ALAREON is proud to begin our series of author interviews with the amazing and delightful Victoria Vale! Her Amazon author page describes her as “the author of over two dozen Romance and YA novels under various pseudonyms. As a lover of erotic romance, she enjoys nothing more than a sexy hero paired with a sassy heroine, flavored with a dash of spice and lots of heat.’
Thank you, Victoria for taking the time to sit down with us and let us celebrate your work with you! Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about who Victoria Vale is.
VV: I’m Victoria Vale, a wife and mother of three from small-town Texas. I’ve been writing since I was 12 years old (I wrote my first novel at that age on notebook paper with stubby pencils), and haven’t stopped since. I’m the author of over two dozen fiction books under various pen names, and have written Romance, Young Adult, and Erotica in a variety of genres.
Please tell our readers about your journey of becoming an Indie Author.
VV: Like many Indie authors, I started off trying to go to the traditional route. I spent two years of my life trying to peddle a manuscript that no one would sign. I received the same feedback from almost all the agents and publishers I queried: my writing was strong and the story was good, but my book wasn’t ‘marketable’. I became discouraged and wrote the entire process off as a waste … until I discovered self-publishing. Initially, I only wanted to try it out to see if anyone would even want to read it. That first book began to sell, and became the first in a series. I was a stay-at-home mom with nothing to lose, so I turned it into a business. Seven years and many titles later, I have no regrets. I am able to do what I love for a living and help my husband support our family.
What’s the most valuable experience you’ve had so far on your journey?
VV: That I do not need the backing of a major publishing house to succeed in this business. For a long time I thought earning that ‘big deal’ would cement my worth as a writer and an author. But now, I’ve been doing this on my own for so long, I couldn’t imagine it any other way … unless the ‘right’ trad-pub deal were to fall out of the sky. I learned that all I needed was a voice, a story, and an audience. I have all three of those things, and said audience shows me every time I have a new release that my books are worthy, entertaining, anticipated, and perhaps even vital to their everyday lives. No publisher can ‘give’ me what I’ve earned with my own sweat.
Do you have any advice for authors just starting out?
VV: Write the sorts of books that YOU would want to read. You don’t need to try to write the next Twilight or 50 Shades … you only need to be true to your own voice or your own story. And don’t worry over whether anyone will want to read it. If you would want to enjoy the story in your head, I promise you there are many others who would enjoy it as well.
What do you like to drink while you are writing?
VV: Water, water, and more water! It’s hot in Texas, and I try to stay hydrated. People who know me well know me as a coffee fiend—and I am one—but I try to limit myself to 1-2 cups a day. Between those cups I sip water all day long.
Who is your favorite character that you’ve ever created and why?
VV: That’s a tough one, since all my characters are sort of a part of me, and I love them all for different reasons. And I find myself enamored with whichever characters I’m working on in the moment—and of course I have a special connection to my heroes because the hero is my favorite part of any romance novel. If I absolutely HAD to choose, I would have to say Lord Simon Fitzwilliam, Marquis of Ashton, from Submitting to the Marquis … because he has everything I love best in a hero. He’s tortured and scarred, a bit brittle on the outside, but hiding a deep-seated vulnerability because of his horrible past. Unlike so many other romantic heroes, he isn’t running from love. He KNOWS he needs it, that it will improve his otherwise bleak life. And when he sees the heroine, Sophie, for the first time, he instantly recognizes that she can give that to him in a way no one else can. Then, he does everything he can to make her his, chasing the love that’s eluded him his whole life. There’s a sweetness to him that doesn’t come off right away, but it’s there from the beginning.
Who do you consider to be your greatest literary influences?
VV: I’d have to name a lot of the old-school bodice ripper authors, as those were the romances I cut my teeth on. Authors like Johanna Lindsey, Kathleen Woodiwiss, and Julie Garwood … as well as those I got into when I was older and historical romance evolved from the bodice ripper age into funny and sensual stories by ladies like Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas, and Sabrina Jeffries. There are many others, but these are the names I think of when I consider my influences.
What do you enjoy most about being an author?
VV: The freedom to be able to work from home, doing what I love, as well as being able to interact with my readers. Nothing makes me happier than getting to hear from them how they feel about a story or character of mine.
Why do you feel romance novels are important?
VV: I think that romance is so vital, even though it gets shunned and ridiculed by outsiders. It’s funny, even in other genres, the protagonist is almost always doing something for love. In a thriller, a man might go vigilante to avenge his child or save his wife. In a mystery, a woman might hire a detective to solve the case of her murdered husband of 20 years. In YA, young people find themselves along with their first loves. Romance is at the center of everything, and love is what makes people feel most alive. Aside from that, I am all for the idea of a woman owning her fantasies, and erotica/romance offers such a wide spectrum of indulgence for us. Men have like 800 varieties of porn (not that I’m likening romance to porn, but we’re talking sexual fantasy here), why shouldn’t women have virile dukes, wealthy billionaires, sexy vampires, shapeshifters, bikers, or whatever else tickles their fancy?
What is your ultimate goal as a writer?
VV: I don’t think I can really quantify my ultimate goal. It isn’t a specific achievement or anything like that. I just want to be able to write and publish my work, grow my readership, and reach the people who enjoy what I do. So, in that sense, I’ve sort of already reached my ultimate goal. At this point I’m all about expansion—writing MORE books, reaching MORE readers. If I make some sort of bestsellers list, win awards, or get that elusive publishing deal … well, that’d be fine. But it’s not something I feel I must have in order to feel I’ve achieved something.
What’s the one thing you want readers to take away from your stories?
VV: That love is worth fighting and working for, and that good sex is more important to your life than you think! Seriously, ladies … learn what pleases you and demand it, go after it. My life became so much more enriched once I dropped all my preconceived notions about sex and sexuality. Your mind, soul, and body will thank you!
What is something you struggled with at the beginning but now feel more comfortable with, and what was your process for getting there?
VV: Writing in the male POV has always been something I worry about. Being a woman and all, I only have so much insight into the way a man’s mind works. And one of my pet peeves is female authors writing in the male point of view without it being convincing. I’ve read books where the man sounded like a woman in his own head, and it just didn’t feel authentic to me. As I’ve written and published more books and I’ve seen readers connect so strongly to the men I write, I’ve relaxed about it. I don’t worry over it as much as I used to. I’ve gained confidence in that area, for sure.
Do you outline your stories extensively, or do you complete your outline initially then let your characters drive the story?
VV: It really depends. Each story is different, depending on what’s happening in my life at the time, or on where the idea came from. For the most part, I don’t outline or plan ahead. I literally write by the seat of my pants. I like this process best, because it allows the characters to drive the story with their actions. If I allow them to take me by surprise, then I know they’ll take the reader by surprise as well. Every now and then, I’ll get a new story idea while I’m already knee-deep in another project, so to keep the story fresh in my mind, I may outline a bit, jot down some notes. And of course, since I write historical books, some projects require me to research deeper than the things I already know. I’ve acquired a lot of peripheral knowledge about the Regency era, but if I’m writing about a subject or location I know nothing about, I will conduct my research and take notes before I even begin so I am prepared. But, aside from all that, I’m writing on the fly!
How much research do you do for each historical you write and does that research ever drive the story in a different direction than you’d originally chosen?
VV: So, as I said in the previous question, a lot of my research is already done. Most of my stories let me rely on the subject I know most about—the lives and surroundings of the Regency era le bon ton (the titled and wealthy people of society). Of course I may need to pause in writing to double-check my facts on something, but for the most part everything in my stories happens in familiar places. Some stories require me to read up on something I may not know as much about, but it’s never anything so major that it will alter my story. Since I’ve been doing this a while I think I’ve gotten pretty good at coming up with stories that fit neatly into my knowledge base, so new information isn’t a detriment to what I want to write.
Your duology, The Villain and The Dove, gained a lot of popularity and I understand that you will be writing two more books that will follow and create a series. Tell us about them.
VV: It’s funny about The Villain Duology … I wrote those books for myself and never anticipated the reception it has received. I was on a dark romance kick, just devouring all these juicy, taboo stories that were all contemporary-set. And as I was reading them, I thought, ‘You don’t see stories like this in historical often, if at all. How much more interesting and intriguing could it be if you set it in a Regency era castle in far-flung Scotland?’ The idea was simple at first—take the often-used ‘virgin sells her body to a bad man for lots of money to save herself or her family’, and make it something more. I wrote those stories because it was what *I* wanted to read. See how that goes back to my advice for writers? I wrote something I desired, that I wasn’t finding within my own genre, and people loved it so much more than I thought they would. It’s been great.
I only ever intended it to be a two-book set, but then side characters started jumping out at me. And then readers started telling me how much they loved those same side characters and expressed interest in reading their stories. So, I’ve just sort of rolled with it. I’ve been elated to see what started off as just a little pet project turn into the biggest series I’ve written to date. It’s exciting for me!
For right now I only intend for there to be two follow-up books. The Butterfly is one of them, and is coming October 16. The Damsel is what I plan to be the final book, and doesn’t have a release date yet. There’s always a chance more secondary characters will jump out at me, but for now, that’s all I have planned for the Villain universe.
The Duology books are dark with touches of BDSM that isn’t of the playful bedroom variety. Were those scenes difficult to write and still make them appealing to the masses?
VV: Funnily enough, no. I actually really enjoyed writing those scenes and did nothing at all to blunt their edges or make them ‘palatable’. And that’s because all the dark stories I love also have a huge, captive audience. The women who like dark romance really do like it DARK. They want extremes and taboos, and I wanted to deliver. I wrote the sort of dark, dirty BDSM scenes I enjoy reading, and trusted that the readers who enjoy this genre would find them compelling. It paid off, because the majority of reviewers have mentioned their enjoyment of the sex scenes. It just goes to show that trusting your gut almost always leads you somewhere good.
What do you read when you finally get time? What genre is your favorite?
VV: Romance is my favorite genre, of course. My tastes are very eclectic, but naturally historical romance is my favorite. I read YA books as well, and the occasional literary fiction book. But romance is my number one genre, and I read across sub-genres from Contemporary to Paranormal, to Historical to Fantasy. If it is well written and has a compelling story, I’ll read it!
There’s a rumor that you are hoping to do a contemporary series. Is the idea formulated or is it still percolating?
VV: So, I actually have two contemporary series brewing right now, but they are a long ways off at this point. I had originally planned to launch the first one this year, but the success of The Villain Duology and the expansion of it into a series changed all of that. I also have a new historical series that has to come before my contemporary ideas because it’s something I’ve been excited about writing for a while. I don’t want to divulge too much about any of my future projects … but I will say that contemporary works are coming from me, hopefully within the next year.
Tell us about what you are working on right now.
VV: Right now I’m working on my yearly Christmas anthology. My readers really enjoy reading follow-up stories of couples from my Scandalous Ballroom Encounters series. So, every year I choose three couples and write a little expansion of their happily ever after. It’s a tradition I’ve really come to enjoy.
Where can we find out more about you and your books?
For a full listing of all my books (ebooks and audio) you can visit my website: http://www.eroticromancebyvicki.com