Hello Valerie and welcome to Books2Mention Magazine. It's great to have you interview with us and allow our readers to learn more about you.
Your debut novel F.R.I.E.N.D.S. And The Choices That We Make was a great introduction of your writing to readers. Congratulations on this awesome achievement.
B2M: When did you realize that the writer's bug had bitten you?
VALERIE: Thank you! I am feeling very positive about F.R.I.E.N.D.S., as it has become affectionately called.
I first felt the "writer's bug" when I was a student at Chicago State University. There was an English Lit course that I had where the professor believed in giving his students the freedom to "be them selves".
One day he addressed the class by telling us to take out a pen and some paper. The writing assignment for that particular day was to take the pen and put it to the paper and just write. He said, "Don't put any thought to what you will write. Just write!"
Forty-five minutes later I had a 10-page short story about a young girl who grew up in a home where her father was in the military, and her family was constantly moving from one place to the other while she was growing up. It was very difficult for her to make new friends. Every time she did she was uprooted to the next destination, and never heard from those friends again. Low self esteem and establishing meaningful relationships plagued her for well into her adult years. And establishing a meaningful commitment to anyone was as foreign to her as if she had been on the other side of the world.
I got an A+ on that paper that day. That is when I realized I had a knack for writing.
B2M: Can you express to our readers what it felt like seeing your first book in bookstores?
VALERIE: Well right now, the book is only available at one independent bookstore: Nubian Book Store; in Southlake Mall in Morrow, Georgia. I can tell you however that I felt total exhilaration when I finally saw it up on Amazon.com. After the book cover was uploaded to the site, and all the other pertinent information about the book was made available to the general public, words can't begin to express what I was feeling. I felt like I had arrived! Of course the book is available through my website as well.
B2M: How has your life been enriched since becoming an author?
VALERIE: Having a reader send me a message on my website to let me know they have enjoyed my book, and that I have inspired their lives through my writing, that's enrichment in its highest form. You can't get a better compliment that that.
B2M: Are you currently working on your next project? If so, can you give us a preview?
VALERIE: I've completed two more books since publishing F.R.I.E.N.D.S. One is called "Press 1 For Love" and the other is yet to be titled. Your readers can read excerpts from both books on my website: www.valeriewithers.com
I am working on my fourth book called A Child Once Removed. Here is a preview:
"Has the jury determined a verdict?" the judge asked.
"We have your honor" the foreperson replied.
"Will the defendant please rise."
A hush fell over the courtroom as its spectators clutched each other's hands, and gritted their teeth as they prepared themselves for the verdict.
"What say you?" the judge asked.
"In the matter of the commonwealth of Missouri versus Bernard Jenkins, we the jury find the defendant... Guilty of murder in the 1st degree."
Cheers were heard from every direction, both inside the courtroom, and out.
"Glory be to God!" the mother proclaimed.
"Yeah, that's right nigga, you're going down for what you did to my cousin!" a young man spat out, who couldn't have been any older than fourteen.
The deceased brother and sister, who spoke on their brother's behalf, were hugging each other, and crying tears of relief, and joy. They were elated at the outcome of the trial. Everyone was showing some display of emotion. Everyone that is; except me.
I couldn't bring myself to jump up and down, and high five my neighbor because I was happy about the verdict. Nor could I bring myself to shed tears of heartache because I was despondent about it either.
The man convicted of 1st degree murder was a cold-blooded killer in the eyes of the victim's family. Shawn Webber was his name. As far as his family is concerned, their loved one's life was cut short, and for that, they rejoice in knowing the man responsible, the man who took their son, their father, their brother, their uncle's life, will pay the ultimate price for what he has done.
Who cares their son, their father, their brother, their uncle was a gun toting, crack slinging drug dealer? Who cares that the poison he was selling to men, women, boys and girls, were killing our people off by the masses? To his family, he didn't start his life that way. He just succumbed to the peer pressure around him, and found what he thought to be a more convenient way of life. The convicted murderer, Bernard Thompson, he says he didn't mean to kill Shawn.
"I had no choice. It was either him or me. I'm sorry for all of the pain that I have caused. I only hope that God forgives me for what I've done" he says.
Bernard has always been sorry for one thing or another. Sorry for how he treated his brother and sisters when they were kids. Sorry for not being able to keep a decent job, because he was a compulsive gambler. Sorry for mistreating his mother when she was alive. Sorry for not being present at her funeral when she died. Sorry for not being a better husband to his wife. Sorry for not being a better father to his children.
No one in his family really cares anymore. Yet a select faithful few of his siblings were present for the court proceedings, including me. We all realize that Bernard is a lost cause. And we all knew it was a matter of time before all of his indiscretions caught up to him.
According to him, if he didn't kill Shawn first, Shawn would have eventually killed him later. He claims it was an act of self-defense; which was a bald faced lie. It became pre-meditated when not only did Bernard shoot Shawn in the neck when he entered his house, but he shot him in his back when he tried to flee. Had he called the police when he first shot Shawn, it could have been viewed as self-defense because Shawn had entered his house with malice intent.
Bernard owed Shawn a lot of money, and he didn't have it to settle his debt. Shawn's girlfriend, who had seen him just an hour before he was killed, testified that Shawn went to Bernard's house to scare him into paying him his money, not to kill him.
Bernard said he was protecting his family. He almost had the people of the court by the gonads, believing his bullshit lies. That is until the D.A. whipped out those brutal pictures, and the bloodied clothing belonging to Shawn. It was all she wrote after that. The nails had been drilled into Bernard's coffin.
B2M: How do you craft your unique writing style?
VALERIE: My style of writing comes from good old-fashioned conversation. I like to be entertained, not preached to. I have found that if the reader can feel like he or she is actually speaking with the protagonist, they have a tendency to want to read more. I strongly dislike narrative type of writing. A book written in that form will bore me to death. But if I'm reading something that makes me want to offer a response back to the character, then I'm there. The same goes for my writing. I want to hook the reader from the moment they open the book, till the moment they close it.
B2M: What are your aspirations as an author?
VALERIE: To be recognized by all lovers of AA Fiction along with the likes of those pioneers that have come before me. To be able to sustain a position in the literary field, and produce quality work that can be enjoyed by many. And to one day be able to offer other aspiring authors who will be coming up in the ranks, a platform to showcase their works.
B2M: What genre of readers would you say your novels are geared towards?
VALERIE: African American Fiction/Mainstream/Contemporary /Women's Lit readers will likely find my books to be intriguing, entertaining, thought provoking, erotic and above all else, REAL.
B2M: Do you have a favorite book? If so, why is it your favorite?
VALERIE: I don't have a favorite book per se, but I do have a favorite author. Brenda Jackson is that author. I just started reading her books last year, and after the first book, The Midnight Hour, I was hooked. I went out and bought every Brenda Jackson book I could get my hands on. LOL! It was ridiculous. With every book I read, I was even more eager to read the next. I don't know why it took me so long to get hip to her writing.
Her style of writing is chic, sexy, and borderline erotic. It keeps me on the edge of my seat the whole time. For anyone who has ever read any of her books know what I mean by this next statement. "The Madaris and Westmoreland men are no joke." If I could just land one man in real life like any of those guys, I would be a happy woman for infinity!
Brenda Jackson has a knack for writing sex scenes that will have you about to pull your momma's hair out! And not one time does she use any vulgar or offensive content to sell that scene. That's when you know the writer is good; when you can feel the intimacy through the words.
B2M: Do you have a ritual in place that allows your creative energy to flow?
VALERIE: Yes. I don't write at home. I have two daughters, ages 11 and 8, and once I get home for the evening, it's extremely hard for me to concentrate when the girls are bringing down the house.
I do most of my writing at work. I never thought I would say this in my lifetime, but I look forward to Monday mornings because I know I can go to work and begin writing again. I work on a telephony helpdesk, and when there is down time, that is when I write. I can get quite a bit accomplished during the course of a day. I actually prefer it this way. Five days straight of writing can wear me out. So on the weekends, I take a mental break so that I don't become burnt out. Then by the time Monday rolls around again, I'm ready to pick up where I left off on Friday.
B2M: Do real life experiences or merely products of various thoughts that have been twisted and flipped into an interesting book create your characters?
VALERIE: Sometimes they do. I have always said, "everyone has a story to tell, they just never knew it. No matter how insignificant you think your life is there may be someone else out there who can benefit from what you have to share." The thought will always start with a real life situation. Then I take the story for a spin and totally go off into left field somewhere.
Sometimes when I start to write, the characters come to me as I'm writing them. It's kind of like when you go to the grocery store. When you walk though the door, you may have no clue what it is that you want to buy, but by the time you make it to the check out counter you have a grocery basket full of stuff. It's no different with my writing. I make it up as I go along.
B2M: Outside of writing, what other interest do you have?
VALERIE: My life is kind of boring actually. Outside of spending quality time with my daughters, I don't do too much really. I'm not a party person any more. That was all done during my 20's. My 30's have pretty much been low keyed. When I'm in between projects I do a lot of reading.
I love throwing holiday parties for my girlfriends between Christmas and New Years every year. It's a time for reaffirmation, rebirth, and just having a good time. It started out as a way for us to come together at the beginning of the year because we are all so busy that we don't get a chance to hang out much for the rest of the year. We always figure if we start the year off right, the rest is sure to follow.
What began with a couple of girlfriends has now grown to 10-15 women. It's a great time to just BE. We play games, eat good food, listen to some old school music, share in the spirits, and just enjoy kicking it with one another.
B2M: What do you hope readers will feel about your work as an author?
VALERIE: That as an author, I write stories that they can relate to. So many times I've read books where I've thought to myself, "that *bleep* would never happen in real life."
When reading, I want to take something away from the story that I can apply to my real life. Whether it be a new and different way to love my man, or a lesson learned on how not to make the same senseless mistakes over and over again. That is what I want for my reader to experience.
I want to inspire and uplift every person from every walk of life who reads my books. Whether it is the twenty something female who is just feeling her oats, or the thirty something man who is trying to make that next score; to the fabulous and forty who have just begun to hit the prime in their lives; to the fifty and fyne who have experienced everything from their twenties up to the present, and now have some words of wisdom for those who are following in their footsteps.
Finally, I hope that after the readers have turned the last page of my book, their literary palette will have been seasoned enough that they will feel compelled to not only tell someone about my book, but also be waiting with bated breath for my next. If I can do all those things, then I know I'm doing something right!
Valerie, we look forward to reading more exciting books by you that offer great story lines and wonderful life lessons.
Thanks for interviewing with Books2Mention Magazine. Please be sure to come back again and keep readers informed about all of your future endeavors.
Much Success To You!
The Staff @ Books2Mention Magazine
You are welcome to visit the website of Valerie A. Withers at www.valeriewithers.com.
Books by Valerie A. Withers include: