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.
How to connect with Valerie...
Other (my website for aspiring writers): http://towriteastory.com
Author Interview | Valerie Comer
You & Writing
Tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you start writing? What has kept you writing?
...Although I always liked to write, I didn't get serious about it until 2002 when I landed a job in a small town flooring shop with many empty hours every day. So long as I was ready to be fully present when needed, my bosses were fine with how I spent the rest of my time. I was a slow learner and wrote eight complete novels before selling a novella. It took me a long time to figure out how much prep works for me, as I live in no-man's-land between plotting and pantsing. Honestly, for a while what kept me writing was that it had become a habit. It's what I did at work, and if I didn't write, I'd have had to fill my time some other way. So I kept plodding along, learning and growing and writing.
Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? If so, why?
...Oh my! This is like asking which child is my favorite. Okay, not quite. Hmm. Let me think. Right now my new release is my fave. Except for the one coming out in March, which is the one I'm editing now.
What was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest?
...The hardest? Two things. Waiting is really, really difficult. For the first 6-7 years I knew my novels weren't good enough yet, but once they got closer and I began to seek an agent and publication, the wait seemed interminable. The other hardest thing is that writing a novel takes so long. There really isn't a shortcut. You don't learn all of the same things writing short stories as novels, and you have to have them complete before you can dissect them to see what did and didn't work.
...The easiest thing about publication? Watching the money roll in. JUST KIDDING! There isn't anything easy about getting published. Thankfully the journey is as much fun as the destination.
Tell us a little bit about your book or what you’re working on currently? Why are you/did you write it?
...My contemporary romance Raspberries and Vinegar released on August 1.
Josephine Shaw: complex, yet singleminded. A tiny woman with big ideas and, some would say, a mouth to match. But what does she really know about sustainable living as it relates to the real world? After all, she and her two friends are new to farming.
Zachary Nemesek is back only until his dad recovers enough to work his own land again. When Zach discovers three helpless females have taken up residence at the old farm next door, he expects trouble. But a mouse invasion proves Jo has everything under control. Is there anything she can't handle? And surely there's something sweet beneath all that tart.
..It's the first book in the Farm Fresh Romance series, which follows the adventures, romantic and otherwise, of three college graduates who move onto a reclaimed farm where they plan to take the rural area by storm with their sustainable lifestyle and focus on local foods.
...I'm working on books two and three now as they're scheduled for release in March and December 2014. This series means a lot to me because it portrays the lifestyle I lead, or at least aspire to. My husband and I, together with our adult kids, farm, garden, and keep bees. We strive to keep our food as clean and local as possible and lead environmentally responsible lives. Of course, like everyone else, we don't meet our own ideals, but it doesn't stop us from trying.
Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
...The main character, Jo Shaw, intrigues me. She's a little spitfire of an environmentalist and often says the wrong thing. Most of her fellow characters think she's whacko. I probably like her because she says all the stuff I think but would never utter out loud because I'm a nonconfrontational introvert. And when I see how folks react to her, I realize it's a good thing I keep my mouth zipped sometimes!
What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
...I hope people will think a little more about where their food comes from, and whether or not God cares about what they eat.
Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters? Are they based on real life or pure imagination or both?
...I've now written 10 novels (most of which you will never hear about), so I've used up the "easy" inspiration. Still, I find ideas for characters and stories everywhere. Sometimes I base a character loosely on someone I know, but usually I mix traits from enough people so they're not recognizable. Though, I have to say, I had a good laugh when I found that my daughter and daughter-in-law tried to decide if Jo was modeled after either of them (the answer is no).
When you write, what is your overall intention with your stories?
...I want to entertain, definitely, but I'd also like people to think. I knew that Jo could come on a little strong. I tried to add a lot of humor so her fervor wouldn't turn readers off.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
...I have a lot of advice for up-and-coming writers! I've taught various workshops online and in person, including one called "From Beginning to End" designed to be an overview of the process of writing a novel.
A few months ago I decided to create a writing course which I offer for free on my other website, http://towriteastory.com.
...Besides the course, which people can start any time as it's all set up automatically, I blog weekly on related topics with some guests adding their expertise.
...When I started writing, it was difficult to simply get a grasp of the process ahead. It's so easy to get lost in each step (researching, creating characters, etc) that it's difficult to keep the big picture in mind. This is what I'm trying to provide for my students.
...If any of your readers would like to join the class, I'd love to invite them over. The course sign-up is prominent on the site sidebar at http://towriteastory.com.
What is your favorite activity during the summer?
...I love a lot about summer—except for the heat! My husband and I like to pull our little holiday trailer up beside a mountain stream for a few days at a time. He enjoys fishing. With no Internet connection and a limited amount of battery available to keep my laptop powered, I read a lot or brainstorm when not picking berries or cooling off in the creek.
...At home on the farm, my summer life revolves around my young granddaughters and my garden. We plant a huge garden and process a lot of food for winter meals, but the heavy work hasn't started yet in August. Now I get to wander outside and let supper choose itself from the surplus. Yum!
What are you currently reading?
...Ruth Logan Herne writes small town stories for Love Inspired—you could almost call her stories farm lit, too. But the one I'm reading right now is called Try, Try Again and it takes place in New York City— a long way from farm lit. Either way, Ruthy's fun voice shines through!
Apparently August 15th is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day (who knew). What is your favorite dessert?
...It would have to be chocolate anything! I love gooey brownies. Yum.
Thanks again and enjoy the rest of your summer, Valerie.