Wednesday 25 September 2013

Interview with Valerie Comer and book giveaway

Narelle here. I'm thrilled to welcome Valerie Comer to our blog today. I really enjoyed reading Valerie's first contemporary inspirational 'farm lit' romance, Raspberries and Vinegar.

Breaking ground with the Farm Fresh Romance series, in RASPBERRIES AND VINEGAR Josephine Shaw and her two friends renovate a dilapidated farm with their sights set on more than just their own property. However, transforming the town with their sustainable lifestyle and focus on local foods is met with more resistance than they expected, especially by neighbor Zachary Nemesek. Jo needs to learn that a little sweet makes the tart more tasty.

Narelle, thanks so much for inviting me to your new group blog! I'm delighted to share with your readers, even though I'm a Canadian currently writing stories set in the USA. 

Narelle: What inspired you to write Raspberries and Vinegar?

Valerie: Raspberries and Vinegar is the first in a 3-book series called Farm Fresh Romance. It was inspired in large part by, not only my daily life on the farm, but by the way people in their 20s view it. At least in North America, there's a big drive right now to know where your food comes from. People are flocking to gardening classes and farmers' markets and weekly local food delivery programs. 

My son and daughter-in-law were in university when I began working on the series. Their peers were so jealous of the kids' plan to return to the farm and grow their own food that I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to turn some 20-something urban kids loose on a small farm and see what would happen.

The result is Raspberries and Vinegar and the other two books in the series, both due to release in 2014.

Narelle: I’m fascinated by the concept of sustainable living. How is it similar or different to organic farming?

Valerie: Small-scale organic farming is part of sustainable living, which looks at the broader "footprint" of each person. If everyone on the planet lived the same way you or I do, would the planet be able to survive? For most of us in industrialized nations, the answer is no. So what can we do to create a smaller "footprint?" How can we live more gently on the Earth to keep life sustainable for our kids, grandkids, etc? 

Organic farming, on its own, may or may not help with this. At least in North America, much of the organic food sold in stores is grown by mega-farms as a monoculture. They may not be using toxins to kill pests and weeds, but the methods may be just as unsustainable for the Earth in the long term. 

That's why, in Raspberries and Vinegar, Jo's stepdad is a megafarmer, determined to add organics to his farm because he sees great profit. I couldn't resist adding that angle to the debate.

Narelle: How does food influence the life and faith of your characters? 

Valerie: Jo Shaw and her two friends believe that it's their duty and privilege to live lightly on the planet—and to teach others how to, as well. They believe that Christians should be first in line to take care of their own bodies, their neighborhood, and people around the world. So often that's not true.

Narelle: Writers are often encouraged to ‘write what you know’. How have your real life experiences impacted the type of stories you write? 

Valerie: I've lived on a farm for more than half my life. My husband and I bought out his parents' small farm in 2000 and became more deeply interested in the quality of our food. Growing our own as much as possible was the first order of business. To that end, we have some livestock, a large garden, nut trees, and berries. We added beehives in 2009. 

We became involved in our local food action coalition which helped us source other fruits, vegetables, and grain. Recently a local organic dairy farm began selling bottled milk as well as cheeses. As you can see, there isn't a lot we need from the "outside world" although of course I still do shop some at the nearest supermarket as well. 

So the farming and gardening aspects of my stories definitely come from my own life, and those around me!

Narelle: Please share your writing process with us. Do you plot or write ‘by the seat of your pants’? Do you write every day? 

Valerie: When I'm in first draft mode, I aim for 2500 word per day, and at least 10,000 words per week. Life always seems to happen, so I like having a bit of flexibility in my schedule. This does mean I can get a first draft written in about 8-10 weeks. 

During times of rewriting, revising, and editing, I can put in longer hours as it uses a different part of my brain. So the short answer is YES, I write (or do something closely related) every day. 

As for process, it's messy. For some reason I got it stuck in my head early on that writers are either plotters or pantsers. This is so not true, people! Plotting and pantsing are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and most of us land somewhere in between. Sure, some are close to one end or the other, but I've discovered that I'm almost exactly halfway. 

This means that while some plotting tools help me, I can only take them so far. Then I have to trust my instincts and jump in. The tools I do depend on are character interviews and character GMCs (goals, motivations, and conflicts)

I invite your readers to swing by and check out the other blog posts as well. Maybe some would like to join my free writing course. It arrives via email once a week and provides an overview of the entire writing process from planning to plotting, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

Narelle: What do you hope your readers will take away after reading Raspberries and Vinegar?

Valerie: I hope my readers will laugh, cry, and think a little bit more about where their food comes from.

Narelle: Please tell us about your upcoming releases.

Valerie: 2014 is looking very busy for me! Wild Mint Tea, the second book in the Farm Fresh Romance series, releases in March. Thankfully I wrote the first draft a couple of years ago, so it's almost ready to turn in. 

The third book, Sweetened with Honey, releases in December 2014. It still needs to be written. I'm thinking NaNoWriMo this fall might be a good jumpstart for it! 

In September 2014, my friend Angela Breidenbach and I are releasing Snowflake Tiara, a historical (Angie) and contemporary (me) pair of Christmas novellas set in Montana with a beauty pageant backdrop. Angela was Mrs. Montana 2009, so she's the expert, not me! But still, we brainstormed up a duo that hits both of our sweet spots—yes, a farm lit/beauty pageant combo for me. My novella is somewhat plotted and about one quarter written, and I'm anxious to dive back in soon. 

All of these are being released by Choose NOW Publishing, a new small house in the USA particularly interested in issue-based fiction and nonfiction for teens and adults.

Thanks so much for inviting me, Narelle! I'd like to offer a giveaway of one free ebook (Raspberries and Vinegar) to one of your commenters—their choice of digital format. Does anyone have any questions about farming, writing, or Choose NOW Publishing? Let's visit! 

VALERIE COMER'S life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric church. She only hopes her characters enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters. Valerie writes Farm Lit with the voice of experience laced with humor. Raspberries and Vinegar, first in her series A Farm Fresh Romance, released August 1, 2013. 

Visit her at

Valerie, thanks for visiting with us today. By commenting on today’s post, you can enter the drawing to win an electronic copy of Raspberries and Vinegar. The drawing will take place on Monday, 30th September and the winner announced on Tuesday, 1st October. Please leave an email address [ ] at [ ] dot [ ] where you can be reached. 

"Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws."

NARELLE ATKINS writes contemporary inspirational romance and lives in Canberra, Australia. She sold her debut novel, set in Australia, to Harlequin's Love Inspired Heartsong Presents line in a 6-book contract. Her first book, Falling for the Farmer, will be a February 2014 release. 

Narelle is a co-founder with Jenny Blake of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA). 

Twitter: @NarelleAtkins


  1. Thanks for a great interview. I really enjoyed it, Narelle and Valerie. I'm leaving a comment but please don't enter me for the giveaway as I don't read E books.

    1. Thanks for the encouraging comment! The paperback is now available through the Book Depository at They offer free shipping!

    2. The Book Depository is a good option for buying print books that are unavailable in Aust/NZ book stores. And they will tell you the exact price in your local currency. The postage charges from online retailers can sometimes be more expensive than the actual book.

  2. What a great interview. Narelle, well done on exploring the sustainable living & farming perspectives of Valerie's life. I particularly loved reading about that.

    I tend to agree with Valerie about plotting and pantsing. I too sit somewhere in the middle with a leaning to the pantsing side.

    Valerie wishing you all the very best with your releases, may they do fabulously well.

    1. Thank you so much, Ian. I appreciate your support!

    2. Ian, I think the concept of sustainable living is something we'll hear more about in the future. I sold four books on proposal, which means plotting before I start writing is a necessity. And I'm glad to have a detailed outline to follow when I have deadlines looming :)

  3. I'd love an ecopy of Raspberries and Vinegar!

    Knowing the backgrounds makes it sound even more interesting. I'm also interested in seeing what ChooseNOW publishing achieve - it's a great concept.

    1. I'm excited to be working with Choose NOW Publishing. So many houses won't take on anything controversial or out of the mainstream. This is a breath of fresh air as far as I'm concerned. :)

    2. My critique partner, Stacy Monson, has sold her first book to Choose NOW Publishing. It's great to see a new publisher that has found a market niche and I'm looking forward to reading more books from Choose NOW Publishing.

  4. Great interview!! I have Raspberries and Vinegar on my Kindle, and can't wait to get back to Australia to finish it. :)

    1. Oh, thank you, Dorothy! I hope you love it (and post a review... :) )

  5. Thanks for the lovely interview, Narelle and Valerie.
    I have Raspberries and Vinegar on my Goodreads want to read list already, and would love a chance to win it. I love the fresh title and I'm liking contemporary novels with foody themes at the moment. My address is paulavince at internode dot on dot net

    1. Thanks, Paula! The second book in the series, Wild Mint Tea, is even more foodie (and a wee bit less farm-ie).

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  7. nice interview looks like a really good book

  8. As a fellow Canadian in a farming area I have noticed the over abundance of "organic" that isn't really part of the sustainable living route. It's interesting to note how people seem to go on cycles without really digging further than the media blurb. Sounds like a great book. Looking forward to a great career for you.

    1. It's true. Organic is a nice start, but it doesn't address everything to do with sustainability. Nice to meet a fellow Canuck here with a similar viewpoint. :)

  9. Wyn, thanks for stopping by :)

    Valerie, thanks again for visiting our blog and I'm looking forward to reading Wild Mint Tea next year :)

  10. Thank you so much for drawing my name Can't wait to read it.


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