From the Allegheny Mountains where she grew up, to the Gloucester seaport where she writes, Kathleen Valentine loves nothing more than listening to the stories that people tell while sitting on front porches, gathered around kitchen tables, or swapped in coffee shops and taverns. Her collection of legends, folklore, and tall tales are woven into her fiction. The award-winning author of novels, novellas, & short story collections, as well as books of knitting patterns, & a cookbook/memoir about growing up Pennsylvania Dutch, Valentine has been listed as an Amazon Top Selling Author in Horror, Mystery/Suspense, Cooking, and Knitting. As a writer her primary interest is delving into the psychology of her characters. Her stories are sometimes mysterious, sometimes funny, usually romantic, and frequently frightening. Her characters range from lost children and grumpy old folks, to mysterious men and women who are not to be trifled with. She lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts, America's oldest seaport.
A Letter to My Readers
August 8, 2015
I always find it hard to talk about myself because I think the most interesting thing about me is the stuff I write. If you want to know who I am, read my work. But to give a little more context, I grew up in a Pennsylvania Dutch town in the Allegheny Highlands—now called The Pennsylvania Wilds—called St. Marys. My father was a carpenter and my mother was a the full-time mom of eight kids. Both of my parents were avid readers and always encouraged all of us to read. In fact, under the steps to the upstairs bedrooms was a large closet. My mother kept our sleeping bags and boxes of books—comic books, story books, novels, encyclopedias—in there. When one of us needed a “time-out” she would send us to the closet where we could curl up in the sleeping bags and read.
My favorite childhood memory was people telling stories everywhere we went. On Sunday afternoons my Grandmother Werner and two of her brothers would be sitting on her front porch with liverwurst, rye bread, and beer, and they would start telling stories. Everywhere we went—visiting aunts and uncles and cousins—people were always eating, drinking beer, and telling stories. Neighbors gathered in my mom's kitchen or my dad's shop and the stories would begin. I loved those times so much!
I attended Catholic elementary and high schools then went on to Penn State where I graduated with a degree in The Arts. While there I took a few courses in folklore and oral tradition. They were my favorite subjects. During my first two years of college I lived in Erie, Pennsylvania, and worked in a diner. It was that experience that inspired me to write The Old Mermaid's Tale many years later.
After college, I worked as a graphic artist and typographer in ad agencies as well as a couple energy companies and high tech companies from Houston, Texas to Camden, Maine, finally settling down in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1995 where I have lived ever since. In 2003 I started my own design business, creating web sites, advertising, and promotional material for clients. I also began to write and, when the digital book revolution arrived I was ready. Two of my short works, The Crazy Old Lady in the Attic, and Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter, were highly successful, climbing to the top of Amazon's charts in 2011. This encouraged me to keep writing and, though the competition is far more fierce than it was back then, I keep writing.
So far, I have published three stand-alone novels, and a variety of shorter works. My special loves are my Marienstadt stories which are based on my home town and all those stories I collected on all those porches and kitchens and living rooms as a girl. I am a lover of stories and a teller of tales. That is who I am and will always be.
Thanks for reading,
________________________________________Interviews and blog posts from other sources:
Building Creative Writing Ideas Guest Blog:
August 22, 2011
Crafting Your Opening:
The great American editor and publisher Sol Stein was once asked what he looked for when he began reading a new manuscript. He responded, “I want to fall in love.” The editor of such greats as Elia Kazan, James Baldwin, Dylan Thomas and Jack Higgins, Stein knew a thing or two about what would make a novel successful. He went on to say that if he did not love a character, a situation, or a premise within the fist few pages of a manuscript he would pass it on to someone else to consider. This is a wise thing for writers to remember. Today more than ever most readers lead busy lives and for many of them finding time to sink into a work of fiction is a luxury. Now, in the infancy of electronic self-publishing, competition for readers is intense. Creating an opening to our work that will engage the reader's interest and tantalize the imagination takes not only a devotion to craft but a willingness to engage with one's readers as never before. As a writer I believe that it is my responsibility to 1.) create an intriguing character, 2.) give that character a purpose that readers can resonate with, and 3.) invite my readers into a world they can be intrigued by, where they can spend time with a character or characters they care about.
"I want to fall in love..."
by Kathleen Valentine
It has been said that all great books are about the same thing – desire. The desire to get the girl, find out whodunnit, kill that white whale, find justice or love or purpose, win the war, or vanquish Voldemort. It doesn't always matter what the desire is but if the character who desires it is not suffused with yearning in a manner the reader can understand and relate to, they are probably not going to stick around for ±100k words. The sooner the author can seduce the reader into caring about a character and a character's quest, the more likely the reader is to keep reading.
My novel The Old Mermaid's Tale begins with this line, “In 1960 my hero was a sixteen-year old chess player named Bobby Fischer, not a sports figure of high regard in the coffee shops and bar rooms of Plainview, Ohio.” It is a pretty good opening line because it immediately tells us a few things – the narrator is young, she has aspirations beyond life in the town in which she lives, and it is 1960. That line also got my book a mention on the New York Times' web site the day Bobby Fischer died. A nice bonus. But as I was working on the opening chapter in which we meet Clair, a farm-girl determined to escape Ohio by going to college in a town bordering Lake Erie, I decided I wanted a hint of what was to come. Something dark and mysterious, something that mesmerizes and hints at what is waiting for her. So I added a page and a half prologue that begins:
"I saw her. At first it was the penumbra of red light surrounding the wine dark hair. My world had few beauties in it. Yes, there were the sunrises and sunsets, the moonlight trails across tropical waves, the sparkle of stars in Arctic seas. And women, too. Women had craved me but how can any man unravel the complexities of women’s cravings? I have laid them down and enjoyed it.”
These words are spoken by a character who doesn't show up until halfway through the book but, I hoped, it would provide enough intrigue to keep readers reading.
Each Angel Burns presented a different challenge. Unlike The Old Mermaid's Tale, which is told in the first person except for the prologue,Each Angel Burns is told in third person and it has a larger cast of characters. This is the first paragraph:
Every Thursday night the Wild Bunch met at The Arm Pit for the special and beers. Back in high school they had called themselves the Wild Bunch, now, thirty-some years later, Charlie Pikawski said they ought to be the Mild Bunch. The “bunch” had diminished, too. These days they were lucky to get six of them together. When Pete Black had time to drive from Boston he’d show up but Father Pete had just celebrated his silver anniversary as a Jesuit priest so his wildness was more of the mystical sort. In high school there were over a dozen of them but time took its toll. Tom Hoffman wrapped his GTO around a telephone pole before his twenty-first birthday. Rocco Scutelli hadn’t made it back from Vietnam. Ronnie Mayer succumbed to lung cancer a few years back.My intention was that readers would care about a bunch of guys who had been there for one another for over thirty years – both through the fun of hanging out together with beer and good food and through the tragedies of loss that are one of life's constants. Did I succeed? Only a reader can tell me that.Writing a book that anyone would want to read is a lot like making love. For it to be good it has to be a pleasurable experience for both the writer and the reader. It is my belief that if a writer isn't in love with his/her story, nobody else will be either. We seduce our readers with the passion of our words, we invite them in and say, “Take off your shoes, get comfortable, and stay awhile. I want to tell you a story. I want to make you fall in love.”
The Old Mermaid's Tale and Each Angel Burns, available from Amazon in paper or Kindle), two collections of short stories, a cookbook/memoir of growing up Pennsylvania Dutch, and a book on knitting lace shawls. She recently published a psychological horror novelette, The Crazy Old Lady In The Attic, for Kindle. Her web site is KathleenValentine.com and her blog is Parlez-Moi Blog.
From Kelvin's World
A special post featuring the author of Each Angel Burns, Kathleen Valentine
From Penelope Fletcher's Fierce Fiction Blog:
Author Interview with Kathleen Valentine
It's time to swoon! Romance. *lusty sigh* I have a great guest for you today. Here is my interview with Kathleen Valentine author ofEach Angel Burns;
Hello Kathleen, can you tell me a little about yourself?
I grew up in central Pennsylvania and both of my parents were avid readers. From the time I was a kid I thought writing books had to be the most important thing that anyone could do just because my parents were such book lovers. I graduated from Penn State with a degree in art and spent most of my working life as a graphic artist. I did a lot of commercial writing but it wasn't until about 10 years ago that I started writing fiction. Most of my career I worked in the advertising and marketing departments of large corporations but in 2002 my brother died and I realized that I wasn't going to live forever. I left my job in an engineering firm and started a small graphic design business -- and I started writing. It's been a very good way of life for me, not as lucrative as the corporate world but much happier.
What are your thoughts on the saying, 'A picture is worth a thousand words'? As a writer do you agree with this?
That's an interesting question and, of course, it is true. But what you have to remember is that with a picture those thousand words will describe what is going on in the imagination of the viewer. In writing, those thousand words belong to you. Actually, it would be rather an interesting exercise to write a thousand words describing a picture and then ask an artist to paint what your words evoked. It would be fascinating to compare what they paint to the painting that you described, wouldn't it?
If you could collaborate with another author, who would you choose and why?
I don't think I would. As part of my design business I work with a variety of authors and most writers have such a unique vision that it is hard to merge one's own vision with theirs. Even designing books for writers can be difficult if you can't let go of your own preferences and go with what the author wants. Some years back I worked with a man who was a commercial fisherman and lobsterman on a book he was writing about his life at sea. It was a big challenge because he was very attached to the book and I realized that, if the project was going to succeed, I had to take a back seat and only put my work in where he allowed it. I'm not sure I'd ever do that again.
What method of book promotion has worked best for you as an Indie?
Being very active on the internet, especially with my blog. I also use social media and discussion groups.
You have four eBooks out, with very positive reviews. I find this impressive, a strong backlist is key to being a successful Indie. Can you give us an overview of how your most recent release is going, and its storyline?
I have quite a bit of variety in my books. My two knitting books have been very successful, my cookbook/memoir has done okay but I tend not to promote my non-fiction. In fiction I have two novels and two collections of short stories.
My most recent novel is titled "Each Angel Burns". It is a story about three people, now entering their fifties who have come to big turning points in their lives. Gabe is a woodworker who is married with three grown daughters. Now that his kids are on their own he realizes that he and his wife have nothing in common. Peter is his best friend from childhood and is a Catholic priest. He is a brilliant, learned and devout man but back in college he fell in love with a woman he wanted to marry. She rejected him and he stayed in the seminary but now, thirty years later, she shows back up. Her name is Maggie and she is a sculptor and is trying to divorce her wealthy but abusive husband. She has purchased an abandoned convent on the Maine coast intending to turn it into a sculpture studio. For over a century there have been strange stories about mysterious goings-on there. Because of Peter she hires Gabe to help renovate the convent but very strange things are going on -- a very valuable statue of the archangel Gabriel disappears, her husband refuses to answer her calls and emails, and the bodies of murdered young women are washing up on the shores.... I hope that sounds interesting.
If I had to sum up your book covers in a word I would use 'graceful'. How did you come up with the designs?
Thank you. I love my book covers, too. As an artist I was always interested in collage and as a writer I realized that a good novel is like creating a collage. You pull together a bunch of seemingly disparate concepts (or images) and blend them artfully to create something new. My book covers are visual collages of the elements of the story inside.
Do you still nurture a hope to become traditionally published?
No, I don't think I would go that route at this stage. I had a few nibbles for The Old Mermaid's Tale but if I had gone with them I don't think it would still be in print. As an indie it can stay in print as long as I want it to.
Are there any new books you have coming out we should be on the lookout for?
I have three new books in various stages. Two of them are knitting books. One called "Knit Your Tail Off" is a collection of small lace projects. I hope to have it out by this fall. The second one is called Seaman's Scarves, Siren's Shawls and Stories. It is a collection of his'n'her coordinated shawls and scarves with a maritime theme. That's going to take more time. But my favorite project right now is my new novel, "Depraved Heart" which is about a former NFL football star who was convicted of the depraved indifference murder of his brother-in-law and served fifteen years in prison. He is now out on parole and is being reunited with his daughter who is the heir to a fabulous art collection. It is coming along quite nicely.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
A short while ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathleen Valentine on my site. Now she is back to share her latest book with us: “The Old Mermaid’s Tale“, a story about redemption and the importance of stories in our lives.
Kathleen is the author of a collection of short stories, “My Last Romance and other passions”, and two novels, “The Old Mermaid’s Tale” and “Each Angel Burns”. She has also written “Fry Bacon, Add Onions: The Valentine Family & Friends Cookbook – five generations of good eating”, a memoir/cookbook of memories and 400 recipes from a Pennsylvania Dutch childhood, and “The Mermaid Shawl & other Beauties: Shawls, Cocoons and Wraps”, a collection of her own lace knitting designs. Some of her short stories are available in e-format from HeartThrobBooks.com and additional knitting patterns from KnitYourTailOff.com. She currently lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts, America’s oldest seaport, and is writing another novel, “Depraved Heart” and another knitting book, “Siren Shawls, Seaman’s Scarves and Stories”.
© 2011, Steven R. Drennon. All rights reserved.
From Steven R. Drennon's "Adventures In Writing:
Interview with Kathleen Valentine
From Jennifer Hudock's The Inner Bean:
Author interview: Kathleen Valentine