Monday, May 30, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Sci-fi author Valerie Gaumont

MEMORAL DAY WEEKEND is a day to reflect and remember, thus I thought it would be a great time to look up an old friend, Valerie Gaumont.  Valerie was a member of the first writing group I belonged to in Des Moines.  All things change, however, and our little group lost a talented writer when she moved on to bigger and better things.  Valerie is now the author of two contemporary sci-fi novels – I’ll let her explain what that all means.

Mike:  Valerie, thank you for joining us today.  You have two books, Pilot and Storm Chaser.  I believe Storm Chaser is the latest; can you give us a short synopsis of it?

Valerie:  Storm Chaser is Book Two in the Channel Rider Series, Book One is Pilot. Both books fall into the category of Contemporary Sci-Fi which means they take place in today’s world with one or two changes.

M:  Okay, let’s start with the first book, Pilot.

V:  Pilot is the story of Elena Calabrese. She was once a Pilot of the Guild of Families which means she was born with the special ability to take sailing ships from earth’s oceans into space. The Guild of Families has, over the centuries, developed an intergalactic merchant network. One of their rules is that no one is to ever find out who they are and what they do. Elena left the Guild because she developed the affliction that seems to ground all of the best pilots in the guild called The Calling. In Pilot the law of secrecy is broken and Elena is brought back into the world of the Pilots and forced to walk a very thin line between the Guild of Families, with their Mafia-like tendencies, and the military. Along the way she also discovers that The Calling is not the affliction everyone seems to believe it to be but rather an evolution of abilities.

M:  And your latest, Storm Chaser?

V:  Storm Chaser is the second book in the Channel Rider Series. In this book Elena is still navigating between worlds and establishing a trading base on earth. She and her team are re-packaging out of this world (literally) goods and selling them on earth. The military has begun to develop their own ships but are still having issues with navigation. Elena also discovers that her new found abilities can lead her to open new channels; something no one thought could be done. Now formerly afflicted pilots are flocking to her to learn to control the calling and the council’s scariest leaders are starting to pay more attention to her than is comfortable.
Both books initially came out with Brown Street Press. Pilot is now an e-book on Smashwords and in a few weeks Storm Chaser will be out as an e-book as well. The third book in the Series, Alliance will only come out as an e-book in July. The reason being that the publishers of Brown Street were a very small indie publisher and with the current economy have decided to temporarily shut down. So I am now kind of on my own with this.

M:  What was your road to publication?

V: Pilot initially started out as a blog. It was a bit of a writing exercise, to be honest. It was designed so that each post would be a chapter and that each chapter would be short enough that someone could read it over their lunch break, which is why Pilot’s chapters are rather short. Charles of Brown Street contacted me and asked if I would be interested in doing a book with Pilot. I was and I did. Storm Chaser was also published as a bog in the beginning, but as I was already thinking of a book at that point, the chapters became a little bit longer.

M:  As a writer, what do you think is more important: Plot or Character?

V:  I know everyone asks that and I have to say I always find it a little bit of a strange question. I suppose I am character driven.

Usually when I write it begins with the thought “Oh I wonder what would happen if someone developed this ability” or “How would you dispose of a dead body if you were a serial killer?” or I’ll see something and ask the why questions. “Why would a 50 year old woman go to an ATM on a Sunday afternoon wearing a pink prom dress?” That sort of thing, and the story will evolve from there. Magically people will appear and move through the scenario I’ve just created and then all of a sudden I’ll be thinking, okay to get the character from point A to point B they need to go into a hospital. So I’ll get the character to the hospital doors and then all of a sudden they will refuse to go into the hospital claiming that they are germaphobic, which will throw me for a loop and sometimes cause me to yell at the page (which is why it is best if I write alone).
All of a sudden I will start seeing the bottles of Purell and the super sized box of Ivory Soap in the linen closet and this will subtly change the scene and the plot. My germaphobic serial killer will react differently to the situations he is in and that will affect the plot.

Other times I will start with a character and try to see how they would react in certain situations. From this a plot will develop. Usually it is a what would happen if, or why would you do that situation and then the characters show up and make a mockery of all of my carefully laid plans. I actually had one character in a story who was just supposed to pass through and make a comment suddenly decide to hide something behind a false brick in a fireplace. It completely changed the plot. So I guess it is character driven. I have the plot like a framework and it gets adjusted as I go. It is a bit like building a car and then having someone buy it and take it to a detail shop for alterations.

I know that is a bit rambling and sounds a little nuts but no matter how interesting I find the plot until my characters wake up, it stays sort of flat.

M: What started you writing?

V: I suppose it was a combination of things. Partially it was that I have always had very vivid dreams. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the dream and want to know how it would turn out and so a story would start. Pilot actually came from a dream. In the dream I was standing on a ship in the middle of the ocean and slide from the ocean into the sky. Then of course I woke up and had to figure out the rest.

Other times it was because I would see something and want an explanation when there was none available, such as seeing the 50 year old woman at an ATM dressed in a pink prom dress on a Sunday morning. I did actually see her, but I didn’t know her and by the time I got near the ATM she was gone. I still wanted to know the story so I went home and wrote it.

M: What are your writing habits? In other words, do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?

V: I try to write every day. Sometimes I will wake up with a bit of dream still lodged in my brain and I will jot it down along with some thoughts. Sometimes it stays there and other times I will start seeing bits of story around it and go into it there. When I am working on a story I will sit down with the idea of getting from point A to point B in my timeline. I usually will get from A to B but it is rarely a straight line. If it is a complex story then I will sometimes list out some of the things I want to actually cover between point A and point B. Kind of like road signs. Sometimes during the day I’ll see something that will spark an idea and I’ll jot it down and then work on it later that day.
M:  Do you have anything upcoming?

V:  Well Pilot and Storm Chaser are being released as e-books as a prelude to the third book Alliance, being released in July. I am currently writing on my blog the story Keeper of the Crossroads. That story is going to be winding down in the next few weeks and then I will sit down, edit, revise and possibly have that out hopefully in October.

M: You have an interesting job with the Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation. Can you tell us a little about what you do?

V: Actually I am no longer with them. I need to update actually. I was with the Main Street and Certified Local Government programs there and I worked with small communities to help preserve and put back into productive use their historic buildings. The job was amazing. I got to meet some wonderful people and do some amazing things. I left Louisiana in January of 2010 and took a job with the WY Main Street program. I did not stay there long however and decided to take some time off from working a regular job to just write. As wonderful as working with Main Street was it kept me on the road a lot and after years of writing in hotel rooms and between meetings I wanted to see what would happen if I just concentrated on writing for a while.

M: What sparked your interest in history?

V:  Architecture actually. Most people don’t think about it but the buildings all around us tell the story of what people were thinking when the buildings were being built. They are physical reminders of different mindsets. We shape the buildings and then the buildings shape us. Also working with Main Street let me go inside some of these buildings in a different way. For example I visited a building that had been continually occupied since it was built in 1912; however, as time went on, less and less of the building was used. The upper floors were once a thriving office space with retail below. In the 1930s the company occupying the upper floors went belly up and the offices were just locked up. The retail spaces downstairs remained in use but the upper floors were blocked off. I was invited to tour the building as the new owner wanted to look at a new use for the upper floors. We went inside and it was as though that in the 1930s the office workers had just walked out taking only the important files with them. Desks were still in place, pencil holders still held pencils. It was an odd glimpse into one of the hidden spaces that we pass every day and pay no attention to. And of course, being me, I wanted to know more.

M:  Besides your writing, do you have any hobbies, or any spare time activities?

V:  I enjoy gardening and cooking. I of course do a lot of reading. Actually for the longest time work and writing took up most of my time. When I wasn’t doing one I was doing the other. I used to do black and white photography and would love to get back into that.

M:  Thank you for being with us today.  One final question, how can readers contact you?

V: Oh let me count the ways: There is Facebook (under my name of course or on the Page Pilot and the Channel Rider’s Series), Twitter (@valeriegaumont) or on my blog. And thank you!

1 comment:

  1. Having read both of Valerie's books, I can say that they were a great read. I am anxiously awaiting the third book in the series.