In Your Next Beach Read, we want to introduce you to a new author every day in June in the hopes that you’ll find the next book you want to take with you to the beach, the pool, or the comforts of air conditioning.
Today’s author is Valerie Willis, author of Death and the Tattooed Angels Trilogy.
What’s your name and where are you from?
Valerie Willis, from Winter Garden, Florida to be exact.
How long have you been writing? How did you start?
I’ve always written from the time I fell in love with books and fiction. To this day, I still have a composition book filled with a handwritten story about a girl lost in Africa. During middle school, I was fortunate to have an encouraging English teacher who submitted much of my work to Young Anthologies. By high school, you could find me passing notes with my friends, but inside were little stories and continuations as we co-wrote worlds and characters.
So, easily 25+ years at this point. Though by graduation in 2003 I had shelved my first novel and after a cancer scare, I decided to take my writing more serious for the first time. From there, I wrote Cedric the Demonic Knight and started growing as a writer and artist.
Who are some of your influences?
Robin McKinley rocked my world with Deer Skin. The story was jarring from the start, and through her other novels, I fell in love with flawed characters and the idea of breaking them so they could get back up and become stronger. None of the plots allowed them an easy way to achieve their needs and wants and I adopted that into my own writing.
What is your book about?
Which will prevail, Life or Death? Iapetos has come back into the lives of Talib and Hotan, but what will happen when his own memories come flooding back? Hotan must come to terms about his emotions regarding the man who is his father while deciphering his newfound feelings for Abigail. Meanwhile, Iapetos faces past regrets and must decide to let the past still haunt him or choose a life more fitting for who he wants to be. Talib can only wait for judgments to be made and decide if he even has the right to intervene in this epic closing to a centuries worth of family struggles.
Where did you get the idea?
On one faithful night during my high school days, Tattooed Angels was born. I recall the clock pushing past midnight as I tried to lull myself to sleep listening to some rock music. The DJ comes on, talking about this new release from a band called TOOL. In the black abyss of night, I took in the heartbeat intro to the song Laterlus.
The first few lyrics play out, the idea of black and white, then colors start a chain reaction in my imagination. It was here, lost to the music, I started asking myself a series of questions.
What kind of character would be like that? Someone who normally sees in black and white, but on occasion might see something in color. Oh, what if he was color blind, but it was secret powers he gained from reincarnation? Wait… I got it. What if he’s a failed reincarnation? Hmm, what kind of powers…
It went on and on and before I knew it, I was jotting the brainstorm down, doodling some sketches, and the morning alarm was blasting. It all started with the creation of Hotan, then asking what kind of character he was, what was his story, and what did I want him to share with readers.
Check out my YouTube playlist and the songs that coordinate with the trilogy in the order they appear.
How long did it take you to finish it?
Death took far longer than I had intended. The one promise I had made for myself was to never stop moving forward. My original vision for the final installment was close, but missing some very important character and reader development. Even then, I still hadn’t decided how to end it. I have two paths, a fork in the road me and the readers would see and face. I started the trilogy in 2001-2002… but this book, it took me nearly three years to decide on how to revise it and fill in gaps.
Is this your first book, or have you written more than one?
Oh, I’ve written quite a few! I am working on book 4 of my Dark Fantasy Paranormal Romance The Cedric Series, I’ve completed my YA Dark Urban Fantasy Tattooed Angels Trilogy recently, have a Dark Fantasy Male Romance Prince’s Priest online at Inkitt and Tapas gathering feedback, and started a few others we will see in the years to come.
We all like to write about people we know, even if we never name them. Who are some people who inspired characters or situations?
Family and friends are a great resource. Tattooed Angels Trilogy actually still keeps true to character names based off my high school comrades. Shout outs to Chaz, Jessica, Tina, Becca, and many more who read this in high school and encouraged me. I owed them a finished story, especially after seeing some of them and being asked if I ever finished the “Hotan story” and could they see it again!
In fact, Prince’s Priest has several nods to a core group of BETA readers who really help me be more confident in writing my first LGBT romance story. Cedric tends to have some of my husband’s snarkiness and temper, though he’s no where as malicious. A lot of times, things I’ve experienced have a way of finding their way into my stories, such as the buzz buttons mentioned in Prince’s Priest coming from a time a friend taking me out drinking for an electrifying drink.
What’s your favorite scene in the book?
London 1350 in Chapter Eleven. It wasn’t a planned scene, but something about it was so powerful and captured a dark romance that may inspire a future paranormal romance later. Iapetos is the element of Death and finds himself in London when the Black Plague is wreaking havoc. In this moment, he finds a familiar face, a reincarnation for a girl from his Pompeii days in a sense and he’s awestruck once more. Here’s a teaser:
Hands gripped the back of my coat. A sickening sensation washed over me as I sensed she didn’t have long. Turning around, I found the girl pale and thin. Rosy rings and boils painted her body. It was a wonder how she stood, let alone walk out into the street. Her bright, revealing dress caught my attention. Considering I had wondered into an area called Farringdon Without, she had to be a local prostitute or even an escort for hire. Her head tilted back, exposing her face and my breath caught in my throat. Those familiar lily yellow eyes with orange flecks had found me again.
“Reincarnation?” I muttered, not sensing any power within her.
“Forgive me.” She croaked, letting go to lean on the lamp post. “I was, I was…”
Coughing consumed her, and she slid to her knees. She spat blood across the ground and turned her gaze to the fire raging across the street. I squatted, fascinated by her.
“I suppose I’ll be joining them soon.” She gave a faint smile and turned to meet my eyes. “Either the plague or consumption. I suppose it’ll be both that kills me.”
“And you can still smile?” The stare she gave me told me of the exhaustion eating away at the last of her life.
“Ah, were you one of my clients?” A hint of recognition hit her eyes and my heart stopped. “No, no, you couldn’t have been.”
“Why not?” I mused, remembering Pompeii’s kiss and the life her eyes held in Antioch.
“Because, you’re…” She searched my face, losing her words.
I offered my hand to her. “Where were you going? I’ll take you there.”
Sighing, she shoved my hand away and used the lamp post to pull herself up. “I don’t need pity from the likes of you.”
“Who do you think I am?” They sickness had darkened her mind, but she blushed and laughed a moment.
“Why you’re…” She lunged forward, coughing and sputtering for a long time. Wiping the blood from her lips, she found the strength to spin back and finish. “You’re the Angel of Death.”
I paled, the amusement fading from my face.
“Ha!” She grinned. “I knew it had to be you. It was only a matter of when and where.” She lifted her skirts, showing a flashy new pair of shoes. “I put them on, I knew you’d be coming so I dressed up and pulled myself off the bed, I did. Damn it all to hell if I die like the other girls.”
I couldn’t help smiling at the absurd tenacity of it all. “They are nice shoes.”
What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever got?
GET IT OUT! You can’t fix, add, delete, revise, or realize anything about your story until you empty it out in your head. Revisions are for making it pretty and hunting down missing or weak parts. For now, just focus on laying all the cards on the table so you know what you need still.
What’s the worst?
You should write cleaner on the first draft so you have less work to do later. I can seriously give myself writer’s block if I attempt this. That, and “be sure to have everything figured out before hand” isn’t helpful either. Each story starts as a small flame and through pulling it out on paper can we give it enough oxygen to grow into the bonfire we hope it to be.
Where can we buy your book?
My books are available on Amazon, free for Kindle Unlimited too.
You can also head to the Tattooed Angels Trilogy Amazon page.
Valerie Willis is a Fantasy Paranormal Romance author based out of Central Florida. She loves crafting novels with elements inspired by mythology, superstitions, legends, folklore, fairy tales and history. She received the Reader’s Favorite Bronze medal in ‘Fiction – Mythology’ and FAPA’s President’s Silver medal in ‘Fantasy/Sci-fi.’ You can find her hosting workshops or a guest speaker at many events sharing her expertise in self-publishing, novel writing, research in fiction, worldbuilding, character development, book design, reader immersion and more.
Her Award-Winning Dark Fantasy Paranormal Romance, ‘The Cedric Series,’ is a wonderful blend of genres that appeal to a wide-range of readers described as “dramatic, lustful, and fantasy fulfilling.” The motto here is: “No immortal is beyond the ailments of man” and that includes powerful creatures, demons, witches, and Gods. Many of the monsters present in the content is derived from Medieval Bestiaries and adds a fun flavor of new yet deeply rooted assortment of creatures such as Coin Iotair, Shag Foal, Cynocephali, and many more.
For Young Adult readers look for her Dark Urban Fantasy filled with coming-of-age and beyond life lessons, the ‘Tattooed Angels Trilogy.’ Hotan is a failed reincarnation and is becoming immortal against his will. Life is complicated and often we withdraw within ourselves and shut others out when life becomes hard. As the story unfolds, we learn the importance of opening up and asking for support in all its forms even beyond friends and family. Each immortal controls powers of nature like fire and wind or elements of humanity such as fear and judgment.
You can often find Valerie hosting workshops about writing and self-publishing in the Orlando, Florida area or working on the next novel. She loves to inspire other writers and creative minds. Be sure to visit her blog for some of the writing advice she has to offer. Uniquely, she brings in a perspective that has influences from Game Development and Graphic Design.