Toni Aleo is a wife, a mother of two, a self confessed geek, a hopeless romantic and a huge fan of the Nashville Predators Shea Weber.
At this time, she has many published works based around her fictional hockey teams, the Nashville Assassins and their collegiate affiliate the Bellevue Bullies and each one is more compelling than the last, with her latest instalment Rushing The Goal, the tale of Benji and Lucy, due out in the next few months.
I don’t even remember how I came across of her books now, it’s been at least a year since I picked up Taking Shots, which is the story of the love between Nashville Assassins captain, Shea Adler and Eleanor “Elli” Fisher and I think I have re-read the series each time a new book has been released.
Taking Shots is the foundation stone for a series of books that has led to Toni’s success. This has seen her named to the New York Times’ bestseller list and also named as one of USA Today’s bestselling authors. Toni has so kindly granted me an interview with her, in order to find out a little more about the lady behind the Assassins.
Hazel: Where did the original inspiration for the Assassin’s Series come from? And are there any certain players that you drew inspiration from for each of the players on your team?
Toni: When I wrote Taking Shots, it was only supposed to be a standalone. But when I finished, I fell in love with the team, and it took off from there. The players from the Assassins are based loosely on players from the Nashville Predators.
Hazel: I read the notes at the end of your books and you always joke ‘Oh hey, look! Another porn book.’ Is that how you feel about them or have they evolved into more since you began writing them?
Toni: HAHA! No, it’s an ongoing joke between my husband, my brother, and brothers-in-law that I just write porn. It used to hurt my feelings because I wanted to be taken seriously, but when I hit the NYT list, I think they all realized that my little “porn” books are way more than that. But still, they joke and say, “Ah, she writes porn all day. What a life.”
Hazel: I personally feel, having read both Laces & Lace and also Overtime and the notes for both of them, that they stand out from the rest as more than just your stereotypical boy-meets-girl romance novels. Do you agree? Did you have more planed for those stories than just to entertain?
Toni: I do agree. My biggest goal in my writing career is to help people. I want to inspire, to make people fight for what they want. I think as I get older and have more books under my belt, I’m doing more in a sense that I’m writing real life. It’s not a fairy tale anymore; I’m writing real issues, and I honestly love my writing career now.
Hazel: Do you remember the day you first sat down to write ‘Taking Shots’? What made that day the best one to start?
Toni: Yes, I do. It was after I met Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators. I took my kids to school and rushed to Nashville for the open practice. I was in awe of all of it and when he came out and spoke to me, I just AH! froze! I couldn’t even speak to him. He was so big, so handsome, and just perfect. I came home, took a nap, then went to work—I was a nurse then. For some reason, I brought my computer that night. Then it happened. I wrote, Chapter One.
Hazel: I have spoken to a few authors who say that they have a certain playlist for each of their books that they listened to while writing. Do you do this? And would you share your favourite writing songs with us?
Toni: Oh, yes. Every book I have a playlist for. Even though I finished Rushing the Goal, I’m still rocking out to the playlist. I love it. I listen to a lot of Ed Sheeran, Charlie Puth, and Mumford and Sons. I love it. I can’t write without music.
Hazel: You’re a Nashville Predators fan, your husband supports the Red Wings. Is there a fight for the TV remote on game nights if both teams are playing at the same time? Who wins, husband or wife?
Toni: Lol! There used to be when we lived in our old house with our one TV, but now we live in our new house, I made sure to have two big TVs so that we don’t fight over who watches what. Luckily, the schedules for our teams don’t sync up much, so we can watch together. But when they do, I always get the living room TV. Haha. It’s nicer.
Hazel: Have you two ever made friendly bets on games when your teams play each other? What’s the silliest bet and who lost?
Toni: Well, the only one the hubs and I ever bet on was when the Wings and Preds were in the playoffs against each other. If the Preds had lost, I had to give him any sexual favor at anytime he wanted. If the Wings lost, he had to do dishes for a month. I won.
Hazel: How did it feel being named to the New York Times best-seller list?
Toni: Oh, I cried. I cried so damn hard, I’m pretty sure I almost flooded our house. It was such an accomplishment, and it means the world to me.
Hazel: How did you get into hockey? Do you remember your first game? What was it like?
Toni: I got into it because of my husband. He’s from Michigan and has played since he was a kid. When we started dating when we were teenagers, he would take me to games when the Wings were in town, and I was like eh, this is cool. But then I really started watching, and I really started to love it. Then Shea Weber looked into my eyes, and I was a Preds fan. Lol!
Hazel: Do you have a number in your head of how many books you’d like to write? Or do they just come naturally to you and you feel compelled to write again?
Toni: You know, I just want to write. I want to give the people in my head, life. I want to have a long career and write about what I want. I want to be happy, and writing does that for me.
Thank you so much Toni, for indulging a fan’s crazy questions! I look forward to meeting you in July in Edinburgh and also to the release of Rushing the Goal!