|Author interview with Valerie Comer
||[Aug. 1st, 2013|09:02 am]
Today I welcome Valerie Comer to my blog where she is going to answer a few questions about her life, writing and reading.
Valerie writes Farm Lit with the voice of experience laced with humor. Raspberries and Vinegar, first in her series A Farm Fresh Romance, released August 1, 2013
Thanks so much for inviting me over, Dale! I've always wanted to visit Australia but, for now, I'll have to settle for a virtual visit. It might be a good idea for me to come from a hot Canadian summer into your Aussie winter! (I'm not so fond of heat.)
1. What comes first for you, character or plot?
Neither! The very first thing for me is usually a mix of setting and theme. I get an idea of the type of story I want to write then begin to "interview" characters to see who will fit into it. Most writers may find that backward, but hey, it's the way my brain works. So long as it DOES work, I won't complain too much.
2. Was their a particular incident, place or monument that first sparked your thinking for this novel?
I almost never remember my dreams, but this one time I did.
It was in May 2009 and I was thinking about going to my first American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference. I wanted something new to pitch. I'd been mulling for a few days about switching genres from speculative fiction to contemporary romance, which seemed to be selling better. I'm a farm girl with no interest in big cities, where most books seemed to be set. But how could I write contemporary novels and still be true to myself?
I had a lovely dream in which I sat across from Tina James of Love Inspired (the inspirational arm of Harlequin) and pitched a 3-book series. She loved it! She jumped up, hugged me, and signed me on the spot! I lay there in bed waking up from this sweet, pleasant dream, and my eyes popped open wide. Not only did I remember the dream, but I remembered the series I'd pitched to her. A series about three young women who bought a farm and wanted to prove to the world that they could grow their own food and live sustainably on the face of the earth.
I developed the idea and pitched it to Tina at that conference months later. She smiled, shook her head, and said Love Inspired wasn't interested in "issues" stories. So while that dream didn't exactly come true, the stories had taken a deep hold on my heart and mind.
3. Do you start with a novel outline or start with a character and vague idea and then flesh it out as you go along?
Oh, Dale. I've written 11 novels now, and I'm still figuring out how I work! I like to think I'm very organized in my real life, so I assumed I'd plot my stories out carefully. However, when I try to do this, I see huge black clouds. If I push through/around/under/over those black clouds, I come up with ideas that don't work, characters who refuse to do my bidding, and contorted messes.
However, I am also not a seat-of-the-pants writer. I've tried it several times and I simply can't find the story that way, either. I wander in the wilderness for weeks with little coherency in what I've written.
These days I do a lot of mindmapping early in the thought process, interview the characters to determine their GMC (goals, motivations, conflicts), make a list of potential conflicts (trying to pinpoint the bigger ones that will serve as pivots), plot the first few chapters, and write.
It's still messy. I still go off on tangents. But it's the only way I know to get a solid (ish) first draft in under 3 months.
4. I love the title Raspberries and Vinegar. Did you have that to start with or did it evolve as you went along?
My working title was Domino's Game. Domino is the puppy on the cover, and he's very important to the plot. But "everyone" agreed it wasn't the best title for a contemporary romance. Still, it took several days of tossing around ideas with my publisher, editor, cover artist, and family members to come up with something that everyone loved. My eyes and fingers seemed welded to the text function on my phone during that time!
5. Did you grow up on a farm or have you ever lived on one?
My parents farmed in Manitoba, Canada, until I was about 7 years old, so my earliest memories are of farm life. My husband's parents bought a small farm in British Columbia, Canada, in the mid-70s. Jim and I lived in a mobile home on the place for several years while our kids were young and then bought the farm in 2000. These days our son, along with his wife and 1-year-old, live across the yard in a newer mobile. They hope to buy the farm from us when we retire, which won't be for another decade or so. I hope to stay acquainted with this piece of land for the rest of my life!
6. Your border collie on the cover reminded me of one we used to own. Do you have a border collie or any other sort of pet?
We have a Lab cross that was born about the same time as Domino. Many of Domino's puppy antics can be ascribed to Brody. Our neighbors have 2 Border collies who work their cattle and sheep. It is an absolute joy to watch them move stock from one pasture to another or round up escapees.
7. Do you have music playing while writing?
Never! Next question?!
8. What do you hope readers will gain from reading Raspberries and Vinegar?
I'd like to encourage people to think more about the intersection of food and faith. Do your Christian beliefs affect your food choices?
9. Where is your favourite place to write?
For 12 years I wrote in a back corner of a small-town flooring shop but, since November 2012, I've been writing at home in a "spare" bedroom that I share with my 3-year-old granddaughter when she visits. My desk sits under a west-facing window. I look out over my vegetable garden, our pasture, our neighbors' farm (where I'm sometimes lucky enough to catch a glimpse of their dogs at work), and the mountains beyond. It's an inspiring view.
10. Do you read fiction while working on a novel? Or do you tend towards reading non fiction or poetry?
For years I only read fiction when I wasn't actively first-drafting, limiting myself to nonfiction (mostly writing how-tos). In the past few years, though, I've been able to separate the parts of my brain and enjoy an hour or so of reading, usually fiction, every evening.
11. What are you currently reading?
At the moment I'm reading Rachel Hauck's contemporary romance "Once Upon a Prince," a fun story about a "real life" prince who falls in love with an ordinary girl from Georgia.
12. This one and the next one uses food items in the title. Does this mean you like to cook and what is a specialty dish of yours?
I do like to cook, but more than that, I love local food in season. This time of year, summer in Canada, I head out to the garden every afternoon to see what needs picking, then plan my supper menu around that. A plentitude of green beans? They love a quick sauté in olive oil with garlic. An abundance of eggplant? Sliced, slathered with olive oil and garlic, and slapped on the grill. (Are you sensing a pattern? LOL) Summer cooking is about simple meals with fresh veggies and whatever meat on the grill goes well with them. Being on the farm, the freezer is usually full of beef, pork, chicken, and lamb. Lots of choices!
13. What is the most helpful advice about writing you have ever received?
To take my time and learn at my own pace.
This was before instant selfpublishing on Amazon was available. Now I hear people say they're almost finished writing their (first ever) novel and will upload it to Amazon by the end of the week. That's crazy talk! Slow down, people. Get a critique group, learn to look at your work objectively, revise it until it shines.
It's taken you (the general you, Dale, not you!) a lot of time to write a novel and you want to share it with the world. I get that. But why waste the time you've already spent by slapping something up that isn't the best you're capable of? There's so much to learn. Make sure you'll still be proud of this work in five years before you toss it online.
14. Who are some of your favourite authors?
I love fast-paced romance stories with a little (or a lot!) of humor in them. My favorite historical authors are Mary Connealy and Lorna Seilstad. With either gal, I know I'll get a rollicking good read with a bit of interesting history tossed in.
In contemporary, I love Trish Perry, Janice Thompson, Sandra Bricker, Cheryl Wyatt, Ruth Logan Herne. . .wow, the list could go on and on. Krista Phillips is an up-and-coming author to watch. I adored her debut, "Sandwich with a Side of Romance."
15. What is the most important motivation for your writing?
The belief that God has orchestrated my life, my family, and my passions to create a unique viewpoint, and He's done it so that I can portray it to others through the medium of story telling. I use my novels to look at various angles of today's food issues and wrap it all up in enough humor, I hope, to lighten the tone.
Sometimes I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. I want everyone to be aware of the staggering problems in the planet's food production. But then I'm reminded that changing the world is not what God called me to do. He doesn't need me to do His work for Him. He simply invites me to work beside Him and watch His plans unfold. It's too big for me, a mere mortal.
Did you get that?
God doesn't need you (or me) to do His work. He wants us, but He doesn't need us.
Whatever He's called us to do, it's our job to be faithful. He'll manage the heavy lifting. Can I get an amen?
Amen. Thanks Valerie for coming along today and for your insights. Both Valerie and I would love to hear your comments on this interview. You can buy Raspberries and Vinegar: (includes links to various stores/versions)
Buy through Choose NOW Publishing:
Or you can contact Valerie at
• Website: http://valeriecomer.com
• Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/valeriecomer.author
• Twitter: http://twitter.com/valeriecomer http://twitter.com/towritestory
• Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/valeriecomer
• Blog: http://valeriecomer.com/blog
• Writing Blog & Free eCourse: http://towriteastory.com