Tell me about yourself. What got you started in writing?
I’d always loved to read and write as a child, but it wasn't until I was in my twenties, living in London and working for an advertising agency that I decided to really go for it. Prior to moving to the UK I had been living in New Zealand where my parents had emigrated to from Los Angeles during my senior year in high school. One day I was walking down Regent Street and out of the blue I ran into one of my friends from my University of Auckland days. I couldn't believe it—neither could I believe that she had just married the New Zealand sci-fi and fantasy writer, Hugh Cook. We immediately picked up our friendship from where we’d left off, and Hugh, who had also been at the university with us, was very encouraging and helpful about my desire to write professionally. I don’t think I would ever have had the confidence or knowledge to pursue writing if it wasn't for his invaluable advice and interest. Sadly, Hugh passed away several years ago, but I will always remember him with sincere gratitude for his help.
How and where do you write? Do you prefer a lap top or do you prefer writing freehand?
During the week I mainly write at work—I know that sounds weird, but I have a very flexible schedule and find my office is the perfect location to come in early or stay late to get some writing done. I also write there during lunch and other breaks. On the weekends I love to go to coffee shops or museum cafes to write. I write my first drafts either by hand with a fountain pen, or on my Alphasmart. I always use the Alphasmart for second and subsequent drafts.
What's your favorite part about writing? Your least favorite part about writing?
I love discovery drafts. I’m a panster all the way, but once that initial draft is finished I then impose a plot, strengthen my characters’ goals and motivations, and write a serious outline so that I can re-arrange and rewrite everything to follow a coherent storyline. My most disliked part of writing is the whole synopsis-thing in all its 1-page, 2-page, etc. formats.
How do you come up with your characters? Why would readers want to get to know them?
I use a lot of visual references from magazines and other sources which I then turn into collages before I write. As I put the pictures together the characters and plots appear like magic—they tell me their stories, and I take dictation. I feel that when I hear them speak I am also meeting them for the first time as a reader, so if I enjoy what my characters have to tell me, someone reading about them might feel the same way too.
What types of marketing do you do to promote your writing?
I have a website and a blog, and I’m fairly active on Twitter and Pinterest. My favorite social media site is Polyvore.com. I meet a lot of imaginative and creative people there who take an interest in my work. I've also found the best marketing is what I can do in person: teach a class or workshop, volunteer at a conference, or sell books at a local book fair.
How do you schedule your writing time? When do you write?
My schedule can be very erratic, so I've learned to take advantage of whatever free time I can get. It’s one of the reasons I write by hand—it allows me to write absolutely anywhere: the car, waiting rooms, laundromats, hotel lobbies, and restaurants. I do write every day without fail—just not at the same time every day.
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What are you currently working on? Do you have a new book out?
Starting next year I’ll be submitting my new novel, The Abyssal Plain for publication, as well as a nonfiction manuscript, A Pet Owner’s Book of Days, and a picture book manuscript. At the same time I’ll be working on the second draft of yet another novel.
Do you have a project on the back burner? Tell me about it.
I have several unpublished collections of poetry and short stories that I’m always tinkering with. My absolute dream is to illustrate them and publish them as art books.
What would you tell a beginning writer who wants to publish but doesn't believe he/she has enough talent?
First I would say that “talent” is in the eye of the beholder. What does it really mean? I've met hundreds of very talented writers who refuse to commit to the writing process, or finish a manuscript, or submit a manuscript for publication. So what does their “talent” give them except maybe a topic for conversation? The most important thing a writer needs is discipline (to both write and finish what he or she is writing) and perseverance. Keep writing, keep submitting. And read, read, read as widely as possible.
Thank you, Valerie!
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