This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Val Muller will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC and a download code for The Girl Who Flew Away, a download code for The Scarred Letter, a print copy (US only) of The Man with the Crystal Ankh, and an ebook of Corgi Capers: Deceit on Dorset Drive, to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.
Welcome to It's Raining Books, Val! Where are you from?
I’m from Connecticut originally, although I’ve been moving down the East Coast since college. Now I’m in Virginia (though I still think it’s too snowy here!). My New England origins influenced some of my more ghostly tales (such as The Man with the Crystal Ankh). I remember once that a realtor told us we had to disclose whether there were any known ghosts before selling our house.
The long Connecticut winters certainly influence my darker tales as well. To me, there are few things more isolating than a long, cold snow. The neighborhood I grew up in was small and old, so there were no street lights, and walking the dog at night was terrifying.
Tell us your latest news.
The biggest news in my life is that my daughter is finally sleeping through the night, which means I am awake enough to write novels again. (During my sleep-deprived months—heck, she didn’t sleep through the night until 15 months, I could only keep short stories in my mind.) My immediate project is the fourth book in the Corgi Capers series. This is my kidlit mystery series. It’s about a snowstorm, though, so I’ve been procrastinating. Thinking and writing about snow is almost as painful as actually being in it!
In terms of publishing news, this tour is part of my celebration of my two most recent releases. Both are young adult, but they are different genres. The Girl Who Flew Away is literary fiction, following the story of a freshman whose family is affected by heroin addiction. The Man with the Crystal Ankh is perfect for the Halloween/autumn time of year. In this tale, the protagonist discovers that while she is in the trance-like state of a musician while playing her violin, she can be contacted by spirits who are stuck in between two worlds. Helping a troubled spirit is the only way she’ll be able to regain her life, but the solution involves centuries of supernatural history in her haunted New England town.
When and why did you begin writing?
I have been writing since I can remember. I forced my sister to join my “writing club” with the primary goal of sharing stories. In elementary school, I wrote a poem in first grade, which was recognized by my teacher, who sent me all the way up to the fifth grade wing of the school to share my work. Then, in third grade, I shared my “first book” with my class for show-and-tell. It was “The Mystery of Who Killed John Polly” (yes, a very clever title indeed!), which gained attention from my classmates.
My dad made me memorize “The Night Before Christmas,” and one snowy night, he pointed out that the moon reflecting on the snow outside had “the luster of midday.” It was the first time I saw a true reflection of words in reality, and I realized how powerful they were in communicating ideas in distance and time.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wanted to study writing in college, but few schools at that time had programs focusing in writing. So even though I had binders and binders full of stories I’d written in high school, fiction writing went on the backburner. Even though I wanted to call myself a writer, I acknowledged that writers had to—well, write.
It wasn’t until a life-changing dream I had (I blogged about it here: http://www.valmuller.com/2012/02/10/the-mentor-giveaway) that I started taking writing seriously. Once I had three pieces accepted in a short span of time, I realized I had become what I spent time doing. I was a writer.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was rather an accident, and it ended up becoming a series. I always had leanings toward young adult, and my plan was (and still is) to transition to books for adult readers as I felt the pull. I never expected to get into kidlit.
But when I walked my corgis through the neighborhood, the kids all asked me what secret adventures my dogs had while I was at work. I decided to write down their “adventures” as an exercise in writing. But when I got started, the dogs and the human characters ended up taking on a life of their own. I wrote the first book in about four weeks, and the second followed soon after.
On release date for book #3, which is about a fire station, a fire actually broke out at my work. People joked that I had planned it as a publicity stunt. But the correlation spooked me. I put off writing book #4 because it involves the main character’s pregnant cousin going into labor during a snow storm. Being pregnant myself (I planned the book’s outline before becoming pregnant), I thought I should wait—just in case reality and fiction decided to blur again. Turns out I should have just written the book—I went into labor during a historic blizzard and had to count on emergency services to get me through the snow. The good news is, I now have lots of real-world experience to weave into my book.
What would you like my readers to know?
A coworker (a fellow English teacher) once noted that each author seems to have a “thing,” an element that runs through all their works. I’ve thought a lot about what my “thing” is, and I think it’s best embodied by my YA work The Scarred Letter, a modernization of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. In this book, Heather decides to live truthfully, though it goes against the culture of her school and leads to bullying and misery. In some ways—though much less extreme than that case—all of my characters are in search of the truth. Whether it’s Adam and his corgis trying to solve a mystery in Corgi Capers or Sarah trying to get to the bottom of historical documents to explain the supernatural occurrences, each character wants to deal with the truth—good, bad, or ugly.
Sarah Durante awakens to find herself haunted by the spirit of her high school’s late custodian. After the death of his granddaughter, Custodian Carlton Gray is not at peace. He suspects a sanguisuga is involved—an ancient force that prolongs its own life by consuming the spirits of others. Now, the sanguisuga needs another life to feed its rotten existence, and Carlton wants to spare others from the suffering his granddaughter endured. That’s where Sarah comes in. Carlton helps her understand that she comes from a lineage of ancestors with the ability to communicate with the dead. As Sarah hones her skill through music, she discovers that the bloodlines of Hollow Oak run deep. The sanguisuga is someone close, and only she has the power to stop it.
Already in trouble for a speeding ticket, Ali insists that Steffie say nothing about Madison’s disappearance. Even when Madison’s mother comes looking for her. Even when the police question them.
Some secrets are hard to hide, though—especially with Madison’s life on the line. As she struggles between coming clean or going along with her manipulative sister’s plan, Steffie begins to question if she or anyone else is really who she thought they were. After all, the Steffie she used to know would never lie about being the last person to see Madison alive—nor would she abandon a friend in the woods: alone, cold, injured, or even worse.
But when Steffie learns an even deeper secret about her own past, a missing person seems like the least of her worries…
Read an Excerpt from The Girl Who Flew Away:
My mind races. My tailbone aches. I’m exhausted and scared. Darkness has fallen, and everything takes on a sinister shape. Car headlights seem to glare at me. Even strangers going in and out of the stores look more dangerous.
I feel alone. I think about going back into the store, explaining everything to the clerk, and asking him to call my parents. I look down at Sally’s dragonfly necklace. I wonder how many times in Sally’s life she must have been scared and felt hopeless and had nowhere to go. If she could do it, then the least I can do is spend a few extra hours trying to rescue my friend. When a police car pulls into the convenience store parking lot, I dash out of the way and resolve to make it to the park somehow.
The park is a half mile up the road. I know it’s difficult for cars to see me now, so I keep way to the side of the road. Before long, I get off my bike and walk. At the entrance to the park, I realize the gate is locked: no one is admitted inside after dark. It’s a chained fence meant to keep out cars, but I’ll be able to sneak in. I leave my bike at the gate and climb over the barrier—and I’m in the park.
About the Author: Teacher, writer, and editor, Val Muller grew up in haunted New England but now lives in the warmer climes of Virginia, where she lives with her husband. She is owned by two rambunctious corgis and a toddler. The corgis have their own page and book series at www.CorgiCapers.com.
Val’s young adult works include The Scarred Letter, The Man with the Crystal Ankh, and The Girl Who Flew Away and feature her observations as a high school teacher as well as her own haunted New England past. http://www.ValMuller.com
The Girl Who Flew Away:
Free preview + discount code http://barkingrainpress.org/girl-who-flew-away/
The Man with the Crystal Ankh:
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