Indie Support Sunday: Valentina Burns
I’d heard about Valentina from another author friend a little while ago and then when the cover for her debut was revealed, I rushed to find out more. And now, months later, I’m happy to call Valentina a friend. Not only has she written two incredible books—her second one, Finding Freedom releases November 7th and is currently up for preorder—she’s also an awesome person. I’m learning that we have a lot more in common than either of us realised!
One of my favourite things about Valentina’s books—along with the fact that she also writes in 3rd person—is that she’s not afraid to talk about the hard stuff. Both her books tackle topics that we’re seeing more of in romance and should always talk about openly.
Pick up Finding Home right now, it’s available in Kindle Unlimited and Finding Freedom comes out soon!
BEING AN AUTHOR
Who or what inspired you to write?
It wasn’t so much that I was inspired as it was that this was just how I always expressed myself. Writing helped me get my thoughts and feelings on paper. I could write letters and articulate myself so much better than if I had to speak in person. Writing stories became a very natural way for me to work through the highs and lows in my life, to close circles and finish unfinished business. A therapy of sorts.
What’s the best and worst part about being an indie author?
By far the best part is creative control. I get to pick the editor that works best for me, the cover designs I prefer, and I get to tell the stories I want to tell, unfiltered.
The worst part is not knowing anything. Having to do everything from scratch, and most everything yourself. You meet so many wonderful people along the way who you can go to for advice, but ultimately your success or failure depends solely on you and the decisions you make, and that’s scary!
Why did you choose to self-publish instead of going the traditional route?
Honestly, I was terrible at writing query letters. I know it sounds silly, but I found that part so daunting that it gave me more anxiety than anything else. I lack the confidence it takes to do an elevator pitch, or to put myself out there. It’s my weakest character trait, my inability to believe in myself, but there it is. I’m working on it.
Also, the few times I did query it took so long to hear back from anyone, that I felt I’d get farther, faster, starting out on my own.
When you’re not writing, what do you do to get the creative juices flowing?
Reading! Ha ha, I lost myself in reading books long before I started writing them.
If you were to recommend books to me (in any genre), what would they be?
I always always always recommend Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton because I can’t see anyone who wouldn’t love that book. It’s gut wrenching and beautiful in one. A love story but not a romance.
For romance, I love to support Canadian authors like Elsie Silver and Hannah Bonam-Young. They inspire me, but I have to say some of my favorite romances came from Sarah Castille (also known as Sara Desai before she became Sara Desai).
What are your top 5 tips or pieces of advice for aspiring authors?
Just start writing. Don’t stop. Your story deserves a space in the world.
Share your words with as many people as you can. Friends, family, strangers on the internet. Let as many people as you can read your story and give you feedback.
Don’t be offended by feedback or criticism. This one was hard for me because I am so sensitive, but I learned that 9 times out of 10 the critique only made my story better. People who care about you only want you to put out the best story you possibly can. Be open to what they have to say.
Invest in a good editor. The kind that will get into the nitty gritty with you. And someone who knows your genre very well.
Be loud and be proud - you’re doing something most people only ever dream about. (I realize this sounds funny coming from me since I just said I don’t have the confidence to sell myself, but I also said I’m working on it, so this is also advice for myself.)
ROMANCE AS A GENRE
Why did you choose romance as the genre to write in? What is your favorite thing about the genre?
Romance chose me. I’ve been drawn to it for as long as I can remember. Even as a young child I always wanted to read the books or watch the movies that had the romantic arc. It’s the happy ending for me. It’s my favorite thing. We all want one, and we all deserve one.
If not romance/subgenres of romance, what genre would you like to write in?
Um, I probably wouldn’t? Maybe a memoir or someone's biography, ha ha, I don’t know.
What are your most and least favorite tropes?
I love enemies to lovers. The tension - yes please, bring it on. Two people who can’t stand each other, and the lines of attraction are blurred. Love and hate can feel so much the same, it’s thrilling to read when done well. But it has to be a mutual love and hate. Because my least favorite trope is the bully. I’m sorry but pulling my pigtails and calling me names because you love me doesn’t work for me unless I get to pull your pigtails and call you names back.
What are some tropes you want to write in the future?
I’d love to do an enemies to lovers, but I just haven’t quite developed the right story in my head yet. I hate conflict in real life, so I sometimes find it challenging to put on paper. But I sure love to read it!
What are some topics (sensitive and otherwise) that you think should exist more in romance?
I am about to release a book about a character who is rediscovering her sexual self after an assault. I find I have read a lot of books where the character (usually heroine) has been assaulted, but there’s never been a focus on their sexual healing. They just kind of meet the right person and that kind of solves all their sexual hangups post assault. There might be a book out there, but I haven’t seen it. So I wrote what I wanted to see in a book.
The right partner helps with healing sexual trauma, but it doesn’t solve everything. It’s a gradual relearning of how to experience pleasure and delight in your body. I hope I did it justice. We’ll find out soon!
If you write open door romance, why did you choose that and what inspires your sex scenes?
I do write open door romance, because it is what I need to write in my life right now. Positive, consensual sexual experiences on page help create positive, consensual sexual experiences off page. I am a firm believer of that.
And I inspire my own sex scenes, thank you very much! My fantasy is a fascinating place.
If you write closed door romance, why did you choose that and what are your favorite ways to build tension between the characters?
I’ve never written closed door, but in terms of tension, oh you can make it happen baby. Two words: hand flex.
What inspired your published stories? How and when did you come up with these stories and plots?
Real-life inspired my published stories. I drew on the things I have gone through in my life and with others close to me that I love dearly. The Rose City Series has been deeply healing for me. I got a lot of closure writing these stories. It was like journaling, but with sex.
Can you briefly tell me about your books?
Finding Home is my debut. It is about a woman who finds out later in life she was adopted, and sets out to discover who she is as an individual. What she finds is the true meaning of family, and how you can find identity within that. My mother found out in early adolescence that she was adopted, and I saw how it affected her all of her life. I wanted to show that family is created in many different ways, and no matter how it comes to you, it is something to cherish and never let go. It’s a story about love and forgiveness and moving forward.
But my whole Rose City Series is based around Ivy, from Finding Freedom. She’s the survivor in all of us. I talked a bit about it above, how I wanted to see positive sexual healing in books post assault. But the side characters are important too. I firmly believe that sexual assault affects all people. If you’re not an Ivy, you are a Hope or a Joel or a Sean. The series all connects back to what happened to Ivy, because on a deeper level I wanted to show how something so horrific has a ripple effect on many lives.
Do you already have a favorite character from the stories you’ve written?
So many. But I have to say I love Joel. His social intelligence, his own heart break, his loyalty. How he can walk into a room and diffuse any situation. He reminds me of that vampire in Twilight, was it Jasper? The one who could control the mood of an entire room. Joel has that power. He’s the fixer, but he’s also the soother. His flaw is focusing too much on helping others that he loses sight of how to fix his own life. That’s book three.
If you were to cast your book for a movie/television show, who would you cast in the lead roles?
I’m terrible at this. I’m never satisfied with who they cast when books become movies. The image in my head is always so much better than any A lister.
How much of yourself do you put into these characters?
Everything. They are me. The many sides of me, the many lives I’ve lived. The secrets I keep, the friends I love, the hands I’ve held, the people I’ve been raised by, the people I’m helping raise, the love of my life. My characters are inside me and all around me.
What is a story/stories that you really want to tell?
Oh I have this idea in my head. It’s been ruminating, and it’s starting to take root. But I have a few books to finish before I get there I think. That’s all I’m a gonna say about that!
Is there one common element that readers can find in all your stories?
Resilience. My characters have all overcome something. They’ve been through it. My stories are all based on real-life experiences, my own or those of people, family and friends I know. I love delving into what people actually live through and survive. I find stories based on things that can happen in the here and now exceptionally inspiring, and when it is a romance, with a happy ending, it makes it all the more worthwhile, because it shows there can be a happy ending for all of us, no matter how devastating your story.
What’s next on the bookshelf for you? Anything you can tell us about a future project?
Joel’s book is book three in my series. I think he’s got something readers won’t see coming. He’s so strong and stoic but there’s this veil between what you see and what you don’t. I can’t wait to lift the veil.
When you write these stories, what are you hoping your readers will feel?
Connection. I hope they can connect to something that the characters are going through, and be like “OMG, that’s me. I get this. This is me.”
Paperbacks, hardbacks, ebooks or audiobooks
Contemporary, fantasy, historical or romantic suspense
Single or Dual POV
Standalones, series or standalones in a series
Open door, ajar door or closed door romances
Music or silence when writing
Plotter, pantser or plantser
Water, tea, coffee or….wine?
Cold or warm weather
Write better in the morning, afternoon or night?
Illustrated and photo cover?