Sunday, November 23, 2014

Author interview: Valerie Comer

What's so special and unique about today's featured author? She's not a U.S. citizen! Valerie lives on a small farm in a mountain valley in southeastern British Columbia, Canada.

It was wonderful to interview Valerie about her life on the farm and to learn about her love for writing stories that revolve around farmers and interesting characters who love food and tea. 

Now here's what's in it for you: Valerie will give a free Sweetened with Honey e-book to the winner of her book giveaway contest! The contest starts today (Sunday, Nov. 23) and will end on Sunday, Dec. 7. Alexis will announce the winners via an old-fashioned random drawing on Monday, Dec. 8. You can enter the contest by answering Valerie's question at the end of this author interview. Remember to include your e-mail address in your comment so Valerie can send your e-book to you if you win. 

So without further ado, let's proceed to the interview (questions by Alexis in bold, answers by Valerie not in bold)...

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Alexis: A Farm Fresh Romance is the name of your book series. Tell me about it. Why did you choose that title for the series?

Valerie: The Farm Fresh Romance series follows the adventures, romantic and otherwise, of several young women who band together to buy a farm. Their goal is to grow their own food and live as sustainably as possible. They no longer expect to find romance, but it does indeed find them! So the reasons for the words "farm" and "romance" might be obvious. What I'm going for with the word "fresh" in the middle is that the setting isn't your everyday commercial farm, nor is it a historical farm, but one operated in a way relevant for this millennium.

Is there a personal connection between you and your characters in the book series A Farm Fresh Romance? If yes, explain.

There's always a connection between author and characters, I think. Bits of me, good and bad, are in all of my fictional people, but I identify most directly with Rosemary Nemesek, the mother of the hero in the first book, Raspberries and Vinegar. Rosemary is a tired fifty-something woman who has lived on the farm for years. (The series' heroines buy the land next door from the Nemesek family.)

Rosemary has gotten in a rut and forgotten what she loves about farm life. Now that her kids are raised and have moved on, she's lost her joy in gardening and canning. But like me, something came along and challenged her to look at her life through new eyes again.

For me, that was when my son and his wife were in university and became avid locavores (local food advocates). They decided to move back home after graduation so they could pour themselves into a food-production lifestyle. This from the boy who tried every excuse in the book not to help with chores when he was younger! But I was also surprised to find that many of their friends were jealous that they had a farm they could tap into.

I began to wonder what it would look like if a bunch of city-bred girls bought a farm together and tried to grow their own food. What kinds of challenges would they face? And the Farm Fresh Romance series was born!

By the way, my son and his wife have lived on our farm for 4 1/2 years now and have a toddler, one of my three young granddaughters. I love being in a position to help ensure healthy real food for these little treasures!

Give my readers insight into each of your books from A Farm Fresh Romance series (Raspberries and Vinegar, Wild Mint Tea and Sweetened with Honey).


Breaking ground with the Farm Fresh Romance series, Raspberries and Vinegar finds Josephine Shaw and her friends renovating a dilapidated farm with their sights set on more than just their own property. Transforming the town with their sustainable lifestyle and focus on local foods is met with more resistance than they expected, especially by temporary neighbor, Zachary Nemesek. Jo needs to learn that a little sweet makes the tart more tasty. 

The second tale, Wild Mint Tea, finds chef Claire Halford hosting weddings at Green Acres Farm, but the first bride comes with a globe-trotting brother. Noel Kenzie's reforestation company provides him the means to enjoy life. This is no time for him to settle down… or Claire to spread her wings.

Sweetened with Honey, the third story, finds beekeeper Sierra Riehl hopeful to catch the eye of widower Gabriel Rubachuk, knowing he must first face the past. Yet as he begins to embrace hope and fall in love with her, reality changes. Sierra begins to suspect she can't give Gabe what he deserves, and their budding romance fizzles. But how can she trust him with her devastating secret?

Tell me about your latest release, Sweetened with Honey. What exactly is “sweetened with honey”?

Sierra has become a beekeeper as part of the girls' focus on growing their own food. She has a sweet tooth and believes everything tastes better sweetened with honey. In Psalm 19 David claims that God's word is sweeter than honey. Honey and sweetness become metaphors for a variety of issues in Sierra and Gabe's lives through the course of this novel.

Why do you write “Farm Lit with a Christian worldview”? Is farm lit a book category of its own? If so, please explain.

FarmLit.com (which happens to be one of my sites!) describes farm lit as "any literature that embraces the life of modern-day 'new' farmers. These stories can be fiction or memoir, and most often include city-bred heroines who head for an idealized rural existence and (often) find the man of their dreams riding a tractor rather than a horse or a motorbike."

Farmers' markets, organic box programs, and vegetable gardening/processing have gone mainstream. My desire is to show "where food meets faith." I believe there are biblical reasons for choosing to care about where one's food comes from, and that story is a valuable tool in presenting the challenges and options.

Do you write full-time and does payment from that work cover all of your expenses or do you keep a day job too?


My job left me two years ago, and I've become a full-time writer since then, supplemented by some freelance work. I'm definitely not earning a living wage at this time and couldn't maintain this lifestyle if my husband didn't have a well-paying job. However, it's my goal to match my previous wages within the next two years.

Where do you live? What is your favorite feature of your hometown?

I live on a small farm in a mountain valley in southeastern British Columbia, Canada. It's the perfect place for a family of locavores because we have a unique climate. We grow a large percentage of our vegetables, berries, honey, and meat on our own land. We have organic wheat and other grains available locally as well as a wide range of fruits. There isn't much we can't grow or source locally.

Describe your writing space. What makes it special to you?


My office is in a small west-facing room upstairs, perfect for morning writing. My laptop sits under a window through which I can see my garden, several farms, and the trees and mountains beyond. I find the long view very restful. I also have the requisite bookcases as well as a large whiteboard and a large inspiration board. Everything needs to be portable because the room doubles as my preschool granddaughters' bedroom when they visit… and they are curious little monkeys!

Where do you want to take your writing in the next five to ten years?

I'm so thankful to be an indie author! In 2015 I expect to write and publish three novels and a novella to complete my Farm Fresh Romance series. I believe I can continue this pace until my husband retires in ten years, so that will be a lot of books in several series. I hope to continue writing much longer than that, but experience tells me to expect a slower output when he's around more.

How does your faith in God play into your writing?

My beliefs are intrinsic to every part of my life. I don't know how to write without my worldview showing through one way or another… not that I try to block it! My passion in food and environmental issues isn't mainstream Christian, though. Rather than "preach" my opinions on these topics, I tend to give my characters opposing viewpoints and let them duke it out on the page.

How often do you write every week and how do you overcome writer’s block?

My goal is to write an 80,000-word first draft every four months, which works out to about 5,000 words per week. The weekly goal is a great theory that hasn't quite worked for me, partly because I republished two novels and published three new (already written) ones in the past four months. First drafting got relegated to snatches of time, but I'm back on a roll lately and still expect to finish my current draft before Christmas.

As for writer's block, I have several solutions. Sometimes the story has gone astray and I need to delete the last scene or two and take a different direction. Sometimes I break out the wild-colored dry erase pens and mind-map on my three-by-four-foot whiteboard until a solution comes to mind. And then there's prayer, asking God to help me find the story He wants to deliver to my readers.

Do you have an agent and traditional publisher? If yes, please share the story of how this happened.

In January of 2011 I sold a novella to Barbour in a collection with three author friends. This netted me an agent and, for a time, I really believed I was on my way. Several of the proposals my agent shopped received solid praise and one went to pub board three times. But that wasn't the path God had for me.

In the spring of 2013 I let my agent go planning to go indie, but then accepted a small pub's contract offer on the three book Farm Fresh Romance. That small house shut to fiction just after the release of the second novel, and I regained my rights. Looking back, I'm thankful for each step of the journey and especially for where I have landed up, with all but one of my stories under my control. Being an indie author is the most amazing thing ever.

Are you married? Do you have kids? What do you and your family do for fun? Give my readers a glimpse into your personal life.

I've been married to the same guy for 34 years. Our two kids are married with children, and my three young granddaughters are the light of my life. I love hanging out with them, bouncing on the trampoline, reading stories, or letting them "help" me in the kitchen and garden.

Farming and gardening takes a lot of our time. When we get the chance, we like to pull our little holiday trailer up beside a mountain stream and spend a weekend fishing, hiking, reading, and soaking up nature.

What are you looking forward to the most about the Thanksgiving holiday? Do you have favorite holiday dessert? Please give details.

I'm Canadian, so I celebrated Thanksgiving the second Monday of October. I love the timing of our holiday because my girls and I try to make our entire feast with food from our farm, garden, and surrounding area, and so much is available in October! Pumpkin desserts rule. My daughter brought pumpkin pie, and my niece made both pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin macaroons. We enjoyed dessert for an entire week.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Valerie! Please provide a question for my readers to answer so they can enter the book giveaway and have a chance to win a digital copy of your book Sweetened with Honey.

Valerie: Sierra loves everything better if it's sweetened with honey, including her homemade coffee mocha. What do you think tastes better with honey?

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Author bio:

Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.


7 comments:

  1. Hi, Alexis and Valerie! Valerie, I found your circuitous journey in publication particularly interesting. So glad you're happy where you are right now. In answer to the question to enter to win your book, I love honey on biscuits, but honey mixed in peanut butter makes it taste even better.

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    1. Hi Cynthia!

      Thanks for leaving a comment for Valerie and I. But please reply again, this time with your e-mail address so we can contact you if you win the contest.

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    2. Hi Cynthia! It has been rather circuitous, but many life journeys are. Occasionally we catch a glimpse of the view and can only be blessed at where God has brought us! Psst, I love it on biscuits, too. My kids used to call them dessert biscuits!

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  2. I always put a touch of Jim & Val Comer's honey on my Ezekiel Bread toast in the morning, mixed together with almond butter. Always a good start to my morning!!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Joey,

      Thanks for leaving a comment for Valerie! :) But please reply again, this time with your e-mail address so we can contact you if you win the contest.

      Delete