Monday, February 7, 2011

When a simple happiness is a blessing...

Imagine having no safe home.

That isn't a question about just having a roof over your head. Imagine having no safe place where you can feel safe at all. Every small happiness, becomes a gift of tremendous value. Endure a lifetime of need, and surprise at even simple things.... Valerie Maarten asks you to feel that, as you read 'The Gift of Joy'. Such is the reality for many women; women and their children, who look to others for the barest of comforts. Women who need shelter from harm.

I'm so pleased to feature Valerie this week, in her first author's interview. I got a picture of Valerie! Yay!

She has not written a depressing novella for you to slog through. Contrary to that, Joy's experience is uplifting when you become friends with her. Understanding is a wonderful thing to come to. Especially with this subject. You only need to care, to let yourself care. It's how Joy deals with the pains in her past; she runs a shelter for women in need.

Writing a reality based fiction, with this sadness and want at its core, must be done by someone who exudes generosity. I believe that describes Valerie. I've seen her promote other authors with vigor on her website. She seems a giving person, if a bit shy. She certainly gave herself to this text, 'The Gift of Joy' is a labor of love for Val, and I've been curious exactly what sparked it. Perhaps it doesn't need to be told. Nothing would change about this story, knowing where it began to shine within the author. Let's say that I will be satisfied that she wrote it, so it could touch other people. Some people need even a small encouragement. It could make tomorrow somewhat easier to bear.

Here is the link to my review of her book. I've not read 'Second Chances' but the reviews are similar, people love what they are reading.

No, there aren't any St. Bernards. But Valerie rescues sea turtles...Orlando is her home. Every few weekends she can be found walking the marshy beaches near Edgewater - a turtle under each arm. Unless a Shuttle launch has been scheduled on the Cape. She will drop whatever task is at hand, to brave the endless traffic to be close as possible. I bet she's taken a few turtles along from time to time.

Where do those turtles go? She won't say, but I've heard NASA has a turtle removal task force at the Cape, and she might be keeping them busy. I think her backyard might be a bit of turtle heaven too.

*** If this is your first visit to Thing, always - always check the comments, stuff crops up. And say hello. :)
What prompted you to write this story, 'The Gift of Joy' ?
A little girl named Joy that always seemed to haunt my thoughts and live in my heart.  Although she was make believe, her story was real.

Was this your first novel?
This was the first novel that I published.  I have many WIP that are clamoring for my attention.

You read a variety of subjects; what are your favorite books?
In non-fiction I like history, particularly the medieval period.  As for fiction, I’m very eclectic.  I’ll read anything that grabs my attention.

Give us some insight to your writing process; how do you approach your page?
This is an interesting question because I’m always wondering about other Author’s methods for writing.  I’m a little old fashioned in my writing style, I guess you can say.  I have to write every word out in long hand then I do my re-write, edits as I’m typing.  Some Authors seem to be comfortable sitting in front of the computer screen as the words flow from their fingers.  It has the opposite effect for me.  My thoughts flow easiest when I’m writing.
You've brought my eyes wide open at that! I know very few people who can do that, it is a remarkable thing to know. 

Have you exposed your work to agencies? Do you send out queries?
I have to admit that I haven’t done that.  To be quite frank, I never thought that I’d become published because I didn’t like the idea of having to go through the formality of query letters, finding and agent, etc.  So, I resigned myself to the fact that my work would be mostly enjoyed by me and a few friends before it was relegated to a Rubbermaid bin in the garage.  It wasn’t until this new-fangled idea called ePublishing came about that I ever considered publishing seriously.

How long have you been writing? What other things have you done?
For fear of sounding too cliché, I’ve been writing ALL of my life.  Poems, short stories, plays…anything.  I love to read and I love to write.  It’s a passion that’s been inside me since I can remember.  I can recall my first book I ever read, but if I tell you the title I’d be dating myself so I’ll refrain. 

Okay, okay.  Stop twisting my arm.  It was “Fun with Dick and Jane” and “See Spot Run.”  I told you.  Now I can hear the computer in everyone’s head calculating when those books were published and tacking on another 5 years for good measure.  For the record, I’m 25 years old *sneaky grin*

Did this story spring entirely from your heart, or did you research any parts of it?
“The Gift of Joy” was entirely from the heart.  I grew up in a time when Domestic Violence was a personal affair where no one got involved or intervened and it was rarely treated as a criminal offense.  So, I always wondered what if…?  What if you’re the product of a home where this was commonplace?  What type of person would you become…how would it affect your relationships with other people, etc.?

I’ve always carried this little girl in my heart and in my mind.  Finally, I decided that her story was too compelling to remain untold.  I wanted people to know Joy, feel her pain and loss.  I needed to make her human so people would know how their inclination not to get involved could affect another person’s life, especially the life of a child that has no one else to protect them.

Have you worked or volunteered in a Women’s shelter before?
I’ve never volunteered in a Women’s shelter, but I have done volunteer for church where we serve hungry families and give away gently used clothes to the needy.  To be quite honest, I don’t think my heart would allow me to work under those conditions.  I’m too empathetic towards those types of situations and I don’t know how I would react under those circumstances.  Maybe that’s just my selfish way of protecting my own heart from the pain.  I don’t know how else to explain it.

Why would a contract writer desire more time at the keyboard, to write a novel? What is a contract writer?
If I had to guess at what a “Contract Writer” is, I’d say it’s more like a freelance writer.  If this is true, then I would think that writing a novel would be less lucrative for them since they would have to make great sales in order to acquire the fee they’re probably accustomed to by writing bits, blogs, etc.  Though I could be wrong…I’m just guessing.

You are very careful with Gabe in ‘The Gift of Joy’. Were you doing that on purpose, or did Joy cause that?
It was a little of both, I’d say.  As an adult, Gabe had a better understanding of what Joy must have gone through in her childhood and to couple that with his own guilt for not doing anything about it, though he was too young, was another reason he had the temperament he had with Joy.  But overall, I didn’t want an overpowering, “Alpha” male to overshadow the message I was trying to convey through Joy.  Believe me, it was a delicate balance of which I hope I’ve succeeded.

I’ve noticed that you are shy about self promotion; you even admit you were brought up to believe it could be a negative trait. Is that changing for you, as you connect with more people? Are you learning to open up a bit, for the sake of your books?
Some things are just inherent in you.  Bragging or boasting or calling attention to oneself was just a “no-no” when I was growing up.  However, I did have to learn how to promote in order to sell books.  Though there doesn’t seem to be a method to the madness, I’ve experimented with various ways to do it.  Some ways were quite successful and others, not so much.  I still have a learning curve in this arena, but I am comfortable enough now to at least try.

Tell us a little about ‘Second Chances’.
“Second Chances” is another one of those, what would happen if…?  I wondered, what would happen if a person spent their entire life believing something to be true, to the point of it festering into a poisonous, debilitating hatred, only to find out later on in life that it was a lie?  Would that person continue to use that hatred as a shield?  Or would they be strong enough to let it go and begin their life anew?  It was experimental, but I hope I was able to convey the antagonism it could cause in a person’s life if they chose to hold on to it…and all that they stood to lose if they didn’t let it go.
Here is a link to a Smashwords reader review of 'Second Chances'.

Have you had days when it just seemed impossible to write?
All the time.  Not that I don’t have a cache of stories in my head, but because I’m not disciplined enough to write when the spirit hits me sometimes.  Unfortunately, I’m one of those Authors that let life get in the way and I rarely do anything until I feel I’m “under the gun.”  I guess I work best when I feel I’m under pressure, even if I’m the one giving the deadline.

Do you snorkel, or are you a beach-babe-with-a-book?
Easy question to answer.  I’m a beach-babe-with-a-book.

Have you been deep sea fishing?
Never.  Motion sickness would not allow that to be a fun outing for me…or the other person.

How many Shuttle launches have you seen?
In person…none.  Standing in my driveway…all of them.  Fortunately I live fairly close to NASA, so I can see it from my house.  I know most people think it’s cool to see it in person, but they’ve never seen the traffic it causes when it’s over and I absolutely HATE being stuck in traffic.

Name your favorite amusement park ride.
Oh, I’m a wimp.  This is a hard one.  It’ll have to be the Tea Cup Ride or the ride in The Cat in the Hat.  I know, I’m a big baby.

Have you ever ridden an air-boat in the Everglades?
Did no one ever tell you they have alligators in the Everglades?  Heck no!  I’m scared.  You know I always wonder, what if?  What if something happened to the man steering the boat?  What if we get stuck in the marshes and it’s getting late?  What if…?

Does the Fountain of Youth exist?
Yes.  Ask my two grandmothers.  They are both ninety and beautiful, with very few wrinkles.  I’m still waiting for them to tell me where it is.

So, I teased about St. Bernards, you seem more the type to rescue Greyhounds. What’s the real story?
You’re a very intuitive man.  I would be that type.  Though I’ll admit that I love St. Bernards for their bravery and intelligence, I love Greyhounds for their agility and regal stature.  They’re both beautiful animals in their own way.

Which must-see tourist spot in Florida will you admit you have never, never seen?
I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never been to St. Augustine.  Each of my boys has been, but I’ve never made the trip.  That is definitely on my list of places to see.

Describe Val Maarten’s perfect day…..
Now you’re going to expose my simple life.  But here goes…  My perfect day is when I’m home alone, I have creamer for my coffee *always seem to run out* and I can read or write or chat with friends all day.  See, I told you it was simple.

I’m giving you one million play-dollars, to travel the world. Where are you going?
Yippee!  The first place I’m going is Scotland.  Then I’ll shoot over to Ireland, England…make a beeline to Italy and Greece.  Take a break for a few weeks then go to Australia.  Probably not in that order, but heck I have a million play-dollars.  I can do whatever I want, right?

Name the one person you could approach tomorrow, to hand them a copy of your books.
I would say Oprah so I could sell an instant million copies, since she seems to have the Midas Touch.  But I’d probably rather hand it over to Maya Angelou.  She was one of my favorite Authors growing up and she always seemed to evoke emotions from me and I’d like to know if I could do the same to her.

Will you send a picture, so we can post it with your feature next week?☺
Joel, I’m sorry that I don’t have any professional pictures of myself.  I promise it’s on my to-do list and you’ll be the first one to see me after my 'unveiling'.
What? My goofy shots are professional? I'm a master at obscure images...

Next day... 
I hope you're feeling better today.  I couldn't find a professional photo of myself, but I managed to crop one from my nephew's graduation.  It's not perfect, but it'll do for now.  If you can't stand to see my "mug", feel free not to use it and use a book cover LOL  I won't be offended.  I'm not really a picture person.

Beautiful! You are smiling out from so many places now....
Joel, I'm slowly coming out of my "comfort zone." One day I'll do a better picture, but this one will do for now. Thanks ♥


Valerie, you are very welcome. It is such a pleasure to have you here, to reach one more person with the uplifting messages in your books. And, folks, get over to her website again, right now, for the LinZ Muddy Buddy Treat recipe on her home page. Those might break my addiction to Gummy Bears....


  1. Joel, Great interview! Very informative and entertaining. I'm guessing a little imagination went into it as well:) It's always fun to get to know the author behind the story.
    Valerie, I'm amazed by your ability to write everything out long hand. I would have so many things crossed out, I'd never be able to read it:)
    Thanks for sharing a bit about yourself and your books. They both sound intriguing.

  2. Thanks for the interview. Valerie sounds like a wonderful person. I will check out her books.

  3. Thank you for stopping by Barbara. That one fact alone, that Val writes everything first in longhand...I couldn't have made up anything more exciting. It's an amazing think to know about her. :)

  4. Joel, once again you have entertained and brought me a smile.

    Valerie, I enjoyed getting to know more about you. I have your book (technically, ebook) Second Chances. It's on my to-read list, which I am slowly working my way through. I'm looking forward to it!

  5. Great interview, Valerie. Second Chances looks really interesting. Will be adding it to my TBR list!

  6. So, Valerie? You mentioned in a Bio, somewhere, that you write contracts in your day job... That is what I wondered - what type of contracts? Would that be for a law firm? :)

  7. Nice interview, Valerie. Interesting background on your book. Here's to your success.

  8. Valerie Maarten said...

    Joel, I write government contracts *boooring* But it's riddled with legal mumbo jumbo, state, local and federal jargon and policies. The irony is I spend all day writing technical contracts, but at night I let my creativity flow. Definitely NIGHT and DAY <3

  9. Love, you are my soul-mate of writing! hehe! I do the SAME with my writing! Besides the fact we have the same blog background.... I write in hand first, then type. I even write with a quill pen a lot!!! I am a professional historian (Plantation Life and Slavery) but I fancy the medieval period- which means I read MORE history than anything. And My top places to visit- in order (if I had a million $$) Ireland, Scotland, England, New Zealand, Italy and Greece. I am part of NASA's NIGHT SKY NETWORK. I am an amateur astronomer!!! I never knew how much we have in common. That's kinda' neat!!! Thanks for the insight!!

  10. Fantastic interview. I love that this was your first blog interview, and we got to see a little piece of you up close and personal. I also loved hearing that your make believe character was real and alive inside you. That's a beautiful thing!

  11. Another great interview, Joel! I have a few things in common with Val, too! Up until very recently, I used to write everything in long hand first and then type up and edit. All my published books were written that way. I have only now become comfortable writing straight onto the computer.
    I also have a novel called 'Second Chances' :)
    I also used to write contracts, and various other formal deeds and documents, for a living.
    Val, I'm looking forward to reading your books.

  12. Valerie Maarten said...
    It's so funny how we are so different in some ways, only to find out we all have more in common than not. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one that has quirky writing methods.

    One day I might feel comfortable enough to write straight onto the computer, until then I love the whole act of writing. It allows me the opportunity to make side notes or jot down things I want to incorporate, etc. I don't know if I'll ever evolve LOL

  13. Sheilagh Lee: Great interview.sounds like a winning book.

  14. I've just become acquainted with Valerie through writing connections and I'm so very glad we have met. :)
    Interesting interview, very insightful.

  15. I know Valerie (Mama Valerie to me) personally and she is everything people think of her and more. She has a talent like no other and I'm very proud of her. "The Gift of Joy" was wonderful and I will soon be starting "Second Chances." ~Ana~

  16. Great interview, Joel.

    I just did my first author interview on my blog the other day and I have about ten willing folks lined-up for future interviews...

    I learned something valuable here: throw in a couple zinger-questions :-)

  17. Ha! That's great Alex.

    Thanks to all who dropped by to comment. Valerie is a fine lady, and you will enjoy her books.

  18. Valerie Maarten said...
    Joel, I'd like to thank you for being my "first." This was so much fun and you are the biggest reason I am able to come out of my shell.

    You are a great Interviewer and a wonderful,
    supportive person and I am glad that our paths have crossed.

  19. Great interview, Valerie!!! I must have missed the part about the microwave, though. I guess you decided not to bring that up, eh?

  20. Valerie Maarten said...
    If I were to bring up such things, I'd be dating myself. And as I've said on numerous occasions, I'm only 25 years old.

    As I've explained to my 25 year old son, I was born pregnant with him. What can I say, I'm a phenomenon. ~winks~

  21. This was a very interesting interview. Can't wait to read one of those books!

  22. I enjoyed this interview. I love your idea of a favorite day......sounds heavenly.

  23. Hi, Valerie. Nice to meet you here. I went to a shuttle launch in person once and it was incredible. Since I live in Utah, we were at Space View Park watching it. I don't remember the traffic being that bad.

    And the Everglades are incredible. I'd love to spend a long time exploring them someday.


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