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’sCollege 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.
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
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.
Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
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
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.
Dorothy Thompson is CEO/Founder of Pump Up Your Book, an innovative public relations agency specializing in online book promotion and social media marketing for authors. Visit her website at www.pumpupyourbook.com.