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Carlos Valrand

Interview with

Carlos Valrand

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I have wanted to be a writer since High School.

How long does it take you to write a book?

A couple of years.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

One learns a lot. Not only about the craft of writing, but about subject matter and details incidental to the story.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I have received feedback from readers, usually comments about the plot or characters. Sometimes they have questions about specific items mentioned in the book.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

It energizes at first, causing me to work on the story. After writing for a while, I'm exhausted.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Unfair criticism is anti-motivational for a while, but the bad effects fade, particularly since often I can learn something from the criticism.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I try to be original. I'm not sure I can reliably predict what readers want.

What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?

Dickens, Clavell.

At what point do you think someone should call themselves a writer?

When they finish their first work.

What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you? 

Difficulty getting started. It's a psychological thing. The best advice I received about overcoming writer's block is to completely disregard any concern about the quality of what is being written and just put down the story in the simplest childlike terms. Concerns about grammar, logical consistency and phraseology can be addressed later.

Are there therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after someone you know?

Yes. It's helpful to recall character traits. For secondary characters, I may even at first use the name of the real person I know, and later do a name replace.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

For me, the plot comes first. Without a plot, I have no story to write. Principal characters come next.

How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?

Someone enthusiastic about what I write about. The more enthusiastic the better. It's hard to win over a reader that is not interested in the subject matter I write about. To me, an ideal reader has some grasp of the real world, the physical world. It's someone that is more focused on the objects, structures, methodologies, laws, regulations, organizations and institutions around us, than on personal feelings, interpersonal relationships and philosophical considerations. Of course, feelings, relationships, and philosophy are important, but while my ideal reader could like poetry and romance, such interests are not particularly attractants to science-fiction and mysteries.

How much research did you need to do for your book? 

My book required a lot of research. It provided the verisimilitude that I found essential to write my story.

Tell us more about your book/s?

The Site is hard science-fiction, with elements of mystery, romance and psychology. The plot concerns a London schoolteacher, Cicely, who, in dreams, inexplicably experiences the activities of two investigators, Charles and Vivian, she does not know. The investigators are Americans investigating a stolen secret government document. As revelations unfold within her dreams, the couple stumble upon an awe-inspiring facility concealed deep under the American southwest desert. Cicely, and the psychiatrist she consults suspect that deep in her mind lie keys to unravelling her own part in the mystery. The Site delves into perhaps the best kept of all secrets, one that some people understandably and ruthlessly wish to keep unknown. Some think of valid reasons to conceal something that concerns the existence of every human on Earth; those that disagree face a moral dilemma in deciding how to reveal the hidden truth.
The book I am working on now, An Effect Like Magic, is a historical mystery set mostly in 1943 Belgium. It concerns the investigation of the death, in a mansion near Brussels, of a Belgian magnate. Circumstances place an inexperienced officer in charge of investigating what at first appears to be an accident but is likely murder, complicated by the dead man being found alone in a locked room. There are many suspects and powerful people involved, and the officer must solve a seemingly impossible crime while dealing with superiors, family members, and the interest of the victim's pretty niece.

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