After spending the last few weeks considering the people in our Village (in the It Takes a Village series), we’re returning to our Monday Morning Author Interviews with a chat with Valerie Comer – a Canadian, no less! I know you’re going to love her. I do!
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 characters enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.
Where did you grow up? I was born in Manitoba (just north of Minnesota in Canada) and lived there until I was 14, when my family moved to British Columbia.
Congratulations! You’re the first Canadian on my interview list! Have you ever been to Minnesota? We drove through Minnesota at least once a year in my childhood on our way to a missions conference held in Wisconsin. I have two distinct memories. One, of going through Duluth and seeing Lake Superior for the first time. Even though Lake Winnipeg is also quite large, I recall being awed by Lake Superior. Perhaps there was a storm or something? That I can’t remember!
My second memory is stopping in Bemidji once to meet the legendary Paul Bunyan and his Great Blue Ox. The label on this photo (which the scanner cropped off) said 1971, so it’s been a while ago! I’m there with my older sister, thinking Paul was a pretty tall dude!
I loved visiting Paul and Babe! So what did you want to be when you grew up? I’m the youngest of five girls by quite a gap. Three of my older sisters were nurses. All four of them were sure they knew what was best for me. I told people I was going to be a doctor so I could boss them all around. Then I discovered doctors might have to look at blood occasionally. That cured me of being bossy. Or at least of wanting a career in medicine.
I guess you could write about doctors who boss your sisters around. At least you wouldn’t have to look at blood! Tell us about your writing journey. Like many kids who grow up to be writers, I toyed around with creating stories as a child. It’s not surprising I didn’t finish any, though. I wrote of sailing on the ocean and riding horses, and neither of those things was remotely like anything I’d experienced as a little Mennonite farm girl whose daddy became a missionary to the Canadian native people.
I read all the books about writing that our library had several times as an adult, but had no idea what to do with the knowledge I’d gained. In 2001 I found myself the lone employee in a small town flooring shop with many empty hours in my workdays. My bosses were delighted that I could entertain myself between calls of duty, and I dug in to learn the craft of writing. I wrote about a novel a year for over a decade there and eventually those stories got stronger until I thought I was ready for publication.
My first “call” was from Barbour Publishing in January 2011 when I sold a novella to them, part of a 4-in-1 collection called Rainbow’s End, which released in 2012. I was certain I had my foot in the door, but nearly two and a half years went by before I contracted my first solo novel (and its successors) to Choose NOW Publishing. Raspberries and Vinegar released August first.
Your perseverance paid off! What’s a lesson you’ve learned during that journey? It’s so hard to know what God wants. I knew He wanted me to write. That was the easy bit. But what did He want done with it? Was it simply an act of worship from me to Him? Was I content with that? The publishing industry is full of people telling you to be patient. It all takes time. God will make it happen when you’re ready.
On the other hand, anyone can self-publish an ebook to Smashwords ten minutes after they type “the end” to their first draft. Does Group A’s maxim mean that self-publishing is sinning by not trusting God? How do you know when you’ve been patient enough? How do you know if God wants you to self-publish?
When you discover the answers to those questions, I’ll have you back for another interview. There are hordes of us wondering the same things! What was something that surprised you on your journey? Raspberries and Vinegar made the rounds of major publishers for three years and came close to being signed a couple of times. I have some beautiful rejection letters, but you can’t take those to the bank. I did a lot of soul-searching and felt that God was telling me to stop the rat-race of writing ever more proposals, trying to find the elusive something that would launch my career. It was time to go back to finishing the stories I started and then figuring out what to do with them.
Thankfully Raspberries and Vinegar was already complete and fairly polished, because just a couple of months after this decision, I started into a discussion with Choose NOW Publishing and felt total peace at being this new house’s debut release. It’s been a wild ride: ten weeks from signing to release!
I think God had this up His sleeve (Today’s theological question: does God wear sleeves?) and was just waiting for the right moment to surprise me with it.
Hmm. I’ll have to noodle on whether God has sleeves or not. In the meantime, tell us about your current work. Along with Raspberries and Vinegar, my contract includes two more books to complete the Farm Fresh Romance series. I’d written the first draft of Wild Mint Tea the summer it looked like Book One would sell to a big house. I shelved it when the deal went away, but pulled it out in early June for a quick pass before sending it for critique. Any day now (ha!) I’ll get into the thick of revising it so I can get it to my editor. It’s scheduled to release in March 2014. The third book, Sweetened with Honey, is due to release in December 2014.
And I made another fun announcement recently. I’ll be releasing another new title, Snowflake Tiara, with a co-author, Angie Breidenbach, in September 2014. Here’s a link to what those two stories (hers – historical, mine – contemporary) are all about. I’m thrilled to be working with Angie on this project.
Wow, you are one busy author! Congratulations! Sounds like you have plenty to keep you busy in the coming months, eh? Now that I’ve found a publisher that loves what I write, I plan to keep doing what I’m doing! With farmers’ markets and heirloom tomatoes the New Big Thing, my adventures in Farm Lit (http://farmlit.com) will hopefully get enough attention from book-buyers to keep me writing what I love the most.
I’m thrilled for you. And I can attest to what fun stories you write. Before you go, is there something you’d like to experience in Minnesota beyond visiting Paul and Babe? Visiting you, Stacy! Seriously. We shall have to plan for that one of these fine years.
My door is always open for you! Tell us something most people don’t know about you. I take being an introvert to the next level. We live on a farm about five miles from town and, now that I’m “retired” and work from home, I am content to avoid town at nearly any cost. I consider a week to be quite successful if I can grab a few groceries on my way home from church and never go back until the next week.
That said, people are surprised to find I’m an introvert. I’m happy to strike up conversations with strangers nearly anywhere. Mostly, I’d just rather be at my laptop, taking notes on what the people in my head are up to on any given day.
I would never have guessed you to be an introvert. We had quite a time at the ACFW Conference in Dallas!
Thanks for stopping in at my blog, Valerie. I’m praying God blesses you abundantly in this new niche of Farmlit. And when you come back to Minnesota, we’ll celebrate!
Leave a comment for Valerie for a chance to win an ebook of Raspberries and Vinegar. I guarantee you’ll love the book – it’s a fun story with interesting (and cute!) characters and lots of great info about farm fresh food. It will make you hungry, especially for Book 2!
Buy Raspberries and Vinegar through Choose NOW Publishing: http://www.choosenowpublishing.com/posts/books/raspberries-and-vinegar-farm-fresh-romance/
Check out the amazing Choose NOW Ministry: http://nicoleodell.com/choose-now-ministries-nicole-odell/
Connect with Valerie at:
Twitter: http://twitter.com/valeriecomer -and- http://twitter.com/towritestory
Writing Blog & Free eCourse: http://towriteastory.com