In Conversation With Award Winning Author: Valerie J. Brooks
An interview with the award-winning noir author and travel writer.
“It’s a noir world. Unfair things happen.” - Rob Thomas
Today we’re going to travel the world vicariously through multi-award winning author: Valerie J. Brooks. Valerie is a femme-noir author whom I’ve become acquainted with through our mutual community, Sisters In Crime. Throughout her career, Valerie has been coined an expert on marrying the essence of travel into the dark side of human nature through literature. When not at her home in Oregon: you can bet she’s in some corner of our world uncovering a fiction plot to take on a life of its own. Always on a high-stakes journey, Valerie paints puzzles of morality and leaves her readers to find their own missing pieces.
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An International Clue and Nancy Pearl Award Finalist, join me in conversation with Valerie J. Brooks:
But first, let’s take a look at the first story in the award-winning Angeline Porter series:
REVENGE IN 3 PARTS
“... a real nail-biter from first page to the last.” - NYT Bestselling Author Kevin O’ Brein
Angeline Porter won’t budge from her convictions. After getting disbarred for breaking the rules to put a criminal away, the former attorney still believes in doling out justice. So when her troubled sibling takes her own life, Angeline’s quest for the truth turns into a frenzied hunt for vengeance.
Caught in a whirlpool of grief, her relentless chase for answers exposes an ugly chain of betrayal, sex, and extortion that puts her head-to-head with powerful mobsters. And with desperation forcing her down morally questionable paths, the driven woman’s only way out may be to unleash her darkest side.
Can she deal out retribution before she loses her grip on reality?
Thanks for joining us Valerie! I’d like to kick of the conversation with the word: noir. It’s a hard word to define in itself. There aren’t many happy endings, and often leave the reader with a moral question. Can you tell us what drew you into this dark genre?
I took film study courses in college, one of them being film noir. I was attracted to the honesty. By that I mean the stories dealt with reality. Happily ever after doesn’t exist in noir, but justice does. I try to give closure in my endings with my main character discovering some truth or understanding about themself and the world. With Angeline, she wants to save the world. I will leave it up to the reader to find out what her epiphany is.
Having a great sense of humor in noir is something that I find to be imperative to offer some comedic relief. In the work that I’ve read, I find you do this well. What actions do you take to pose important moral questions while also just having fun?
Ask any comedian where the humor comes from. They take black or bleak situations and turn them on their head. Humor is usually loaded. Take the film noir Body Heat. While hustling Ned Racine, Matty Walker says, “You’re not too smart, are you? I like that in a man.” You’d think Ned would run for my life. Instead he says, “What else do you like? Lazy? Ugly? Horny? I got ‘em all.” So when I deal with a moral issue, I try to think about how brilliant that writer was in setting up this poor dupe for a moral fall. That’s where the fun resides. Humor helps the medicine go down.
Your love for travel shines through in the adventures of your protagonist. What inspires such a darkness while you’re traveling? And is inspiration something you look for, or something that finds you?
I love settings. Take Paris for example, the City of Light. People expect to find none of the social and economic ills there. But I’m kind of an empath. I see beyond the beauty to what lies beneath. I didn’t put this in the first book of the trilogy, but on one trip to Paris near Notre Dame, I watched two gendarmes walk around a man who lay on the sidewalk, shoeless, dirty, crawling to a place to curl up. I don’t need to look for it. I just recognize it when it’s there. For me, it’s important to place the beauty side-by-side with the darkness to open people’s eyes. That’s reality. I also understand that many people read to escape reality.
Speaking of settings, now that the Angeline Porter series is complete, what’s next? And geographically, where will it take you?
I’m heading to Thailand soon. I have no idea what will come out of that. What I see, hear, smell, and touch will create my main character. Usually, my characters just show up with their history and baggage. I need to write them to find out their backstory. It’s like making a new friend. You don’t know everything about them when you first meet, but you know they’re interesting and you want to get to know them better and they reveal more as time goes by.
I’m going to derail us a bit. I’ve read your Goodreads and I’ve got to ask: What is this story with your grandmother’s birth certificate? And is it ever going to make it into a novel? I’m too intrigued.
Oh my, you really did do a deep dive. My English Grandmother whom we called Nannie Smith needed her birth certificate for something. When she received her copy, there was no father on it. My mum told me that Nanny’s mother worked in service at some royal’s household. She had two children by someone in that household. Back then, you couldn’t do anything about it as it was so shameful even the husband had to put up with it. Nanny was very upset when she found out that the man she thought was her father wasn’t. I’ve been tempted to do a DNA search, and if I do, I’ll get back to you. No, I haven’t thought of writing a novel using that little family piece, probably because I don’t know who my great-grandfather is. But we always did wonder as my mom always had a sense of entitlement far beyond the norm. She even used “duchess” for her email address.
Wow! Thanks for engaging me in that incredible history. Between all the book reviews and workshops you lead, I know that you’ve seen a lot in the industry. What’s the best creative advice you’ve ever gotten?
Oh, gosh, that’s a tough one. If I had to bring it down to the most essential, I would say read like there’s no tomorrow. Read everything. Study the books you fall in love with–at a word, sentence, and paragraph level. Then let it all go. Trust in your voice, the one that pops up that at first makes you say, “Nah, that can’t be the one,” because it probably is. If you’re a romantic, write romance. If you’re a cynic like me, write noir. Just write. Because you’re not a writer unless you’re writing. It’s that simple. If you’re a perfectionist, start writing by hand in a crappy notebook. I write my first drafts that way so I don’t get fussy or attached to what I’ve written. And there. I’ve written too much!
Do you have any open-ended words of inspiration for the passionate people reading in today?
I’m also a visual artist. I wanted to be a painter when I left high school. My visual work, my study of film, my love of color and texture, editing, and sculpting words are necessary not only for my health but for a healthy society. This country, the world, needs creatives because we are the ones who hold up the mirror to others. We are the ones who spark imagination. We help others not only escape the world, but understand the world.
We are important. We are necessary. Never forget that.
Thanks for joining Valerie! I can’t wait to see where your next adventure takes you. Or as a reader, should I say ‘us’? Be sure to check out The Angeline Porter Series and Valerie’s blog.
Thanks for reading! I will be back soon with more articles and interviews. Wishing you a wonderful week ahead.