You've heard me say it before…since joining Darkstroke Books, I’ve met many fantastic authors. Today I have the pleasure to interview Val Penny, an American author in Scotland, on the release of her latest novel, Hunter’s Secret. There is a certain joy in asking an author about their writing process and learning a little of what fuels their creativity. I’ll admit I am a bit star-struck every time I get a chance to talk with other authors.
Val's crime novels, Hunter's Chase ~ Hunter's Revenge ~ Hunter's Force ~ Hunter’s Blood ~ Hunter’s Secret, form the bestselling series The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, and are published by Darkstroke Books. She also self-published her first non-fiction book, Let’s Get Published.
Having only started the series, I can tell you that the witty dialogue, fast pace and action drew me in immediately. You know there are some books that ease a person into the story. Not Val’s tales. With an intense plot and murder mystery, it’s no wonder “bestseller” is stamped on her work.
Welcome, Val Penny!
Val: Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Sarah. I am really pleased to have a chance to chat with you about my new novel, Hunter’s Secret.
Congratulations on the new release! I'm very excited for you. I remember how anxious and nervous I was on the release date of my debut novel, Inside Voices. How are you feeling today? And how do you keep yourself calm on a release day?
Val: I am always excited on release day, but also somewhat incredulous to realise – I wrote a book and now I can share it with the world. You can understand that keeping calm on my launch day is not realistic for me.
Was writing something you trained for or did it start as a hobby?
Val: I have written all my life and my first published pieces were poems in anthologies. Prior to that, in my career, I wrote mostly professional and academic pieces. However, a few years ago, when I was suffering from cancer, the only thing I had the energy to do was read. (Day time television got very old very fast!) As I felt a little better, I began to review the books I read. Then, as I improved still more and drove my husband mad, he suggested that if I knew so much about what made a good book, I should write one. Thus, Hunter’s Chase was born.
So driving the hubby bonkers was a good thing! Can you tell me about your writing routine?
Val: I prefer to write in the afternoon and evening, so I tend to answer e-mails, write blog posts and work on social media in the morning and work on writing my novels after lunch.
Do you have a favorite book that you would read more than once?
Val: I rarely read books more than once as there are so many good books still to read. However, at the beginning of lockdown, I did treat myself to a re-read of The Suspects by one of my favourite authors, Katherine Johnson. She is a fabulous writer and it is no surprise that her books are all best-sellers.
The Suspects is an excellent book, I agree! It's a lot-o-bit of a rollercoaster of who-done-it!
Tell us about your writing process. Do you write full-time?
Val: I do, yes. I took early retirement when I had cancer and that gives me the time and space to spend my time as I see fit. I do a little tutoring of English and gives lectures on aspects of writing, but predominantly, I write.
Has the writing process changed or shortened from your first novel, Hunter's Chase (2017), to today's release of Hunter's Secret?
Val: I was still extremely ill when I wrote Hunter’s Chase, so I wrote it in fits and starts when I was well enough to do so. As a result of that, my first novel too me two and a half years to write. Now that I am well and a bit more experienced, from start to finish, a book usually takes about eight to nine months.
That is amazing! What do you do to relax? Do you have hobbies or favorite vacation sites?
Val: I enjoy swimming, walking, knitting and reading. I also like to spend time with family and friends and often do that over drinks or a meal, when social distancing allows. My big budget relaxations are travel, (I am an American living in the UK so I like to go home regularly) and my little granddaughter.
What do you feel is the hardest part in the writing process?
Val: Editing. I hate editing. It is vital and must be done carefully and repeatedly to perfect the manuscript, but by the time it is finished, I am always sick of the sight of the novel I am working on.
If there is one thing you can tell yourself when you started, what would it be?
Val: False modesty will not sell books!
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Val: I am so lucky to have been nurtured and mentored on my writing journey by several of my favourite authors including Karen Campbell, Simon Hall, Michael Jecks, Erin Kelly and Peter Robinson. Amongst other authors whose books I look out for are Rose McClelland, Joan Livingston and Linwood Barclay.
How much time did you spend on research for the Edinburgh Crime Mysteries?
Val: The things I tend to research are methods of murdering people, how long it takes to die and how fast bodies decompose in different circumstances. I very much hope nobody ever checks my computer history!
I hear you there. Never a good thing to do research in a crowded room or on a plane. Might give the wrong impression!
Do you work with an outline or do you know where your characters need to be by the end and write until you get there?
Val: I always have an outline and I usually write that in a notebook detailing the characters and actions that will take place in each chapter. However, I draft the novel on my laptop. It is easier to make changes electronically.
Have your characters ever acted in surprising ways and not according to how you developed their character traits?
Val: Indeed, they have! In Hunter’s Secret, I had no idea that Les was a cross dresser until Jamie saw him in the window!
Oh my! Why was she looking through the window? Wait…don’t tell me. I’ll read to find out.
Thank you so very much for answering my questions. We all wish you the very best of luck!!
Val: Thanks for having me to visit, Sarah. I appreciate your support and good wishes.
On this August 8, 2020, you can get your copy of Hunter’s Secret, available on Amazon for ebook or print!
The books…click on any link for more information!
You can find more of Val at the following…