Christopher Valen is another new-to-me author, one that I’m glad I’ve found! I think you will be too…
PJ: How long have you been writing?
Chris: I’ve been writing ever since I was a child. I majored in English in college and took some journalism courses in high school and college. I looked at careers in both teaching and journalism, but finally settled on teaching. It’s given me time to write and provided a steady income while I pursued writing.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Chris: I think “success” is a moving target and difficult to quantify. I’m just happy that readers enjoy my books and ask me to write more of them.
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Chris: The everyday process of writing is pretty much as I expected. You need a lot of self-discipline and dedication to the craft. The big difference today is the ever growing e-book phenomenon and the importance of the Internet and social networking.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
Chris: I think it’s a huge misconception that writers are wealthy. Midlist and small press authors make very little money. My advice for someone just starting out is to have a second career option, as many writers do. I’m building a following with the release of each new book––and making more money than I did before––but there are few writers today who make large sums of money or live entirely off their advances and royalties.
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
Chris: I don’t have to spend time searching for a publisher or an agent. But the majority of marketing and promotion are still primarily my responsibility––and that takes time.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
Chris: I had published articles and short stories on and off through the years. The first John Santana novel, White Tombs, took about two years from finished manuscript to publication.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
Chris: I would learn as much as I can about the publishing industry. My learning curve has been steep over the last five years. A well-informed author has a much better chance of getting the best deal when negotiating contracts and rights.
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
Chris: Writing has to come first. I set a goal of between 500 to 1000 words a day. If I write more, that’s great. After the goal for the day is reached, I spend time answering email and networking. I also write a weekly blog about crime at http://www.probablecause.com
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
Chris: Seeing my first book in print was very exciting. Having my books win national awards was also exciting.
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
Chris: Rejections are always disappointing, but overall, I’m extremely happy with my writing career.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
Chris: A woman at one of my events asked if I’d sign a copy of The Black Minute for her son who wrote the screenplay for Clint Eastwood’s movie Gran Torino. Like the movie, my second Santana novel deals with the Hmong community.
At another of my signings, I met a cousin of James Lee Burke who grew up with him in Houston. She bought a copy of White Tombs and later sent me an email telling me how much she enjoyed the book.
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Chris: I think my Colombian-born detective John Santana has a unique background that sets him apart from most of the detectives currently working the streets.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Chris: There are more opportunities to publish today than ever before. If an aspiring writer cannot land a contract with a legacy or traditional publisher, I would encourage him or her to seek other options such as self-publishing. No one can read your work if it’s sitting in a drawer.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Chris: The most effective tool is meeting readers at book signings, book clubs, and other promotional events. I’ve also gotten to know many of the bookstore owners and managers, which makes it much easier to schedule events whenever a new book is released.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Chris: While I enjoy meeting and talking with readers, the travel involved is very challenging and time consuming.
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
Chris: I have a few. Once Upon A Crime in Minneapolis, which won the Raven award last year for the best mystery bookstore in the country. I’d also like to mention Lake Country Booksellers in White Bear Lake, Minnesota and Valley Bookseller in Stillwater, Minnesota.
Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
The Black Minute
Bad Weeds Never Die
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:
The bodies of young men have been turning up in the Mississippi River for years, their deaths attributed to excessive drinking. But when an Iraq war vet suffering from PTSD is found in the river, St. Paul Homicide Detective John Santana must decide if the young man’s death was accidental or the result of something far more sinister.
Caught between a reporter trying to resurrect his flagging career, an FBI agent with a troubled past, and a beautiful private investigator on the trail of a serial killer, Santana is pulled into a whirlpool of greed, seduction, and death. Determined to find the truth no matter what the cost, he must first face his own dark memories and a killer intent on stopping him.
Where can we buy it?
Wherever books are sold.
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
Chris: My wife, Martha, is from Manizales, Colombia, where my character John Santana was also born. Much of what I know about Colombia I’ve learned from her and from our visits there.
For more information, please visit my website at www.christophervalen.com
There you have it folks. Let’s get out and get some of these books and find out what John Santana is made of!