An Interview with Valerie Davisson, author of Shattered* and ‘Forest Park’. Stay tuned for my review of ‘Forest Park’ coming soon! *Here’s the link for my review of Shattered
I am reviewing your current set of novels. From your other published novels, are there some that I should absolutely read?
This series is my first! Each book is a new adventure for me as well as my protagonist, Logan McKenna. My other books are non-fiction and poetry.
I both love and hate novels that don’t leave a discrete ending for the reader. Have you ever felt the need to write sequels for specific novels, other than this set?
If I had a standalone novel, I’m sure I would want to know what happens next with the characters – as long as we’re alive we have room for growth and change.
There’s always another novel in the pipeline to write… Tell me about it! Does it have even a working title?
Ahh…yes! I just sketched out the main points for Logan Book 3 and am digging into the research. This one takes her back to Jasper, her home town on the Southern California coast. All I can say now is that it involves sea otters, seduction and salty dogs…
Some advice other writers have given is that your first novel is best sitting in a drawer for a while, because then you feel stronger about chopping up ‘your baby’. Do you still have a copy of your first novel? Whether this was published or unpublished, I need to know!
Great question! SHATTERED: Logan Book 1 is not only my first novel in the series, but my first novel ever! I wanted to see if I could write one. Once I make up my mind, I just do it. I had no idea what I was doing, so went to a writers’ conference in La Jolla, found some experienced people to show me the ropes and off I went. It’s been a roller coaster ride ever since. Why leave something sitting in a drawer?
Do you have a dedicated writing space? How does it meet your writing needs?
I do – it’s an open loft area in my home. I’ve got a drafting table with a large monitor on the top shelf, a comfortable chair in the corner where I can curl up and read drafts sometimes. When I’m in the final writing stages – that final 1,000-words-a-day push, I lock myself in up here, put on headphones, crank up a Tchaikovsky violin concerto or 2 Cellos and everyone knows the “Logan light is on!” I need quiet to juggle all the plot lines in my head, or try to get a line right. I can do white noise – coffee shops are fine – I just can’t carry on a conversation or listen to music with lyrics and write at the same time.
I also find myself working at the kitchen table if no one is home or I’m too lazy to walk up the stairs. It’s closer to the refrigerator…
What is your writing process? Have you ever thought about changing it? Other authors I have interviewed talk about having an outline – post-it notes in an office, or writing in paper journals. Is there something like that in your writing technique? Or is it all digital for you?
This question brings to mind my first attempt at plotting. I taped several large pieces of chart paper together and used different color post-it notes for each character, placing them along the arcs of the story. Needless to say it got too complicated, so I gave it up. But it looked really cool. Made me feel very official.
I next tried Excel to keep track of dates, plot lines and characters – who’s doing what when. Excel works for me once the story gets going.I am the Excel Queen!
In the initial stages, I write and sketch ideas on blank paper-mind mapping, jotting down thoughts as they come to me. Once I decide one thing, everything starts rushing into my head and I have to write fast to get it all down. I can always change it later if something doesn’t work, but I feel lucky that so far the ideas come easily – the patience and skill is in weaving them together.
How do you know when a novel or short story is finished? How do you know to step away and let the story speak for itself?
I read somewhere that a mystery novel should aim for about 65,000 words. So, I had that in the back of my head, but really, it just seems to work itself out. When it’s done, it’s done. I like resolving some big issues, but also leaving room for the characters to continue living their lives, even if we never see them again. But, of course, we will see SOME of them again…
Do you have a preference for ebook or paperback format? This is for both your own reading and your novels.
I was always a person who loved physical books – the feel of a book in my hand or on my lap – wandering through bookstores, selecting books off the shelves with great pleasure. But…in the last few years, almost all of my reading is done on my kindle. It’s lightweight and doesn’t keep my husband up with a bright book light I used to have to use. Also easier to travel with.
Social media is becoming a big thing. How does managing media outlets come into marketing your brand and your books?
Because I did a blog as part of a non-fiction book about conversation salons I wrote a few years ago, I was somewhat familiar with WordPress, so when the publisher wanted me to do an author website and Facebook page, it felt pretty natural. I enjoy posting – just wish I could clone myself. Sometimes it’s hard to find time to write your novel AND your blog posts.
You have answered other sets of interview questions, is there something you wish someone would have asked you? Or conversely, something you wish they hadn’t asked?
One of my favorite questions is which character is my favorite – and it’s usually a toss-up between Tava’e, the massive, Samoan Chess Queen who owns the coffee shop down the hill from Logan at the beach, and Iona Slatterly, the feisty head of security at the Otter Festival in SHATTERED: Logan Book 1. She was modeled after a woman I saw while serving jury duty years ago. Tiny woman marched in wearing skin-tight, hot pink jeans with matching nails and lipstick, over-bleached blonde, towering beehive and drawn on eyebrows. Cigarette dangling out of her mouth. I never got to talk to her, so I reinvented her as Iona in my first novel. She was a kick to write! Lived by her own rules. Heart of gold. Rough around the edges.