CINDY: Thank you so much for joining me today, Valerie. Is Phoebe's Challenge your first book?
VALERIE: No, Phoebe’s Challenge is one of over thirty published novellas (30k-50k words) I have had published by www.ulverscroft.com. I am in the process of converting them to ebooks, working with a professional illustrator to give them all a themed style.
CINDY: Wow! Over thirty. Impressive and very nice. What inspired you to write your very first full-length book? What kept you going to the very end? How did you feel when you completed it?
VALERIE: My children were still at school and I wanted to do something to enable me to work from home. I had written a novel for a friend as a personalized Christmas present as a surprise. They suggested I should do it for real and try and find a publisher. It was an amazing experience to reach a figure of 90,000 words and feel happy with it.
CINDY: There is no other feeling like typing THE END on a book. What genre is Phoebe’s Challenge? Tell us a little about it.
VALERIE: Phoebe’s Challenge is an historical, romantic adventure. It is set in early nineteenth century North Yorkshire, England, against a backdrop of smuggling and intrigue. Phoebe and her brother, Thomas, have to flee the evil regime of mill overseer Benjamin Bladderwell when an accident results in them being labeled machine breakers. Hunted with nowhere to run, the mysterious Matthew saves their lives. He is a man of many guises who Phoebe instinctively trusts, but Thomas does not.
I love this period because of the great changes: socially, scientifically, politically and also within the church. It was the time of Jane Austen, a great void between rich and poor with ‘new money’ growing to fill the social gap, wars with France and advancements in industry, farming; therefore, an excellent period for conflict and adventure.
CINDY: Very exciting and it must take tons of research. What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most? What part do you dislike?
VALERIE: I absolutely adore beginning new adventures, developing a character and giving them their head to show me the way forward. It seems an odd thing to say, but as a character and a story develops it breaths a life of its own. There is not a stage in the process that I can say I dislike. I prefer writing to proofing the words, but then my proofreader does this and I enjoy finishing the edits for the final draft.
CINDY: What motivated you to write Phoebe’s Challenge particularlly?
VALERIE: Each one of my stories was inspired by a place that I have been to. With Phoebe's Challenge it was an old smugglers’ inn on the North Yorkshire coast. Chloe’s Friend came from a visit to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/beningbrough-hall/; with Sophie’s Dream I visited a workhouse and then went to Sydney, Australia and saw the old harbor buildings.
CINDY: I've never traveled like that. Must be very exciting. A lot of authors listen to music while they write. Do you? Do you have any rituals you do before, after or during writing?
VALERIE: I began writing around the chaos of family life. Therefore, I learnt to grab time whenever I could, so rituals did not develop – just write. If I do listen to music then it will vary to match what I am writing at the time. If I need to really focus then I will concentrate on my words and listen to orchestral tracks so that lyrics do not catch my attention.
CINDY: If you could write yourself into one of your books, what kind of character would she be? (The heroine, the best friend, the antagonist, strong, funny, supportive, etc.)
VALERIE: Good question. Something of the author must transcend to the page, but generally, I do not think of myself in the stories. I’d like to say I would be the heroine, but sometimes the antagonist might be better suited. Villains can be fun to write, but in my stories the good guy will win. The contemporary title Moving On (shortlisted for the Love Story of the Year 2011 by the www.rna-uk.org/ ) was about a carer who suddenly has time to think about her own life. I could relate to her issues as I grew up looking after my mother who had Multiple Sclerosis, but the story is pure fiction and Hailey is nothing like me.
CINDY: Obviously you do research for the time period. How much research do you do for one of your books? How much of your book is fact, and how much is fiction?
VALERIE: I have read about this period and the area where most of my stories are set for many years and will continue to do so. Research is an ongoing process to me. The Internet is a huge asset for anyone bringing up children who are unable to travel. However, most of the places that are real within them: York, Whitby, Harrogate, London and Sydney I have been to, as well as many old halls, castles and period buildings. The historic detail needs to be accurate, but the fiction is just that.
CINDY: What has writing a book taught you about yourself?
VALERIE: That if you are dedicated and determined to do something you can. Also, that I am still in touch with my ‘inner child’ – I love to play and making up stories is such fun for the imagination.
CINDY: So true. What do you want your readers to gain from reading one of your books?
VALERIE: I want them to lose themselves in a place, which is a world away from their reality. To enjoy the adventure, be warmed by the way the protagonist does not give in to the problem but works through or around it. To follow the friendship and love that develops in a more traditional way and to finish my books with a hopeful feeling for their future.
CINDY: That's wonderful. Do you have any plans for another book? Can you give us any details?
VALERIE: I always have plans for more stories. I am just over a third of the way through uploading my titles to ebook formats, so this is still an ongoing process. I am working on a new contemporary title at the moment, I also have an outline for the second in the Nicholas Penn history mystery to follow Dead to Sin, which is not a romance, and I always have work out in the market place.
CINDY: How can readers find out more about you and your books? Do you have a website? Where can we buy your books?
VALERIE: They can find me at:
CINDY: I'm so impressed with all you have accomplished. It's been great getting to know you. Thanks for joining me.
VALERIE: Thank you, Cindy, for inviting me to your blog and asking such interesting questions.
Cindy A. Christiansen
Sweet Romance, Humor, Suspense…and Dogs!
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