Today I am wishing a Merry Christmas to independent author Val Poore and welcoming her to my blog for this week’s Indie Spotlight.
Val Poore was born in London, grew up in Dorset and then moved to South Africa in 1981 where she lived for nearly twenty years. However, she decided to move back to Europe permanently in 2001. Her intention was to live in France, but love and life had other plans and she ended up buying a traditional barge and staying in the Netherlands. She is now a Dutch citizen as well.
Val has written eight memoirs and two novels. She writes under her full name, Valerie, and these days shares her time between her barge in Rotterdam and a cottage in the country. She teaches for a living, has two very grown up daughters (both in the Netherlands) and lives with her Dutch partner. One day, she hopes she and her partner can take her barge and exchange teaching for a life of gentle cruising along the canals in northern France, or Poland, or Germany or wherever the waterways take them.
Hi Val, very pleased to meet you. I hope you are enjoying the festive season and getting some time to relax.
I have some questions for you about life as an indie author, so here goes:
What made you decide to publish your books independently?
Sue, firstly, a big thank you for inviting me to your blog. I’m very chuffed to be here and to be included in your ‘Indie Spotlight’.
To answer your question, when I started writing, it never occurred to me to look for a publisher. This was way back in the early days of self-publishing in 2006. I wrote my first books chapter by chapter on a blog and I shared them with a circle of blogging friends, some of whom were also writing books. When I finished, I just self-published them on Lulu.com, which was one of the first websites offering free publishing to indie authors. This was before Kindle and ebooks even started. I did look for a publisher later and had two books issued with a small imprint. But I think I was too used to the joys of indie publishing by then. I wasn’t very happy being in that position, so when I had the chance to get my rights back, I jumped at it and haven’t looked back.
Yes I imagine it must be difficult to go from being independent to having to be constrained by the rules and guidance of a traditional publisher. What do you see as the main benefits of being an indie author?
Well, quite apart from being in control of my own output, I like the fact there’s no pressure on me to perform in terms of marketing the books. This is pretty important for me as I have quite a demanding day job, so the fact that I don’t have to do anything I don’t have time to do is a great relief. That aside, I know the success (or not) of my books is totally down to me, but I’m fine with that. I write for myself first and foremost. Any financial reward is a bonus, which brings me to the other advantage of being an indie: I get to keep the royalties I earn!
It sounds like the perfect arrangement, but there must be things about being independent that are annoying. What challenges do indie authors face?
That’s a hard one. I’m not sure I’ve got an answer for that because each person will have problems to deal with. I’m not aware of any particular challenges myself except the marketing side, which is always hard work, but then again, that’s down to lack of time. I enjoy the whole process of writing, editing, formatting and production, although I’ll admit that editing and formatting can sometimes be frustrating.
What advice would you give to aspiring indie authors?
I’m sure everyone you interview will say this, but it’s true – you just have to keep at it; in other words, keep on writing till you reach those magic words ‘the end.’ I know several people who are much more gifted writers than I will ever be, but they can’t seem to finish a book. It takes a lot of self-discipline to keep going, so I’d say that’s what new authors need to develop. I’m not really qualified to give any other advice really other than the usual things about having your work proofread professionally.
Yes I can see that it would be difficult to make yourself finish a book, particularly if you enjoying the writing process and are a perfectionist. There are always sentences which can be reworded.
What have you learned from being an indie author?
Good question, Sue. I think I’ve learnt that editing takes three times as long (at least) as writing and is much more exacting than I ever imagined it would be before I started. I’ve also learned that you get what you give as an author. By that I mean giving something of yourself when you engage with your readers on social media. When I used to work in marketing, I was always told that “people buy from people,” which I now know was a great lesson for an indie author. It really helps to be supportive of other authors in the indie publishing world as well.
I’ve heard a lot about how supportive of one another the writing community is and I agree, in marketing, relationships with people are of paramount importance. If people like you, and care about your success, they will help you promote your books.
Well we are almost at the end of the interview and also at the end of a very challenging year. What can we look forward to seeing from you in 2021?
I’m keeping everything crossed that this is the year I can halve the amount of teaching I do so I have time for more writing. If I can manage to cut back on the day job, I’m hoping to write another novel. Most of my books are memoirs, and I’ve only written two novels, but I’d love to write another one. I’ve got several ideas, one of which is set in WWII on the Dutch waterways. As for definite projects, I’ll be publishing another boating travelogue, probably in March or April. I’m about three quarters of the way through it now. It’s been just lovely to write it during this lockdown year when we haven’t been able to go anywhere on our barge so I’ve been enjoying re-living the whole experience.
Thank you very much for joining me today, Val, I wish you every success with your future projects.
5 of Val’s books
This is the story of a young woman’s first encounters with rural South Africa. Coming from the all-mod-cons society of Britain at the beginning of the 1980’s, the author is literally transplanted to a farm in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains in what is now Kwazulu Natal.
Once there, she finds her feet in the ways of Africawith the help of a charming, elderly Dutch couple,an appealing but wily African farm hand, his practical and motherly daughter and a wise and fascinating neighbour who has a fund of local knowledge.
These are tales of a different kind of life, whichinclude living without electricity, hand-milking cows, drought, veld fires and mad-cap adventures into the unknown. They are stories told with deep affection and respect, and above all a liberal dose of tongue-in-cheek humour.
Buy African Ways here:
Add African Ways to your To Be Read list here:
In Highveld Ways, Valerie and her daughters join her husband in Johannesburg and begin a decade of life in and around the city. During the years that follow her arrival in 1989, Valerie explores the Highveld area on which Johannesburg is built and despite her rural leanings, she learns to love South Africa’s biggest, baddest city and its environs.
Anecdotal rather than chronological, this book mixes the ups and downs of family life with history, political change and descriptions of local places.
Buy Highveld Ways here:
Add Highveld Ways to your To Be Read list here:
In this account of her first year of living on a barge in Rotterdam’s Oude Haven, Valerie Poore’s overriding impression is that “one of the first things you learn about living on a barge is that an awful lot of stuff is going to end up in the water”.
The year in question is 2001, and at forty something, the author takes the plunge to exchange her life in the corporate fast lane of Johannesburg for life on a historic Dutch barge. Every month brings new challenges, obstacles and experiences. She meets a whole world of fascinating people, not least of whom are an endlessly smiling, but absent minded ‘landlord’, an intellectual, but quirky friend and confidante and an old world charmer whose mastery at the helm wins more than just her respect. She also learns how to cope with the sometimes strenuous demands of casting ropes and negotiating locks when acting as skipper’s mate during numerous nail-biting watery adventures.
Buy Watery Ways here:
Add Watery Ways to your To Be Read list here:
Faring to France in a Shoe
A travelogue about a dream come true. After seven years of owning their barge, Hennie-Ha, seven years involving catastrophe and crisis, Val and her partner finally go ‘faring’ to France for the first time. This travelogue is about the places they visit and the people they meet along the canals on their route from the Netherlands, through Belgium and into northern France. It tells a gentle story about how they experience their life on board during the four weeks they spend cruising. Written as a journal, the reader joins them on their travels through rain and shine and reveals how day by day, Val learns to cast aside the stresses and demands of the real world and to appreciate life’s simplest of pleasures to the full.
Buy Faring to France in a Shoe here:
Add Faring to France in a Shoe here:
The Skipper’s Child (a novel)
For Arie Kornet, School holidays on his family’s barge, the Rival, are more than tedious. His father is a Dutch commercial skipper, and all they do is travel from one place to another on the European waterways, delivering and taking on goods. His deaf mother and his two sisters accept the lifestyle, but Arie is intensely frustrated with it all – especially as it is December and Christmas is coming. It seems there is nothing for him to do on board, and no escape. That is, until an unexpected stowaway, a frightening encounter with Russian secret agents and an alarming international plot bring him far more excitement than he has ever bargained for. Suddenly, his own life, and those of his entire beloved family, are in danger. Forced in to a new and adult role, Arie is faced with difficult decisions to make, and even more difficult actions to take. The Skipper’s Child is an exciting story of adventure and suspense set in the evocative world of the commercial waterways during the coldest winter of the Cold War.
Buy The Skipper’s Child here:
Add The Skipper’s Child to your To Be Read list here:
Who’s next on Indie Spotlight?
Next Thursday I will be wishing Annie Whitehead a Happy New Year and welcoming her to the final Indie Spotlight of 2020.
This feature will be continuing into 2021. If you are an indie author who would like to be featured please contact me here.
Thank you for reading my blog, I would like to wish a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to anyone and everyone who celebrates.