The ReviewerChantelle Atkins‘s website.
Victoria Valentine is an accomplished author in both the romance and horror genres. Agony Of Being Me, however, is a contemporary and gritty YA novel, which concludes with Part Two; Finding You. Here, Victoria tells us the story behind Agony, takes us through her writing process and talks about her writing and publishing journey so far.
1) I understand you write in a number of genres, including romance and horror. Can you tell us what inspired you to write a contemporary YA novel such as Agony of Being Me?
I've been writing for years and enjoy multiple genres including poetry. Agony of Being Me came at a very low point in my life, actually inspired by the title which took root and grew into the story. The inception of Agony developed during the early stages of my husband's illness which brought me to assess our past lives as we struggled with the present and worried about the future. Parts of Agony are loosely based on actual events that feel like they happened a lifetime ago. My experiences, as well as my mood at the time, seemed an ideal tool to use to vent emotion while writing a story about a promising life derailed by tragedy, and how trauma can affect our choices and paths. At times we may feel there is no control. That's the frightening part. Finding our way (Finding You, conclusion of Agony of Being Me) is the bright and beautiful journey of discovery and resolution we all hope to find on the other side of the rainbow.
2) What usually comes first for you when writing? The characters or the plot?
I often write a book simply by a title popping into my head which haunts me until it weaves its way into a story. Wheel Wolf was that case. Written on a dare by my children, I churned out this horror novel in three weeks during the summer of 2013. They found the concept amusing and I took the bait. :-) Wheel Wolf turned out to be an Amazon bestseller for quite some time and one of my favorites to this day. When I write, my words don't come from a particular thought process. They just flow. If they don't fly onto the pages, then I don't write. A great story is not something you can simply make happen; it comes to you on its own ... when it's ready. A fabulous poet and good friend of mine, jacob erin-cilberto, once said during an interview we had on my blogtalkradio show, "We're the conduits. Words flow through us like electricity." This is true.
3) I enjoyed the alternating viewpoints. What made you decide to write the book this way?
Agony is such an emotional story of two young people bombarded by life, it would not have done the characters justice to focus mainly on one. Zoe and Jesse both had a plethora of passion to share with readers, each with his or her own difficulties to work through, so individual voices and chapters were essential. Jesse was bursting with excitement and expectation while Zoe was struggling to drag herself through each day unable to ever visualize a future. Zoe's struggle felt insurmountable to her. She had been shattered inside and out, and was torn between sinking into darkness and longing to fall into the arms of this beautiful young man. Readers had to feel, firsthand, Zoe's internal suffering and Jesse's turmoil and angst through their thoughts as well as dialogue.
4) How did you ensure the narrative 'voice' was correct for the young people in the book? For instance, did you do any research, read any seminal YA books or talk to young people?
I'd like to think I'm a "heart to heart" writer. Regardless of age, emotions are emotions. I'm the mother of three great kids and grandmother of two young adult grandsons. We share so much together and our close relationship helped guide me into the realm of the young adult mind and expression. With what the kids have instilled in me, I didn't feel the need for research. Unfortunately, I don't have time to read as much as I'd like to, and also, when I'm writing I don't want to interrupt my flow or flavor my words unintentionally by reading another author's work. Agony duo is actually my second YA. Beautiful Experiment is book one of a YA/NA paranormal series about six wayward teens stranded on an uncharted island with a mysterious boy and a man he calls Father.
5) Describe your writing process to us. How does a normal writing day usually go?
This is a difficult question for me to answer because there is no normal for me. I'm not a structured person but rather write when the spirit moves me, which in the past had been often. Prior to my husband's illness I wrote constantly. Relentlessly. Sometimes emerging from my office simply to eat. There are times I've written non-stop from a Friday evening all the way through to Monday morning with only a few hours sleep and diet Pepsi at my side. When I'm really into a project, it overtakes my mind and soul. Robs me of sleep. Of life. When that muse is calling it can be torture. I call it a curse. It's exhausting. I've published three books this year. Heartthrob Hotel, part two of my new horror release, The Last Resort, is almost finished but I'm not ready to let the characters control me. I'm healing. When they start screaming at me, I'll go on another writing binge.
6) You're an experienced writer. Can you tell us your most memorable highs and lows so far?
My most memorable high would have to be Skyline Literary Magazine which I published right after 911. I had been publishing poetry and short stories on a website I created but when submissions started flooding in through the mail, conveying our country's shock and grief, I felt compelled to capture these heartfelt emotions in a print magazine. Copies found their way to New York City and it was on Christmas Eve of 2001 that I received a requisition from the New York Public Library for Skyline Magazine. I then began publishing a poetry journal, A Hudson View, which was subscribed to by public and university libraries. With a host of international writers, Hudson View was widely distributed by myself and co-editor, Dr. Amitabh Mitra, in South Africa internationally.
My magazines were professionally distributed nationally for several years. I was basically running the show solo, and trying to find advertising was timely and actually not my forte. It was overwhelming. Unfortunately, I had to let the magazines go. That's when I became fully engulfed in my own writing.
As for a memorable low, I guess I'm still suffering a bit of writer's block, something I never knew existed until my love of forty-two years passed away. Without an "us" I'm still finding "me". My husband Tom was very much into my writing and publishing. He fully and patiently supported me and to my delight started writing his own romance novel right before he fell ill.
7) What writing advice would you offer to others?
Write as much as you can but let it come naturally. Don't force it. Read the work of as many different authors as time permits but develop your own style. Don't compare yourself to others. For as many writers out there, there are readers; we all have something special and unique to offer. Always be willing to learn and accept constructive criticism. Don't ever get discouraged if your books don't skyrocket on the charts. This is a highly competitive industry. Join writers groups. If you're unsure about your writing, take a few classes. Definitely have proofreaders and an editor. Covers are also important. There are many talented and reasonably priced cover artists easily found on social media. Writing is rewarding. Enjoy it.
8)Can you tell us what you are working on right now?
I'm currently working on Heartthrob Hotel, book two of The Last Resort . This duo is my most risky and racy attempt at weaving horror and romance with suspense and gore. It's raw, bloody, graphic, and sexy to the core. All of the wickedness and anger I've ever felt has surfaced in this duo. No holds barred this time. Readers beware.
9) In your mind, who is Agony Of Being Me mostly aimed at?
Agony of Being Me is a fulfilling read for a 16+ audience that seeks (and may identify with) a tragic and suspenseful romance while traveling with two young people struggling to conquer adversity and the world around them. My hope is for readers to feel each and every emotion that paralyzes or electrifies Zoe and Jesse. To walk with them through everything they experience, be it positive or negative. Most of all, I want my readers to share the relief and joy of transitioning from trauma to inner peace and realization that even one's wildest dreams can come true. My hope is for Agony of Being Me to guide readers to Finding You and that the entire story will leave an impression that lasts beyond the final pages.
10) What are your hopes and dreams for the future with regards to your writing?
This is also a tough question, as I'm still experiencing a difficult time pulling my life back together. Had you asked me this two years ago, my immediate response would have been to find my books on the shelves of every brick and mortar store and on the top of every bestseller's list. Right now I'm hoping to get back to the point where I can devote my time to finishing Heartthrob Hotel and three other series I started a few years ago. I hope to produce more gripping page-turners in the near future. Being a bestselling author with a big house contract is probably every writer's dream, but for me, being an Indie Author who writes, formats, designs and publishes her own work is a rewarding accomplishment.
Chantelle Atkins‘s website.