(I prefer Val, but write as Valerie)
Country, the Netherlands
Good morning, Val, and welcome to Vision and Verse, the Place for Art and Authors. What have you written?
I've written six memoirs and two novels. Two of my memoirs are about my life in rural KwaZulu Natal in South Africa; the other four are mainly about my life on the waterways of Holland, Belgium and France. As for the fiction, one is set in rural Dorset, England, which is where I grew up and the other is a YA adventure novel about a barge family. It's set in December 1962, one of the coldest winters of the century and during the Cold War. There are spies and secret services involved!
What is your favorite genre to write?
That's very hard to say. I enjoy writing memoirs as I write them in a narrative style, and I love the idea that I 'take people on a journey' with me to share my life in some of the places where I've lived and travelled and more recently on my barge in Rotterdam. However, fiction is liberating and I can make my characters do what I (or they) want. They aren't restricted by having to comply with real life events. It's such freedom.
Cheese and peanut butter...awful, I know.
Tea or coffee?
Coffee, but I drink a lot of Rooibos tea (South African Red Bush tea) too.
I love Rooibos Tea! It's hard to find here and it stains one's mug red. But I love it. Pizza or ice cream?
Neither. I'm afraid I don't like the tomato in pizza and ice-cream really doesn't like me.
Wine or beer?
Oh wine, definitely. Red, preferably!
Greece. It's been a lifelong desire of mine and I still can't believe I haven't been there yet.
Favorite musical artist.
Probably the band Little Feat, but I adored Stevie Ray Vaughn and also JJ Cale, both of whom died too young.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Sometimes, but not always.
What? Mostly JJ Cale, Little Feat or country musicians like Alison Krauss or Kate and Anna McGarrigle.
What makes you laugh?
Absurdities. But I laugh very easily and I love nonsense.
Van Gogh...all of his work, to be honest. I couldn't choose just one. I also love the paintings of the East London Group, especially the Steggles brothers.
How old were you when you started writing?
I don't remember, actually. I wrote short stories and radio plays before I started writing books. I suppose I must have been around thirty, that's if you don't count all the stories I wrote as a child.
For fiction, I write a brief outline and how the story will end. That's it. For my memoirs, I write a list of chapters, but nothing in any detail.
Describe your perfect evening.
Sitting out on the deck of my barge with a glass of wine, listening to the water slap against the hull and watching the bird life on the water. It's just bliss.
Where do you get your inspiration?
From my own life and the stories of people I meet and know.
What do you do when you get a writer's block?
I'm lucky enough not to suffer from that, but if I get stuck with a part of my story or chapter, I just write something else like my blog.
Who is your favorite author?
That's very hard to narrow down to one, but if pushed, well, maybe John Le Carré – of those who are still alive.
Best book you ever read.
Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene, on of my other favourite authors. Sadly, he's dead, though.
Last book you read.
Travels with Tinkerbelle by Susie Kelly. I loved it!
What would you do for a living if you weren’t a writer?
Well, I already do something else as I couldn't live on my writing. I'm teach writing skills at Rotterdam's Erasmus University.
I can't really think of anyone who has had a profound influence on my personal life. I left the UK as a young woman to go to South Africa, and now I live in Holland, but I also spent time in Belgium, so my influences have never been long-standing.
If you could sit down and have a conversation with ONE person, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be and why?
That's another tough question. I think I'd like to talk to John Steinbeck. He's another of my literary heroes and I'd like to talk to him about what drove him to write his masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath and also the wonderful Tortilla Flats.
What advice would you give someone who aspired to be a writer?
Oh dear, I expect everyone says this, but I would say just keep at it. The difference between a published author and an unpublished author is determination and staying power. I know plenty of writers who are just brilliant, but who never get to finish anything. I'm a plodder; I'm also a Taurean, which means I'm stubborn, so I have the willpower to finish what I've started. I really think that's the best advice I could offer.
Do you have some links for us to follow you?
Here is the link to my Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/
My Twitter profile is: https://twitter.com/
My blog is: http://vallypee.blogspot.nl
Thank you for being with us this morning, Val. I loved How to Breed Sheep, Geese, and English Eccentrics. We at Vision and Verse wish you continued success in all your writing endeavors. Please come back and see us again.