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Thursday, 19 May 2011

Author Interview with Valerie Douglas:

Hello Valerie. Please let us know something about you.
*gameshow voice* Well, Stuart, I’m happily married to my beloved husband of two years. We have two dogs (one psycho), three cats (one normal, one with one eye and one psycho-kitty. We also have an African clawed frog imaginatively named Hopper who, oddly enough, doesn’t hop at all, he swims. *grin*
I know you write sensual and erotic fantasy; perhaps you’d you give us some insight into Demon’s Kiss in a few sentences.
*laughing* I write epic, heroic, mythic and romantic, as well as sensual and erotic fantasy, Why does everyone always ask about the sexy ones?
Demon’s Kiss, though, was a great lot of fun to write, simply for the idea of taking what was commonly assumed to be the bad guy and making him the good guy.
How did you come to write this particular book?
Almost all my books come from a particular scene that pops into my head. In the case of Demon’s Kiss it’s the scene where Gabriel first sees Asmodeus. The reader, Gabriel and I start from that first vision of this immensely powerful demon, who’s chained but not cowed. He’s also naked. Hence the erotic part.
If you have a favourite character in your novel, why that particular one?
In the beginning, of course, it was Asmodeus, but by the end I was already seeing and falling in love with Ashtoreth. He’s the tortured hero but not angst-ridden as so many are these days. As with warriors in real life, he’s just trying to live the best way he can.
Where and when is this novel set and why did you make these specific choices?
Strangely, when I write erotic romance, while there might be fantasy elements, I almost always write contemporary as opposed to otherworldly. There’s also nearly always a subtext to my books, a concept or idea I’m trying to get across.
Where can people buy your book?
Demon’s Kiss is available almost anywhere―including from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave ―just search for my pseudonym, V. J. Devereaux. All of my Valerie Douglas books are available on Kindle, Nook, via Smashwords, etc. Just type my name in the search.
What qualities does a writer need to be successful?
Determination. It’s the one quality every writer needs. The determination to take that novel you’ve written to completion, then to edit it and polish it, to gather up the courage to stick it in an envelope, and face the inevitable rejection letters until the one where someone says “Yes.”
What’s your working method?
*smiles* I’m what some call a ‘pantser, I write by the ‘seat of my pants, I don’t plot or outline. The first idea comes in a flash of a scene and I run with it for as long as the muse is willing to dance with me. I’ve learned not to try to direct it but to simply be a part of it, transcribing what I see and experience with all my characters. I wrote the first draft of my epic fantasy in one great rush, 72 straight hours without sleep, only coffee.
That first draft informs the second draft and I almost always take that second run at it right away, filling in the details I picked up from the first draft, or expanding descriptions or characters. Then I walk away from it for a while, give myself some space. If the characters or story still call me, I’ll go back and make additions.
Finally, there’s the editing/polishing draft. Like all writers I have baaaaad habits. Too many thats, using that instead of who. Starting a sentence with There was. Not using active verbs―using walked instead of walking. Using begin or began―people don’t begin to do things, they DO them.  I have a whole list I go through. It’s also a great way to take yourself out of the book to catch other mistakes or to rewrite sentences for clarity.
What’s the single biggest mistake made by beginner writers?
That last step, absolutely. Most beginner writers think the story is done when they’re done writing it but that’s only the beginning. The second mistake is forgetting that writing is an art, publishing is a business. Business isn’t interested in art, it’s interested in making money. If selling books is your definition of success, as it is for most of us, then you can’t forget that.
To what extent are grammar and spelling important in writing?
Well, if you want people to read it and understand it, it’s crucial.
How much do you revise your MS before sending it off?
A lot, see answer 8. And that would be for a book like Demon’s Kiss. Something like The Coming Storm had twenty three drafts by my count. It originally had a prologue, which is now a separate novella, Not Magic Enough.
As a writer of fantasy, to what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world?
Genre is definition, not for the writer but for the prospective reader. Without it, they’d drown in novels, with no method for separating them. Unfortunately, genre can also be perception―ask any romance writer if they sometimes feel disparaged, if their writing is sometimes considered light or frivolous no matter how serious the subject.
Many authors see marketing as a bind. What's your opinion on this, and how do you deal with it?
Marketing can be tough or easy depending on how you view it. Some of it, like this, can be fun. Some―like searching for all the sites where you need to post information about your book―can be pretty tedious. If the muse doesn’t wake me up with a hot idea, I do the marketing stuff in the morning, with the promise of a glass of wine and writing later. My muse really likes a glass of merlot to get her going. *laughing*
How do you know where to begin a given story?
That’s not my choice, it begins where it begins. With The Coming Storm it was the ending, the scene in the Council Chamber. If you ever read it you’ll know the scene I’m talking about. Then I had to know how they’d gotten there to that place, who were these people? Finding out was a wonderful adventure. It took a while for me to accept that the prologue wasn’t necessary to the book but I loved the story of Delae and Dorovan, and then suddenly I had their story. On the other hand, Heart of the Gods opened with the first scene and just took off from there.
What sort of displacement activities keep you from writing?
Anything. I make jokes about my ADD―attention deficit disorder―but it’s very real. I’m very easily distracted, but if the muse is dancing it’s the one time I can be focused. A loud noise, movement can and has pulled me out, and I’m nearly a basket case until I can get back into the story. Which brings us to the next question. *grinning*
What support, if any, do you receive from family and friends, or a writing group?
Bless my husband, he’s incredibly patient and supportive, most of the time. If he was a reader he’d be beyond perfect but I’m blessed with a number of Facebook friends and fans who act as my beta readers and cheerleading squad.
Do you think presentation of the MS is as important as agents and publishers suggest?
It is for them! And if you’re sitting in front of them trying to get them to take your MS, it is for you, too. That’s reality.
How long does it take you to write a novel?
*grins* Until it’s done. The first draft can take as little as week of nonstop writing, but I wrote the first draft of Cooking Class (soon to be released erotic romance) in a weekend, dove right into the second draft and polished it the following weekend. It still holds up.
Who or what inspires you?
Everything. People. The kinds of people who went charging into the World Trade Center towers. Nelson Mandela―he was in prison for years, dreaming of the end of apartheid, when they finally let him out he wasn’t angry, just determined. Harper Lee, who wrote a single book, To Kill a Mockingbird, and changed the way a whole nation viewed race in the simple story of a child’s coming of age.
If there’s a single aspect of writing you find really frustrating, what is it?
That some think it’s easy, that anyone can do it. I’ve always believed that if I’m not feeling it, the reader won’t feel it. If they’re going to be moved, you have to be moved. I’ve written about difficult situations, extremely painful ones. There have been times I’ve been in tears. Then there’s the time and effort of getting published, of facing rejection letters and bad reviews, of handing off my baby to someone who may not love it as much as I do.
Is there a particular feature of writing that you really enjoy?
When the muse is with me and the images are flowing, there’s nothing like it, it’s the ultimate high. To enter that world, to listen to the conversations, to be a part of it and bring my readers with me is an incredible and indescribable experience, like watching and being in that world. It’s amazing.
Do you believe writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?
Writing is an art and so a natural gift. Anyone can learn the mechanics of writing, can even write a novel, but to really bring a reader into it, to draw them with you, that takes passion. For example, the DaVinci Code was hugely popular, but do the characters still speak to you?  Now, think of the classics. Don’t a dozen characters leap to mind? I just recently had a fan e-mail me asking where the sequel to The Coming Storm was. She needed to know what happened to the characters next. That’s magic!
What are you writing now?
I’ve got three or four projects in the works. The aforementioned sequel (A Convocation of Kings) is in the final, polishing draft, and I’ve started a prequel to the entire series. I also have an idea for a sequel to Heart of the Gods but that’s still in the mulling it over phase.
Do you have a website or blog readers can visit?
Given unlimited resources, where would you do your writing?
Right where I’m at, honestly. Tropical breezes would be tempting but wasted if I can’t enjoy them, and they’d be too distracting.
Where do you actually write?
I have a writing room, and that’s its only purpose. It’s decorated the way I like it, comfortably cluttered with books and research. I have a cup heater for my coffee and blinds I can draw. Once my headphones are in place, the sound blocking is on and the right music is keyed up, I’m ready to write. 

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