I am so excited to feature another interview with not only a wonderful author, but also one of my favorite people: Valerie Cotnoir!
1. Do you prefer writing historical fiction or fantasy, since you have published both genres?
This is a hard question! There is something I like/dislike about both genres, for sure. I love the many possibilities that come with fantasy—the space to literally create whatever comes into my imagination. However, world-building definitely has its challenges and it takes a lot of time to make sure everything makes sense to readers who aren’t in my head. With historical fiction, I sometimes feel restricted or cornered by the pursuit of research and making sure everything is “accurate”. However, I also love that I can choose a “world” that’s already established, that readers already understand/feel connected to or that I long to help people see in a new way. At the end of the day, though, I definitely feel most comfortable writing historical fiction and I definitely have more ideas in that genre than I do for fantasy.
2. How has being an American-Canadian influenced your writing?
Wow, no one has ever asked me this before! I really had to think on this one because I think everything I write is inevitably influenced by my heritage, so it’s hard to pinpoint what exact examples are. However, I think being an American-Canadian has most influenced the way I approach historical fiction. Most historical fiction writers are either infatuated with the United States (something they’re familiar with) or Europe (somewhere they wish they lived). Because of my ties to the United States and Canada, I feel drawn to/comfortable writing in both settings. However, I also know there are a lot of misconceptions that each country has of the other and there’s definitely a part of me that wants to write stories that help enlighten what each country’s history was really like and bridge the gap. Canadian history is so little known/talked about, however, that I definitely have more of an inclination to write stories that take place in Canada! (Actually, four of the eight novels I’ve written so far take place in Canada, so…case in point!)
3. How did publishing Bridget’s Journey change your mindset about writing?
This is also such a great question! I think self-publishing Bridget’s Journey at 15 years old, and the amazing support I received right after, showed me that I am more capable than I realize and that people really do care about what I have to say. Not only do they care, but they will take the time to read it and tell me what they think. Even though I don’t write for others’ approval, it’s definitely motivating to think that I’m putting in a lot of work for something that people really will bother to read! 😉 I think self-publishing the first time also gave more purpose to my writing, knowing there was an end goal—to hold it in my hands.
4. What is the most difficult part of the writing process for you?
Editing is such a discouraging process for me. As hard as formatting and everything that comes into getting a book ready to be published is, editing is when I feel the most defeated. I have worked hard to get to the point where my editor’s marks don’t bother me. Instead of taking it as a personal offense against me as a person, I see it as steps toward getting my book to be the best it can be. However, whenever it’s time to rewrite a scene, delete a scene or rework a plot, I feel super down on myself. Because no matter how much better I get at writing, there will always be something to fix. But it’s still hard to be working on your eighth, ninth, tenth novel, and realize (yet again) that my first draft has so many problems. However, by the final edit, I’m usually believing in myself and the book again, so I try to remember that as I go through the process!
5. What do you do when you get writer’s block?
The best definition of writer’s block I’ve ever heard was from Trenton Lee Stewart, writer of The Mysterious Benedict Society series. I’ve heard writer’s block described in so many different ways, but it was Stewart’s definition that resonated with me the most. He said writer’s block is simply when the writer stops believing in him/herself. My heart almost stopped when he said that. Almost every time I’ve stopped writing for long periods of time, it was because someone said something I took way too much to heart and I stopped believing I was good enough to write. While I’ve handled writer’s block in a variety of different ways throughout the years, I think my mindset has totally shifted since hearing Stewart’s talk. Nowadays, as soon as I realize I’m experiencing writer’s block, I look at my self-published books and remind myself that no matter what, I’m proud of my work. Then I write. Because Stewart’s key to defeating writer’s block was as simple as his definition: just start writing. Confidence always returns as soon as I start typing. (Another thing I like to do is reread some of my favorite scenes I’ve ever written…these always remind me of what I’m capable of!)
6. What is the book you are currently working on?
Throughout college, I have been working (on and off) on a sequel to Everlasting, the YA fantasy novel I self-published in 2015! The sequel is called Endeavoring and tells the story of Azalea’s parents—human King Zechariah and fairy Queen Crystal—how they fought for their kingdoms, how they fell in love and how they defeated the evil surrounding them. The book has evolved in so many different ways as I’ve plotted and written over the past few years. When I eventually finish it, I think it may very well be the best thing I’ve written because I feel so passionately about the themes it portrays. In the middle of writing, I realized that Endeavoring is all about prejudice and how overcoming our preconceived notions of others is the only way toward healing. I look forward to sharing this story with everyone…as soon as I’m done with my degree! 😉
7. Can you share a teaser from Endeavoring (the sequel to Everlasting)?
Of course! This is a scene from the prologue, when King Zechariah sits Azalea down and starts to tell her the story of how he met her mother, Queen Crystal. This conversation sets the tone for the rest of the novel as we see the story envelope through Zechariah and Crystal’s eyes:
But [Zechariah’s father, the current king] wasn’t just saying goodbye. He looked into my eyes and said, “Zechariah, if I don’t return, you will become king in my place. No matter what you do, do not let the fairies win. You must show them that we are stronger and they are weaker. They are meant to be ruled by humans. And don’t neglect your mother and little brother. They will need you more than ever if I die. Do you understand?“
A chill ran down Azalea’s spine.
I nodded firmly and he stood and left. I never saw him again. But I was determined to keep my promise to him. Every part of it. But as I began to doubt if Father’s words were true, I wasn’t sure which part of his promises I could keep. That is, until I met your mother.
More about Valerie Cotnoir
Valerie Cotnoir is a Homeschool graduate currently pursuing a Bachelors in History through Lumerit Education. She was born in Montreal, Canada, but lived for fourteen years in Plano, Texas before moving with her family to the Raleigh area in North Carolina. She is the oldest of four and has two sisters and one brother. She has been writing since she could hold a pencil and reading books just as long. Her favorite pastimes (besides reading and writing, of course!) include working with preschoolers, watching movies and spending time with her family and friends. Her first published novel is “Bridget’s Journey” (2013) and she has also published a fantasy novel, “Everlasting”, in December 2015. She looks forward to publishing a sequel to “Bridget’s Journey” in spring of 2018.
Follow Valerie on Instagram @vcotnoirauthor