An Interview with Betty Dixson ( Toni Yap) , Author of Talisman – Gifts of the Shavtal

Short Bio: Betty Dixson (Toni Yap) is an immigrant, and US Army veteran married to her husband of over 27 years. She has three adult children. She is Screenwriter, Author, Producer at Yoshiko Studios LLC, She currently lives with her husband and three cats in Snohomish, Washington.

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  1. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Compassionate, Driven, Introvert

  1. What inspired you to start writing in the first place? And specifically, what made you write “Talisman: Gifts of the Shavtal”?

I’ve always wanted to write a book, but raising three children and a career was challenging. Since becoming an empty nester, I have had much more time to write, journal, and read various books. After spending years writing short stories in my journal, I found the spark to expand one of them and see where it took me. Talisman Gifts of the Shavtal became my world, and my first draft was based on Georgina and Danae’s perspective. It started as a 100K + manuscript!

  1. The concept of auras and magical abilities adds a fantastical element to the story. Did you draw inspiration from real-world beliefs or mythologies when developing these elements?

Learning about people’s chakra in books and magazines and talking to people with such expertisegave me ideas about how people can exhume different lights depending on their mood and mental status. It made so much sense. I like the idea that empathic people can see different types of light based on another’s mood and intentions.

  1. The cover of your book is visually striking. Can you share the story behind its design and how it relates to the themes of your book?

When I was working with our Book Designer at Atmosphere Press, I wanted to make sure my protagonist was a 12-year-old Filipina, and she could read people through the auras they emit. I also wanted to show the Talisman she wears and became part of her. The Designer went out of his way to represent all these elements and still show it’s Fantasy fiction. Kudos to Ronaldo Aves for his stunning work.

  1. Without giving away any spoilers, can you tease a particularly surprising or unexpected twist in the story that you think readers will find intriguing?

The story has a subplot and how the characters interrelate with each other. The stakes escalate with each chapter; the ending is not an ending.

  1. Family seems to be an important part of your life, with over 27 years of marriage and three adult children. In what ways has your family’s support or your experiences as a parent influenced your writing journey? Do you have other writers in the family and friends?

My daughter, the youngest among the three kids, can be a writer and has gravitated towards screenwriting starting at 13. We used to co-write comedy scripts and had a lot of fun. It was rewarding and helped us build a strong mother-daughter bond.

  1. Writing can be a challenging but rewarding endeavor. What have been the most significant challenges you’ve faced as a writer, and what moments have brought you the most satisfaction?

Writing is a solitary job, and there were so many moments I wanted to give up. Getting feedback and just moral support from my family members can be disappointing. I took the initiative to find writing groups and friends who were engaged in what I was writing.  I had to learn that sometimes friends can be too nice, and being around other writers and editors who weren’t my friends helped me improve my writing skills.

  1. Could you provide a sneak peek into any upcoming projects or novels you’re currently working on?

I’m working on Book 2 for Talisman and converting a script I wrote back in 2021 into a manuscript, which is also a historical fiction but not a fantasy. I’ve been inspired by my deceased mother’s life in the Phillippines and how she met my biological father. I’m also doing a cozy mystery chapter book for middle graders.

  1. Cats often find a special place in people’s lives. Do your three cats play a role in your writing routine or inspire any aspects of your storytelling?

That is an interesting thing you should ask, and yes, cats will be involved in Book 2 of Talisman. They’re such intriguing creatures, and there’s been folklore that cats are part of the magical world. My cats would hang out with me while writing and remind me to take breaks too.

  1. Memoirs often provide a personal and intimate exploration of one’s life. Have you considered writing a memoir to share your journey as a Filipino-American immigrant and Army veteran? If so, what aspects of your life would you want to highlight?

Before I started writing Talisman, I seriously considered making it a memoir. I thought better of it. Writing fantasy and historical fiction is a lot more fun.

  1. If “Talisman: Gifts of the Shavtal” were adapted into a film or TV series, what would be your dream casting for the main characters, and why?

I don’t think there are a lot of Filipino kids in Hollywood, so I really don’t know who can play Georgina. My book would be better as an animated movie or TV series because it’s a fantasy. I can see Laika Studios producing this story or in the style of Studios Ghibli because of the seriousness of domestic abuse some children have experienced and having to deal with the death of a family member, but still in the fantastic world of Sidhe Fairies.

  1. What advice would you give aspiring writers based on your own experiences in the world of writing and filmmaking?

Keep writing, never give up, get feedback, and educate yourself about the business of writing. Find a writing group, hire a decent developmental editor, and know first-hand who is the best audience for your book.

  1. Finally, can you describe a moment or a specific instance in your life when you realized that writing was not just a hobby but a calling you were meant to pursue?

It took me 20+ years of avoiding the call to write my story. I honestly tried to keep busy raising my family and having a career, but it kept tugging at me. My husband has been a fundamental influence on me to get back to writing, and when we all had to go through the pandemic lockdowns, I finally took the opportunity to write full-time.

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