Thank so much for joining me today, Valerie, it is a real pleasure to have this time with you! As I have read every one of your published books to date, I think I have come to know you fairly well, but I want everyone to get a chance to know you better!
So many people talk about Farm to Table these days, can you tell us how food – fresh food – became such a large focus in your life, therefore your writing?
Farm to table is how both my husband and I were raised. Both sets of parents gardened, hunted, cooked/baked from scratch, preserved food, etc. In our early years together, that lifestyle was our default since we had very little money! As we became more health conscious, our focus on gardening, farming, and beekeeping grew, even as many in our generation lost the skills. When the movement rolled back around again, we were ready! We’d been living it all our lives.
When I began writing in 2002, I hunted for my sweet spot, where “what I knew” and “what was popular” intersected with my favorite genre, contemporary romance. I found my niche with the blossoming interest in farmers markets and other local food initiatives. This lifestyle provides a fun setting for many of my stories.
Your books always have great insight to both the male and female characters. Do you find it hard to switch that train of thought off and on? Or does it run smoothly once you are writing away?
Thank you! I think I struggled with that much more when I began writing. Now I really try to dive into each character’s mind when I’m writing from their point of view. How does he or she see their circumstances? The other person? God’s role in their life? What’s their education and job experience and family life been like? What is the Myers-Briggs personality type? I feel those areas are as important as whether they are male or female. All of it together informs the way they’ll think, act, and speak. I simply (!) need to get inside their heads, no matter who they are.
I am curious, do you ever have difficulty when a character is not really, let’s say, “into” God?
A lot of people aren’t really “into God.” For my characters, about the only aspect I choose is where they are in their faith journey as the story opens. I determine if they’re a believer or not. If yes, are they a new believer? A struggling believer? In what area?
Then, I see and record how they react to the circumstances they find themselves in during the story. I often also learn what happened in their past to bring them to this spot. I do a lot of character work in advance, interviews and such, but I don’t actually plot the story. With the backdrop in place, it simply unfolds as I type.
Sometimes secondary characters take on a larger role than I’d expected. Sometimes they have a faith journey of their own. And, other times, I’m maneuvering these characters through several novels or most of a series, knowing where they need to be when I’m ready to start writing their own stories down the road!
How do you schedule your writing time? Or do you just write when you are able?
My husband works four days out of eight, and those are my writing days. I generally try to write a chapter each writing day, but sometimes I run into a snag (usually at about one-quarter-to-one-third of the way in) and then need to take a day or two out for a round of mind mapping or something similar to get rolling again. In the afternoons and/or when he’s home, I’ll do more of the marketing end of things. That also leaves non-working time for doing things together!
I know you have worked on multiple writing projects at the same time, how in the world do you keep all the people, places, and issues straight?
I generally have projects on the go in three different stages: planning, writing, and editing/publishing. Right now, for instance, I’m writing Flavors of Forever, my fall Urban Farm Fresh Romance release. Meanwhile, I’m editing a different novel. It’s just back from beta readers and needs to be to my editor next week, so I’m working on that in the afternoons and evenings. Meanwhile, my NEXT novel will be in the same series as the one in editing, so I’m looking for ideas to add to the pot simmering at the back of my mind… and adding bits of foreshadowing into the edits to build interest (both for me and for readers) for when it becomes my current focus.
Last year I had three series on the go at one time, alternating between them, and that was one too many. I do like having two, though! It keeps my creativity rolling. You asked how I keep everyone straight — basically through many pages of spreadsheets and character notes. Even though I’m writing in more than one series, they’re all interconnected, and characters cross over from time to time. Thus, one of my spreadsheets is a timeline so I can keep track of the “when” of each story as it relates to the other stories in the same series and in other series. Otherwise, how would I figure out how old the kids are (or the adults LOL), who’s already married, etc?
Yes, I’ve made it more complicated than it needs to be. But readers enjoy the surprise appearances by other characters, and I enjoy putting them in! So I’ll keep at it.
Tell us what you enjoy doing the most when you are not under pressure to meet a deadline.
Because I’m an indie author, there is always a deadline in front of me. As soon as one manuscript has been sent to beta readers, I start on the next one, pausing as needed to volley the previous one back to beta again or to my editor. So, when a story is turned in, the next week it is business as usual!
That means I have to make time for hobbies and life every day. My husband and I enjoy gardening and cooking together. We also love to take our little holiday trailer up in the mountains and park beside a burbling stream for a couple of days when we can. Or, if we’ve got a week or more, a visit to the ocean helps us regroup.
And then there’s spending time with our four grandgirls, ages eight and under. That’s always a highlight!
I love books that are series, where the characters continue to show up, so that I feel like they are friends and I can see how their lives are progressing. It is just one of the things I appreciate about your books. I was wondering, though do those series make it more difficult when you are writing each book or do you enjoy revisiting those friends as well?
I love that part, too. I love being able to cross from one series to another and drop in a cameo of another loved character. Does it make it harder? Not really, other than double checking the timeline to see “when” in their story it is, and how much time has passed in their story world.
When closing a series, I feel like I’m saying goodbye to good friends. That can be hard, you know? But when I suspect they might show up again in another story, even just to wave a hello, it feels more like “see you later” than “goodbye.”
I know that I feel like your characters become friends, but is that the same for you as the writer? Do you have any “favorite” characters from your books?
They are definitely my friends! Some of them resonate more closely with my personality or with something I’ve gone through, and that forges a deeper bond. Just seeing that typed out, it sounds silly! And yes, I do have a few favorites, even though I probably shouldn’t admit it. Some of my favorite heroes are Noel Kenzie from Wild Mint Tea, Rob Santoro from Other Than a Halo, and Kade Delgado from—oh, wait, I can’t talk about that book yet. Also, I’m looking forward to writing Peter Santoro’s story. He’s been in several of the Urban Farm Fresh Romances as a secondary character, and I can’t wait for his turn to come up for a happily-ever-after of his own. Probably not until 2019, though.
Finally – coffee or tea? Cream? Sugar?
Coffee… with cream, sweetener, and cocoa. In other words, homemade mocha fuels my writing brain.
Thank you so very much, Valerie, as always, it is a pleasure spending time with you!!