Building a Better Fantasy
An Interview with Valerie
By Lazette Gifford
© 2007, Lazette
Griswold-Ford may be relatively new to publishing, but she's already
making a name for herself in the small press world, and in both
fiction writing and in writing and editing nonfiction work for
Her work with Dragon Moon Press's
Complete Guide to Fantasy Writing series has helped to produce an
interesting and informative set of books for fantasy writers. With
the assistance of her co-editors, the talented Lai Zhao and Tee
Morris, she has helped to create an extraordinary set of books to
help fantasy writers approach nearly every aspect of writing their
You can learn more about Valerie and
her work by checking out her website at
What genres do you write in, and why? And would you like to try your
hand at any others?
In addition to non-fiction, I
write dark fantasy and paranormal romance. Iíve got a few ideas for
urban fantasy, and Iím playing around with a more traditional high
fantasy novel concept as well. Iíd really love to write a classic
space opera, though. Thatís my dream. And a mystery.
Your debut novel, Not Your Father's Horseman, was a finalist for the
Foreward Magazine Best science fiction of 2005. Was this the first
novel you'd ever written?
Actually, no. I
wrote my first novel in high school, as part of my senior
portfolio. It was awful. *grin* A mix of everything I was reading,
watching and listening to at the time. My heroine was pretty much
Buffy Sommers with the serial numbers filed off.
Did getting this kind of notice affect your later work -- for instance
making it harder to write the next book?
a way, it did. I wanted the second book to be better than the
first, and being nominated right off was a high bar to have
set. But it was a great challenge.
Tell us about the rest of the books in the Apocalypse Cycle, and the
related Edgewood trilogy.
Dark Moon Seasons and Last Rites
follow Nikki, Rick and Justin as they look for the other Horsemen.
The villains arenít quite who they seem, and not everyone is going
to survive the ending. Iím exploring themes of balance and how
things are not always what they seem to be. The Edgewood Trilogy
takes place in the same world at the same time, and follows the
story of what the StarChild, Shanna Greystone, is doing while the
Horsemen are showing up Ė namely, that sheís dealing with an evil
the Council of 9 thought they had dealt with a long time ago.
Who has influenced your writing?
Oh, gosh. Everyone. My parents
are avid readers, and Iíve been reading since I was three or so. I
read everything. There isnít really a genre, except hardcore
military science fiction, that I donít enjoy, and I pull inspiration
from all of them. My favorite authors are a massive mix: Anne
McCaffery, David Edddings, HP Lovecraft, Tamara Siler Jones, Diana
Wynne Jones, Robin Hobb.
Tell us about the upcoming Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy: The
Author's Grimoire. Have you enjoyed the switch from contributor to
editor? Has it given you a different perspective on writing?
I love editing. It
really helps me understand the mechanics of writing better, and
editing other writersí works, especially non-fiction, makes me more
aware of how sentences fit together. I find my fiction writing gets
sharper as a result.
were co-editor, with Tee Morris, on the previous work in the series --
The Fantasy Writer's Companion. Was this your first job as an editor?
Did you have any particular problems moving from writer to editor?
Nope, not really. I was
an editor for a newspaper for five years, so I was used to working with
people, and used to editing. Itís just a matter of shifting hats. I do
some work for Dragon Moon Press as an editor as well, so itís not that
big a switch for me.
co-editor for The Author's Grimoire, Lai Zhao, lives in Hong Kong, while
you are in the eastern part of the United States. How has that worked
for the two of you? Were there any unusual problems?
Thank god for the
Internet! Actually, there was one problem Ė right around the end of
last year, an earthquake off the coast of Indonesia cut off Laiís
internet access for about two weeks, just as we were trying to get the
final edits done. Luckily, we were able to get enough of it done before
she lost the access that I was able to finish it, and she looked at it
when she came back.
Other than that, Skype
has been a real help, because we can actually talk to each other. So we
can each have the files on our ends, and talk to one another in real
time. Itís just a matter of coordinating schedules.
are working with a small press publisher, Dragon Moon Press. What
have you enjoyed about the experience? Are there any pitfalls that
you can help people avoid?
I cannot say enough
good things about Dragon Moon and working with a small press. I get
more of a say in things like my cover art (I actually picked out the
artist for NYFH), and I know that I can call up my publisher Gwen to
But there are downsides Ė
I have to do most of my own promoting, and you have to be prepared to
have some bookstores look down or refuse to deal with you. I had that
happen several times while trying to set up signings Ė getting told that
ďWe donít deal with small presses.Ē *shrug* I chalk it up to their
loss and move on. You have to have a thick skin to be a writer, and
especially to be a small press writer.
Do you see the Internet as a good tool for upcoming writers? How should
they be using it, if it is?
RESEARCH! There is so
much information at your fingertips now Ė use it! Thereís no excuse for
not doing your research, whether itís finding out that thereís a Salís
Pizza in Salem, NH, but no Papa Ginoís, or what the blue-footed boobie
actually eats, or any number of things.
Itís also a great place
to learn from other writers and professionals in the writing industry.
The amount of writers, agents and editors that have blogs and websites
is staggering. Thereís really no excuse not to know whatís going on in
More specifically, do you find that being in a writing-related chat room
has any value for authors? What are the pros and cons, if any?
Pros: well, you can
connect with others in your profession, which is great. Especially
since writing is usually such a solitary profession. You can find
people to bounce ideas off of, which is wonderful when youíre stuck on
something. Cons: chats can be time-sucks. So can research. Donít
forget that the number one reason youíre a writer is BECAUSE YOU WRITE.
How has writing changed who you are or how you see the world? Are there
themes that matter most to you?
Writing has definitely changed me Ė
itís made me far more detail-oriented and organized than I was. Itís
also made me steadier. I was pretty flighty before I really started
writing. Of course, now I look at everyone and everything as fodder for
stories, which can be a bit disconcerting to friends and family. Then
again, my familyís pretty used to my weirdness, so maybe itís not as
disconcerting to them.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Has your career progressed
the way you thought it would?
Iíve always written Ė my first story
was written at the age of 6. Luckily, first my parents, and now my
husband, have all been very supportive. As far as the career goes, no,
it really hasnít. Then again, Iím not sure anyoneís career goes exactly
how theyíve planned. *grin*
What is your average day like? Do you write every day?
Every day. Even if itís
just blog entries. I work a day job, and I have a part-time job as a
consultant on top of that, so I have to squeeze in my writing, but I
do. Itís about making choices.
On an average day, I get
up around 10 am (I work nights), and write for at least an hour before I
go to work. I work until midnight, and come home to write for another
hour to three hours. It depends on deadlines and what else is on my
plate at that point.
Tell us about Merlin and why he works so well for you as a writer.
Merlin. My wonderful
laptop, without Internet access. I have kept him free of Internet
deliberately, so I have no excuse not to be writing when I work on him.
I have treatments that I have to do once every eight weeks, so I bring
him to them and usually can get another 2-3k written in the doctorís
What do you have coming out that we should look for? What sort of things
do you plan, or hope, to write in the future?
Well, Dark Moon Seasons
should be out by the end of this year. Iím working on a paranormal
romance called Belladonna Dreams that Iím going to start shopping around
soon. And, of course, The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy: the
Authorís Grimoire will be coming out this spring.
Thank you for taking this time for this interview. Any last words you'd
like to say to our readers?
Donít ever stop writing.
Or reading. No matter what anyone else tells you.
You can learn more about Valerie and
her work by checking out her website at