Valerie Stocking was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, and wrote her first short story when she was five. When she was eight, she won a short story contest in Jack and Jill Magazine. She wrote her first play at the age of ten. In 1966, when she was twelve, she and her mother moved to a small town in Florida where they lived for a year. During this time, Valerie experienced difficulties with the public school system, tried a Seventh Day Adventist school briefly, and then dropped out altogether. It was her experiences during this year that inspired The Promised Land. Later, she would finish high school, graduate from college and earn a Master’s degree in Cinema Studies from NYU.
For nearly 30 years, she wrote and edited in various capacities, including copywriting, newspaper articles, and short stories. She wrote nearly 20 full-length and one act plays over a ten year period, which have been performed throughout the U.S. and Canada. She edited books for audio, abridging over 100 novels in a 6-year period. In 2010, she published her first novel, A Touch of Murder, which is the first of what will become the Samantha Kern mystery series. It was nominated for a Global eBook Award in 2011 for Best Mystery.
Valerie lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her dog and cat, and is working on her next novel.
You can visit her website at www.valeriestocking.com.
About The Promised Land
It’s 1966, just two years after President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, and twelve-year-old Joy Bradford’s life is changing dramatically. Born and raised in the white suburbs of Connecticut, Joy is moving to Willets Point, Florida, to live with her mother Jessica because her parents are divorcing. Hoping it really is the Promised Land that her mother describes, she joins in Jessica’s enthusiasm only to find out how horribly wrong that vision is.
Unfortunately for Joy, the move does nothing to change her mother’s emotional and mental instability, resulting in a continuation of the physical and verbal abuse she is all too used to receiving. Her new school is years behind her old one, the kids dress and act differently, and on just the second day, Joy has a run-in with her geography teacher. Things are going from bad to worse until Clay Dooley, a mixed-race boy from that same geography class, offers his friendship. The two become close, sending shockwaves that dovetail with a growing sense of tension and unease in the community as a whole. Clay’s father Clytus, a well-educated black man, attempts to open his own clothing store in the white section of downtown Willets Point. This causes Jessica’s new lawyer cum boyfriend and leader of the local Klan chapter, Bill McKendrick, to join with other white citizens in using great force to block Clytus’ dreams. Tempers flare and emotions run high when Clytus refuses the Klan’s subsequent demand that he and his family move out of the white neighborhood they live in, setting off an explosive confrontation that will change them all forever.
An absorbing and suspenseful coming of age story set against the tumultuous backdrop of racial tensions in mid-1960’s America, Stocking’s blend of historical fact and fiction is as relevant today as it was during the explosive Civil Rights era. Probing the human psyche for the deep-seated fears that fuel the fires of racism and bigotry, she expertly builds characters who feel their very lives are at stake by the changing times. Full of insight and intensity, The Promised Land is a spellbinding journey you won’t want to miss.
Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Valerie. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
“The Promised Land” is my second book. My first, “A Touch of Murder,” came out in July, 2010.
Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?
For A Touch of Murder, I went the self-publishing route, but it was through a company rather than me doing everything myself. I paid to be published, but first I had to submit the manuscript of my novel and have it be accepted. It was, and I was very happy about that. I self-published because I was tired of doing the query-the-agent routine and getting nowhere. Self-publishing has become a lot more respectable lately, and I also liked the fact that I got a say in everything that went into producing the physical book.
Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?
With my first book, it took about a year, and that year seemed to drag on forever! My second book, which was published by SJT Press (CreateSpace) took half that time, but it still felt like a long process.
Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
It didn’t really hit me that I was a published author until I saw my books on a rack in Borders, where I was doing a book signing. It felt wonderful! Just being able to hold the book in my hands was awesome. I celebrated by going out for Chinese food with friends after the book signing!
Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
I hired someone to promote the book for me. That was a mistake. With The Promised Land, I’ve hired someone to arrange a blog tour for me, but that is far less expensive than having someone else do all the legwork. Now I am doing the marketing, and it feels great!
Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?
I would like to think that I have learned from my editors and have improved in certain ways. Also, I take feedback from readers very seriously, and paid attention to their responses to my first book. I’m taking more risks now. I’m putting things down on paperthat actually happened, and mingling them with fictitious situations and characters. The Promised Land is an edgy story, and totally different from A Touch of Murder. Touch is a mystery, while The Promised Land is historical fiction/fictional memoir. I don’t like to write the same thing all the time. My next book is going to be the sequel to A Touch of Murder and the book after that will be paranormal suspense.
Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?
The sheer number of people who are involved in the industry, from writers to editors to graphic designers to artists to bloggers to marketers. It is so vast! Also, I have been very pleasantly surprised by the quality of service that CreateSpace provides. A couple of my friends who are also published authors went with them, and they persuaded me to try them. I’m glad I did.
Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?
When someone likes my work and wants to read more of it.
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Get a professional editor to help you. Join a writer’s group and listen to their critiques. Rewrite and polish. Then give it to someone whose opinion you trust and rewrite some more. When it’s ready, let it go. Go for it! You can be published – but you want to publish something that’s of real quality, and that takes work. So roll up your sleeves and get to it!