Valerie Douglas, also known as VJ Devereaux, author of sensual fantasy, looks forward to her next release: Demon’s Kiss. She glances into her crystal ball at 2011, reminisces about 2010, and gives us a peek into her evolutionary writing process.
Q) Before we get into your books, what is it like to be in the mind of Valerie with all of the characters clamoring for space? Which came first, and how did you begin your journey as a writer?
A) *laughing* My husband says it’s really scary, he’s never sure who is coming out of my writing room. He didn’t mind sweet and slightly daffy Mikaela from In the Flesh (he sees her often in real life), he loved Kyri from Song of the Fairy Queen but he wasn’t so comfortable with Nike (from Nike’s Wings, unpublished) an assassin who uses parkour. I can’t imagine why. And he doesn’t seem to mind the research for the erotica, either. Imagine that!
Honestly, though, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating characters. As a child I didn’t have an imaginary playmate, I had whole casts of them. I wrote and illustrated my first book about dinosaurs at age eight and got an A. That was the start. Then for years afterward I kept trying to write but life kept getting in the way. That is until one day when a story came along that wouldn’t let me go and I realized if I didn’t follow my dream now, I never would. So, despite all opposition, I did. That first story and one or two others are lost to time and various transitions. However The Coming Storm and its sequel, A Convocation of Kings, and a women’s fiction/mystery entitled The Last Resort survived. They’re easily some of the best stuff I’ve ever written and I think would stand with the best of what’s out there.
Q) You have quite an array of works, Witness Protection, The Coming Storm, In The Flesh, Special Delivery, and more. Take us through your writing process. Do you outline? Let the characters drive your pen? A little of both? How long does it take you to complete a story, and from where do your ideas come?
A) Well blame some of that array on ADD, I’m easily bored and always looking for new challenges. They say people with ADD are very bright, *grin*, I certainly won’t argue that. There are many people out there who like writing the same kind of story all the time and they do it very well. That’s not me. The only thing my fans will always be able to count on is a good story with strong characters. I’m also endlessly curious about an enormous range of things, from ancient Egypt (Heart of the Gods) to how to blow up a propane tank (Demon’s Embrace). I’m a bear for research and I hate when people don’t get the science right.
I’m definitely a pantser. I don’t outline, that would be too confining. I tried it, it drove me nuts and killed the story. I understand the people who do it but I’m not one of them. It’s the characters and the storyline that carry me. It’s like watching a movie, I’m just transcribing it, and it usually begins with the spark of an idea. For example, in The Coming Storm that spark was the last major scene…Ailith’s trial. I could see it instantly and clearly―the open pavilion high above the city, the muttering crowd, Ailith’s desperation and then Elon striding through the mass of people with the wizard Jareth at his heels to try to save her from exile and nearly certain death.
How did they get to that place?
72 hours of non-stop writing later I found out. No sleep, just coffee and pistachios. An epic fantasy, I don’t even know how long that initial draft of Storm was but it currently stands at over 250,000 words. What I learned from writing the first draft informed the second and I gained an understanding of Elven society, of the relationships between the three races and discovered a few new characters along the way.
Not all of my stories come that easily, some come kicking and screaming, taking weeks to take form.
Once I’m finished with those rough drafts I go in search of beta readers. Over time some have become friends but most of them I’ve never actually met. They tell me what, if anything, pulled them out of the story. What confused them, what I’ve repeated. They can’t catch everything but their input is amazingly helpful. Then I go back with those suggestions in mind and rewrite. All told, depending on the size of the book, it can take anywhere from a month or so to nearly a year to complete the whole process.
By the way, in all honesty I do have to point out that of the books you listed, only In the Flesh and Special Delivery have actually reached publication. As well as Night Moves, Cherry’s Jubilee and the upcoming Demon’s Kiss. *smiling* Which takes us to the next question…
Q) In one of your January ’10 blog posts, you reflected on 2009. What has 2010 brought you, and what do you see as you peek through 2011’s door? How about looking into a crystal ball: what’s up for you long term?
A) *laughing* I think I’ll dub 2010 the ‘Year of Learning Dangerously.’ I attended my first book signings, learned a little more about the industry, about what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. 2010 was also the year my husband and I decided I could quit the day job to write full time, based on certain assumptions. Life then reminded me never to assume. So I think I’ll call the year that began 1/1/11―in astrology and numerology a sign of new beginnings―the ‘Year of Living Dangerously’. I’ll be taking chances and expanding my horizons beyond erotica into flights of fantasy and women’s fiction. It was always my ambition to be published in multiple genres. I’ll be trying to find an agent who’ll take the chance on me. (If anyone knows of an agent looking for a very eclectic writer with three potential series, let me know!) In the meantime, I’ll try to find publishing homes for some of my other work like Storm and The Last Resort on my own, as well as the seventeen other completed novels in my back pocket. Not that I’ll neglect my erotica fans, who I love, and some of whom have also become good friends. For them I’m searching for a home for a hot little contemporary ménage called Cooking Class. I’m also polishing up Witness Protection for submission and I’ve started another vampire ménage.
Next, though, is my newest release, an erotic paranormal called Demon’s Kiss, the first (hopefully) in the Demon Allure series, due on January 26, 2011. *grins* Now, that one is SMOKIN’. Asmodeus is a demon you definitely want on your side. And various other places. Now there’s a demon with some mad skills, in and out of bed.