Interview with Valerie Constantine, co-author of 'Circle Dance'

Valerie Constantine was born in Baltimore, Maryland.  She has always loved books and spent too many nights reading by the light of her bedside lamp until 3 a.m.  (Those were the days when she was able to stay up that late.)  She graduated from Nancy Drew to Shakespeare and went on to study at the University of Maryland where she received a degree in English Literature. She is a contributing editor to The Big Thrill magazine and has also worked with St. John’s College as chair of their Meet The Authors Program. She is an active community volunteer working with a Washington, D.C. organization that fights human trafficking and also as president of Assistance League of the Chesapeake, a philanthropic organization that helps and supports children in need. In her spare time she reads, kayaks and travels.  Valerie lives in Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and Zorba, their brilliant King Charles Cavalier.
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About the Book:

Title: Circle Dance
Author: Lynne Constantine & Valerie Constantine
Publisher: Bookbaby
Pages: 261
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Format: Paperback/Kindle/Audible/Nook

Young, smart and beautiful with everything figured out – or so they thought. Born into a prosperous Greek American family, sisters Nicole and Theodora have achieved the perfect balance between the old world rich in Greek tradition and the freedom of life in America.

Nicole’s world spins out of control when she falls for a married senator who shares her heritage and her dreams. The decisions she makes will affect the happiness of those closest to her and will define the woman she is to become.

As Theodora struggles to succeed at her marriage, she seeks the wisdom and council of her beloved Greek grandmother who has been happily married for over half a century. Ultimately she must come to terms with the reality of her own life and take responsibility for the role she has played in deceiving herself.

As the dramatic plot unfolds, the two young women must confront deceit and betrayal and their own shortcomings—while they struggle to preserve the values they cherish.

Set in Baltimore, Annapolis and the tiny island of Ikaria, Greece, Circle Dance provides a view into the lives of a dynamic family that has successfully achieved the American dream without abandoning the customs and traditions handed down through their Greek heritage.

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

My sister and I had talked for years about writing a book together. We went round and round with ideas, but none of them ever seemed to gel or excite us. Then, heeding the advice that you write what you know about, we decided to tell the story of the children and grandchildren of a Greek immigrant family, to present an ethnic group that didn’t have much representation in American literature. And so Circle Dance was born. (Before the book was published, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was released!).

We outlined the book and created our characters together and drew up a time line for ourselves, promising to write 15 pages a week. We alternated chapters and met weekly to discuss where we were so far and how to move on. We both had full time jobs at the time, so our writing was done at night and on weekends. As time went on, we edited each other’s work, which helped make the writing more seamless. The advantage of collaboration is that there is someone holding you accountable for your pages. You can’t slack off! And it’s great to have someone to run things by, to get another point of view.

The entire process took a year. In the end, we each took a week’s vacation and worked together around the clock to finish. It was both an exhausting and exhilarating experience.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

The most important tip I would pass on is keep writing. Do it everyday, even if you toss out some of it the next day. It’s just like working a muscle – the more you work it, the more limber it becomes. I always think of what my piano teacher used to tell me––practice makes easier!

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

We found, Cosmos, a small publisher in New Jersey, who published Greek textbooks, travel books, history and some literature. This was after countless query letters to agents and publishers and countless rejections. Cosmos took us on, had their editor make suggestions, and then published the book. They were really not equipped to do PR or advertising. We had some interest from Hollywood, but after talks, nothing happened. After several years, we decided to buy back the rights to Circle Dance and to self publish. We rewrote much of the book and, did indeed, go on to self publish.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

We had such an unrealistic and naive picture of just what a publisher would do for us, especially a small publisher like Cosmos. As soon as we signed our contract, we assumed our books would appear in bookstores across the country and that our publisher would set up signings, perhaps a tour, and interviews. But of course, as debut authors with no track record, none of this happened. We made all the contacts ourselves, we went to bookstores, festivals, and to other groups to set up readings/signings. We reached out to magazines and newspapers for reviews and interviews. Ultimately, it fell to us to do the marketing for Circle Dance. And you have to remember that this was before the days of Facebook, Twitter, and all of the other social media forums we have today.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

Lynne is working on the final edits for a thriller – The Veritas Deception – and together we are also in the final edits for another collaborative novel. I am in the beginning stages of a stand-alone novel of my own.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

I’m a news junkie, and one of my favorite sites is BBC America, so my browser is often there or tuned to The New York Times online. I’ll admit that I can’t resist clicking on a juicy celebrity story now and again.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

We want to show the universality of family values and traditions; that when you know your history, you know yourself. We live in an ever-changing world, but despite that, we are all creations of the history and traditions that have been passed on to us from generation to generation.

Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Thank you for your questions. They have taken me happily back to the beginning of a journey that has been filled with new places and new adventures.

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