Thanks to Valerie Comer for allowing me to share this interview on my blog.
Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.
Valerie writes Farm Lit where food meets faith, injecting experience laced with humor into her stories. Raspberries and Vinegar, first in her series A Farm Fresh Romance, released in August, 2013.
You can connect with Valerie at her website and blog at http://valeriecomer.com, where you can join her newsletter list to access exclusive contests, giveaways, and news on upcoming releases.
Janice: Hi Valerie. Thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview with me. I look forward to getting to know you a little better over a virtual cup of tea. I’m having Green Tea with a touch of honey; what kind would you like?
VALERIE: Hmm. I think I’ll have mint tea, if you don’t mind. It seems to be a flavor that’s on my mind a lot lately, for some reason. And honey from a nearby hive is always a boon to this beekeeper.
Janice: Have you always loved writing or did you arrive at it more recently?
VALERIE: I’ve always loved the idea of writing, at least. As a kid, I started a lot of stories but never finished them. In the time Before Internet (remember the BI era?), I took a writing correspondence course and repeatedly checked the how-to-write books out of my local library.
But nothing really propelled me forward until I landed a job in a small-town flooring shop in 2002. I quickly saw that I needed a way to fill many hours a day. If I was ever going to get beyond the vague dream of writing to the reality of it, this was the time. Thankfully the Internet had been invented by then and I learned the practical tools that got me started. Several manuscripts later, I began finaling in contests.
My first sale, a novella in Rainbow’s End, released from Barbour in 2012. In 2013, Raspberries and Vinegar, the first novel in my Farm Fresh Romance series, released from Choose Now Publishing. Wild Mint Tea continues the saga of three young women who buy a farm together with the intention of proving to the world that they can live sustainably with a focus on local food.
Janice: Why do you write? What’s your motivation/purpose?
VALERIE: It took me a while to discover that. At first, I wrote to fill the time at work. Then I discovered more ideas and more characters crowding into my head, demanding an exit point. Now I feel I’ve found my niche, writing farm lit from a Christian worldview. I believe God has given me a unique background and interest in farming, writing, and local foods for a purpose—that of sharing this intersection with others.
Janice: What kinds of books do you write and who is your intended audience?
VALERIE: I write contemporary romance with a light, humorous touch. Because my stories land where food meets faith, my audience is mostly younger women who desire to lead a “green” life and are avidly concerned about where their food comes from. They wonder how those interests in sustainability fit in with their spiritual beliefs, or even if they relate at all.
I’m here to show them that food and faith do meet, and give them the opportunity of watching characters struggle with the today’s environmental issues. Falling in love, laughing, and crying along with the characters is part of the package.
Janice: When you’re planning a new book, what comes first, the story or the characters?
VALERIE: I’ll go with the answer behind Door Number Three. You didn’t even know there was a third choice, I bet! I tend to be a setting or idea-first writer. My first step was to envision Green Acres Farm and what it stood for. What the generic owners wanted to accomplish, and how the neighbors around them felt about the situation.
Then I came up with some scenarios…the beginnings of plots…and basically auditioned characters to see who had the unique personalities and motivations to make Green Acres Farm a reality.
A fictional reality. Yes, I do remember it’s not quite real. 😉
Janice: How do you develop characters? Are they composites of certain people or strictly from your imagination? Or do you create characters to inhabit your story?
VALERIE: I guess I answered the last part of your question in the previous section. The characters come last, to act out the plot. That sounds so simple and clear-cut, but it isn’t at all. Just as though they were real people auditioning for a part, they come with all their baggage and, once they’re on the set, they unpack and let it all hang out.
I get to know them by interviewing them and learning their GMCs (goals, motivations, and conflicts) before starting to write, but they always store up some surprises for later. Then they turn wide innocent eyes on me. “Oh, did I forget to mention that? Now you know why I can’t possibly (fill in the blank).”
And the plot veers off into left field, because even though the characters arrived last, it doesn’t take them long to grab control and run the whole show.
“With humor and poignancy, Valerie Comer draws readers into her characters’ lives, and in no time, they feel like old friends,” says Loree Lough of Wild Mint Tea, and many reviewers of Raspberries and Vinegar say something similar.
Janice: Would you tell us a bit about yourself — home, family, hobbies, talents, other interests? Anything you think your readers would be interested in.
VALERIE: My husband and I own a small farm in southeastern BC, Canada, where we raise a lot of our own food. Our two kids are married and have provided us with three wonderful little granddaughters. We’re so blessed that our son lives on our farm with his wife and toddler, because that allows me to get a “grandma fix” whenever I need one. Also help on the farm as needed!
I’m addicted to my little girls. I love to read to them, play with them, cook with them, and bounce on the trampoline with them. They’re also a big reason I care so much about where our food comes from. I want to give these precious children the healthiest possible life!
When not being wife, mom, grandmother, farmer, or gardener, I…seriously? There’s more to life? That just about covers it.
Okay, I also love to read, take photos, and create websites. I’m a freelance book marketer online, and am very blessed to be part of a creation-care-centric church. Hubby and I enjoy taking our little holiday trailer out beside a mountain stream for the weekend when we can get away from the farm (not nearly often enough).
Janice: Tell us about your writing schedule. Sounds like you are a very busy woman, so how do you make it all work?
VALERIE: Every day it’s a new struggle, all over again. When I’m “in the groove,” I get up and write for an hour or two first thing in the morning before getting sucked into the online world of marketing, email, and social media. However, the to-do list never quite goes away and sometimes, like right now when I’m doing a lot of guest blogging and interviews for the release of Wild Mint Tea, my actual writing sits on the back burner for a few weeks. Somehow all those juggling balls stay up in the air. So far.
Janice: Would you tell us about your book Wild Mint Tea? What is the book about and where did you get the inspiration for it?
VALERIE: Wild Mint Tea is the second novel in the Farm Fresh Romance series. The inspiration for it started several years ago when the Green Acres Farm setting began coalescing in my mind. I wanted a chef to face the challenges of cooking with local foods way off in a rural area. And, instead of pairing her with a cooking dolt or mocker, I decided her guy needed to be a good cook in his own right. Don’t worry, I found plenty of other ways to give their relationship challenges:
She’s rooted deep. He flies free.
Local-foods chef Claire Halford envisions turning Green Acres Farm into an event destination. Weddings prove trickier than she imagined when the first one comes with a ruggedly handsome brother-of-the-bride, who has everything but a fixed address. Oh, and faith in God.
Noel Kenzie loves the freedom his reforestation company affords him. Why worry about deep stuff like God and commitment when he’s in his prime? Except there’s a woman who might make it worth giving up his wings…and digging in some roots. If he dares.
Janice: What is the best thing about being a writer, in your opinion? What is the part of the craft of writing you like the most?
VALERIE: The best part, I think, is that my mind is always working and learning new things. There’s no time to be bored.
I love the rush of beginning the work on a new project. You know, at the stage where it’s all shiny and new and fantastic because I haven’t made any mistakes yet. (Because I haven’t started writing yet…) I also love the rush of turning in a novel I’m proud of. In between, it’s a lot of work!
Janice: Now, the question I love to ask: what is the most difficult part of writing for you?
VALERIE: I used to find revision the hardest part. Thankfully, I’m writing cleaner than I used to, so I have less mess to clean up in that stage. Honestly, I think the most difficult part of writing is being consistent. Just sitting down and eking out one or two thousand words, day after day, for weeks and weeks on end. It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint.
Janice: Valerie, what other kinds of writing do you do besides fiction? [blogs, courses, etc.]
VALERIE: In the dozen years that I’ve been seriously writing, I’ve learned that my methods are different than other people’s. I’ve seen so much advice that assumes we all work the same or else “you’re doing it wrong.” Whatever works is doing it right! As a setting-first planner as well as a halfway-between-plotter-and-pantser writer, I have a lot of respect for writers that don’t fit the mold.
Those are some of the reasons I started http://towriteastory.com, where I blog weekly on some aspect of planning, plotting, writing, editing, publishing, or marketing fiction. I also offer a free fiction-writing course by email walking through those six stages. It’s not meant to be a definitive in-depth course. Rather, it’s a solid overview of the various steps along the way, while realizing that everyone’s path is a bit different.
I also blog at http://valeriecomer.com/blog and am a regular contributor on four other sites:
Inspy Romance: http://inspyromance.com
Choose Now Ministries: http://nicoleodell.com/valerie-comer-on-being-green/
Not Quite Amish Living: http://notquiteamishliving.com/author/valeriecomer/
International Christian Fiction Writers: http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com/
Janice: Can you give us an idea of what comes next in your writing career? What is your current work in progress (or should I say works)?
VALERIE: I’m hard at work on Sweetened with Honey, the third book in the Farm Fresh Romance series, which releases in early 2015. I’m also nearly ready to turn in a novella for Snowflake Tiara, a Christmas duo I’m writing with Angela Breidenbach that releases in September. Yes, I’m writing a Christmas story about a beauty pageant, and it fits my brand of farm lit. You’ll need to read it to see how!
Janice: Since I’m in the midst of a writing life too, I would love to know what kinds of social media you use and which you consider to be the most beneficial and effective?
VALERIE: I have a toe in most aspects of social media, but it’s not without its frustrations. I had great hopes that building my Facebook page would be a good strategy, but Facebook recently began showing my updates to 2-3% of my fans, way down from the 20-30% that saw them several months ago, and immeasurably far from the 100% I’d like to reach. Sure, I could pay them for an expanded reach, but the process is fundamentally flawed. Facebook has their own interests, and they don’t care about me. Shocker!
My main goal these days is to build my email list. I send a letter once a month and am trying to provide real incentive for signing up—and then real value for continuing on. I offer a PDF booklet “Seasons from My Kitchen” upon joining, and exclusive contests, giveaways, and/or sneak peeks in every issue. http://valeriecomer.com/connect/enewsletter/
As for Facebook, I’m still there, but mostly as a person who likes hanging out with friends. I’m focusing more on Twitter than I had been and, while I have a Pinterest profile and a bunch of boards (including one for the Farm Fresh Romance series! http://www.pinterest.com/valeriecomer/farm-fresh-romance/) I don’t spend as much time there as I’d like.
What I’m really trying to do, though, is write another book. A better book. One that will attract new readers, new fans, and new addresses to my list. Ultimately, it’s all about the book!
Janice: Thanks for taking this time to give us a glimpse into your personal and writing life. I wish you all the best as you continue writing.
VALERIE: I really enjoyed visiting with you today. Thanks for asking some insightful questions. I’ll swing back later and see if any of your visitors have anything they’d like to add to the conversation.
Connect with Valerie at:
Website and Blog: http://valeriecomer.com
Her social media links are also available on her website, where you can join her newsletter list. Please visit.
* Please note: this Goodreads giveaway is available in the U.S.A. only.