Tuesday, 15 October 2019

I Interviews

Interview: Robert Valleau

"Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing." ~Benjamin Franklin
 
Author Robert Valleau has accomplished both. His impressive career summation includes writing for radio and television, as well as print. Add to that a Veteran four times and visiting two distant islands in one day, (“We landed at a Coast Guard Station on Kodiak Island, just south of Alaska. We had to refuel before reaching our final destination: Hawaii.”) and you have a combination that would bring a smile to Poor Richard’s face. Yet, his greatest achievements are paradoxical in comparison. “Two greatest highlights of my life: the day my son was born, and the day I introduced my grandfather to the Lord two weeks before he died.”
 
His most recent successes are in paperback form; one bearing the title, Mystic Dreams and Dusty Roads. Valleau recently spoke with me regarding his book, his unique cover, and so much more. Although Valleau is synonymous with overachiever, he represents the balance of possessing a strong work ethic and cherishing the most meaningful things in life.
 
MN-Mystic Dreams and Dusty Roads is a story based on the Dust Bowl, told from the perspective of 12-year old Peep. Brilliant. This is a fresh telling of a familiar story. What inspired you to tell this story in such a new way and did you have any initial reservations since it is a unique concept?
 
RV-For years, I’ve had people tell me to write an inspirational book. I read a lot of Christian how-to books in the past, and I’ve counseled many on how to live the Christian life, but I thought, “What could I say that hasn’t already been said?” Then I thought, “What about something completely different that I haven’t tried yet?” A novel. Truth be known, if you read Mystic Dreams and Dusty Roads, or any of my novels, you’ll come across many inspirational passages.
 
When I did my research, for my debut novel, I knew the greatest book written of that time, The Grapes of Wrath, was iconic and legendary. And many stories have been written about those who left the plains for opportunities elsewhere. But there were few stories about those who stayed. I knew mine had to be different, so I created some characters and placed them in that time period. Then I wrote it along the line of Fried Green Tomatoes, with a child tomboy who is sharing her memory about a slice of that era. Because it's fiction, I took some liberties here and there to make the story interesting and exciting. But I don’t leave the reader – or my characters – stuck there. I purposely share how past events affected my main character emotionally later in her life and how she was able to turn her negatives into positives. Hopefully, this encourages others to do the same.
 
I've always enjoyed the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes, so I wanted a strong female for my main character. The challenge, and I love a good challenge, was to write from a female perspective -- however, not only from a female perspective, but from a child female perspective. It only took me six months to write the book, in 2009, and three more years to have it published. Persistence and patience are two keys I would offer anyone who desires to write a book.
 
After I got the basic idea for the plot, the characters and story flowed effortlessly. Many books have been written about the Dust Bowl years of Oklahoma. But few have been written from a child's perspective and from those who chose to stay and endure one of the most devastating periods in American history. This story is about loss and life, tragedy and triumph, sorrow and strength. Even though I call it a fictionalized memoir, many of the emotions and events are all too familiar to a lot of us. I hope my main character, Peep, inspires others to believe that good things truly can come from whatever hardships, failures and disappointments come their way.
 
MN-Is the main character, Peep, based on anyone that you know personally?
 
RV-Peep’s persona is based on Idgie Threadgoode in Fried Green Tomatoes. Although, I’ve known some tomboyish teenagers when I was in youth ministry, I didn’t base Peep on anyone in particular.
 
MN-You do mention alcoholism and its affects on family members, and I wondered if you had any experience related to alcoholism?
 
RV-My dad drank a lot, but I don't drink. I've known some people, in the past, who drank heavily, too. A lot of males turned to the bottle during that time when my story takes place, and since Peep’s mother died giving birth to her, her father was no exception. He faced extraordinary demands as a single father while dealing with a bad economy and nature's wrath.
 
MN-We have to talk about this cover for a moment. Your model is beautiful! I will be interviewing her for a feature in the near future, but wanted to know how you found such a perfect match for your book.
 
RV-Thank you. I have to give credit to my friend and photographer, Rhonda Smiga. She selected professional model Shallan Marcum to portay my main character, Peep. Rhonda knows Shallan's mom, and her mom graciously allowed Shallan to do the photo shoot. I wanted Rhonda to try and capture the emotion of discouragement and Peep’s feelings of wanting to run away, thus the symbolism with the suitcase. Peep endured a lot of tragedies, yet she survived each one. Rhonda took it from there and describe all of that to Shallan. And, of course, Shallan did a wonderful job of portraying those kinds of emotions in nearly every shot. I had many images to choose from but settled on the one you see. The title's font/style was designed by my publisher, Tate Publishing. Last year, the cover won first place in AUTHORSdB 2013 Book Cover Contest in the category Biographical/Memoir.
 
MN-So let's get personal for a moment. You accepted Jesus Christ as your savior when you were 17. Was it an instantaneous change, or did you go through some bumpy years before settling into a firm foundation?
 
RV-Yes, I accepted Jesus Christ, at age 17, on Father’s Day, June 17. Before that, I believed in the supernatural, ESP and things that go bump in the night. I find it curious that, even at an early age, we realize our souls are spiritually bankrupt and seek to fill it with something. My encounter with Jesus was real, instantaneous, life-changing and I’ve never had any doubts about my conversion.
 
MN-Tell me about your Harry Houdini wanna-be days.
 
RV-Oh my goodness! I call this my Charlie Brown moment, which was perhaps the most embarrassing moment of my life. Magic tricks fascinated me when I was a kid. I wanted to be the next Harry Houdini. A talent show, in my junior high school gymnasium, allowed me to perform an escape trick. I wore nothing but my gym shorts and socks. My wrists were chained to my ankles while a thin, white sheet was raised to conceal me. But because of the lighting, everyone saw my silhouette and me reaching for a spare key tucked inside one of my socks. When I was free from the chains and the sheet was lowered, I was hit with a barrage of laughter.
 
MN-You say, "I’m a Veteran four times." Is this a riddle or reality?
 
RV-Oh, it’s a reality. My family has a strong military service tradition. My father fought in WWII, and I have two brothers who served. One served in the Army. The other, in the Air Force. I tell people I’m a Veteran four times because I was born on Veteran’s Day, I served in the Air Force (three years), Air National Guard (five years) and the Army (two years). I couldn’t make up my mind which branch to be in to serve my country. Crazy Army. Made me go through their basic training, too.
 
MN-If you could accept any writing assignment, with unlimited time and resources, what would you write about?
 
RV-I think I would accept the challenge of writing that inspirational book. I guess since I feel a lot has already been written about how to live the Christian life, I could still give it my own voice with personal examples or examples from other people’s lives.

Author Bio- Bob​ has over three decades of writing experience for the Christian market. His writing career began, in the 1980s, when he worked for a Christian publishing company for their book department. Since then, he has worked as a full-time staff writer for two international ministries and was once named "Christian Writer of the Year," San Antonio, Texas, by the American Christian Writers Association. Bob's credits include writing for Christian radio/television and the Internet. He has written numerous magazine and newspaper articles and is the author of two books.
 
To learn more about Valleau, you can visit his web site, like his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.

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