JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Valerie Stocking, author of Southern Strife
Southern Strife gives us a complex but tightly woven plot in which twelve-year-old Joy, newly moved to northern Florida in the custody of her divorcing mother and having as yet no friends, is in the process of building a friendship with a biracial boy at school, Clay.
She is unaware that the area, so close to Alabama and the drama of Montgomery, is a hotbed of the KKK. Meanwhile, Joy’s mother, Jessica, has fallen in love with her lawyer, Bill McKendrick, who is a leader in the KKK. As both relationships deepen, the tension is stretched to an almost unbearable degree.
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the inspiration to write Southern Strife?
Valerie Stocking: Between 1966 and 1967, I lived with my mother in a small town on the west coast of Florida. My experiences there inspired the book, and family members and others I met inspired the characters.
I must emphasize that not everything that takes place in Southern Strife actually happened. The racial strife in this town was made up, although a number of people who have read the book have told me that it is accurate. I know that the bigotry that was in the novel was certainly there. The experiences pertaining to education and the child psychiatrist are also true.
JP: What sets Southern Strife apart from other books in the same genre?
VS: Most historical fiction is fictitious, except for details of the period. Some of the characters are based on real people. Many of the characters and the events in Southern Strife are real. I have put my own life experiences into this book, and I think it makes for a more intense read.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that led to The Promised Land getting out to the public?
VS: Southern Strife was published by CreateSpace. Prior to this, I had a mystery published by a publisher that was a hybrid self-publishing firm/small press. I made a lot of mistakes with my first book that I was determined not to make with the second.
For instance, for the mystery I spent a great deal of money hiring a PR guy who worked for me for 6 month. In all that time, only got me a radio interview and a book signing. He also told me to avoid promoting with social media.
Like an idiot, I followed his advice. I wound up selling maybe 6 books. This time, I did a blog tour, and I’ve got my book in the local bookstore here. It is also available for the Kindle. I am going to be setting in motion the process whereby Southern Strife will be converted into an audio book as well.
I promote on Facebook and Twitter. I have done a big promo with Kindle that was very successful. Southern Strife is a semifinalist in the Best Indie Book of 2012 contest, sponsored by the Kindle Book Review. I’m thrilled, of course, and that is another selling point I intend to promote. And the book has gotten good reviews so far, which helps.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take you to start and finish Southern Strife?
VS: When I am doing a first draft, I try to write everyday. My goal is 5 pages a day, and I usually wind up writing more. With editing, it is much slower and more painstaking. There are times when, due to my schedule, I tend to write in spurts. For instance, I may write 50 pages in a week or less, then not write again for a couple of weeks.
It takes me a long time to process a book before I write it. I had the idea for Southern Strife years before I actually began writing it. During the “incubation” time, my unconscious is at work developing plot and characters. I may write-up an outline summarizing the idea and a few of the characters. Most of the time when I set something out on the computer screen it is largely from my subconscious.
With Southern Strife, even the fictitious characters emerged fully formed. That has never happened with me before. But they were real people as they came out. I did maybe 3-4 drafts of the book, which is very little for me.
So it took me a number of years from the time I first had the idea for writing Southern Strife until the time I actually sat down and wrote it. It took somewhere around 3 years to get it done, including rewrites. So although I may appear to be prolific, in fact I am pretty slow, I guess.
JP: What’s next for Valerie Stocking?
VS: I have written a sequel to my mystery novel, entitled Seen of the Crime. It features 25-year-old private eye Samantha Kern. It needs one more major edit, then it will be ready to go to an editor. I’m going to do plenty of shopping around when it comes to hiring a new editor.
My next novel is going to be a paranormal thriller, working title Jasmine. After that, another mystery, and then, either a coming-of-age story set during 1953 or a memoir. I used to be afraid that I wouldn’t have enough ideas to keep me going as a writer. Now, my biggest fear is I’ll die before I get them all written!
I publish two blogs a week on my website. Monday’s deals with paranormal phenomena, and Thursday’s is a serialized Samantha Kern mystery called Color Me Dead. Come by and check them out!