Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Straight From the Mouth of 'Incidental Daughter' by Val Stasik

Val Stasik shares a home in eternally sunny Santa Fe, NM, with her aging mixed terrier, Sugar, who allows her to sleep in his queen-size bed as well as sharpen her culinary skills for his benefit. Stasik spent many years as a writing teacher, helping other writers find their voices and tell their stories, and is a consultant for the Northern Virginia Writing Project.

Stasik studied drama and English at the University of Pittsburgh and then transferred to the University of Maryland, College Park, graduating with high honors and a B.S. in Secondary Education, Communication. The year she attended graduate school was filled with student protests, bomb threats, and military helicopters.

Stasik became an editorial assistant for The Pharmacologist in Bethesda. She then moved to Harpers Ferry where she taught for five years and participated in the Old Opera House Theatre onstage and behind the scenes.

In Harrisburg, PA, she became a groom and mutuels clerk at Penn National Race Track and, later, a commercial lines underwriter for Pennsylvania National Mutual Casualty Insurance Company. Right before her son was born, Three Mile Island happened. So far, neither glows in the dark.

In Virginia, Stasik enjoyed the enriching experience of teaching writing and literature in the Loudoun County Public School system, instructed other teachers in assessing student writings, and helped develop various English curricula. She also participated in the Fauquier Community Theatre on and off stage. From 2002-2004, she developed a part-time hypnosis practice. She then retired to Santa Fe where she has been writing—a few film scripts that have been produced (Café Destiny, on the Web,  Spring 2013, www.cafe-destiny.com) and a couple of award-winning play scripts.

Stasik is currently a member of the New Mexico Book Association, the New Mexico Book Co-Op; Southwest Writers; the Independent Book Publishers Association; the Small Publishers’ Association of North America; the Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network; and Pennwriters.

Incidental Daughter is Stasik’s debut novel. You may visit Stasik at

Amazon Link to Book:


Thanks for letting us interrogate Interview you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?

I’ve been writing all of my life and figured it was time to go for it. I needed a challenge that engaged my intellect and creativity. I also have to get these darn stories that keep pounding to get out.

Tell us (we won’t tell, promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?

There is a great deal more work than glamour involved. I suspect the only authors who really feel like they’re getting the perks they deserve are the big-name authors, but even they will tell you writing can be a daunting task. The real perk is the actual creation (the characters become real people) and holding that baby in your hands the first time. What makes it even better is hearing that your readers feel that their money was well spent. I also enjoy doing the book design. There are so many demands. Let’s not talk about deadlines and differences with editors. Sometimes life gets in the way (oh, for a housekeeper and a secretary). Then, of course, promoting the book is as consuming as writing it, regardless of whether you self-published or chose the traditional route.

Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what that’s like?

Self-publishing is an industry revolution that gives an author more creative control and bigger royalties. I found the process quite challenging and would not recommend it to every author. I had the support of an exceptional critique group, beta readers, editing help, and used a print-on-demand company that was best for me (CreateSpace). I was able to create my own cover and design the interior myself. I enjoy the graphic side of the process. The real work, however, is promoting the novel. It’s as much work as writing the book. I find, though, that other authors who have gone the traditional route or hired PR people if they’ve self-published are doing as much as I am and are not as happy with the results. I have enjoyed every stage of writing and publishing—learning all the aspects of publishing, developing new skills, and sharing my knowledge with fellow authors. I will definitely continue self-publishing, but it requires skills many authors don’t have or are unwilling to learn. It’s not for the faint of heart and can be distracting when you’re trying to get going on your next project. Bottom line: you can only blame yourself if it doesn’t fly.

Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?

My very patient dog Sugar would probably like me to spend more time with him. My family is on the other side of the country and are likely very happy that I have found something to so engross me instead of showing up on their doorstep every other month. (Actually, they are quite proud of me and would like to see me more often.) My friends here have accepted my hermit-like tendencies, but do drag me out of the house for my own good now and again.

This is for pet lovers.  If you don’t own a pet, skip this question, but do your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word?

Okay, you got me. Sugar does have to wait sometimes; however, he’s a casual eater at best and is in no danger of starving.

This is for plant lovers.  If you don’t own a plant, skip this question, but if you do, are they actually still alive?

I own one houseplant foisted on me by a friend. I purposely don’t have plants because I know how I am with them. This one is incredibly hardy and has survived many a drought. I keep apologizing to it and making promises about doing better, but it has learned not to believe me. It keeps going despite me.

In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late?

I only have to feed Sugar and I’m my own boss these days. When the phone rings, I check the caller ID and answer if I think it’s necessary. Otherwise, I let the machine get it. I’m also not as driven as I used to be. I figure, when all is said and done, I’ll still be writing on the other side or in my next life.

What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?

My ebook got hijacked by some company in Poland. There’s nothing you can do when the thief is outside of the U.S. I found that it really didn’t matter since no one goes to their website.

How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?

I think Facebook and Goodreads do help. I also use Twitter and find LinkedIn writer groups a good resource. I’d like not to have to use any of them, but the reality is that it’s necessary to build an audience for your writing. There are times you have to make choices about the best way to spend your time.

Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you?

I’ve used email, my website (which is also a good resource for writers), Facebook, Amazon Author Central, a Goodreads giveaway, presenting at a New Mexico Book Association luncheon, showing my book at two upcoming book conferences, and an upcoming two-month book blog tour, signs on my car, cards advertising my book (it’s much easier to leave someone interested with something physical rather than just talking to them about your book), and a very limited mailing of post cards (mail is not cost effective).

What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?

My Amazon customer reviews have been spectacular! Go see. Oh, and my mother stayed up all night trying to finish my book (so have other people). She’s pretty critical.

Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?

I love that I’ve created this microcosm of living, breathing people in a book that people actually enjoy reading. I loved learning new skills although there were times I wanted to pitch the computer into the trash. That’s where the satisfaction is, and it spurs me on to my next project. I’ve written film scripts and award-winning play scripts, but writing this novel confirms for me that I really can write, despite the times I didn’t think it was very good (thank you my critique group for helping me see it really was worth publishing).

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