Valerie Brooks is a novelist, arts activist, Francophile and autodidact. During her 20s, she explored life as a visual artist, in her 30s she survived as an arts and education marketing specialist, and by age 40, she found her passion in fiction.
The genre has led her to fellowships, an associate editorship at Northwest Review, and publication of her short story “Dead Children” in Scent of Cedars: Thirty-two Promising Writers from the Pacific Northwest (2002: Russell Dean & Company). A short memoir, Liberté, gained rave reviews in the Boston Globe and can be found in France: a Love Story; Women Write About the French Experience (2004: Seal Press/Avalon Publishing).
She is currently finishing a novel about how a secret pact between sisters threatens to destroy their lives. From the cultural confines of New Hampshire, to their escape and successes in Oregon, they confront their twisted history and relationship in Paris.
When people say to her, “I’ll see you in the funny papers,” they’re not kidding–she’s “Val,” the main character in the internationally syndicated cartoon “Stone Soup” by her best pal Jan Eliot. Valerie lives on the McKenzie River with her husband Daniel Connors. Her confessions about writing can be found on her blog Gobsmacked Writer.
I’m an eclectic reader. I’ll read almost anything about Paris. I love memoir and literary fiction. I listen to mysteries, thrillers, noir, plus young adult novels in my car on my long road trips back and forth to town and to the coast for writers’ retreats. Areas of interest include the arts, feminism, politics, psychology, war, suicide, cultural movements, music, and childhood conditioning. What I read is usually connected to what I’m writing at the time. Right now, I’m interested in stories about sisters, moms and daughters, and how our early childhood environment forms us. I’m especially drawn to stories about powerful women.
On my bed stand (some on my Kindle), eager to read:
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. If you haven’t heard about Cheryl’s memoir, I can only imagine you’re living as a hermit and should slip into your nearest bookstore to buy this emotionally honest and unflinching tale of coming to terms with the loss of a beloved mother. (Read my latest blog entry “Being Cheryl Strayed” for why this memoir means so much to me.)
The Vanishers, a novel by Heidi Julavits. At the other end of the spectrum from Cheryl’s memoir, this novel is described as “a wildly imaginative and emotionally intense novel about mothers, daughters, and the psychic damage women can inflict on one another.”
The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson, an atmospheric, sensual, lyrical and modern gothic novel set in Provence.
Technicolor Dreamin’: The 1960’s Rainbow and Beyond by artist and fashion consultant Karen Moller who gives us a feminist perspective on her adventures in Beatnik San Francisco and New York, hip Paris, and swinging London. She knows many of the famous artists and writers of those times, but I was most happy to see her include Jim Haynes, ex-pat now living in Paris who influenced so many during the Fluxus movement. Don’t let the book’s title and cover mislead. This memoir is more of a critical observation of the counterculture.
Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer and Sex Changed a Nation at War by Leymah Gbowee with Carol Mithers. Powerful!
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, a YA thriller I’m reading with my granddaughter; small actions have large repercussions in this story about a teen suicide and how tapes left behind tell what led to her action.
Currently listening to in my car:
The Leopard by Jo Nesbo & Don Bartlett; Norwegian noir
The Expats by Chris Pavone; expats and espionage in Luxembourg. I saw the movie Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and remembered how much I love smart, literate espionage stories.