Tell us about you.
I started writing when I was 5, and discovered the power and enjoyment of telling a story. I loved it (and still do!) when people are absorbed in the story and want to know what's going to happen next. I wrote my first play when I was 10, and my first novel when I was 15. However, there have been extended periods of my life when I didn't write at all. I was active in my teens, then stopped writing until I was in my early 30's. Then stopped again for 6 years while I edited audio books. Then I began once more and haven't stopped since. I wrote plays for 7 years, and switched to writing novels about 5 years ago.
Tell us about your book.
"The Promised Land" tells the story of a 12-year-old white girl who moves with her mother to a small town on the Gulf coast of Florida in 1966. She experiences culture shock, as she has come from a white suburb in Connecticut. There is a lot of racial tension in this town, which is exacerbated when she befriends a biracial boy, and when that boy's black father attempts to open a clothing store in the white section of town. The girl's mother's new boyfriend happens to be an attorney, and also the leader of the local Ku Klux Klan chapter. So you know there's going to be trouble. And there is.
What inspired you to write this particular story?
When I was 12, in 1966, my parents split up and I moved with my mother from a Connecticut suburb to a small podunk town in Florida. I befriended a mulatto boy, and had some very rough times with bullying and the school system, as well as with drugs and alcohol. I was only in this town for a year, but it made a lasting impression on me. So "The Promised Land" is a kind of fictional memoir. Some of it is fact, and some of it is fiction.
What can readers expect when they open your book? Give us something that isn_t on the book blurb.
This book is basically a love story between two adolescents: one a 12-year-old white girl, and the other a 12-year-old boy of mixed race. Their relationship perseveres against what appears to be insurmountable odds. But there are other issues that come up, too, like the inadequacies of the public school system in Florida in 1966, and alcoholism, child abuse, and abuse of prescription pills. They didn't have rehab centers back in Florida in those days; at least, not as we know them today. Back then, everything was very hush-hush, and swept under the carpet. This girl starts out very weak and submissive, but gradually her strength grows until she is able to take control of her own life.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
Back when I was first starting to write, it was my mother. She gave me my first typewriter when I was 10, and taught me to always respect creativity. I had a couple of teachers when I was in college who encouraged me to write; one of them happened to be James Lee Burke. Now I am inspired by my partner and by my dog, believe it or not! I am also inspired by life itself. There are so many stories one discovers, simply by living life.
What are you reading right now? : I'm taking a short class in 19th century Russian Literature, so I'm reading "Notes from the Underground." I've also read stories by Pushkin and Gogol. I love it all!
What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment as a writer?
Seeing my plays produced. Seeing my name in print along with the ending I wrote to a short story in Jack and Jill Magazine when I was 8. Directing my first play (which I also wrote) when I was 10, and having all the fifth grades in the school come see it. Seeing my first published novel on a rack in Borders. Holding a copy of "The Promised Land" in my hands for the first time.
Have you experienced any setbacks for your writing along the way? If so, will you share with us.
When my agent died back in the '90's, I was devastated. He had just told me my then new novel was the best thing I'd done, and was confident he could sell it. Then I became an editor for audio books for 6 years, and wrote nothing. But as soon as that job ended, I proceeded to write plays, and did so for 7 years.
Tell us 5 random things about you the person, not the author
1. : I love horses and horseback riding.
2. : I have a service dog.
3. : Chess fascinates me.
4. : I'm addicted to the WWE.
5. : I go to the opera at least once a year.
Where to connect
Twitter : @valeriestocking
Facebook : Valerie Stocking
Goodreads : Valerie Stocking
Where to buy