Interview with Steven Verrier, author of TOUGH LOVE, TENDER HEART

Steven Verrier, born in the United States and raised mainly in Canada, has spent much of his life living and traveling abroad. He is the author of Raising a Child to be Bilingual and Bicultural (a prizewinning book published bilingually in Japan) and various short dramatic works for the student market. His first novel, Tough Love, Tender Heart, was published in the summer of 2008 by Saga Books. Currently he is living with his wife, Motoko, and four sons in San Antonio, Texas. You can visit his website at www.stevenverrier.com.



Don Fisher, a 41-year-old misfit who craves love but has known little of it, lives alone on the outskirts of New York City in an apartment about the size of a squash court, where "during much of the time he was there Don could have sworn he was the ball." Seeking a break from the northeastern cold, he catches a year-end flight to Caracas, Venezuela, where he lucks into a whirlwind encounter with Ana, a beautiful Colombian. After returning to New York, Don gets shocking news from Ana that leads to a marriage proposal and plans for Ana to join him permanently in the United States. What follows is a gripping account of the struggles this improbable couple face in dealing with the US immigration bureaucracy and in getting their relationship off the ground. Reminiscent of The Bridges of Madison County, TOUGH LOVE, TENDER HEART is a stirring, fast-flowing depiction of love trying to take root in an impossible situation, and a tale of unsurpassed relevance to our cross-cultural and post-9/11 age.


Welcome to The Writer's Life, Steve! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Sure. I’ve been writing seriously since I was a teenager … first songs, and then I got hooked on prose while attending university in Canada. After completing undergraduate studies, I spent many years living and working overseas, particularly in Japan. Somewhere along the way I earned graduate degrees at Columbia and the University of Iowa, and I continued to write … getting some short plays published, along with articles and a nonfiction book titled RAISING A CHILD TO BE BILINGUAL AND BICULTURAL, based on my and my Japanese wife’s experience raising our children to be fluent in both parents’ native languages and cultures. More recently I’ve been concentrating on fiction, and my first novel, TOUGH LOVE, TENDER HEART, was released by Saga Books earlier this year.


Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?


It’s the story of Don Fisher, a middle-aged misfit—just about everything has gone wrong in his life—who finally meets the sort of woman he’s given up on ever meeting. This happens while he’s on vacation in Venezuela. The woman, Ana, is Colombian, working as a waitress in Caracas, and while the two don’t exactly have a storybook romance, a child is conceived during Don’s vacation. He doesn’t learn this until he’s back in the States, but from that point on his energy is directed toward marrying Ana and bringing her to live in the US. Little does he realize the obstacles US Immigration is about to put in his path.
Though I’m a partner in an international marriage, I’ve got to admit my spouse and I never faced many of the problems Don and Ana do. I’ve talked to people who have, though, and I think there’s a certain arbitrary nature to immigration matters that has to be addressed.


What kind of research was involved in writing “Tough Love, Tender Heart”?

My wife and I have been through the immigration maze a few times, and I’ve talked to a lot of others who’ve been there.


How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

I told my publisher, Saga Books, which scene from the story I thought was particularly pivotal and ought to be on the cover. Saga followed by suggestions to the letter.


Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

It’s been long and bumpy, to be sure. You’d better not set out on this road unless you’ve got good shocks.


For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

It took about eight months.


Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/she is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I don’t have an agent, and I haven’t worked with one yet. At the stage where I am now I can manage without, but long-term, yes, I’ll need one.


Do you plan subsequent books?

PLAN B is a story about a teenager who’s—pardon the language—screwed by the public education system but doesn’t take being screwed lying down. Saga Books will release this second novel of mine in 2009.


Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I prefer to write in the morning before distractions of the day set in. It’s easier to focus.


If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

In a lot of ways I think it’s less a matter of money than time. But being filthy rich would buy me more time for making and meeting contacts, making appearances, and so on. And I guess a full-page ad in USA Today wouldn’t hurt.


How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

I’ve sent out press releases, done interviews … just generally tried to spread the word. Unfortunately, a lot of other responsibilities get in the way, but you’ve got to do everything you can.


Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Develop a thick skin. Be The Little Engine that Could. There are few successful writers that couldn’t paper their walls with rejection letters. Whatever your long-range plans may be, set little goals along the way, and be patient when even the tiniest steps take far longer than you’d imagined. And, of course, grit your teeth and be ready to outlast every obstacle you face.


Thank you for coming, Steve! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

Thank you! I really appreciate this opportunity to introduce myself and my work. The book is available through amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and other outlets. For information about TOUGH LOVE, TENDER HEART or about Steven Verrier, please visit stevenverrier.com, and drop a line telling me what you think about this book!
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