YE Author Interview: Toni Yap Reflects on her Childhood and What it Took to Write Talisman: Gifts of the Shavtal

Toni Yap is the author of Talisman: Gifts of the Shavtal. The novel follows GiGi, a 12-year old Filipino girl who has a gift of seeing the colorful auras of the people around her. With the help of her best friend, her aura-reading skills strengthen, and she sets out on a magical journey granted only to creatures from the Other World. YE interviewed Toni about what inspired her story and how she weaves her childhood into a fantasy thriller. 

Young Entertainment: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Toni Yap: I spent weekends writing short stories since I was 13 years old. I enjoyed my literature classes and plowed through classes requiring research papers and essays. I’ve been writing stories for years and had not thought my writing was interesting enough to be published. It took over 20 years to build my confidence and learn about the business of writing.

YE: Where did the inspiration for Talisman: Gifts of the Shavtal come from?

TY: GiGi’s life was a mirror of my childhood. I grew up in an abusive environment and spent years trying to reconcile my past. This book has been a cathartic healing journey because I had to write from that dark place and unlock the experiences I have kept hidden.

YE: What is your favorite quote from Talisman: Gifts of the Shavtal?

TY: “I miss talking to her in our language. I hated the school for forcing us to speak only English at home; it was part of their program to eliminate my Filipino accent. Teachers would complain that my accent was so thick that they couldn’t understand a word I would say.“

That was painful to write because it’s what I had to live through when I went to school in a small farming community in Ohio. People weren’t very sympathetic or empathetic that I spoke more than one language as a child and the school I attended put a lot of pressure on my poor immigrant Mom not to speak to me in Tagalog at home.

YE: What would you consider the best part of GiGi’s gift of seeing people’s auras?

TY: To have the ability to see people’s motives through their aura colors before they act is something I wish I could do. It was fun, and the possibilities are endless and dangerous. This gift can be used for good and evil.

YE: What are the negative side effects?

TY: The negative effects for GiGi had more to do with her inability to turn it off. She hates going to hospitals and places where people have been hurt because she can see the aura of people who were damaged by another as well as people who have done heinous actions against an innocent person. She knows she can’t help everyone and that is a huge burden for a 12-year-old child.

YE: What do you hope the readers take away from Talisman: Gifts of the Shavtal?

TY: I hope people realize that regardless of how much hell one goes through, they should never give up. Dark days are something we all must go through, and they’re only temporary. 

YE: What three words would you use to describe GiGI?

TY: GiGi has grit, compassion, and a sense of justice (right the wrongs).

YE: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to be an author?

TY: It’s never too late to finish that book. It’s a journey.

YE: What is your favorite part about writing for a young adult audience?

TY: I enjoyed taking my audience back to the 1970s and presenting a glimpse of what a 12-year-old girl experienced. Even though she is not your typical girl, she still must deal with prejudice and small-town xenophobia.

YE: What do you have planned to write in the future?

TY: This is a series, so I am working on the second book, where GiGi travels to the Other World. It wasn’t her choice, but she was compelled to rescue her friend Danae and to come face to face with her adversarial biological father. He is the monster of the Other World.

You can follow Toni Yap on Instagram @toniyappublication.