Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Writing Life with Gabriel Valjan, Author of the Roma Series

Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series from Winter Goose Publishing as well as numerous short stories. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he enjoys the local restaurants, and his two cats, Squeak and Squawk, keep him honest to the story on the screen.

Connect on the web:

Twitter: @GValjan

What’s inside the mind of a mystery-suspense author?
Take an ordinary idea and flip it the other way and increase the stakes. The best example of the concept that I can cite is from the show Breaking Bad. Walter White, the brilliant chemist, mentions the concept of chirality, using human hands as an example; they are mirror images of each other but they can’t be superimposed on each other. Walt goes on to say that flip one carbon and you have a sleeping pill, but flip it the other way, you have thalidomide, the drug responsible for birth defects. Mr. White doesn’t say it, but do the same with another compound and you have either a popular decongestant or methamphetamine. The suspense author manipulates perception to achieve the unexpected and unforeseen.

What is so great about being an author?
Vicarious experiences: you can say and do things that you wouldn’t or shouldn’t.

When do you hate it?
Hate is a strong word, but I have had my frustrations when I’m trying to think of a solution for a situation that my characters find themselves in. My characters are not action heroes. I want readers to entertain multiple outcomes. In writing a series, you have to open and close doors with respect to your character’s emotional lives and their overall development. Readers have to have a reason to keep reading. Emotional investment. The Roma Series is just as much about relationships as it is about the crime at hand.

What is a regular writing day like for you?
Morning coffee. Exercise. More coffee. Sit at the desk and write for three to four hours. I average a page an hour. I end my day with a long walk.

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you?
It’s hard to generalize because I’ve seen extremes. The egotistical monster is, thankfully, a rare sighting and I steer clear of them. Most writers I know are kind to readers because they are grateful. They also work hard at improving their writing. Most people who know me would say that I am hard on myself, always anxious to improve my writing. I love writing, but frustrated with how to market and promote my books. I take pride in my work, but I don’t think that is the same thing as ego.

How do you handle negative reviews?
Fortunately, I have not had many negative reviews. I have had readers say that I mentioned food too much, or that my text ran dry when I had discuss some aspect of science and technology, or that I had used a profanity. While I have my reasons for writing what I did, I also know that I can’t please everybody. I always put each one of my books through a rigorous process. I listen to critical readers and their feedback. If I were to hear a consistent complaint, however, I would listen and make a decision.

How do you handle positive reviews?
I enjoy the moment, try to savor them because I know I will have hard days and Impostor Syndrome will rear its head.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?
Eight times out of ten they’ll launch into what a great idea they have for a book, that it would be an instant and undisputed bestseller, followed by a movie adaptation. Most often that same person will never write their epic story or, if they do try, their enthusiasm is dead by page thirty. I’ve had only one person say, “It’s hard work. I respect what you do.” It is hard work, but it is also fun, and I feel the most alive I feel when I am doing it.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?
I write every day, but I do have days when the writing doesn’t ‘flow.’ I can’t force it, so I’ll take a walk and try again. If I know in my heart that today is not the day, then I’ll read. Fresh air and enjoying another author is just what the editor ordered on those days.

Any writing quirks?
I read dialog to my cats. Seriously. The point is I recite the lines to hear whether they sound natural or stilted. I write once through and after copy edits, print out the manuscript and go through the text, making notes left-handed. I don’t know why it works, but my brain slows down and I sink into the text. I prefer a printed copy because what is there on the page is exactly what the future reader will have. With the screen, you tend to hunt and poke with cursor and keyboard.

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or saw it as a hobby?
I have had people in my life who don’t think writing was important. Note the past tense. I have had people tell me that the odds were against me at being successful at writing. Again – how do you define success? If I had listened to them, I never would have been published. Life is too short to have negative people in your life. I’m not asking for special treatment, but please respect that this is what I enjoy doing and that I’m committed to it. Whether I am successful or great is not for me to decide.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate? 
I think the best way to describe it as being in the flow; there is this other place where words and images flow and are true to the story. The experience is quite the high and addictive because you live to have that experience. I am a disciplined writer so I will do my page per hour and put one word in front of the other, but when I am in that zone there is nothing like it. Nothing. The story writes itself. Oh…and when you read it the next day, you don’t remember having written it.

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?
No. Sadly, literary history has proven that writers tend not do well financially. Some writers will achieve the esteem of their peers, but you can’t eat prestige. While we do live in the age of writers as rock stars, they are rare and, while we also live in a time when an author’s name has became a franchise – and this I find eerie: books continue to appear long after the author’s death.

What had writing taught you?
Human are wired to tell stories and we use language to understand the world and themselves.

Leave us with some words of wisdom.
Do it. Write. The best way to support writers is to leave them reviews and mention their book to a friend. Ask your librarian or bookseller to stock a book that you think another person would enjoy.


Title: Corporate Citizen: Roma Series Book Five
Genre: Mystery. Suspense. Thriller.
Author: Gabriel Valjan
Publisher: Winter Goose Publishing
Vendors: Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Format: Paperback and Digital
Purchase link: 

About the Book:

A call for help from an old friend lands Bianca and the crew back in Boston. On a timeout with Dante, due to revelations in the aftermath of the showdown in Naples, Bianca is drawn to a mysterious new ally who understands the traumas of her past, and has some very real trauma of his own. Murder, designer drugs, and a hacker named Magician challenge our team, and Bianca learns that leaving Rendition behind might be much harder than she thinks.

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