Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Valerie Patterson

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Say hello to Valerie Patterson...

Valerie, I know you've just had a new book released. Congrats! Can you tell us about it?

Gee Whiz Meets SHAFT was released February 14th by Asylett Press. It's such a fun book. I had a lot of fun writing it. It's a little bit of everything. It's a comedy--a spoof on spy thrillers with some espionage thrown in--with a thread of romanceto tie it all together in a neat little package.

Sounds like fun! How do you go about developing your characters?

It all starts with a name! When I start a new manuscript, I select my characters' names and build from there, fleshing ou tphysical attributes and moving on to personality traits before rounding it out with career choices. I have to be able to havea solid mental image of my characters in order to establish how they would speak, act, react, think, and even move through scenes. For me, selecting a name first allows me create a character that comes to life in my thoughts. If I can see and 'hear' my character, then I believe my readers will be able to as well. Iwant my readers to relate to this character, obviously, but I also want them to come away from the book with a strong mental image of who the character was. For me to make that happen, it all begins with the name.

What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Do not submit the first thing you've ever written unless you've gotten a ton of feedback from peers--not just family and friends--from people who are not afraid to tell you what's wrong with the plot, what doesn't ring true with your dialogue, and why they dislike your hero/heroine. Always keep in mind that your words are not valuable little pearls tied together with unbreakable twine. You have to be able to rewrite and revise and bullet-proof your work. You have to be able to take criticism without it drawing blood and shattering your confidence. And then remember that not everyone on the planet is going to like what you've written. Accept that people have different tastes, listen to their comments and then move on, using what you can to make your work stronger and chucking the rest. Above all else, never give up. If a door closes, look for a window and then crawl through it. If writing is your passion, don't give up on it. Pursue the dream until it's a reality. Anything worth having, is worth the time it takes to achieve it.

That's such great advice...So, what do you find most difficult about writing?

The middle! When I start a new project, I generally have the beginning and the ending all worked out, so it's the middle that gives me problems. I'm all excited about starting, so I jump right on chapter 1. And then I've got the ending formulated and want to jump on that. Since a book generally requires more than a beginning and an ending, I find the middle to be the most challenging.

I can appreciate that - I have trouble with the middles myself. What do you find most exciting or rewarding about writing?

You'd think it would be the beginning or the ending, right? Nope. It's the complete package from start to finish. When I type THE END on a manuscript, I'm immediately ready to read the whole thing to see how it reads. I read it through once and then I break it down by chapters, reading each one out loud. When we read silently, our brains compensate for missing letters andsometimes missing words. By reading a chapter out loud, I'm able to identify any sentences that aren't quite right, pick up on missing words, and catch problem words like They're/Their and Your/You're. For me, the entire process of creating a written work is very rewarding. I imagine--for me--it's akin to an artist just finishing a painting.

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

In all honesty, writing actually balances my life! I use writing as an escape. Getting lost in a new work-in-progress allows me to take the stress of the day and pound it out on my keyboard. I like nothing better than to come home from the office and sit down at the computer and develop a character, flesh out a plot,or work on a chapter until I feel human again! Writing not only keeps me stress-free, it keeps me sane!

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

I've had small bouts of writer's block that barely qualify as writer's block because I just edit through them, meaning I workon editing a piece until the creativity flows again. However,there was one point in my life where I was unable to write for more than a year. My Dad died somewhat young and very suddenly in November 2001, just about a week before I received a contract for my first book. I never got to share that joy with him, and it bothered me greatly because my dad was a HUGE supporter of my writing. I did the revisions on the piece that the editor asked for, but I didn't write a single word of a new manuscript or a work-in-progress for over a year. I just couldn't. Nothing was there.

I began writing again by writing a piece about my dad. It seemed that singular piece opened the flood gates and words just poured out of me. It was a very emotional process that not only brought writing back into my life, but helped me through the grieving process. If you're faced with seemingly unending writer's block, just sit down and write something--anything--so that the process begins again. Who cares if that very first piece is any good? Chances are whatever pours out next will be!

Valerie, thanks so much for sharing your writing journey here today. Readers, you can find out more about this author and her works right here.


Diane Craver said...

Great interview, Allie and Valerie!

I enjoyed reading how you approach your writing, Valerie. Congrats on your new release and hope you sell tons of books!

Mary Ricksen said...

Great blog ladies. Good advise from great experience. Good luck!

V. said...

Thank you Diane and Mary for your wonderful comments! I admit my face is a bit red. I thought the interview was scheduled for posting March 4th and so didn't stop in until yesterday, and then couldn't find it! LOL. It all comes out in the wash as my mom says!

Allie, thank you so much for the opportunity to be showcased on your blog. The interview was really fun and I enjoyed the experience.

Thanks so much!