Caribbean of Saint Lucia. Presently, I live in a picturesque mountain village on the island’s east coast where I’m finally able to do what I love most; creating worlds in my head and bringing them to life with my pen. Along the way I got sidetracked and ended up managing a family-owned banana plantation. A few years later I jumped ship and returned to journalism, and became an editor for the Crusader newspaper in St. Lucia. I am a Reuters Fellow (Green Templeton College, Oxford University).
OK - HERE WE GO !!
1. Would you break the law to save a loved one? ... Why?
I’m assuming you mean saving a loved one whose life or health is in danger. Any law that forbids me from doing what I believe is necessary to protect or save the life of someone I love (for example, in the heat of the moment during a break-in or some other form of home intrusion) it is, in my view, an unjust law. It is our duty to challenge unjust laws. Every civilised country and culture in every age has understood that love is an inherent part of who we are and it should underpin everything we do to try and bring about a just society. Any man-made law that gets in the way of our desire to give and receive love goes against human nature. So I would feel justified in disobeying it.
2. What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
Those of us who have been in love – truly in love – know how it feels to be truly living rather than just alive. You just need to stop and look at children playing and having fun and recall how it used to feel when we were kids, to know the difference between being alive and truly living. Listen to the birds and watch them frolicking amongst the trees when you’re out in the park or some other natural setting. Compare this to how you feel if you’re one of those who feel forced to work the daily grind from nine to five, not because you enjoy what you do but because you need the money to stay alive and keep food on the table and a roof over your head and that of your family. You’re so busy earning a living you have no time to live. Accumulating material possessions doesn’t really help. If anything, consuming more and more leaves you feeling even emptier. That’s what it’s like for the majority of people in the world today. It’s even worse for the billions who live in extreme poverty and almost total deprivation, especially in war-torn countries. For some of them, even death seems better than being alive in such dehumanizing conditions.
3. What motivates you to write?
The same things that motivate people to converse with each other. The need to connect and interact. For me, writing is a natural and wonderful way of connecting with other people and sharing the experiences, insights and lessons I have learnt along the way. I find that I’m able to articulate my inner thoughts and feelings even more comfortably with my pen than I do in ordinary speech. Often, when something or someone captures my attention or touches me deeply my first reaction is to write about it, rather than speak about it.
4. Why do humans want children?
All living things – humans, animals and plant life – feel a need to procreate. Surely it must be because this desire is hardwired into our DNA. Nevertheless, I think those of us who feel the need to have children, are not simply responding to a natural urge; we’re motivated by our desire for love and to share love, even those of us who were deprived of love growing up. I also think many of us desire to have children because we want to fulfil a commitment that we made to ourselves before we came into this world. It feels like it’s part of our calling. This is underscored by the fact that some people, while grateful to have been born, and although they may have lived a stable and happy family life, feel no need or compunction to have children. It is not their calling.
5. What was the biggest challenge in creating your book "Between Two Fires"?
I always write the first draft of my manuscript longhand and type it up gradually as I go along. That is usually the biggest challenge for me, and it was so with this book. Unfortunately, I never learned to formulate my letters properly so trying to figure what I’ve written several days after the fact could be a major pain. The reason i write the initial draft longhand is because I find a keyboard distracting. My thoughts also seem to flow much better and unhindered when I write them down. I compare it to the natural form of childbirth.
6. What is the most important thing you have learned in life so far?
It’s a great question that brings to mind the words of the Greek philosopher, Socrates: ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ If there is one that I have learned above all else, it is that fear plays a huge role in our evolutionary process. It’s everywhere. In abusive homes and in the workplace; in our politics; in our churches where we are constantly warned of the fiery damnation that awaits us for incurring the wrath of God by disobeying his dictates; in our dealings with financial institutions who have the power of foreclosure over our very lives; it’s in the books we read, the movies we watch, the news we listen to every day, there seems to be no end to it. Some of us internalize fear and learn how to use it to our advantage. Others surrender to it and to the fear mongers and convince themselves there is no hope and no way out of the darkness. But here is what I have discovered; fear is a controllable force. It will wax and wane, grow and diminish depending on how you feel and how you navigate through life. It is important not try and run away from it or pretend that it isn’t there. You have to confront it. Examine it closely to determine the root cause of it. Often you will find that it is your own insecurities that are feeding and nurturing the fear and causing it to grow. I discovered that the images fear creates in my mind are more often than not the creations of my own thoughts. Is is then that I realized that fear only has the power that you give it.
7. How did you come up with the title "Between Two Fires"?
I was watching a news report on BBC on the recent military clashes between Israel and the Palestinians. A Palestinian mother who was being interviewed was giving a heartrending account of what she and her family had been going through as a result of the conflict. The Palestinians had been peppering Israel with rockets and the Israeli army retaliated by bombing Palestinian towns and villages. Showing her frustration, the poor woman said, “I have nowhere to turn. I am caught between two fires.” This resonated with me, and then I thought of one of the main protagonists in my novel, Rudy Philips, who falls in love with a married woman but ultimately finds himself trapped between her wiles and ambitions and those of her eccentric husband, who could make their lives hell if he figures what’s going on between Rudy and his wife.
8. How do you handle personal criticism?
No better than most writers, I’m sure. When considering the criticism, I usually try to fend off my ego, although to be honest, that’s a lot easier said than done, being human. I examine it closely and objectively to see if it has any validity. If it does, I acknowledge that the critic has done me a favour by pointing out where I fell short. That’s another lesson for me in how to improve my writing. If I perceive that the observation was made due to a misunderstanding of the idea I was trying to get across, it still stings, but that’s my fault, so once again I consider the reader has done me favour that I should be grateful for. I resolve to write more convincingly next time. If the criticism makes no sense, or is whimsical and petty - which is rarely ever the case – I suck it up, shake my head and remind myself that we live in a tough world that sometimes spoils our day and puts us in a bad mood. I try not to let it get to me.
9. Why should people read your book?
It’s a fun and entertaining read full of mystery and suspense, and it’s also an emotionally charged tale of interracial romance and illicit love. That may seem like a sales pitch but it’s much more than that. I guarantee you it’s an exciting read. It is set on Elysian Island, a fictional retreat for the super rich in the Caribbean. It revolves around Rudy Philips, a handsome British journalist and a charmer who becomes romantically entangled with a woman who not only happens to be married, she’s a smart and sophisticated career woman and runs her own business - not the sort of woman Rudy is used to dealing with. He finds himself confronting an issue that more and more men are having to contend with in relationships; what do you do when you are faced with a woman who is independent-minded and empowered, knows exactly what she wants and is intent on being true to herself and her ideals. It’s also a story of betrayal, revenge and murder. For anyone who has had enough of predictable and formulaic murder-mysteries and is looking for something different, Between Two Fires offers just that. And because the story is set in an exotic locale, in a ‘closed’ environment unfamiliar to most readers outside of the Caribbean, the setting enhances the mystery element of the story and adds to the suspense. All the reviews so far have been very positive.
10. Why is there something rather than nothing?
The problem we face here is with the word ‘nothing.’ It’s one of the many words we have in our lexicon that could be very misleading because of the meaning we have ascribed to it. In its purest sense when used as a pronoun it denotes the total absence of anything, the state of non-existence or the state of having nothing. So we are told that you can’t get something from nothing, at least in our everyday physical reality. Yet, scientifically, it has been established that this is not true about the universe. We’re surrounded everywhere by matter, energy and radiation, virtually all of it invisible to the human eye, and to a vast extent even to advanced scientific instrumentation. Yet out of this seeming void came forth everything that we are able to perceive. This seems to suggest that our concept of a ‘state of nothingness’ is nothing but a fictitious mental construct that has no basis in cosmic reality. We concocted it because, collectively, we have been conditioned to rely only on our five physical senses. So if something is not visible or perceptible to our physical senses, it does not exist. But those of us who have expanded extra-sensory perception know full well this is not necessarily true. Inability to perceive does not equal non-existence. So ultimately, I would argue there is always something’ but there is never ‘nothing.’ That is why we must always mistrust the obvious, know that there is always more than meets the eye, and never lose hope.
Thank you Toni :)
For taking the time to answer my questions
& the best of luck with your new book!
Check out “Between Two Fires” on
British newsman, Rudy Phillips is the sort of guy who walks into a room and catches every female eye, and it isn’t just because of his good looks.
Bridget Tennyson is a case in point. An incredibly gorgeous stockbroker from California, from the first day she and Rudy met, she captured his heart like no woman has ever done before.
Rudy is all too aware that aside from Bridget being married, when it comes to women she’s way out of his league.
The big question is, can Rudy who is used to having women eating out of his hand, handle a woman like Bridget who is independent-minded, calculating and ambitious? What’s more, they both know that if they slip up and Bridget's husband discovers what’s going down, there’s going to be hell to pay.