Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Jo Lynne Valerie Interview
3/2/2010 7:24:04 AM
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Interview with debut author of 'Tales for All Seasons', Jo Lynne Valerie!
LS: Literary talent abounds on social networking sites like Twitter and I always feel honoured and privileged when I meet up with accomplished writers with their own distinct flare and style. Twitter is where I first came across one such talent; so today, Iíd like to introduce you to the lovely and oh-so gifted writer, Jo Lynne Valerie!
Iíd like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers. Any personal data youíd like to divulge?
JLV: Thanks for inviting me to your blog, Lorna. As far as personal data, I sort of let it all hang out there on my website and blog, as well as on my social media sites. So if it's alright, I'll just invite your readers to visit all my web pages? *smiles* I'll also admit I'm eager to get to the very cool questions you've got in store. :)
LS: Youíve been writing since you could hold a pen in your hand and you have extensive writing experience, including a stint as the Editor in Chief for a new age spirituality magazine as well as a holistic publication. Writing stories have always been a part of your life, but was it a life long dream to become a published author?
JLV: Yes, definitely. My one dream has always been to be an author. I never considered anything else, really. Even when my career in journalism and broadcast was on fire, I never really considered myself as having arrived, if you get my meaning. There I was, Editor in Chief of Nature's Wisdom Magazine, founder and chairperson of New York state's only natural food cupboard at the time and co-hosting PBS's flagship holistic health television show, and I longed to be writing books. In fact, I recall telling my production director, several times, that the work I was doing then would give me a great foundation on which to spring from, when I transitioned to author. Kind of funny, isn't it?
LS: I think the stars aligned and it was meant to be. As for your debut novel ĎA Tale For All Seasonsí, it is a compilation of short stories. Some have classified this book as paranormal; others consider the stories spiritual. What do you have to say about this?
JLV: Funnily, 'A Tale For All Seasons' began as a collection of short stories; what I ended up with, however, was a collection of four novellas, and one of them has been expanded into a novelette to be released this spring. The stories in 'A Tale for All Seasons' are both spiritual and paranormal. I deliberately wove what I consider to be very real paranormal phenomena and spirituality into every story, as these are part and parcel of my world, my life. I knew it was a risk, but I reckoned readers who were interested in such a book, would find me. Thank goodness, they have and continue to.
LS: Without giving away too much, can you reveal whatís in store for the reader when they crack open ĎA Tale For All Seasonsí?
JLV: Well, the stories are offered in progression, just as the seasons of nature progress. I can tell you they're very real. The characters are the sort of individuals you might meet any old day in the grocery store, or they might be your neighbors. At some point in each story, the heroine or hero encounters the supernatural or has a paranormal experience. Then, their lives change or are challenged; the characters are taken in new directions and offered opportunities for growth. I infuse the mystery and magic I believe to be a very real part of everyday life, into the stories in ĎA Tale for All Seasonsí. I introduce paranormal experiences as natural, organic - just as they actually are.
LS: The road to publication is difficult at the best of times. Was it difficult for you to land an agent? Do you have any advice youíd like to share with the author struggling to find representation?
JLV: Actually, Lorna, I'm an Indie author! I can't tell you how often people ask me who represents me or who my publisher is. The answer is, at present I represent myself, managing my writing career the way I have managed every business I have owned or continue to own. I am the CEO of Nature's Wisdom Media Corporation, the company I formed in the year 2000 to publish my first print magazine, Nature's Wisdom Magazine. Nature's Wisdom is also the umbrella company for my other endeavors, Full Moon Rising Magazine and The Natural Food Cupboard. That corporation now owns my most recent endeavor, ParaGoddess Press, the small press formed to publish my books.
LS: Wow! Iím impressed! You are an enterprising, take the bull by the horns type of gal. Good for you, Jo Lynne!
JLV: I have always been an entrepreneur. Fortunately, I have a full staff of graphic designers, editors and others, who have been with me for a decade. With my education in Journalism, Creative Writing and Literature and the experience I've had in publishing and broadcast, as well as public relations, I was in a really good position to go Indie.
LS: Is this something you would recommend to aspiring authors?
JLV: This road is not for everyone. It was, however, perfect for me. It's been great, so far!
LS: And what was it like to hold that very first copy in your hands?
JLV: Honestly Lorna, the moment I decided to publish ĎA Tale for All Seasonsí, and the moment I received that first galley copy - were incredible. I can tell you there was squealing, a little happy dance, and then there was white wine - Riesling to be exact. :) That experience was every bit as incredible as the moment I received the first printed copy of both my magazines. The day I saw the pilot we'd created to pitch Nature's Wisdom Television to PBS, was amazing, too. Definitely high points.
For me, as an entrepreneur, those moments may have offered a particular kind of sweetness, as I'd made it all happen. It is an absolutely empowering feeling.
LS: Iím curious about your writing style. Are you one of those disciplined writers who must dedicate a certain time each day to producing so many words, or are you more relaxed and tend to write when it strikes your fancy?
JLV: I definitely write in a very organic way. The work has to be speaking to me, the characters have to be ready to talk, and I need to be in a good place - mind, body and spirit - in order to churn out quality work. There are certain things I do to cultivate this state of being. I put on soft, spa music and I often light candles and incense.
I am a mother of three, so to schedule exact timeframes during which to write is literally impossible for me, but I make time to write every day. As a journalist I learned to create writing opportunities, otherwise deadlines would never be met! So when the kids go to school, that is my time. I make the most of it. When I am working on a new story, I often get up to write in the middle of the night too, as the energy of the story usually stirs me awake, aching to spill onto the page. I've talked a lot about this on my blog.
LS: Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
JLV: I rarely create outlines or deliberately plot when I am writing a story. I do make meticulous notes, and I began keeping a book journal, in which I make entries as I am writing each book. In my book journal, I describe my ideas, the characters and story-lines. I write out my feelings, hopes and desires for the book. The finished entries usually look like something a teenaged girl would write in her diary! I draw, put in stickers or pictures, and generally decorate the pages. My book journal is my creative extension and documented evolutionary tale of each book I write.
LS: What a wonderful idea! So far, you are the first author Iíve met who keeps such a detailed book journal.
JLV: I love to let the story unfold. I call this intuitive writing. However, for my last two books (next two releases) I did create character profiles along with printed and bound copies of the WIP. For my new novel, I actually created a rather elaborate story board. This is really helping to bring the characters to life, and keep me passionate about the work.
In my new novel, a new character was added on at the last moment because he was needed to bridge two parts of the story. But as I wrote his introduction, that character came so alive for me, revealing so much of himself, his past and his nature, that he's been given a more significant part. In that way, his story did unfold.
LS: With ĎA Tale For All Seasonsí in print and another novel underway, where do you find your inspiration?
JLV: I am grateful that I don't seem to have a shortage of ideas, at present! In fact, the next several books are planned out in succession. Meaning, after Phoenix Rising releases this spring, and the new novel releases this Summer, I know what book will come next, and what book will come after that... Some of them are already well underway. *winks*
LS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session? I know you will listen to music and light candles and incense to get you into this writing space, but else do you do?
JLV: All those who follow me on Twitter, know I adore soy cappuccino. But far and away, my favorite beverages while writing are unsweetened black tea with fresh lemon, which I drink at room temperature for the highest health benefits, or lemon water. I often put on relaxation music, and my favorite candle scent while I am writing, is French Vanilla.
LS: At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writerís block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
JLV: I don't fret over writer's block; in fact, I sort of don't believe in it. I think when one doesn't understand their human and psychological nature, or is possibly out of balance spiritually, such things as 'writer's block' are possible, believable. But I know that writers are human beings, and all human beings experience peaks and valleys as regards their energy levels. Everyone needs a break from, well, almost everything.
If a writer feels blocked or 'out of juice' I'd recommend walking away from the work. Do other things. Renew yourself, nurture yourself, tend to nutrition and spirituality. The flow will pick up again when you're renewed and in balance. Also, I know writers go through cycles - we can be in transition from one story to the next, one style to the next. I think it's important to allow time for, and understanding of, those cycles. Who's to say someone experiencing 'writer's block' isn't really going through a personal transition or shift in their work? In any case, retreat and renew oneself, would be my prescription.
LS: Who is your favourite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
JLV: My favorite author, hands down, is Rosamunde Pilcher, a British author. Her works were incredibly well known stateside and aborad during the eighties and nineties. Pilcher's style is not for everyone - it contains no snark, no paranormalities, no erotica and none of the fast paced intrigue many readers crave today.
Pilcher's work spoke to me because she authored the same kind of stories I was writing back then (and still write): tales about ordinary people and families, their home lives and the state of their heart, mind and psyche. Her stories often contained an element of mystery or serendipity, which I admired. To me, Pilcher is admirable because she never paid attention to current trends and to this day has not compromised her style. Some of her books have been made into movies, and her son now carries on the family legacy as an author.
LS: What is the most profound discovery youíve made in terms of your writing and how it has touched the lives of others?
JLV: This is going to sound horribly vain. I hesitate to say it, but it's true. The most profound discovery I've made in terms of how my writing has affected other people, is the awareness that readers are not merely enjoying my books, but truly being touched, and changed, by my writing. Readers write to tell me they've fallen in love with characters, have felt a special kinship with a particular character or very aligned with a particular story. I can't tell you how many readers have told me my writing was what they needed, at the right time, and how it's changed their lives. People have been inspired to search for their own spiritual path, or explore the 'real world' paranormal. This absolutely puts me over the top. Far better than champagne! Equal billing with sex, if you're wondering. *winks*
LS: What is the most important lesson youíve learned on the road to publication?
JLV: For me, it's perhaps a different sort of experience, because as an Indie author, I'm running my career like a business. But a huge lesson for me, has been to really listen to the people on my team (Team ParaGoddess, as I jokingly refer to them) when they give me suggestions as to art production, editing, marketing, branding, and other important things. No one person can do everything, and no one person should. The benefit to being Indie with a team is that I have people to support and guide me. It's pretty amazing.
LS: Most indie authors go it alone, so yes, it is pretty amazing to have a team of people behind you. Can you tell our readers what are you reading now, and how did this particular book make it onto your to-read list?
JLV: Oh, my. That is a potentially touchy question. The last two books I read were by very big name authors, and I did not love either of them! So out of professionalism and courtesy, I think I'll decline to name them. However, I will say, I am an absolute Sookie Stackhouse addict (Team True Blood!) and I've got two brand new Charlaine Harris books on my shelf, waiting to be read. I've yet to crack them open; all my focus is on my own writing, at present.
LS: What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out into other genres? Can your fans expect a Volume 2 to ĎA Tale For All Seasonsí in the near future?
JLV: What a fantastic question! Wow Lorna, thanks so much for writing such great questions. Now to answering, right? *winks* In the next five years, I hope to have established myself as an author even more. I'd like to have solid name and genre recognition, by then. I have no plans to branch out into other genres per se, as the next several releases are already planned and they're along the same tact as my current work.
However, I will say this - and this is perhaps very interesting for readers - fans can expect my work to get a little more... raw. There'll be more grit, much more of the paranormal element, and I'm going to be keeping it very real life. I feel as though I've gotten my feet wet and now I'm ready to really show my readers what I can do. *winks*
LS: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this guest blog, Jo Lynne. I believe your many fans will enjoy reading about your publishing experience as well as the writing process, and Iím sure potential new fans will be rushing to your website to learn more about you and ĎA Tales for All Seasonsí.
JLV: Thanks for having me, Lorna! It has been a pleasure and an honor.
For more information about Jo Lynne Valerie, the entrepreneur and author, please visit her website at:
www.JoLynneValerie.com - Main website
www.JoLynneValerie.blogspot.com - Very current, all the bells & whistles, highly interactive
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