Author Interview & Giveaway ~ Brandy Vallance: Within the Veil

Within_the_Veil_sg_Half.jpgI’m excited to welcome my friend, talented author, and sister-in-Christ, Brandy Vallance to my blog! Brandy ‘visited’ a year-and-a-half ago when her debut, The Covered Deep, was released.

Her second historical romance, Within the Veil, released June 28th, and I’m so thrilled to get an opportunity to ask her questions about the characters, her favorite tea(s), and what she learned about gypsies while writing this lyrical romance about a Scottish half-Gypsy and an English palace guard set in Scotland in the late 19th century.

Within the Veil Blurb:

They never should have met. But they might be made for each other.

 Feya Broon, a Scottish half Gypsy, knows what it is to go hungry. Trapped in the Edinburgh tenements with a father lost to his past and only the faded memory of her mother’s faith, Feya is desperate to provide for her siblings. When an ill-conceived plan leads to thievery, she finds herself in the last place she’d ever want to be–captured by a palace guard. But there’s something about this man that tears at every preconceived notion she’s ever had about the haughty English.
 
Alasdair Cairncross never dreamed he’d be forced to transport a Gypsy woman halfway across the wilds of Scotland. The timing is disastrous, considering his fiancée’s imminent arrival and his father’s political goals. Not only that, but the fiery young woman threatens to lay bare secrets Alasdair would rather keep hidden. And yet the farther they travel together, the less concerned he finds himself with duty–both to the crown and to the plans his family has for him.
 
 As their walls begin to crumble, Feya and Alasdair must fight to survive a decades-old feud, a Highland kidnapping, and the awakening of their own hearts.

 

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About Brandy:

Brandy Vallance fell in love with the Victorian time period at a young age, loving the customs, manners, and especially the intricate rules of love. Since time travel is theoretically impossible, she lives in the nineteenth century vicariously through her novels. Unaccountable amounts of black tea have fueled this ambition. Brandy’s love of tea can only be paralleled by her love of Masterpiece Theater Classics, deep conversations, and a good book. Brandy is the 2013 Operation First Novel winner and the 2012 winner of the ACFW Genesis Contest for historical romance. Her novels have been featured in USA TODAY and Writer’s Digest. You can connect with Brandy via her website www.brandyvallance.com, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, YouTube, or Twitter @BrandyVallance.

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K: Let’s begin with the most important question—what kind of tea did you drink/guzzle while writing this amazing story?

B: Ha! Great question. Here we go: PG Tips, Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice, Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice, Tazo Earl Grey, Two Leaves and a Bud Organic Assam Breakfast, Twinings Darjeeling, Yorkshire Gold, many other varieties and even some Yerba Mate!

K: Wow, that is quite a variety of tea! Sounds perfect for novel-writing. Speaking of…Within the Veil is your second novel. It’s just as lovely and vivid and emotional as The Covered Deep, your debut. Was it easier, more difficult, or just different crafting your second historical romance?

B: In some ways it was easier and in others it was more difficult. As far as the writing went—the technical aspects—that seemed like muscle memory. I didn’t have to follow a plot structure as heavily as I did with The Covered Deep. It was like my subconscious just knew what to do. I did try to push myself out of my comfort zone, so in that aspect I’ll say that it was more challenging.

K: How does the creation process begin for you? A picture of a person, plot ideas, a particular scene?

B: The only thing I knew starting out was that I wanted to write a Scottish vs. English, enemies to lovers story. At first, I didn’t plan on the Gypsy element. That just showed up in chapter one. Feya’s father started talking about the caravans and the Gypsy fires and I was like what? At that point I threw myself into research about the Gypsies in Scotland and I really liked what I found. Non-writers will find this response a bit on the insane side, but writers will know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s amazing how our subconscious works.

K: Feya and Alasdair are both strong, vibrant, flawed people. Life-like characters who lived and breathed beyond the pages of Within the Veil. I miss them! If you could spend an hour with Feya and an hour with Alasdair, what would you talk about? What do you think they’d say?

K: I miss them too! I still think about Paul & Bianca all the time and I know it’ll always be the same with Feya & Alasdair. Oh, to spend an hour with Feya! Feya is like that wild friend you have who always makes life more interesting. She’s so passionate about everything. There’s really no middle ground for her—she’s either all in or completely against something. She’s just so full of life! I think it would just be fun to sit with Feya and drink tea all night. Listening to her stories would have me laughing so hard I’d be in tears. I’d love to hear about the folklore of Scotland. She drops a lot of mentions of that in the book. And just her expressions are so funny. It’s also hard to pretend with Feya, she’s pretty insightful. So, we’d have many hilarious discussions that would end in deep, authentic, unforgettable conversations.

Now, as far as Alasdair is concerned . . . I’m not sure I’d be saying much. The man is devilishly handsome and that smile . . . He’d get bored with me pretty quickly. I’d just be staring at him the entire time, blushing.

K: Ahhh, Alasdair…*sigh* Okay, moving along. Within the Veil portrays the prejudice Romani Gypsies experienced during the 19th century in Scotland. Intense dislike—in many cases, hatred—and forced separation affected the gypsies’ lives so profoundly. Was the research difficult? Enlightening?

B: The research was very enlightening. I was struck—and saddened—that many of the Gypsies problems from all that time ago have not changed. In 2013 a leading Hungarian journalist—Zsolt Bayer—wrote in Magyar Hirlap (a newspaper): “Most Gypsies are not suitable for cohabitation. They are not suitable for being among people. Most are animals, and behave like animals. They shouldn’t be tolerated or understood, but stamped out. Animals should not exist.” In 2015 a Gypsy shanty town in Paris was raided. Four hundred Gypsies were evacuated. I watched a lot of documentaries and the more I watched the more I wanted to write Feya’s story. To learn a little bit more, this is a very good, brief video on the Gypsy people: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z70wX8wLRtI

K: Which character in Within the Veil was most challenging to get to know? Which character was the most fun to get to know?

B: Ranald Aldourie was the hardest for me to get to know. Some of his motivations didn’t come out until the 4th draft!

I really enjoyed getting to know Alasdair because I gave him a gifting that my son has—synesthesia, a neuropsychological condition where all of the senses are combined. While writing Within the Veil, I asked my son to describe to me how certain things looked. Many of the synesthetic scenes that I put in the book came from his exact descriptions.

K: Yes, Alasdair’s condition added such a fascinating, emotional thread to the story. Publishing is a difficult, unpredictable business. What has been the most challenging part of the writing and publishing journey for you? On the flip side, what has been the most rewarding?

B: I think the most challenging part of writing is always self-doubt. We writers are plagued with it. We’re always battling some personal demon or the other while writing a book. As hard as this is, it is necessary and it is vital. Writing a novel is so hard because it is so important. If you have done it right, people are going to be changed by your writing. I feel that the author has to be personally transformed during the writing of a book for it to be truly powerful, and that’s not an easy process. A lot of vulnerability is involved—or at least it should be—and bleeding on the page is essential.

The most rewarding thing for me is always connecting with readers. Hearing that something you wrote made a difference to them is a really amazing thing. I love seeing pictures of my books with readers. That is a personal favorite. This time I even got to see a picture of your bird, Mango with my book!

K: Oh yes, that was fun getting his picture with the beautiful cover! Here’s Mango and Feya (along with a little piece of popcorn to lure him in). 🙂

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K: This reader fan wants to know what’s percolating in your writerly imagination?  

B: Right now I’m working on the second draft of a very fun time travel novella. The working title is All She Never Wanted. The heroine’s name is Gemma and she’s super fun. A bit on the shy side at the opening of the book although she is learning how to stretch her wings. Here’s a bit of the blurb:

 A skilled London bookbinder and paper marbler, when Gemma’s not helping her father’s antiquarian business succeed, she’s hiding in the book stacks. But when reading Bronte leads to her first kiss, she tumbles into an adventure that may require more than she was trained for. Now she must solve an ancient mystery, outwit a secret society, and rescue her kidnapped father, all before being drawn into a manuscript that makes the reader travel through time.

I’m enjoying it and I hope readers will too!

K: What an intriguing blurb! Can’t wait to read it! *Raises hand for the beta reader line.*

Brandy, THANK YOU for stopping by and answering my questions, and for writing such unforgettable stories and characters!

To celebrate the release of Within the Veil, we’re giving away a *signed* copy of the book!

Please leave a comment on my blog or on the Facebook post, and let us know about a story or character that stayed with you (and why, if you’d like.) The giveaway will run from Sunday, July 17th through Friday night, July 22nd (Midnight). Make sure you leave your EMAIL ADDRESS so I can reach you, should I draw your name on Saturday, July 23rd!*

You can connect with Brandy via her website www.brandyvallance.com, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, YouTube, or Twitter @BrandyVallance.

 

*Blog giveaway for U.S. residents only.

Writing the Right Way

writer-fff[1]“Mom, how do you write the right way?”

Oh, um. Well, hmmm. Gee. (Probably not like that.)

My ten-year old looked expectantly at me from across our great room, his forehead wrinkled with an oft-worn frown of deep thought. His fingers were poised over the small keyboard of our “baby” laptop on the boys’ homework desk.

Ever since I started writing this middle grades fiction story in early fall – an idea dropped into my imagination by him one day after our boys played a Lego game – Cole has joined me on this book-writing journey. His story, Joe Sanders, is an action-thriller-mystery currently numbering around 3k.

We mutually decided that we’ll wait until the two stories are complete before exchanging pages. I’m just days away from finishing, although I’m not telling him. I’m planning to surprise him with the edited, printed out version soon.

Cole’s enthusiasm in writing his own story and learning about writing has been fun and challenging. He poses questions simple in nature yet foundational for success with writing and in creating great stories.

“How do you write when you don’t feel like it?”

~ Ouch. Gulp. That’s a painful one because it’s a constant battle for me. Sometimes I’m all over my laptop like a bad rash; other days I’m wiping down baseboards to avoid staring at a blinking cursor. Often the days are just too race-track-busy to write much. <excuses, excuses=””>

Because adults know from plain ol’ life – when we commit to something, we need to follow through. We don’t always (or often) feel like doing many of the things we’re obligated to do in our lives…dishes, laundry, exercise, bathe our children, clean the kitchen, yard work, day job work, being nice to others…the list goes on and on and on (similar to laundry).

So I was honest when I answered his question. “I don’t always feel like writing, and the result is I waste time doing other things when I should be writing (^^Guilty glance at Facebook^^). I explained that writers have to put their rear in the chair and do it (–>pointing at myself).

Words can’t become stories by themselves.  They need you to shape them into a story like a canvas needs a painter to bring the colors together to create art, I explained.

I remember reading somewhere that Dean Koontz has a separate computer for writing with no internet. Smart cookie, that one.

“Should I kill off a character?”

~ I’m currently working through a scene with a death in it, and it’s tough. Hurts. Makes me feel heart-deep pain for the characters and sadness for the life gone. But that’s when we know that as writers, we’ve put real life into the characters we’ve created on the page.

Don’t kill off characters just to do it; if it helps move the plot along, I told him, then consider ending a fictional life.

When do I know my story is long enough?”

~ I explained the word count by genre deal, gently reminding him that he doesn’t need to shoot for 30k at this point in his life (though he’s welcome to). Tell the best story you can, then go back and edit to make it even better.

While it’s always advantageous to be aware of word counts, I find that my best writing occurs when I’m not in word count mode but instead deep in my story’s heart, interacting with the characters and giving them problems to solve.

Problems? Oh yes, problems.

“Should the bad guy win?”

~ Uh oh. Trouble. That age-old conflict question. Good vs. evil. Bad guy vs. good guy. Protagonist vs. internal/external conflict stopping him/her from getting what he/she wants. Bring on the conflict! Problems are inherent in life and absolutely necessary in fiction. I’ve had to focus on that one especially. Conflict on every page to keep the reader turning the page.

“Is it bad that I hunt and peck?”

~ I suppressed a giggle at this adorable question. Cole lamented the fact that he can’t type as fast as I can. I explained that it takes time and practice to type zippy-fast like I do (and really, I don’t type that fast.) I have twenty-plus years of typing on him.

(On that note, if only we had this option:)

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A little creepy, right? But efficient, I’d say.

***

Ultimately I told him to write the story that’s bursting out of him and don’t sweat all the details (he’s ten, for goodness sake). Because over the past few years, I’ve greatly enjoyed reading author interviews and learning what drives other writers on their writing journeys. Finding out where their stories come from, their struggles and successes, what roadblocks they’ve climbed over to pursue publishing.

Writers have this commonality of characters in our head that won’t go away; stories that claw their way out of our soul to be told and shared; and for Christian writers, a deep desire to honor our Creator with words that point back to Jesus, the Author of life.

If you’re hunting and pecking like my ten-year old – keep at it! If you’re midway through the journey like me – dig in and push through (and keep that rear in the chair). If you’re a published author crafting stories on a tight, stressful deadline, with editors and eager readers breathing down your neck – you can do it! Your words, your stories matter.

You’re writing the right way.