Friday Author Interview Series: Val Edward Simone
November 4, 2011 by
“Writers make the worst editors, especially when trying to
edit their own work.” -Val Edward Simone
did you get started writing your book? Or what inspired your
The plot for
Life of a Long-Ago Man came to me at 3am one morning,
waking me up out of a dead sleep, with one question nagging
at me: How would I live my life if I was stranded alone on
an island, knowing that I would most likely never be
rescued? Sub-questions followed: Would I be able to live at
all, or would the sheer loneliness cause me to end my life?
Do I possess a strong enough character to withstand the
terror of living alone for perhaps years? Arising from my
bed, I began typing out a rough, but detailed synopsis of
the story. By noon that day, I had so energized myself with
the questions posed in my brain, that I began typing out the
rough draft of chapter 1. By day’s end, I had already
written nearly 20 pages.
was the hardest part about completing your book?
Plotting is always the most
difficult for me. Before I ever start a book, I write a
general synopsis to use as a guide only. What is always
interesting though, is that I end up writing pretty much as
the reader would read the story. What I mean, is that the
plot unravels to me that same way it does to the reader. I’m
often as surprised as the reader by how the plot unfolds
because I have no idea where or when my characters move in
the story until I get to it. The synopsis just keeps me
pointed in the right direction. In the synopsis, though. I
know two things for certain, where and how the story begins
and where and how it ends. The path from one to the other is
pure discovery during the journey.
you learn any lessons in the book creation process, if so
what where they?
I never stop learning, but
I’d say the most important lesson that I have learned thus
far, is know your characters well. Know them so well, in
fact, that you know how they are going to react almost
instinctively. This makes their growth or destruction
throughout the story a fluid one and much more believable
and interesting. If you don’t understand your character’s
mind set, they may not react correctly to the plot changes.
you enlist support in getting your book done? If so, what
kind of support?
The only support that I feel
is mandatory for me, is editing. Writers make the worst
editors, especially when trying to edit their own work. My
editor and I operate on one infallible understanding that I
came up with: “Writers write. Editors make it readable.” It
works well for us. Other than that, I do everything else
myself including, formatting, cover design, and publish.
tips or advice do you have for aspiring authors?
The best advice I can give
to aspiring writers is this. “Write, first and foremost,
because you love to write. If you write for the initial
purpose of making money, you’ll soon become disillusioned,
because it is a business. And the business of writing is NOT
writing, it is selling books.
Unless you are very good and
very lucky, the chances are best that you will not sell many
books until you achieve recognition. To get the recognition,
you must hone your craft. To hone your craft, you need to
write. To write, you need to love writing.
There is a crazy gene in us
writers that fills us with the need to write. I love
writing. I write nearly 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. My
love for writing helped me hone my craft over several years.
Thus when I got serious about marketing my books, I could
better weather the storms of frustration because I had
already decided that success was not measured by book sales,
but by the act of writing itself.
Once again, with time, if
you are good enough and lucky enough, you’ll break through
and start selling books. It has paid off for me, because now
I’m selling books internationally, something I had never
dreamed of before.
you self-published, what made you self-publish?
Besides, of course, the wall
covered with rejection slips being a strong motivator to
self-publish, it was ultimately because I wished to have
more control over what was out there with my name attached
to it. I wanted the book to represent me, what I
believed in, what represented me as a person, not what some
frustrated writer calling themselves an editor in some high
New York tower office thought I should be. I wanted to
control the visual and content of my book. That is why I
design my own covers. Covers are incredibly important to any
book, but I wanted control over what the readers saw. For
well or ill, I’ll take the heat or the credit for the
success of my book. Self-publishing gives me those choices
and responsibilities, that traditional publishing would not.
you had to do your book all over again, would you?
I absolutely would do this
book over. And probably would do it the exact same way. The
message of the story, the way the character reacted to the
stresses and strains of the plot, has been a lesson for me.
I want to be more like my main character. The book taught me
a lot about what was going on inside my own heart and mind,
things that I had no idea had been planted there and were
both festering and blooming all at the same time. The book
and some of the comments readers have made about it, have
given me a warm sense of completion and accomplishment. When
a reader tells me how they identified with my character and
that it brought them to great emotion, tears, and wonderful
elation at the end, it confirmed that I want to continue
writing for the rest of my life. It was, in actuality, a
confirmation of my choice to become a writer way back in
you writing or planning to write an additional book(s)?
I am currently working,
simultaneously, on twelve other novels. When I arise in the
morning, my muse decides which one we’ll work on that day. I
never argue with my muse. She rules the roost when it comes
to which book we work on. And she hasn’t been wrong yet, but
she can sure be a real bitch sometimes. I love her.
else would you like to share about you or your book?
I think my passion for
writing is what I’d like to share most. During workshops,
especially with children, I become impassioned about
writing. To be the creator of a story that touches hearts,
moves souls, and changes lives, is a privilege. I take my
work very seriously, but I do not take myself serious at
all. Secondarily, I would say that when I arise in the
morning, the first thing I do is give thanks that all I have
to do is write that day. I don’t have to battle my way to
work in rush hour, sit in an office filled with strife and
stress, and be subjected to will of a boss I can’t stand and
a job that I hate. I’m blessed and I know it. I don’t take
it for granted, either.
can people find out more about your book?
First and foremost, they can
visit my websites:
www.ekidslandpublishing.com. Secondarily, they can
friend me on facebook and follow me on twitter. They can
also link with me on Linkedin. I’m only getting started in
those mediums, but I’m learning quickly. Through these
mediums, I engage with readers directly. There we discuss
how my books come about, what problems I had creating them,
and how I overcome those problems.
What people find after contacting me, is that I really don’t
care about selling books. I care very deeply about writing.
I love to inspire people to express their own creativity
through reading, writing, and/or drawing. I love getting
people excited enough to make the leap for themselves. It is
the most rewarding part of my writing life. Selling books is
far down the list for me. Seeing the light sparkle in a
person’s eyes when a book idea strikes them is precious.
Receiving an email telling me that I had inspired that
person to start writing is the highest compliment that I
could EVER receive. Did I tell you how blessed I am? Sure I
did, but I never get tired of repeating it.
following is a compilation of notes from previous
you become a writer?
In 1977, while working construction with my father’s
construction company in Adak, Alaska, remodeling Navy
dormitories, I read a book from the “Honor Shelf,” entitled,
“Shadow on the Stars.” It was a science fiction story
written by Robert B. Marcus Jr.
As soon as I
finished it, I knew, instantly, right then and there that I
wanted to become a writer. In 1980, I wrote my first novel,
“Treasure.” It was completed in 1981, but it needs serious
rewriting. I’m still planning to get to that someday.
that you dabbled in screenwriting for a while. Can you tell
me about that?
Sure. Around 1984, I attended night school, at a local
community college. I had found my first editor there,
Colleen Demaris, a wonderful woman who took pity on me.
During my association with her, I was introduced to the
famous director and producer Stanley Kramer. He was putting
on a class about filmmaking. I signed up immediately.
Stanley announced that we were going to make a movie just
like Hollywood. Scripts would be submitted. Only two movies
would be made. Producers would be selected. Then directors
would be “hired” along with the rest of the cast and crew.“
We had only a budget of $5,000 per movie, very tight even
for back then.
I submitted a script called, “The Return of Corporal
Sakowsky.” It was about the return home of a Marine from
Beirut who was escorting the body of another friend and
fellow Marine killed when the barracks were bombed by
terrorists back in 1983. Out of hundreds of scripts
submitted, Stanley picked my script as the number one
script. I was pretty excited. I can tell you that. The other
writer and I then met with Stanley. He made us the producer
as well. He told us to just go do our best without his help
and he would act as studio head and pass judgment on the
films by making the final edits. The final film received
great reviews. It was considered largely a good success.
Even Stanley was proud of it. He was a very irascible guy,
but he was always very kind and helpful to me. I really miss
It was a great experience and I learned a lot from it. Later
during 1984, I moved up to Vancouver, British Columbia to
work as an auditor on the film, “The Grey Fox,” starring
Richard Farnsworth. My job was to audit the cost of the film
relative to the revenue, rebuild the pay history of the film
and get revenues distributed to the shareholders. A huge
job! It took me over a year, living in a hotel, to get it
accomplished. During this time I was also a part of the
production team that was preparing to do a new film. I got
to work with Bob Geary, who at the time, was with Orion
Pictures as their Vice President of Business Affairs. Bob
and I got along wonderfully, but with all the problems with
the budget, the cast, and the ongoing difficulties with the
director, it was too much for Orion and that finally killed
I submitted my own scripts to Bob and he was so kind in
trying to help me get them produced, but in the end, it was
again just too much for either of us to continue the way we
were. I still consider Bob a good friend. Later, I had some
minor success with TV writing, but I never talk about those
days. Besides, I had a family that needed me. So I gave up
my screenwriting career and got a real day job. I am
considering writing the screenplays for my novels, but I may
not proceed with that. I think writing the novels is more
important. I may let others tackle the screenplays.
you become a children’s book author?
My daughter came into my life in 1981. My son, in 1983. When
they were old enough to be told bedtime stories, I begin
telling them stories while tucking them in. The first story
I told them was about what happened to me when I was eight
In the middle of one particular night, a golden roller
coaster came to a stop just outside my window and a
gingerbread pony knocked on the glass, awakening me. After
opening the window, the pony spoke to me saying that my help
was needed in Fairy Land. It was most important. So I
climbed out my window and into the roller coaster guided by
silver rails. It took off into the sky and raced past all
the planets until it came to a stop in Fairy Land. Two
fairies, Katrina and Bethina, greeted me. They were so
small. Tinker Bell small. They asked me to stop the Giant,
who lived on the other side of the great jellybean wall in
Troll Land, to stop eating the jellybeans out of the wall,
fearing it would cause the wall to fall. If the wall fell
then the Trolls would invade Fairy Land. I stopped the giant
with the help of the gingerbread pony. The giant complained
that he had a sweet tooth that hurt. So I tied a rope around
his tooth and to the tail of the gingerbread pony. Then the
pony shot up into the sky and pulled the giant’s tooth.
Thus, I saved Fairy Land.
I still believe today that it really happened. I remember
every single detail of the event with crystal clarity. It
was the first story I told my children. Since then I have
changed the story a bit and it has become “The Gingerbread
Pony,” my bestselling children’s picture book to date. I
invented other stories over the next few years to put them
Around 1984, or so, I got the notion to publish the stories,
but I was turned down by every publisher and agent I found.
In 2008, after retiring from my day job, as a commercial
real estate appraiser, I decided that it was time to publish
the best of the stories. So I rewrote them (six in all),
hired an illustrator, and took over a year to learn how to
publish books before I actually got them all finished and
published through my own created company, Ekidsland
Publishing, LLC. I originally wanted to publish them in
eBook format, but I received so many requests for the
printed book that I found a way to get them printed. The
rest, they say, is history. The printed books, today, are
only available through Amazon.com. The eBooks are available
through Kindle and Smashwords (Apple iBookstore, Barnes and
Noble, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, etc.). With the invention of the
color tablets, color Nook and Color Sony eReaders, however,
most of the recent sales of my children’s books are now
eBooks, with a large percentage being sold in Europe and
you come to write a book for the kids at the University of
Florida Proton Therapy Institute (Proton)?
It’s a wonderful story. In 2008, I wanted to contact Robert
B. Marcus Jr., the author that inspired me to become a
writer to thank him for his inspiration. So I searched him
out and found him working as an oncologist at Proton. I told
the receptionist my story and wondered if she would pass my
information on to Robert (Rusty, as he prefers). She was so
interested in my story that she agreed to pass my name and
email address on to Rusty. He contacted me within a day or
two and was fascinated with my story of Adak, Alaska and how
his book, “Shadow on the Stars” inspired me to become an
author. He was really tickled about that.
I told Rusty about my children’s books and sent him three
complete sets of books for the children going through the
proton treatment. It was only a matter of days when Rusty
sent me an email saying that the children absolutely loved
my books and that it was a big help to them, aiding in their
recovery. I can’t tell you how wonderful that made me feel.
About a month later, I got an email from Rusty with an odd
request. One of the young patients going through treatment
asked Rusty if he could ask the author (me) if a story could
be written about a character he called, Proton Gator. Rusty
told me that he had no idea whatsoever who or what Proton
Gator was, but asked me to think on it and try to come up
with a story for the patient if I could.
I sat back in my chair and thought for only a few minutes
and then started writing the story. Within less than thirty
minutes, “Proton Gator” was written. I emailed it down to
Rusty. He went into shock, at how fast I had written the
story. He showed it to the patient, named Christian. The lad
went berserk! He loved it! The story went around the whole
center and included all the other staff, doctors, and other
children and Rusty wrote me that it was a huge hit. His boss
wondered what it would take to publish a book for the proton
I contacted my illustrator and he was delighted to become a
part of the project. I had Rusty contribute to the writing.
He was also delighted to be a part of the project. Within
four weeks, the book was ready to be printed, but it took
some time for the center to raise the capital for the books.
In Spring of 2010, I received a check in full for 1,000
books. A month later the books arrived to elated children in
the treatment center. Since then, Rusty and I have been
trying to put a “check in” package together for the children
consisting of the book, a coloring book, made up from all my
children’s books characters, a t-shirt, a denim bag and
crayons. It is designed as an interactive way to help the
children get through their treatment a bit easier. As of
today, however, we are having trouble raising the capital
needed to make the project a reality. The most amazing thing
out of all of this though is that Rusty and I have become
good friends and colleagues. I think the story of one writer
contacting his inspiration after so many years is one heck
of story by itself.
that you came to begin your “old man” series of historical
My first love is novel writing. Screenplays are so very
limiting, while novels are so very liberating. You can go
where your mind can take you. There are no time limits and
page limits like in screenplay writing. As I told you, I
started out writing a novel, called “Treasure.”
About the time I was working in Canada on those film
projects in 1984-1985, an interesting story came to mind. It
was initially written as a screenplay, but I abandoned that
format after I left the film business. I changed it to a
novel format and worked on it for a year or so, but I could
never grasp the hook to the story. Over the years I dabbled
with it on and off.
In 2008, after retiring from that nasty day job, I decided
to give it another shot. It was called at the time, Blood
Money, but I changed it to Blood Trackers: One Crazy Love
Story. I started working on it and suddenly the whole thing
came together, the plot, the characters, the whole thing.
It took me the better part of that year to write it, but in
early 2009, I had it complete and ready for an editor. Two
months later I was ready to publish. I decided to
self-publish, through my company, Morningside Publishing,
LLC, not caring to whore myself out to find an agent or
publisher. The memory of my earlier attempts to find both
was still searing in my brain.
I got it published in mid-2009 and I got many good reviews,
but something inside me was gnawing at me. I didn’t want to
write action/adventure novels. They seemed to be a penny a
dozen. Yeah, much less than a dime.
Several stories set in historical pasts were crying to come
out. They were gentle stories, loving stories, stories of
hope and caring. Four individual plots instantly came to
mind. I sat down and painstakingly wrote detailed synopses
for all four. As I read them over and over, I saw the unity
in the themes and the wonderful rich characters. I then
dubbed it the “Old Man” series. I think they are going to
define my career someday. I had the titles clearly in my
head from almost day one. The four books are entitled, “The
Wondrous Life of a Long-Ago Man,” “Captain Delightable’s
Marvelous Tales of a Minchon Warrior,” “Once Upon a Harbor,”
and “Adventure Island.” They come from the same premise, but
the stories are hugely different. The initial, single
premise is that a young man in and around 1800 shipwrecks on
an island somewhere in the South Pacific. The stories then
vary widely from there. The general theme of them all is how
a man faced with difficult choices learns to make the best
out of every situation. They are stories filled with humor,
terror, sadness, joy, pain and elation. The general overall
plots vary greatly, but every story has a wonderfully happy
and uplifting ending. To date, “The Wondrous Life of a
Long-Ago Man” is the only one completed and published. I’m
currently working on two of the following novels at the same
time, “Captain Delightable” and “Once Upon a Harbor.” Each
will stand on its own yet hopefully, again, they will take
the reader on a journey back in time to the 1800s by way of
the language, style and story.
To prepare for the novels and capture that “old world” feel,
I studied earnestly, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, A Tale of
Two Cities by Charles Dickens, “The Swiss Family Robinson”
by Johann David Wyss, and “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe.
These novels gave me the sense of the times, the thoughts of
the time, the rhythm of speech, the use of words familiar
and typical of the times. Very helpful to someone trying to
emulate a novel being written in the 1800s. I think giving
the novels these attributes lends authenticity to the books.
I want the readers to feel that they are reading books
written during that period. I want to enmesh the reader into
that old world, give them the sense that they are actually
there back in time experiencing what the characters are
mentioned an annual ritual. Can you tell me about that?
My annual “Magic” event, yes. I’d be happy to tell you about
My annually celebrated, self-invented, “Return to the Magic”
Week consists of watching the movies “Pete’s Dragon” “Darby
O’Gill and the Little People,” the Original “Peter Pan”
movie (animated), the 1999 TV movie, “The Magical Legend of
the Leprechauns,” and finally, “The Wizard of Oz.” You could
call it my “Reimmersion into Childhood” week. I have been
watching these movies annually for the last 15 years with
the obvious exception for “Leprechauns,” of course. The
movies return my spirit to the younger days when the magic
lived strongest within me. They rekindle the magic of some
long-ago innocence that lived stronger within in me then.
They inspire me to write the magical stories I'm working on
now. They return my mind to the magic of gentler times. To
top it off, I'm so delighted to confirm that 4 “Munchkin”
actors out of the original 124 are still alive today from
the 1939 “Wizard of Oz” movie. It’s comforting to know that
their light remains among us, still shining through my inner
child’s eyes, the magic of their being, enjoined with my
spirit, keeps me filled with hope and a belief that there is
still something special in the world to enjoy. While I’m
immersed in those movies, I feel like the child I used to
be. It feels like Tony the Tiger. GRRRRRREAT!