Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance. This week, I am so happy to welcome Valerie Comer back to us! Valerie is a fellow foodie, a friend, and will be in a Christmas box set with me due to come out in the next couple of months. I always love having her here!
Tell us a little bit about yourself: Hi, Hallee’s friends! I’m glad to be back. I’m a farmer, foodie, and author from British Columbia, Canada. I’m thrilled to be able to help provide tasty and nutritious food from our farm and garden for our three young grandgirls. It’s so important to give them a good start in life, isn’t it! I love to bring stories featuring fresh local food and sustainability to my readers, as well.
Tell us about your current release: Plum Upside Down is the fifth book in my Farm Fresh Romance series. The series began with three young women banding together to buy a farm to prove to everyone that they could grow their own food and live sustainably. The women’s vision has grown along with the farm, and Plum Upside Down features Chelsea, the sister of one of the original three.
Chelsea has lived a safe life in an upscale Portland neighborhood, where she’d attended a Christian school — plus church, every time the doors opened. Joining the team at Green Acres Farm feels like a big step to her, even though it’s really not that much different in terms of remaining sheltered. Her faith has never been challenged until she meets Keanan Welsh, an overgrown hippie who is passionate about reaching outside the bubble to help those less fortunate, whether in North America… or in Africa. Through Keanan, Chelsea begins to see what is lacking in her Christian life, but how far out of her comfort zone is she willing to go?
As you can see, the main themes in this story aren’t food/sustainability themes, but the backdrop of the farm and its mission permeates everything that happens. While you’ll probably want to read all of the books in this series, Plum Upside Down can be read as a standalone. However, if you want to start at the beginning, Raspberries and Vinegar is free for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Kobo.
How did you determine whether to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher? Traditional was the only game in town when I began writing about fifteen years ago. I did land that elusive contract from Barbour for a novella in Rainbow’s End, a 4-story collection, which released in 2012. I was sure this would open all sorts of doors! But it didn’t. In 2013, a very small house picked up the first two books in my Farm Fresh Romance series, but the rights reverted to me a year later due to dismal sales. I believed in the books and had more stories to tell in that setting so I took the jump into indie publishing in July of 2014. God has been so good at connecting the right readers with this series. It now sells quite well and has many loyal fans. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m thankful for every step of the way.
Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful? I don’t, really. That’s one of the things I love about being an indie author. I feel there is a large enough readership who might be interested in my books, if only they knew the stories existed. As an indie, I stand (and fall) on my own choices. Anything I choose to put in my stories might lose some readers… or gain others. So, which readers do I want to attract? I focus on those, stay true to God and what He’s called me to do, and then don’t waste time worrying about those who would like my stories better if they had more sex, less God… or whatever.
What is your personal, most effective way to get past writer’s block? Three steps.
1. Get off Facebook. 😉
2. Ask God what He wants to teach readers and me through this part of the story.
3. Doodle on my three-by-four foot whiteboard with dry-erase pens in many pretty colors, looking for interconnecting thoughts and ideas.
Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? I’ve recently finished my nineteenth manuscript (Team Bride, a Riverbend Romance Novella due out in September) and, the more I write, the less I plot in advance. I have a good handle on the setting for both of my current series, and do spend time getting to know the characters a bit before I start. Once I have a few ideas of how to create conflict between the couple, I jump in. I love writing this way! I hope readers are as pleasantly surprised as I am with some of the twists and turns I didn’t see coming.
Do you write your books for your own enjoyment or more for what you think people would want to read? I look for the sweet spot between the two. Like everyone else, my husband and I have bills to pay, so I can’t ignore the market, especially since writing is my fulltime job. However, it takes a long time to write a book. Plum Upside Down was my main task for three full months of first draft work, and subsequent drafts also took time. I couldn’t bear the thought of writing strictly for the market if the work would feel like it was sucking my soul dry. The Riverbend novella series has been fun to intersperse between the longer Farm Fresh Romances. They’re lighter on the farm-and-food themes, because I do have other stories in me as well. However, the Farm Fresh series has been such a success that I’m planning a spin-off series that will start releasing in 2016. So, in this case, I can follow both my own passions and what readers are buying.
Which of your characters most reflects your personality? Authors will tell you that there’s a tiny bit of themselves in every character, but it is usually impossible for readers to pick out which bit. For me, Chelsea in Plum Upside Down struck a bit close to home. I also lived quite a sheltered life with conservative Christian parents, a Christian boarding school during high school, then three semesters of Bible college. I had a lot of head knowledge and, yes, quite a bit of heart knowledge, too. But it is easy to get into a rut, at least for me, and over the years I’ve struggled to truly believe in God’s personal love for me. Corporate love? Sure. God loves His creation. He sent Jesus to die for us because He loves us. But there have been times I didn’t feel the One-on-one love I craved deep inside. Remember, I don’t plot! When I realized where Chelsea’s story was taking me, I admit to being a bit nervous. How could I give her a happy spiritual ending when I don’t always feel I have a solid grip on it myself? While her story is definitely not the same as mine, I’m so thankful that God met me through the pages of Plum Upside Down and deepened my walk with Him. If you read Plum Upside Down and find Chelsea’s spiritual journey meaningful, I’d love to hear about it!
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