Valerie Stocking was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, and wrote her first short story when she was five. When she was eight, she won a short story contest in Jack and Jill Magazine. She wrote her first play at the age of ten. In 1966, when she was twelve, she and her mother moved to a small town in Florida where they lived for a year. During this time, Valerie experienced difficulties with the public school system, tried a Seventh Day Adventist school briefly, and then dropped out altogether. It was her experiences during this year that inspired The Promised Land. Later, she would finish high school, graduate from college and earn a Master’s degree in Cinema Studies from NYU.
For nearly 30 years, she wrote and edited in various capacities, including copywriting, newspaper articles, and short stories. She wrote nearly 20 full-length and one act plays over a ten year period, which have been performed throughout the U.S.and Canada. She edited books for audio, abridging over 100 novels in a 6-year period. In 2010, she published her first novel, A Touch of Murder, which is the first of what will become the Samantha Kern mystery series. It was nominated for a Global eBook Award in 2011 for Best Mystery.
Valerie lives inSanta Fe,New Mexicowith her dog and cat, and is working on her next novel.
You can visit her website at www.valeriestocking.com.
About The Promised Land
It’s 1966, just two years after President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, and twelve-year-old Joy Bradford’s life is changing dramatically. Born and raised in the white suburbs ofConnecticut, Joy is moving toWillets Point,Florida, to live with her mother Jessica because her parents are divorcing. Hoping it really is the Promised Land that her mother describes, she joins in Jessica’s enthusiasm only to find out how horribly wrong that vision is.
Unfortunately for Joy, the move does nothing to change her mother’s emotional and mental instability, resulting in a continuation of the physical and verbal abuse she is all too used to receiving. Her new school is years behind her old one, the kids dress and act differently, and on just the second day, Joy has a run-in with her geography teacher. Things are going from bad to worse until Clay Dooley, a mixed-race boy from that same geography class, offers his friendship. The two become close, sending shockwaves that dovetail with a growing sense of tension and unease in the community as a whole. Clay’s father Clytus, a well-educated black man, attempts to open his own clothing store in the white section of downtown Willets Point. This causes Jessica’s new lawyer cum boyfriend and leader of the local Klan chapter, Bill McKendrick, to join with other white citizens in using great force to block Clytus’ dreams. Tempers flare and emotions run high when Clytus refuses the Klan’s subsequent demand that he and his family move out of the white neighborhood they live in, setting off an explosive confrontation that will change them all forever.
An absorbing and suspenseful coming of age story set against the tumultuous backdrop of racial tensions in mid-1960’s America, Stocking’s blend of historical fact and fiction is as relevant today as it was during the explosive Civil Rights era. Probing the human psyche for the deep-seated fears that fuel the fires of racism and bigotry, she expertly builds characters who feel their very lives are at stake by the changing times. Full of insight and intensity, The Promised Land is a spellbinding journey you won’t want to miss.
Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?
Sure. I was born inWaterbury,Connecticutand moved with my mother to a little town on the Gulf coast ofFloridawhen I was 12. I began writing stories when I was 5, and wrote my first play at 10. Most of the jobs I’ve had have involved writing in some form or another. I worked as an editor for audio books for 6 years, then I started writing plays in 1999. I shifted from plays to novels about 6 years ago.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
I began reading when I was 2, and was quite precocious. I read Nancy Drew when I was 6, Dostoevsky when I was 10, and Dickens when I was 12. I loved reading anything and everything.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
My book takes place in a fictitious town onFlorida’s west coast in 1966-67. It is about a 12-year-old girl’s forbidden friendship with a biracial boy from her junior high. Her mother takes up with the leader of the local Klan chapter, and there are explosive results. I was inspired to write this story by living part of it. While “The Promised Land” tells the story of racial strife during this time, it is also about the failure of the public school system to accommodate gifted students then, as well as adolescent alcoholism and drug addiction.
From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?
I got the idea for this book in a nebulous sort of way a number of years ago, so I can’t really answer that. But from the time I made the determination to write it, to the time it was released, took about 3 ½ years. Publishing was the shortest part; that was 5 months. The rest was writing and rewriting, waiting for the editor’s comments, and rewriting again.
Describe your working environment.
I have an office in my house, but it is on the north side and is chilly in the winter, and also quite dark. So I write in my dining room, at that table. I face a window with a view of my wooden fence, so I don’t get distracted by that. I do get tons of sunlight streaming in, and it is bright and airy. I love working there.
As a writer, what scares you the most?
What used to scare me most is that I’d dry up and have nothing left to write. Now what scares me most is dying before I have time to get it all down!
Do you have any unusual writing quirks?
I write with a tall glass of homemade lemonade (water, ice, lemons and stevia) and a cup of hot herbal tea beside my computer. I also mutter to myself constantly as I write.
How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?
I went the indie route, and self-published through CreateSpace. That suits me fine! I have no desire or interest in being published by a traditional publisher. I like doing things for myself. I like having a say in the design of the book and the way it is promoted. No one’s pressuring me to churn something else out in four months. No editor is coming back at me, telling me to change my story or my characters in a way that would make it not my story anymore. I highly recommend this method. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, and your royalties are much higher than they would be with a NY publisher.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
Yes indeed! You can go to http://www.valeriestocking.com and read about me, my plays and my books. I have a blog that comes out twice a week: Mondays is a potpourri of ‘60’s memories, the writing/publishing/marketing process, and paranormal phenomena. On Thursdays I publish a serialized mystery called “Color Me Dead.” You can find the blog here: http://www.valeriestocking.com/blog/.
Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
I have a completed draft of “Seen of the Crime” the sequel to my first novel, “A Touch of Murder,” which introduced private detective Samantha Kern. I need to give that one more major overhaul before I send it to an editor. Next up will be a ghost story. I’ve been researching the paranormal for some time and am quite fascinated by it. After that, probably another mystery or the sequel to “The Promised Land.” Then I have an idea for a stand-alone, about a perfect murder. After that, a quirky romance, told through social media. And after that…