My latest ‘Date’ is with novelist and parapsychology graduate Val Tobin who hails from Ontario. As usual I began by asking her to tell me a little about her home state.
I’ve lived in Ontario all my life. What I love most about it is the beauty of the countryside and the tight-knit community we live in.
The downside is the bugs, particularly the mosquitoes in the summer. I’m not a big fan of winter either. I’ve learned to bundle up for it, but that doesn’t mean I’m enjoying it. Some folks here participate in winter sports, but the closest I get to a winter sport is reading in front of a fireplace.
Val writes across several genres but has no strong preference for any, preferring to allow the story to dictate the genre:
For example, when the idea for The Experiencers, book one of the Valiant Chronicles series, came to me, the UFO conspiracy aspects and the death-ray technology dropped it into SF. The action and suspense make it a thriller as well, and there’s romance in it, because you can’t have people interacting in pressure-cooker situations without something developing between them. It also contains supernatural elements.
I’ve written more romantic suspense than any of the other genres, which might make you conclude it’s my preference. Perhaps that’s correct. I enjoy when characters find deep connections with one another.
In the Valiant Chronicles, one of the secondary characters goes through hell before he matures enough to enter into a monogamous relationship. This character treated women so cavalierly in The Experiencers that one reader emailed me to insist the character die for his sins in the sequel, A Ring of Truth (this was when I was still working on book two of the series).
At first, I’d been headed in that direction. I’d considered redemption for this character through death by self-sacrifice. But that’s not what happened when I reached that point in the story. He meets a woman as lost and broken as he is, and together they find healing.
What I enjoy exploring the most is flawed characters who manage to heal and grow towards their potential.
Her latest release, which I have just finished reading and thoroughly enjoyed, is set among the members of a writers’ group in which petty jealousies lead to murder. She tells me such rivalries do sometimes exist in real life groups, and goes on to comment about the latest scandal inflaming the world of publishing.
I’m a member of a number of writers’ groups. The majority, such as our Indie Author Support and Discussion group (IASD), are on Facebook, which makes them virtual groups. The Writers’ Community of York Region (WCYR) provides the physical connection I need and resembles the group in the story more except for the petty jealousy part. My preferred groups don’t have that kind of nonsense, but yes, I’ve seen it rear its ugly head over the years.
Every once-in-a-while you read about authors behaving badly and that stems from insecurity, fragile egos, and fear. The murderer in my story embodied all that’s toxic in any competitive industry.
It can be particularly appalling when writers get nasty. Written assaults can do more long-term damage than physical assaults.
In Poison Pen, the character chose the ultimate physical solution: murder. Naturally, eliminating a competitor doesn’t pave the way for success, and that’s what the killer in my story doesn’t see. He can’t understand why, even with the guy he holds responsible for his failure out of the way, he continues to struggle.
If there’s a theme in the story, it’s that acting out of jealousy and envy destroys the perpetrator from the inside out.
Jealousy and envy can result in horrible behaviour. The movie I Tonya recounts how skater Tonya Harding‘s career was destroyed when her husband hired a hitman to kneecap rival Nancy Kerrigan.
I recall a writer who was so angry with a teenage reviewer that he tracked her down and smashed her over the head with a wine bottle. Another author once wrote on her blog suggesting that J.K.Rowling stop writing books for adults. I’ve heard of authors receiving fake one star reviews the way my murder victim does in the story.
As I write this, #Cockygate rages on. For those who haven’t heard, an author has trademarked the name “Cocky” and has sent cease-and-desist letters to other romance authors who have the word in the titles of their books.
I find that with a number of the books I release, life reflects art. Releasing Poison Pen just as Cockygate broke was an interesting coincidence. Instead of wanting to own the whole cocky pie, the author should have considered doing a cocky anthology with other writers who use the word in their titles.
In my opinion, cooperative competition is the way to go. Just because a reader falls in love with one author’s books doesn’t mean he or she won’t ever read books from another author. As a voracious reader myself, I consume works from a huge variety of authors and am always hunting for my next favourite author.
When I find that author, I make a point of following them. I’m never confused about whose book I’m picking up. Any author can use the words “in Death” in their title, but I’ll recognize Nora Roberts’s “in Death” books because they’ll say “by J. D. Robb.”
Indie author Eric Lahti doesn’t have to trademark the word “henchmen” for his readers to recognize that if they come across a book with henchman in the title and it’s by Joe Author that Eric’s not the author. Cockygate would be laughable if it wasn’t so devastating to those authors facing frivolous and expensive lawsuits over it.
I next asked her about that parapsychology degree and her interest in the paranormal, something she shares with a previous guest.
I’ve been attracted to the paranormal all my life, probably because my mother was interested in it. My father, who was a tool and die maker by trade and heavy into math and logic, read palms. I suppose it’s part of the search for meaning or the quest to learn what’s beyond the physical realm.
While working in the computer industry, I obtained the B.Sc. in Parapsychic Science and then I went for the master’s degree in parapsychology. I also became a certified Reiki Master/Teacher in 2005 and an Angel Therapy Practitioner© with Advanced Training certified by Doreen Virtue in Kona, Hawaii in March and October of 2008. I returned to Hawaii for mediumship and spiritual writing courses in 2010.
This provided me with hands-on training in addition to the theory I was getting from my other studies. If you’ve never tried to develop your psychic skills, you might be sceptical that it’s even possible, but I draw on these skills and experiences in my novels.
In the Valiant Chronicles and in Walk-In, I have characters with psychic abilities and much of what they do and how they do it reflects my training. When Carolyn glances down and to the right as she connects to a spirit, she’s doing it the way I do it. It’s not something I was taught to do — it’s something I do instinctively — but it works for me.
When I first started the quest to develop my psychic abilities, I was convinced they didn’t exist.
I had experienced enough by that point to be open minded about others having psychic ability, but I was positive I was, well, a Muggle.
The surprises came slowly, but they came. Developing psychic intuition when you’ve blocked yourself or when you’re sceptical is difficult and takes commitment and dedication. It’s time consuming and frustrating but well worth the effort.
Val is about to embark on her first attempt at a non-fiction work, based on her masters thesis. I wondered how much she enjoyed all the work that goes into such an enterprise.
I’ve always loved research. Most of the courses I’ve taken involved a lot of research and essay writing. In my software developer years, I wrote for on-line magazine Community MX about web development using Macromedia products. Somehow, I have this burning desire to be both creative and logical.
I wrote my thesis on the after-effects of near-death experience (NDE) and think it would make a fascinating book. Not only are the lives of those who’ve experienced an NDE changed, but those who hear their stories and interact with them are impacted as well. Research has shown that you don’t have to have an NDE to have your life changed by it. You can be affected by it vicariously. Many of the effects are beneficial, though not always. I’ll delve into all that in the book.
She doesn’t rule out the idea of traditional publishing but is happy with her present status as an independent author.
I have one little story in a traditionally published, non-fiction book (Doreen Virtue’s Angel Words published by Hay House), so you could say I’ve dipped my toe in traditional waters. However, when I wrote The Experiencers (my first novel) and consulted on the subject of trad versus indie publishing with a hybrid author who has been writing books since the 1970s, he made a good case for me to go indie.
Of course, I don’t rule out traditional publishing, but at this time, I like the freedom and control I get form being an indie author. It certainly has its trials, and it’s expensive to pay for covers and editing myself, but if I have to do my own marketing anyway, I might as well stick with the indie way.
She works from a home office with no door where you can find her most days “from morning to dinner time.” I wanted to know if dinner was taken in the middle of the day or in the evening. She confirmed that it is the latter.
Asked to reveal something that might surprise her readers she certainly surprised me!
My readers might be surprised to learn that I’ve had a cameo in two indie lesbian films. One was Route of Acceptance and the other was I Met You First. Route of Acceptance is out and available for download and I Met You First is still in production.