Raspberries and Vinegar by Valerie Comer
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 grows much of her own food and is active in the local foods movement as well as her church. She only hopes her imaginary friends enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.
Valerie writes Farm Lit and Farm Fresh Romance with the voice of experience laced with humor.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I live on a small farm in western Canada with my husband, a few cows, pigs, chickens, and bees. We source as much food locally as we can—much of it from our large garden.
Our son and his family also live on the farm, while our daughter's family lives a 90-minute drive away. I'm a happy grandmother with three little grandgirls to snuggle, tickle, and read to!
What 4 fun or unique things can you tell us about yourself that we don’t know?
1. I've been on a 10-day canoe camping trip.
2. I spent 3 months in Bolivia many years ago.
3. I can operate a (small) church soundboard.
4. I can fool people into thinking I'm an extrovert…for a while.
Please describe yourself with three words.
Child of God.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
When not writing, snuggling grandgirls, or gardening, I enjoy riding my bike in summer or snowshoeing in winter. A perfect getaway is when hubby and I pull our little camping trailer in beside a mountain creek for a few days. Ah, to feast on nature and worship the One who made it.
How did you become involved in writing?
Like most writers, I dabbled in it for many years and talked about writing a novel "someday." It wasn't until I got a job as the only employee in a small-town flooring shop that I realized I had the perfect opportunity. I wrote ten novels in the back corner of the shop over 11.5 years when no customers, phone calls, sales reps, boss guys, or freight deliveries required attention!
Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated office or a corner or nook in a room?
Since separating from my job in November 2012, I've claimed part of the upstairs bedroom my granddaughters sleep in when they visit. My desk sits in front of a window where I can look out over my garden, our pastures, and neighboring farms to the mountains beyond. In the heat of summer I'm more likely to be found writing in my recliner or at the kitchen island than running the air conditioner upstairs, but I miss my space and can't wait for the weather to cool off enough to welcome me back to my room!
Do you always know the title of your books before you write them?
Not always. Raspberries and Vinegar's working title was Domino's Game, after the Border collie puppy instrumental to the romance. The final title didn't come until several weeks after signing my contract. Sometimes the perfect one comes to me in advance or early in the process, and other times much later.
Please tell us about Raspberries and Vinegar.
Sweet like raspberries. Tart like vinegar.
Josephine Shaw: complex, yet single minded. A tiny woman with big ideas and, some would say, a mouth to match. But what does she really know about sustainable living as it relates to the real world? After all, she and her two friends are new to farming.
Zachary Nemesek is back only until his dad recovers enough to work his own land again. When Zach discovers three helpless females have taken up residence at the old farm next door, he expects trouble. But a mouse invasion proves Jo has everything under control. Is there anything she can't handle? And surely there's something sweet beneath all that tart.
What takeaway value do you hope your readers receive after reading this book?
I hope they will laugh, I hope they will cry, and I hope they will think, at least a little bit, about where their food comes from.
Where did you get the idea for your book?
When my son and his wife lived in the city attending university, I was amazed by how many of their peers claimed eagerness to get their hands in the dirt and grow their own food. I wondered just how many surprises city-bred 20-somethings would find if their dream came true. Many of those surprises have found my way into Raspberries and Vinegar and the other two books in the Farm Fresh Romance series.
Did you have to do any research for this book?
Even though I've lived on the farm for more than half my life, there were things I needed to research. I needed to pinpoint the exact chemicals Zach would be using on his farm in early spring, and what his veterinary college training would have been like. I also had to research the incident that became the novel's black moment, so I'm not free to tell you what it was! Dozens of other minor things cropped up that required either a fact-check or something more in depth.
How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
I started writing in the spring of 2002. I began submitting work to agents in 2008. In 2011, I sold my first work, a novella that became part of Rainbow's End, a 4-in-1 collection that released from Barbour in May, 2012. While this opened some doors for me, it didn't net me the Big One, a contract for a solo novel, until May, 2013, when I signed with Choose NOW Publishing for my Farm Fresh Romance series, starting with Raspberries and Vinegar.
What advice would you give to writers who have been writing a few years but still haven’t interested an agent or publisher in their novel?
Focus on craft, first. Don't be in too much of a hurry, and don't fret.
These days it's easy to give up on the traditional path and self publish. I've got nothing against it. I considered it myself and still will likely go that direction with some of my stories. What I do have a problem with is people writing The End on the first draft of their first novel and pushing the 'publish' button on Amazon ten minutes later.
Oh, people! Learn the craft. Get a critique partner. Go to a conference or take some workshops. Revise your story—not once, but several times. Polish it. Write another one. Learn some more. Don't toss something online prematurely. It won't do you a bit of good, and may do your authorly reputation some harm.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
I guess I gave a lot of that advice in the previous answer! But I'd like to take this opportunity to invite your friends, especially new-to-intermediate writers, to my website http://towriteastory.com. To Write a Story is designed to provide an overview of the writing process. I'm offering a free course via email that starts at the beginning (with an idea) and goes through planning, plotting, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing fiction. I also blog Thursdays on one of the topics in the course.
At first I hesitated to offer this course because there are so many writers with more experience than I have. Still, I've learned a lot in 11 years of trial and error, and welcome the opportunity to "pay forward."
What are you working on now?
I'm revising the second book in the Farm Fresh Romance series, Wild Mint Tea. Thankfully I wrote the first draft a couple of years ago when a major publishing house was considering the first book. That's helping me keep to a fairly tight timeline for the remainder of the series. Books 2 and 3 will both release in 2014.
Please tell our readers where they can get your book.
My publisher's website has links to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other sites where either the paperback or the digital version can be purchased: http://www.choosenowpublishing.com/posts/books/raspberries-and-vinegar-farm-fresh-romance/
Please tell our readers where they can find you online.
Connect with Valerie at:
Writing Blog & Free eCourse: http://towriteastory.com
Any parting comment?
Thanks so much for having me here today, Jo! It's fun visiting with someone having the same name as my heroine.
Valerie, thank you for an interesting interview. I’ll draw from among the commenters on this post for a copy of Raspberries and Vinegar, which you’ve so graciously offered.
The winner of last Monday’s blog post for a copy of The Pastor’s Wife Wears Biker Boots by Karla Akins is Barbara. I'll email you to get your mailing address and we’ll get the book out to you. Thanks all for commenting. Watch for more book giveaways.
Till next time … keep on smiling.