Meet Valerie Storey, multi-talented author and artist. This accomplished woman doesn’t limit herself to just one genre. She’s writes fiction for adults, young adults and middle grade readers. In her spare time, she writes self-help books for other writers. Oh wait, there’s more! When she’s not writing, she dabbles in watercolors, pottery and collage. Welcome, Valerie.
You’re such a prolific writer. Tell us a little about your journey to publication and your first sale.
I’d always loved to read and write, but when my family moved to New Zealand from California just after my seventeenth birthday, the idea of creative writing was strongly discouraged. It’s hard to believe now when New Zealand produces such high quality writers, artists, and film makers, but back then, creativity was frowned upon, especially when I had all these American ideas about “do your own thing” and being a free spirit.
It wasn’t until I moved to London eight years later and met up with the New Zealand science fiction and fantasy writer, Hugh Cook that I realized I’d been listening to all the wrong people! Hugh had just published his first book, Plague Summer, and he encouraged me to dive into my own writing. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for telling me things like “buy a journal and just start writing—it doesn’t matter what, just write.” A couple of years after that I moved back to the USA and started writing my first novel, a mystery for children. When it was finished I marketed it extensively and had some of the most positive rejection letters of my life. Over and over the book came so close to being published, but then it would be rejected. Finally I sent it to Dillon Press, and they loved it too—so much so that they wanted it, and then presto—the children’s fiction department closed. The editor who had wanted to buy it was still very impressed with my writing and she asked if I would be interested in writing a nonfiction book for the company. The only criterion was I had to have lived in a foreign country. I told her I had lived in New Zealand and England. Right away she wanted a book on New Zealand, so I got my first contract and my first experience working with an editor. The book was titled, New Zealand Land of the Long White Cloud, and was part of Dillon’s Discovering Our Heritage series. It was an interesting book to write as I had to do tons of research and find the photos to illustrate the various chapters. I learned a lot from that entire episode and in many ways it helped me to be the writer I am today.
Do you have a favorite genre?
I’m always intrigued by anything labeled “literary” or “experimental” or “gothic.” I especially enjoy it when writers step outside the genre(s) and mix these three things together. For instance, one of my great favorites is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski simply because reading it is such an adventure—there’s so much going on—humor, puzzles, mystery, even a romance. I think it’s a wonderful book.
What is your most rewarding moment since being published?
I think I’d have to say teaching writing, or presenting a workshop. It’s so inspiring to help a new writer get going and find his or her voice. Best of all is when I hear a former workshop-participant has just published a book or an article somewhere.
Any thoughts on book reviews?
I must say I’ve rarely purchased a book because of a review—too many times what everyone else has praised has turned out to be a book I couldn’t stand, or else the book I thought was a masterpiece ends up being dragged through the mud! Mainly I read reviews just to see what’s happening in the publishing world, and if the theme or something about the characters catches my interest, I’ll want to read the book regardless of what the reviewers say. Sometimes a flurry of bad reviews will really get my attention and then I want to see what the fuss is about!
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Screenplay. Screenplay. Screenplay. I think it’s the most difficult form of writing on earth, and I don’t know why I’m drawn to it. Sometimes it seems like such a futile exercise as the odds of selling a script, and then having it produced as a feature film are overwhelming. Yet, I persist for some crazy reason. I think it’s because I enjoy writing treatments, setting up my plot points, and seeing the hidden “symbolism” and visuals I could include in the story. But when it comes to writing the actual script, I find it very, very difficult. I’m too wordy; I want to describe things too much. Screenplays are my Mt. Everest.
Are you working on a new project?
I’m working on three: the second draft of a new novel set in both New Mexico and New Zealand; a screenplay (LOL) about a dysfunctional family and their last summer weekend together; and a nonfiction book on pet ownership. Of these three, the novel is my highest priority right now. The nonfiction book is a good project to work on when my energy for the novel is lagging, and it gives me plenty of inspiration for my artwork. The screenplay is “just because it’s there.” (Sometimes I wish it wasn’t.)
Do you have a recent or upcoming release? How about sharing a blurb with us.
My latest book, Overtaken is a gothic fantasy that came out in paperback just a few months ago. The Kindle version came out on July 31, a big step for me to enter the world of e-books! If you go to my Amazon.com listing for the book, you can check out the “Look Inside the Book” feature and read a selection there.
I also have a trailer for the book on Youtube.com as well as on my website www.valeriestorey.com, my blog www.valeriestorey.blogspot.com, and my Amazon Author Page. All of these sites also have my trailers for The Great Scarab Scam, an Egyptian mystery for young readers, and Better Than Perfect, a YA set in New Zealand. Did I mention I love making trailers?
Any advice for aspiring writers?
It’s such a terribly overused cliché, but I truly believe in: Write every day. I can’t overstress the importance of working not just on your WIP every day, but also doing a daily writing exercise. For the past few years my favorite thing has been to take a picture from a magazine (the stranger the photo the better) and then write anywhere from 3-5 pages about what I see or feel. Some days I’ll be in a fiction mood, other times I’ll write a poem or a personal essay about an incident in my childhood. But the point is to write from an attitude of surprise without any preconceived ideas of what I’m “supposed” to be doing. The benefit of this exercise is that not only is it super-fun, but many times what I’ve written finds its way into my current WIP. Whether it’s a description of a setting, a conflict scene, or a series of character biographies, I’m constantly amazed at what you can do with this exercise.
Most writers are avid readers. What are you reading right now?
Special Topics in Calamity Physics, a Novel, by Marisha Pessl. Now that’s what I call an experimental title! It’s a gothic mystery and absolute page-turner, and it’s totally ruining my life—I can’t put it down.
Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to talk about my work, Marilee! In return I’d like to tell your readers that from now until December 31, 2012, anyone who orders any of my books direct from my website, www.valeriestorey.com, will receive a FREE copy of The Essential Guide for New Writers, From Idea to Finished Manuscript. All they have to do is let me know they read your blog. Happy Writing!
Currently based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Valerie Storey is the author of eight books ranging from fiction for young readers to nonfiction for adults. Before moving to the Southwest, Valerie lived in Carrollton, Georgia, as well as in various parts of California, England, and New Zealand. Her most recent novel, Overtaken, was inspired by her time spent in London where she studied and researched art history at the National Gallery for two years.
Although her primary focus is now on writing, Valerie is also a creative writing teacher and freelance editor. Her how-to book, The Essential Guide for New Writers, From Idea to Finished Manuscript is based on her series of workshops. Valerie has taught in the graduate professional writing program at Kennesaw State University and has presented numerous workshops for the International Women’s Writing Guild.