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Interview with Vera Valentine

A Little Something About Vera:

Vera is a finely tuned paranormal reverse harem author that loves to explore the unexpected and untapped. She self-proclaims to write by the seats of her pants while bringing the heat from start to finish. She's sailed with sea captains, mingled with monsters, and, from what she's been told - routinely makes new readers late for work. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, too many cats, and a lingering sense that she's forgotten something important.

Questions and Answers:

1. What made you want to be an author? I've always been an avid reader and a prolific copywriter, but despite constantly toying with the idea I never got around to writing. Half-finished a short story or two, but lost interest. When the pandemic hit, I signed up for a Kindle Unlimited subscription to help pass the time. Amazon randomly suggested a paranormal reverse harem book to me, so I figured - why the hell not? Well, I adored it, and immediately went on to tear through more than 300 more inside a year. When I came up for air after reading Kathryn Moon's A Lady of Rooksgrave Manor, I realized I really wanted to write something beautiful, evocative, and unapologetically smutty too. I sent her an effusive fan email of thanks-for-the-inspiration, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work. Six months later, I've got two novels to my name!

2. Typically, what was the timeframe it took you to write your books?

My first novel, Stowaway and Silent Song, was written from July to September of this year (2021) and debuted on September 6th. The day before my 39th birthday, September 16th, I decided I wanted to write a cryptid monster reverse harem. I sat down, typed away at it, and finished Carnal Cryptids: East Coast on October 15th, one day shy of the month mark. I'm attempting to repeat the feat with Carnal Cryptids 2: Southeast for NaNoWriMo - I "broke ground" with the intro on November 1st and am hoping to have it finished by November 30th. With my books, I always aim for a word count of roughly 75000 words or so, which produces ~250 pages on Kindle, which I find to be a nice medium read for most.

3. Are you a planner or pantser?

100% a pantser - a term I've only recently been introduced to. I have NO IDEA what's going to happen in the story when I sit down to write it. I'm just as eager to find out what happens as my readers are! Planning also makes my teeth itch. I collect a planner every year just so I can stare at it balefully on the edge of my desk and wonder what it must be like to have one's shit together.

4. What would you say is your unique writing style?

I write in fits and starts, and I can only leave my own story when there's a lull. I won't walk away from the keyboard mid-action (of any sort) because I feel like spinning that energy up again comes across as a flat endeavor. I want the vibe of the narrative to match, so I conduct it through the peaks and wait until a valley to go get snacks, take a nap, etc.

5. Whether it be traditional, self, or story book apps. How did you find the publishing process?

Nerve-wracking at best. So much of it is shrouded in unnecessary mystery (thanks, Amazon). It feels like a constant battle of waiting for random windows of time (when your pre-order is approved, when your book is live, etc.) and living with one finger on the refresh button for checking your sales stats and reviews. That might just be me though, I can be wound a little tight sometimes!

6. How much of your process includes doing research into your subject matter or plot?

Oh goodness. There's an ongoing joke among my friends that "moth genitalia" is permanently in my search history - Carnal Cryptids has a moth man, you see, and I was determined to be accurate in my sex scenes. I will look up distances to make sure my characters' travel is believable, double-check if certain establishments are open/still open, etc. It's mostly fact-checking the little bits, though, rather than the story as a whole. I'm not trying to write a college essay; I'm trying to write some compelling smut.

7. How old were you when you first discovered your passion for writing?

If we're counting angsty poetry that leaned far too heavily on the ABAB rhyming scheme, probably 13-14 or so.

8. When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing with your time?

As most writers will echo, when you're trying to write as a full-time thing, only 30% of your time and effort is spent on the book itself - the other 70% is on marketing the damn thing. Social media feels like stumbling into a compulsory phys ed. volleyball game - bonk, bonk, bonk with the posts, comments, interactions until your arms are tired or you get hit in the face. So, in short, I've been living on Facebook like a rumpled traveler in the airport whose flight keeps getting cancelled - not enough sleep, eating things with questionable nutritional value, probably need a shower? To answer the question more precisely, I mostly read, cuddle with whichever of my seven cats is being least standoffish that day, check out estate sales with my hubby, and I'm an avid social participant in my local BDSM scene. It sounds more salacious than it is, we mostly just meet up for lunches and afternoon tea once a week, though I'll attend a play party every month or so.

9. Is your family supportive?

My mom's almost too supportive - she demanded a copy of Carnal Cryptids, which I only handed over in exchange for a promise we'd never discuss the sex scenes. So - mixed "yay?" there. Dad's a retired 30-year military man and I'm an only child, so you can imagine that his daughter writing smut is not exactly the future he had in mind for me. He's still been surprisingly supportive, albeit viscerally uncomfortable about the whole thing, so I send him screenshots with the cover, title, category, and ASIN blurred out so he can just congratulate me on placement. He's a good guy. My husband is very supportive, which is convenient because honestly the soil in the backyard is just too hard packed to properly dispose of a body.

10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned about yourself in creating your books (characters, location, plot)?

I can write a -very believable- Dominant female character, and that apparently wasn't a fluke. While talking about the various genres that orbit my own, I found myself describing the Omega-verse to my husband, a man long used to my antics and inherent chaos. Well, to set the scene here, we decided a bit ago we didn't physically sleep well together - we both toss and turn and keep each other up all night. For the sake of restfulness, he sleeps in the craft room at night (though we do have sleepovers!). I wanted him to be comfortable, of course, so I got him a beautiful blue velvet sectional couch. Then I got a standing wardrobe to kind of block off his couch sleeping area and make it a little more intimate. He doesn't like harsh overhead lights, so I strung up some leftover Christmas lights around the edge of the wardrobe instead. He's a notorious pillow hog, so I got him a bunch of throw pillows to cuddle up in. He likes a lot of blankets too, so I got him a weighted blanket. So, I'm explaining to this ungrateful wretch about the omega-verse and heats and the nesting instinct, and this asshole just cheerfully pipes up, "Oh! That sounds like MY nest." There isn't much that leaves me speechless, but that left me straight-up cosplaying the Nathan Fillion meme. So - writing adjacent to the omega-verse revealed to me that I had apparently married a secret omega. I've discovered in the bargain that I am also apparently an alpha, driven to care for him. He thinks it's hilarious, and I've threatened to get him a "Her Omega" / "His Alpha" shirt pair for Christmas.

11. What is your favorite component about the genre you write?

The ability to create groups that love and support one another from a variety of angles, and the opportunity to normalize - even sex up! - important ideas like self-image, consent, and boundaries. The fantasy aspect is theoretically things like wings, horns, and tails, but the real magic is that everybody eventually gets along.

12. What advice would you give to help others become writers?

There is going to be a LOT you don't know. You're going to go through it and feel like a failure because you don't know where to go next, if you're doing it right, etc. Ask. Questions. Learn to listen twice as often as you speak - there are groups and authors out there willing to help and offer words of wisdom, but you can't pour water into a cup that's already full. Be polite, take notes, and resolve to go slowly so you don't smash a button to start a process you don't fully understand yet. A good PA (personal assistant) can genuinely be the difference between fame and obscurity. I joke they're like King's Advisors - they know where you should go, who you should talk to, what you should post. My PA, Becky Hodges, is a dynamo. Not only has her advice basically created my writing career from scratch, her cluster of other represented writers - Becky's Babes - have been like a found family to me through all of this. Oh, and covers? They are BAFFLING. It's not just you. Finding good cover art is like stumbling around a dark room looking for a light switch. Premade covers are expensive, but you can get a good one for like $100-$200 usually, and holy crap do they make a difference. It sucks that a pretty picture makes that much of a difference, but it really does, my first book has a cover I kind of slapped together in the Kindle cover creator and it wallows in obscurity. My second cover, the one on Carnal Cryptids, my writing idol made for me as an incredibly thoughtful gift. There's no doubt it positively affected sales, which is why I sprung for a really pretty one for Carnal Cryptids 2. Get yourself a writing buddy. Sabrina Day, who's about to publish her first novel Fleeing Fate, is mine. We talk all the time and we're basically first-day-of-work-orientation friends. We're discovering all the weird, difficult stuff together and helping each other through ruts (the repetitive writer-block kind, not the sexy kind) and indecision - her friendship has been a real gift and a solid uppercut to my imposter syndrome.

13. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

My readers have been so amazing. I'm seriously never going to have any chill as an author because all I want to do is jump up and down with them and squeak with the same excitement. They gush over my characters, and I was genuinely surprised to find there's SO MUCH love for my quiet little soft boy character, rather than the two more dominant types in the harem. I just got the first meme of my story made today, so that was really exciting! Lillian Lark, author of Stalked by the Kraken (sensational book, by the way) was kind enough to give me a shoutout in several of her TikToks, which really got the word out about Carnal Cryptids: East Coast. One of my most passionate early-on fans was another fellow author, Sierra Cassidy, who wrote First Heat. She and I talk almost every day now and bounce story ideas off one another.

14. Do you like to create books for your target audience?

Heck yeah, I do! Reverse harem readers, particularly the paranormal fans that also dig mm inclusion, are the best. I'm into it, they're into it, and all that positive energy makes it a really rewarding experience to write a great book.

15. What pulls you in about a book? Do you read a book based on the cover or the summary?

I say all the time that I'm an absolute sucker for the unusual. You dig up a weird, seldom-heard-of-myth, like C. Rochelle's Rise of the Witch, or an unusual magic system like Alethea Faust's Initiation: Sex Wizards, and I'm one-clicking that title. "Wait, what?" premises like Dakota Brown's Pizza Shop Exorcist series and unique shifters like Aeryn Haven's mustang shifter in Spirit Called also turn my head! One of my favorite characters is Baz from Beatrix Hollow's Cute but Psycho - don't want to spoil his big reveal, but man was that a fun (and HOT) character to read.

16. How do you handle writer's block and what do you tell other aspiring authors who may be fighting or fearful about hitting that wall?

Enlist help. Real writer's block isn't a skirmish, it's a boss battle! I use physical ideation tools like the Story Engine Deck and Rory's Story Cubes when it gets really persistent. Remember you always will get beyond the block, nothing is forever, and you're awesome.

Final Note:

Authors like Vera Valentine intrigue me. They are bold, brave, and beautifully wicked. They tend to be sweet with a naughty side and I love that. They have this insane ability to know what their readers like, and they flip the script or they feed into that forbidden side of themselves that they wouldn't naturally delve into. I must admit, these kinds of books are my guilty pleasure and I am so going to invest in buying into her work. I highly suggest you do too.

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