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 voice and tell their stories, and is a consultant for the Northern Virginia Writing Project. INCIDENTAL DAUGHTER is Stasik’s debut novel.
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, http://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.
Visit her website at www.ValerieStasik.com.
From the time I could talk I’ve loved stories. When I grew older and more literate, I daydreamed many stories and finally started writing them. My exposure to film at an early age—my grandmother took me to the movies weekly back when there were double features—contributed to my love of story. Other factors that contributed to my writing were my involvement in theater, film, and teaching writing.
What was your inspiration for Incidental Daughter?
Although Incidental Daughter is purely fiction, many of the details are from my own life and the lives of friends who also were born as a result of the stresses of World War II.
What themes do you like to explore in your writing?
How fear motivates negative choices. Family relationships. Secrets. Misconceptions. Narcissism. Social classes. Conspiracies (in my next novel).
How long did it take you to complete the novel?
I’ve had the idea for several years, even started planning it out and writing it sometime ago, then abandoned it. Then about two years ago, I reframed the whole story and began writing it. I finished it, including self-editing, in December 2012.
Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.
I am disciplined when I’m writing. This doesn’t mean that I write every day as I did when I was younger. However, stories are continually percolating in my head, and I will capture these images in notes for my writing. I usually start off with a very rough outline. I usually know where I’m going and am clear about where to start a story. I have to be careful that my left brain doesn’t get in the way of the early creative stages. I create very detailed characters and develop a strong sense of their relationships. I do some research in the early stages, but do more as needed throughout the writing process. My day when I’m drafting begins after breakfast. I will reread the last couple of pages of what I’ve written and then write for about two to three hours before breaking for lunch. I then return to my writing for a few more hours. If I’m on a roll, I’ll continue after dinner. I don’t often do this because fatigue works against the process.
What did you find most challenging about writing this book?
Creating enough plot twists to make the story suspenseful. I think I succeeded because many readers have told me they couldn’t put the book down. I also found switching point of view a challenge. Although McMurtry gets away with switching point of view within a scene, I realized I could not get away with that without confusing my readers.
What do you love most about being an author?
Giving my readers a story they can love.
Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?
There is a revolution happening in publishing these days that gives an author more creative control and bigger royalties—self-publishing. 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.
Where can we find you on the web?
Visit me at