Welcome Valerie Poore
Prolific author of multiple memoirs and some novels.
(Links to where books may be found are provided at the end of this interview.)
Please tell us a little about yourself.
Firstly, thank you so much for inviting me here, Tanya. I was born in London, UK, and lived there until I was thirteen, after which my family moved to Dorset in the West Country where I finished my school and university education. My first job was restoring furniture, which I later did on a freelance basis. During this time, I tried my hand at smallholding and have many happy memories of keeping sheep and all manner of other animals. This was also when I met my husband. By 1981, though, we were both fed up with being broke and cold and so we took ourselves off to South Africa with our two little daughters, one of whom was just three months old; the other was two and a half. The reason we went there was because it was warm (important to me) and my husband had family there; we never met them though. I adored South Africa and lived there for nearly twenty years, but due to one thing and another, I left in 2001 and am now settled in the Netherlands. These days, I teach Academic and Business English for a living and share my time between an old liveaboard barge in Rotterdam and a small house in the country.
What first inspired you to write?
That’s a good question. I’ve always enjoyed writing, even as a child, but I think what first inspired me to write more creatively was owning my first computer. In all honesty, I don’t think I’d ever have written anything more than short stories if it hadn’t been for my old MS-DOS machine. The fact that I could delete what I’d just written, re-write it, edit it and generally improve it without all the scratching out and paper wastage that came with handwriting was so inspiring. I started off writing radio plays (I love the radio), but it was after reading Peter Mayle’s A Year In Provence that I decided to try my hand at a memoir about my beloved South Africa.
In what genre(s) do you prefer to write?
Most of my books are memoirs because, for me, they are the easiest to write while I am still so busy with my day job. However, I’ve also written two novels and even though they are both based on fact, I found it wonderfully liberating not to be restricted by the truth. I’m not sure what genre they really fall into, but one is an adventure/suspense story, set in the winter of 1962 and the other is a country-life feel-good book, set in 1977.
How and/or where do you get the ideas for your stories?
Well, my memoirs are predictably based on the specific times in my life I want to write about. Sometimes, they cover just a few weeks and others a few years. As for my novels, one was inspired by my partner’s childhood as a barge skipper’s son and the other was prompted by my adventures as a smallholder. I loved writing that because I could invent a storyline on which to hang my real-life experiences with my animals.
Are you working on another book?
Yes, actually. Now I’ve just released my latest travel memoir, I’ve decided to try and finish a novel I started three years ago set in South Africa. It’s a kind of thriller set during the unrest period I experienced myself in the late 80s and 90s prior to Nelson Mandela’s election as president.
If your books have required research: What do you consider the best resources?
Well, Tanya, most of my books are based on personal experience, but I often need to do quite a bit of fact checking when I’m writing and also some historical research. I must admit I use Wikipedia much of the time, but also other local websites about the places I’m writing about. I use travel books I’ve read as source material as well, some of which almost qualify as history books because of their age.
Do you consider your books convey messages to readers?
No, not really. I think my books nearly always involve some kind of personal growth in an area of my life, but I don’t set out to convey any messages. I just enjoy writing about the places I’ve spent time in and the wonderful people I’ve met along the way. As a reader of travel books myself, I always like to learn something new, so I hope I can also inform as well as entertain.
What advice would you give to authors who are just starting out?
I’m not really qualified to give advice because it’s not my job or my career; writing is a hobby that I love. However, I would say that if you really want to write, make sure you keep writing, whatever it is. I don’t always have time to write books, so I write my blog, or articles for other blogs and magazines. I’ve found writing needs constant practice and so I just keep doing whatever I can to keep my hand (or rather fingers) in. There’s also the point that life is a lot less if I’m not writing.
Do you self-edit or do you think a book should only be professionally edited?
I would recommend professional editing to everyone if they can afford it. I’m afraid I can’t, so I do it myself and use the feedback I get from Beta readers, two of whom are fellow language teachers, which helps. I write my first draft without stopping to worry if it’s any good or not. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Whenever I write a chapter, I ‘sleep’ on it and then re-write parts the next day before I write anything new, but I don’t do any serious editing until it’s finished. That’s the fun part done. I then revise it two to three times before it goes to the Beta readers. When I get their feedback, I go through it all again at least twice before I let go of the book and publish it.
How do you go about marketing your books?
I use Twitter for marketing and self-promotion purposes, but I also belong to a fantastic Facebook group called We Love Memoirs where I’ve found many of my regular readers. We cannot self-promote there but the group admins do a wonderful job of creating opportunities for us to be promoted. The readers are also tremendously supportive. I cannot over emphasise how much they have done for me as an author both on Facebook and Twitter.
How important do you think reviews are?
I think having plenty of reviews is a great advantage, and I definitely think they are important for helping readers make choices. I also appreciate the feedback, even (sometimes) from the negative reviews. Many authors and writing gurus say that the more reviews you have, the greater your visibility, so it’s very rewarding to see a new review pop up. As for how they influence sales in general, I find book blog reviews make a definite difference, and also reviews posted in newsletters and on the We Love Memoirs group page. I’m always extra grateful for those because being personal recommendations, they nearly always result in more sales.
If you consider reviews important, how do you go about obtaining them for your books?
I don’t try and obtain them at all. If people want to review my books, that’s up to them. I don’t send them to reviewers or ask readers for reviews. It’s really lovely when they do, but I leave it entirely up to them.
Do you have a preferred genre for when you read?
Well, predictably, I like reading memoirs, especially those about travel and living abroad. When it comes to fiction, though, my favourite genre is crime, especially police procedurals and murder mysteries. I like many other types of fiction as well, but my go-to relaxation reads are mostly crime novels.
This is an age old question but one many find of interest. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you like to have with you?
Interestingly, my choices here are all fiction, but they are books I love and have read several times already, so I know I wouldn’t get tired of them.
Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene
Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald
Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
Please share with us links to where readers may obtain more information and insight into who you are.
Personal Facebook Profile (Please note: Only those designated as Friends or Friends of Friends will be able to access this account.)
Facebook Group (Valerie has established this group to share about books, paintings, crafts, a speciality business and music.) (Note: This is a Private Group therefore anyone wishing to see the content will have to submit a request to join the group.)
Thank you Valerie for sharing your experience, insights, and knowledge with us.
Though noted for her multiple memoirs Valerie has, as mentioned, also published novels of which the following is one:
Reviews for two of Valerie’s memoirs may be accessed by clicking either the cover or text link below: