April 26, 2013
Author bio: Valerie Constantine was born in Baltimore, Maryland. She has always loved books and spent too many nights reading by the light of her bedside lamp until 3 a.m. (Those were the days when she was able to stay up that late.) She graduated from Nancy Drew to Shakespeare and went on to study at the University of Maryland where she received a degree in English Literature. She is an active community volunteer working with a Washington, D.C. organization that fights human trafficking and also with Caritas Society of St. John’s College Annapolis, which raises funds for student financial aid. In her spare time she reads, kayaks and travels. She spends part of the year in England and lives in Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and Zorba, their brilliant King Charles Cavalier. Circle Dance, which she co-authored with her sister Lynne Constantine, is her first novel.
Drink – Jack Frost Herbal Tea from Baltimore Coffee & Tea
Food – Anything Italian
Vacation – The Greek Islands
TV show – As Time Goes By
Movie – Shirley Valentine
Animal – My dog Zorba
Sport – Kayaking
Book – Pride and Prejudice
Book title: Circle Dance
Brief synopsis of your book:
Young, smart and beautiful with everything figured out – or so they thought. Born into a prosperous Greek American family, sisters Nicole and Theodora have achieved the perfect balance between the old world rich in Greek tradition and the freedom of life in America. As the dramatic plot unfolds, the two young women must confront deceit and betrayal and their own maturing passions – while they struggle to preserve the values they cherish. Set in Baltimore, Annapolis and the tiny island of Ikaria, Greece, Circle Dance provides a view into the lives of a dynamic family that has successfully achieved the American dream without abandoning the customs and traditions handed down through their Greek heritage. Artfully intertwined plots bring generations together in a dance of rejoicing and mourning, loss and healing that will keep readers enthralled until the last page.
Current book or project you’re working on:
I’m working on two projects – the first is a story set in New Testament times and the second is a contemporary novel.
What was the inspiration for your novel?
My sister and I talked and talked about collaborating on something together and the more we talked, the more we liked the idea of telling a story about family from our experience growing up in a close knit and very large Greek American family. We were both married with children and thought this would, if nothing else, be a wonderful legacy for our children (and eventual grandchildren) – a look, as it were, into an old country/new world drama that they would never experience as 3rd and 4th generation Americans.
Please share three interesting facts about your book which are not covered in the synopsis.
1) Redemption is not always possible.
2) There is a look inside the workings of a political campaign.
3) The Greek food will make your mouth water.
Who is the most complex character from your current novel? I would say it’s Nicole, one of the two sisters who are the protagonists of Circle Dance. She appears on the surface to be self-confident and independent, but underneath has much emotional turmoil to resolve.
Are there any characters in your book that remind you of yourself?
Probably Theodora, although I feel a connection on some level with all of the characters since I share characteristics with each of them. I think writers put a little bit of themselves into all of their characters – even the bad ones.
If you could pick any well known or famous author to review your book who would you pick and why?
I would choose Joanna Trollope, firstly because I love her work and secondly because she writes with such insight and understanding of what makes us tick. She explores with such relish the relationships and family dynamics we all experience.
What, who, and when were you first inspired you to write?
I have always wanted to write and am a keen observer of people – it’s one of my favorite pastimes. And I’ve always loved stories about families and their interactions. Reading took me to places I’d never been and introduced me to people I’d never met. I loved dreaming up stories from the time I was in elementary school and when I finally got to high school, my absolute favorite subject was English Literature. The continued exposure to the classics at university sealed the deal.
What genre does your book fall into? Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Which genres do you write? Contemporary Fiction and Historical Fiction
What is the first book you remember reading, that affected how you thought or felt about something?
George Orwell’s Animal Farm. It shocked me to the core!
Is there a book you loved that was also made into a movie that you also loved? If so, how did the movie connect with you?
I loved The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and thought they did a great job bringing it to life on the screen. It is the poignant story of an Indian immigrant family and the struggles they and their son face as they assimilate in America. Family again…
Which three authors have inspired you the most, and why?
1) William Shakespeare – This sounds so self-important, but I don’t mean it that way at all. I just marvel that anyone could possess such incredible genius in all areas of writing – the spellbinding plots, the complex characters, the magnificent writing, all the words and phrases that have become a huge part of the lexicon. He’s awe-inspiring.
2) Susan Howitch – The first of her works that I read was Penmarric, which is set in beautiful Cornwall and is the saga of a family divided against itself. She went on to write another family saga Cashelmara and also the incredible series on the Church of England. It’s all about the workings of the family for me.
3) Sinclair Lewis – I read Lewis as a teenager – Main Street, Babbitt, Dodsworth, Elmer Gantry – and have re-read them as an adult. His works stand the test of time and are a disquieting and perceptive examination of human nature.
Have you ever read a book you couldn’t finish reading? I feel compelled to finish what I start, even though there are times I regret it.
Do you read a book, while you are writing a book? I do – usually several at a time.
How many books have you written? Which book is your favourite and why?
Circle Dance is my first full-length novel. I am now working on two others.
Is there anything that helps get you in the mood to write? Writing puts me in the mood to write. If I waited for the “mood to strike”, I would probably never write a word.
What were three challenges you faced when writing your book?
1) Co-authoring was the biggest challenge.
2) Editing and rewriting were often laborious and tedious.
3) Maintaining a strict writing schedule while working full time was sometimes difficult. We promised each other that we would each write 15 pages (at least) a week.
What lessons have you learned as an aspiring writer?
Humility. Patience. Also that you must push yourself to write, especially when you don’t feel like it. You can’t wait for your muse to show up. And it’s been beneficial for me to continue reading about writing, reading GOOD writing, and taking writing classes.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so what helps you to ‘overcome’? Often a walk, being in nature, will get the creative thoughts going. And sometimes sitting back and listening to music that I love will help.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned, either in the self-publishing or traditional publisher, route?
Diligence and perseverance. If you’re going the traditional route, don’t be discouraged by rejections. The best authors have received plenty but soldiered on to get published. As Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
How can people connect with you?
Where can readers find your book?