Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance. For those of you who know me as Hallee the Homemaker, you KNOW how excited I am to introduce you to Valerie Comer. Valerie has a passion for whole food, real food – much like me – and makes it a focus of her family life. I LOVE meeting other real food foodies. And, I absolutely adore the fact that Valerie incorporates this into her writing. She also is a contributor, along with me, at Inspy Romance blog. Please welcome her to my blog, and enjoy her interview as much as I did.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
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 Farm Fresh Romance stories.
Tell us about your current release.
Wild Mint Tea is the second book in the Farm Fresh Romance series, which follows the lives, romantic and otherwise, of three young women who buy a farm together to show the world they can grow their own food and live sustainably.
Wild Mint Tea finds chef Claire Halford hosting weddings at Green Acres Farm, but the first bride comes with a globe-trotting brother. Noel Kenzie’s reforestation company provides him the means to enjoy life. This is no time for him to settle down…or Claire to spread her wings.
How did you make the initial step into writing your first novel? What were some of your major roadblocks and how did you overcome them?
I toyed around with writing for many years with vague dreams of becoming a published novelist. I’d go into my local library and take out all the books on writing. We moved a lot so the selection varied, but was rarely more than five books. I’d read them and take them back to the library, unsure of how to apply the advice.
In 2002 I landed a job in a small-town flooring shop and soon realized I had many empty hours a day. I loved the clients and my bosses, who thankfully realized there was only so much dusting a gal could do. They were happy I could entertain myself between bursts of activity! So I did what I’d always done: went to the library.
This time was different. Not the how-to-write selection so much, but the Internet had been invented and I had a stronger drive than before. I settled in to study what I could and wrote my first (very bad) novel that year, took what I’d learned, and applied it to the next one. My fifth novel finaled in ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Genesis contest for unpublished writers. I kept learning but turned my focus toward publication.
My first big roadblock turned out to be an inability to learn how to plot.
Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write?
This was the problem. Early writing advice indicated that one was either a plotter or a pantser (a seat-of-the-pants writer). My first novel was mostly pantsed. I had a few vague ideas of the story, but I mostly jumped in and started writing. Every time I got stuck (often) I’d think a bit and then find some direction to go. I learned two very important things from that story: that I could, indeed, get to 100,000 words, and that I wasn’t a pantser. I’ve never even read that first story again. It’s a disaster.
I wasn’t a pantser, so I must be a plotter. I set out to learn how to do this, but I felt like I was staring at a black wall at night. I’d have some vague ideas but just couldn’t see past them. I beat my head against that black wall for several more books. It was very frustrating.
Eventually I realized something I should have figured out much earlier. Plotting and pantsing aren’t the only games in town. There’s an entire spectrum between them, and most writers fall closer to one end than the other. It turns out my “best practices” are very close to the center.
I’ve finally learned how to do the right amount of pre-planning for me and then jump in, trusting God and my imagination to keep the story afloat. Here’s an article I wrote on my method: Plotting with GMC.
What do you do when you hit a roadblock and have NO idea what to write?
Because I’ve now written 11 complete novels and a novella, I’ve begun to trust that something will come to mind. Sometimes I sit with my fingers poised on the keyboard, knowing where (in general) the story needs to go but bored at the moment. If I’m bored, my reader will likely be bored, too, and decide now is a good time to polish the silver—does anyone do that anymore?
At any rate, bored is a bad thing for all concerned. So I search for something unexpected, toss it in, and run with it. I love it when readers tell me they “totally didn’t see that coming.” Especially when I can reply, “neither did I!”
Do you write your books for your own enjoyment or more for what you think people would want to read?
Traditional publishers believe readers want “the same, but different.” They want familiar with a slight twist. I think indie publishing has proven that isn’t always the case, but I can see why big houses have trouble embracing something truly different from what they’ve released before. It’s a big risk for the whole business with many people’s paychecks on the line.
However, I don’t fit really well into the mold. Not in real life, and not in my stories. So my answer to the question is that I write the stories I would like to find on the shelves. I’d like to think there are more readers who are willing to stretch a little way out of the box!
Who do you envision your typical reader to be?
My typical reader is a believing woman between the ages of 25 and 40 who cares about the food she eats and serves her family, focusing on real ingredients—possibly organic, local, and seasonal food. She has begun to realize there is a point where food meets faith and is willing to go exploring in that neighborhood.
What is your inspiration for writing?
My kids and my grandkids. I’m very passionate about food and distraught about the prevalence of junk food, GM (genetically modified) food, and obesity. My kids are equally passionate and determined to raise their little ones on the healthiest possible fare.
To that end we live on a 40-acre farm, where our son’s family has recently joined us. Our daughter’s family lives about 85 miles away, but also partially depends on produce from our farm. We grow and preserve a large garden, raise animals for eggs and meat, keep bees for honey, and grow a variety of nuts and fruit.
They say to write what you know. I know farming and food. I know there are many young people concerned about the environment and food, and I have a deep conviction to write stories exploring these topics from a Christian point of view.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Write. Explore. Try different methods and genres. When you find what works for you, run with it. Don’t expect your first story to be great, or even your second. Learn from others: from critique partners, contests, courses, and books on craft.
Even having a book (or ten) published doesn’t mean you’ve arrived. There’s always more to learn. There’s no excuse for stagnation, which delights and challenges me.
If you’re a beginning writer or even a more experienced one looking to explore other methods, I invite you to sign up for my free course on fiction writing at To Write a Story. You’ll get a lesson a week via email for 41 weeks. It’s an overview of the various steps involved in planning, plotting, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing fiction—while acknowledging that everyone’s path is different.
Thanks so much for inviting me here today, Hallee! Readers, what are you passionate about? How do you share that fervor with others?
Find Valerie online:
Win an ebook copy of Wild Mint Tea or Raspberries and Vinegar!
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I’m so grateful for your visit, today. If you’d like to receive a weekly email of blog posts and popular social media stories, sign up here. You would bless me if you added me to your feed reader or subscribed via email. You can also become a fan on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. I would love to see more of you!