I am thrilled to welcome Valerie Valdes to The Debutante Ball. We attended Viable Paradise together in 2016. Valerie will be giving away a copy of her novel, Chilling Effect, with an absolutely adorable fridge magnet — see below!
Valerie Valdes lives in an elaborate meme palace with her husband and kids, where she writes, edits and moonlights as a muse. She enjoys crafting handmade bespoke artisanal curses and admiring the outdoors from the safety of her living room. She is a graduate of Viable Paradise and her debut novel Chilling Effect was published by Harper Voyager in September 2019. Join her in opining about books, video games and parenting on Twitter @valerievaldes.
Library Journal says about Chilling Effect: “Featuring memorable Cuban-descended characters, this engaging space opera debut delivers a story that dances between hilarity and seriousness, with all the joy and frustration psychic cats can bring to the mix.”
You can follow Valerie online at:
Read below to find out how to win a copy of Chilling Effect and an adorable space-kitty fridge magnet!
And now to the interview!
Which talent do you wish you had?
I’ve always wanted to be able to sing or play a musical instrument well enough to jam with other musicians, especially to figure out how to play things by ear after hearing them a few times. That skill has always seemed like magic to me. I’m the kind of person who pays more attention to lyrics than tunes, and I’m not very good at parsing chords or isolating individual notes to be able to reproduce them later. I can manage simple things like toddler songs, but that’s the limit of my ability. I used to play guitar and piano, but I was never very good at either, and I didn’t devote the same time and energy to practicing them as I did to other things–like writing. We all have to make choices about how to spend the limited resources we have, so for the moment I’m content to make up silly songs to entertain my husband and kids, but maybe someday a glorious bardic future awaits!
Tell us about your next big project.
I have several projects in the works, because ain’t no party like a writing party cause a writing party don’t stop. The current big deal is PRIME DECEPTIONS, the sequel to CHILLING EFFECT, in which Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra continue their universe-hopping exploits. In this book, they’re trying to find a missing scientist who has super secret information that can tip the balance in a covert war, but to find him they end up digging into Eva’s dark and terrible past. It’s more serious than the first book, but still has a ton of fun, including (spoiler alert!) bot fights, cosplay and incredibly irresponsible use of a chair. The psychic cats are also still around making nuisances of themselves, and Mala insists on doing her own exploring in this one, despite Eva’s best efforts to dissuade her.
I’m also working on an epic fantasy novel currently called STRIKER’S RISE, which I pitch as THE PRINCESS BRIDE meets STARDUST, starring a gender-swapped Inigo Montoya, her childhood friend turned dread pirate, a dashing bard prone to bouts of philosophy, a grouchy witch who specializes in curses, and a cartographer desperate for adventure. The main character, Vinca, gets revenge on the man who killed her father, only to find out the sword he stole is hidden in a magical castle in a realm only accessible by magic. A simple quest to retrieve the sword turns into next-level shenanigans when she finds out her pirate friend’s true love was kidnapped and is being held captive in the same magical castle. And it only gets worse from there! Featuring ancient evil, dragons, questionable but persistent prophecies and excessive use of “your mom” jokes.
What first inspired you to start writing?
This may sound ridiculous, but when I was in first grade, we got an assignment to write a short story and I went massively overboard. I’m pretty sure the teacher didn’t expect to get two pages about aliens trying to steal my skin, but that’s what she got. My mom still has the story somewhere, handwritten on notebook paper. The same happened for me with poetry: my fourth grade teacher made us write poems, and I immediately dashed one off and went back to her–after school, no less–for head pats. All my early writing experiences were because of school, but the spark was there and just needed to be fanned a little.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What kinds of things did you read?
I was a little too avid a reader; I had a bad habit of reading when I wasn’t supposed to. I had more than a few books confiscated by teachers because I was reading instead of paying attention to the lesson. We were the kind of family that went to the library every weekend and left with a huge sack of books that got returned the next weekend. I read widely and voraciously, including kid versions of classic novels like THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO and TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS, and even a collection of Poe’s short stories. In retrospect, the thematic content of “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado” were maybe a bit much for a child. Likewise the Stephen King books I started reading in middle school, among other horror options. I was most attracted to mysteries like the Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes books, and I even read a lot of Perry Mason thanks to watching the show with my abuela. My reading was always peppered with sci-fi and fantasy as well; I have fond memories of Tamora Pierce and Diane Duane and Bruce Coville and many others. I also read a fair amount of poetry, especially Shel Silverstein.
If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?
As a very young writer, I followed my weird and wrote whatever came to mind, but as I “matured” I spent a lot of time churning out things that I thought other people wanted to read, but that I honestly had very little interest in writing. There are a lot of half-baked stories and poems buried in my physical and digital archives that tried to be deep and provocative and deal with Important Issues, but that were ultimately shallow thought experiments because I struggled to find ways to connect with them on a personal and emotional level. I had teachers who tried to work from the opposite angle, encouraging me to dig into my experiences and lay bare the darkest recesses of my psyche, explore my traumas unflinchingly, but that never worked for me, either. It felt exploitative, especially when I was being advised to perform my cultural heritage in a way that felt exoticizing and othering. It wasn’t until I embraced the ideas that were most interesting to me, the ones I couldn’t stop thinking about even when I was supposed to be doing other stuff, that I was able to get back to the same levels of energy and enthusiasm I had as a child. And because I approached the process from a place of intense connection, it allowed me to do a lot of the emotional and cultural work I had struggled with or avoided before, which made the end results much more authentic and resonant. All that to say that I would tell my younger self to go back to that child-mind and follow your weird, because it will sustain and satisfy you more than any amount of pseudo-intellectual comemierdería.
For extra entries, comment on this post. We’ll choose a winner on Friday, October 25th and contact them shortly afterward.
Learn more about CHILLING EFFECT:
“Jam-packed with weird aliens, mysterious artifacts, and lovable characters… a tremendous good time and an impressive debut.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred)
A hilarious, offbeat debut space opera that skewers everything from pop culture to video games and features an irresistible foul-mouthed captain and her motley crew, strange life forms, exciting twists, and a galaxy full of fun and adventure.
Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister Mari is kidnapped by The Fridge, a shadowy syndicate that holds people hostage in cryostasis, Eva must undergo a series of unpleasant, dangerous missions to pay the ransom.
But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead after she rejects his advances, and her sweet engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family.
To free her sister, Eva will risk everything: her crew, her ship, and the life she’s built on the ashes of her past misdeeds. But when the dominoes start to fall and she finds the real threat is greater than she imagined, she must decide whether to play it cool or burn it all down.
Available pretty much anywhere books are sold: