Monday, June 29, 2015

Straight from the Mouth of 'Turning to Stone' Gabriel Valjan

Name: Gabriel Valjan

Book: Turning To Stone

Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series from Winter Goose Publishing. Turning To Stone is Book 4. Boston, Massachusetts is where Gabriel lives and writes. His short stories started appearing online and in print in 2010.

Find out more on Amazon


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

It didn’t happen overnight. I’ve been reading since I was a kid, never thinking that I could pull it off, but I started off slowly, with short stories. The first book in the Roma Series, Roma, Underground, came about as a challenge from a coworker. I realized that I had a lot going on with Alabaster, so I ran with it. The fourth book is out; I’ve already been written the fifth.

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?

I can’t say that there is any glory in writing, but I really enjoy it. I’m disciplined, write daily, but I don’t consider it work because I have so much fun. While I may experience frustration at times, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Along the way, I’ve gotten to meet other writers in person or in the virtual world. Winter Goose Publishing has a gaggle of talented and supportive writers.

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

I’m traditionally published. I had submitted Roma, Underground when I chanced upon a call for submissions from Winter Goose one day. Working with Editor-in-Chief James Logan at Winter Goose was congenial. Later, Sherry Foley – a talented author herself – would act as a preliminary editor and reader before the book went to James. The Roma books go through at least three iterations of editing, all of which have been smooth experiences.
Before I submit any of my novels, a proofreader, a cultural editor and a line editor put the story and writing through its paces. In a word, a lot of work is put into the novel, and I haven’t even mentioned the cover-art process, which has been a collaborative effort between Winter Goose and me.

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?

I don’t hear any complaints. The only grief I get is from my tuxedo cat, Mr. Squeak, who glares at me if I don’t give him his quota of petting. He is known to jump into my lap while I am writing. He needs his pets. He will not be denied.

Does Mr. Squeak actually get his food on time or does he have to wait until you type just one more word?

I have two cats, Mr. Squeak and Mr. Squawk. The latter is a Bengal cat and the breed is notorious for a loud, distinctive yowl. He’s very hard to ignore, so I have to walk away from the screen and feed him. He’ll sit at his dish waiting. Both cats are a captive audience. I read dialog. Squawk dislikes adverbs. Squeak is more patient, but he’ll walk away when he disapproves. They are generous with their time and tolerant of their human so I am indulgent with treats.

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?

People who know me know that I hate talking on the phone. My hearing is not ideal so I’m more of a text/email person. My daily writing never interferes with meals.

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

I wouldn’t say it was insane but the story behind Turning To Stone’s cover art is interesting. I found a black-and-white photograph online of the Medusa, taken from the side. I wrote to the photographer to ask for permission to use his photograph and where the picture had been taken. I never received a response. I spent a day on the computer looking at numerous Medusas (thank you, Google images) when I found my infamous lady. I contacted my cultural editor to hunt down the Medusa like Perseus. He took several photos and Winter Goose worked the image to our liking. Readers will find the photo credit on the inside cover. Hint: She lives in an Italian cemetery.

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

I don’t know about which ones to avoid. I do use Twitter and it has been a pleasant experience. Taking inspiration from author Laurie King, I’ve created Pinterest boards for each of my Roma novels so that readers can sample the writing and have visuals of Italian cuisine and locations cited in my writing.

The Pinterest board for Book 4: Turning To Stone |

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

Amazon Author Central and Winter Goose are my two data sources on sales. Amazon Central does not detail digital sales. My sales have been evenly divided between paperback and digital, which I find interesting. While the sales haven’t been tremendous, I’d like to think that word-of-mouth is what will lift my Series up. I’m also counting on Completists, those people who like to binge read novels, starting with the first book in the series to the current addition. I know that I’m guilty of it, having read JK Rowling and Walter Mosley, to name just two authors. Such readers read for the characters, and Alabaster is an intelligent, no-nonsense woman. The problem, however, is that an author often needs a few books out there, and today’s market is a hard one in which to make my voice heard above all the noise. I’m patient and so is Winter Goose, for which I am grateful.

Each book is written as a stand-alone, but I designed the Series in such a way that readers will see a range of emotional development and responses in each of the main characters. The main character, Bianca, will confront her issues with intimacy. Readers will have had hints about what happened to her, but its magnitude is not exposed until Book 5. With each book, readers will learn more about – and love, or, understand – how each character ticks.  

Bianca is in Naples for Turning To Stone. Loki, her mysterious contact, is now giving her baffling anagrams. They seem to lead to a charismatic entrepreneur who has a plan to partner with organized crime to manipulate the euro and American dollar. Against a backdrop of gritty streets, financial speculation, and a group of female assassins on motorcycles, Bianca and her friends discover that Naples might just be the most dangerous city in Italy.

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

I have two pet peeves: cheesy cover art and authors who’ll DM me on Twitter to tell me to buy their books. The former devalues whatever merit the writing has. After all the effort, your book deserves better. The latter is obnoxious behavior on social media. I understand self-promotion is part of the deal, but I subscribe to Kristin Lamb’s 80-20 Rule: be social 80% of the time, with the remainder devoted to self-promotion. Kristin runs the popular blog We Are Not Alone and is the author of Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World. 

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 don’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?

Let’s see what I can say before the chamomile makes me fall asleep. I didn’t get published until I was forty-two, two years after I started writing. I guess that is fast to some people, but I tell people that it took four decades of reading, of having intellectual curiosity, to become the writer I am today. At the heart of all writing is a person’s understanding of language and the impulse to frame a story. Grammar and technique can be taught, but ideas cannot. Tell the story that you have inside you. You have no control over whether you’ll make money (or not), be famous or forever obscure. Read widely other authors and genres to see how they “work” and why what they did did work. Should you be fortunate to meet your readers, stay until you have met every last one of them. You’ll be the better person. Don’t compete with other writers. Somebody will always be better at something than you. Just be you. Respect the time your readers spend with you and be grateful that they chose to spend that precious time with you.

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