Interview with 'The Promised Land' Valerie Stocking


Valerie Stocking was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, and wrote her first short story when she was five. When she was eight, she won a short story contest in Jack and Jill Magazine. She wrote her first play at the age of ten. In 1966, when she was twelve, she and her mother moved to a small town in Florida where they lived for a year. During this time, Valerie experienced difficulties with the public school system, tried a Seventh Day Adventist school briefly, and then dropped out altogether. It was her experiences during this year that inspired The Promised Land. Later, she would finish high school, graduate from college and earn a Master’s degree in Cinema Studies from NYU.

For nearly 30 years, she wrote and edited in various capacities, including copywriting, newspaper articles, and short stories. She wrote nearly 20 full-length and one act plays over a ten year period, which have been performed throughout the U.S. and Canada. She edited books for audio, abridging over 100 novels in a 6-year period. In 2010, she published her first novel, A Touch of Murder, which is the first of what will become the Samantha Kern mystery series. It was nominated for a Global eBook Award in 2011 for Best Mystery.

Valerie lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her dog and cat, and is working on her next novel.

You can visit her website at www.valeriestocking.com.

About The Promised Land

It’s 1966, just two years after President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, and twelve-year-old Joy Bradford’s life is changing dramatically. Born and raised in the white suburbs of Connecticut, Joy is moving to Willets Point, Florida, to live with her mother Jessica because her parents are divorcing. Hoping it really is the Promised Land that her mother describes, she joins in Jessica’s enthusiasm only to find out how horribly wrong that vision is.

Unfortunately for Joy, the move does nothing to change her mother’s emotional and mental instability, resulting in a continuation of the physical and verbal abuse she is all too used to receiving. Her new school is years behind her old one, the kids dress and act differently, and on just the second day, Joy has a run-in with her geography teacher. Things are going from bad to worse until Clay Dooley, a mixed-race boy from that same geography class, offers his friendship. The two become close, sending shockwaves that dovetail with a growing sense of tension and unease in the community as a whole. Clay’s father Clytus, a well-educated black man, attempts to open his own clothing store in the white section of downtown Willets Point. This causes Jessica’s new lawyer cum boyfriend and leader of the local Klan chapter, Bill McKendrick, to join with other white citizens in using great force to block Clytus’ dreams. Tempers flare and emotions run high when Clytus refuses the Klan’s subsequent demand that he and his family move out of the white neighborhood they live in, setting off an explosive confrontation that will change them all forever.

An absorbing and suspenseful coming of age story set against the tumultuous backdrop of racial tensions in mid-1960’s America, Stocking’s blend of historical fact and fiction is as relevant today as it was during the explosive Civil Rights era. Probing the human psyche for the deep-seated fears that fuel the fires of racism and bigotry, she expertly builds characters who feel their very lives are at stake by the changing times. Full of insight and intensity, The Promised Land is a spellbinding journey you won’t want to miss.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Valerie. Can you tell us how long you’ve been writing and how your journey led to writing your latest book, The Promised Land?

I started writing at the age of five. I wrote my first play at 10, and my first novel at 15. I’ve always loved to tell stories.

In 1966, my parents divorced and my mother and I moved to a small town on the Gulf Coast of Florida. We were there a year. This is the year that I chose to write about in the promised land. It is part fact and part fiction. I wanted to wait before I wrote it, partly because the people in the book were still living. Nearly all of them are dead now. Also, the story didn’t really gel in my mind until about four years ago.

Q: How did you choose your title and was it your first choice?

I’ve always had a hard time with titles. Originally, I conceived of this book as a collection of inter-related short stories that I was going to call the willets point chronicles or an incident at willets point. But then as the story elements came together, I realized it was more of a cohesive whole. I still didn’t have a title. Finally, I remembered how my mother used to tell me before we made the move to Florida that we were going to our “brand new life.” I believed her for awhile. Then reality got in the way. So I started thinking that this little town was supposed to be our promised land. That’s how it developed.

Q: We all know that publishers can’t do all of the publicity and that some lies on the author. What has your publisher done so far to publicize the book and what have you done?

The publisher sent out a press release and is helping me with a book trailer. Aside from that, I am basically doing my own marketing. In addition to doing a blog tour, I am making arrangements to do 3 local book signings in my area, appear on a local TV show and be interviewed on a radio station based in the Four Corners area of New Mexico. My book will be stocked and promoted locally by a large, independent bookstore. I have been promoting the promised land on Facebook, Twitter, and on my blog at www.valeriestocking.com/blog/.

Q: Open to a random page in your book. Can you tell us what is happening?

Jessica, Joy’s mother, is standing at the front door of her boyfriend’s house. He just broke up with her a few days earlier, and she has come to reclaim him and their relationship. At this point, she hears another woman’s voice calling him from within the house, and she realizes, even as rage consumes her, that her situation is hopeless.

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

Oh, yes! I have a rough draft completed of seen of the crime, which is a sequel to my first book, a touch of murder. After that, I plan on writing a paranormal thriller, followed by either another mystery, or the sequel to the promised land.

Q: What is the one thing you learned about your book AFTER it was published?

It’s only been out for two weeks, so that’s hard to say at this point. However, so far I’ve noticed that people seem to have an interest in the subject matter of the promised land. That’s encouraging.

Q: What is your most favorite time of the day or night to write?

I like to start by 8am. Otherwise, I go to the opposite end of the spectrum, and begin writing around 10:30p.m. Mostly I’m a morning person, though.

Q: What is usually better – the book or the movie?

That depends on who’s writing which!

Q: You’re about to write your next book. What did you learn from your previous book to help you write your next book?

I had a terrific editor for The Promised Land, and I learned a lot from her. Small things, like avoiding echoes and not repeating certain words throughout the book. These probably seem like elementary mistakes, but when you’re trying to commandeer a story that’s over 400 pages long, the little stuff can tend to get lost in the shuffle. I think I’m better at tightening things up now. I have a better idea of what to look for and what to eliminate. At this point, it’s all about fine-tuning.

Q: Finally, what’s your best tip you can give to writers who want to be published?

Never, ever give up. Take classes, join a writers’ group, attend conferences, and whatever you do, don’t stop writing!!

Q: Thank you for your interview, valerie. Do you have any final words?

Yes. You can read a serialized mystery, color me dead, as well as miscellaneous articles about the supernatural, writing, and the 1960’s, on my blog, www.valeriestocking.com/blog. Drop by and leave a comment! Thank you.

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