Author interviews, Why I Write

Why I Write – Val Penny

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Today is the start of my exciting new blog series, Why I Write. I’m thrilled to begin with my friend and fellow Darkstroke author, Val Penny…

My Writing Journey – Val Penny

Thank you for inviting me to visit your blog today. I have always enjoyed telling stories as well as listening to them. I have fond memories of Sunday afternoons at home with my mother when my sister and I would be allowed into the ‘good’ sitting room to cuddle up on either side of her to listen while she read classic stories to us. I particularly enjoyed Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Emma by Jane Austen and Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome.

However, the first story I remember telling was at school when I was six or seven years old. It was about a horse, which I did not have that was stolen by neighbours, who had no more use for a horse than I did and the neighbours were eaten by a wild lion for their trouble. (There are few wild lions in Scotland!) I then progressed to making up stories for my little sister after our mother had put out the light but before we were ready to go to sleep. They were adventure stories with lots of clever children solving exciting mysteries. They were a combination between Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books and the television series The Partridge Family. I transcribed one of the stories into a book, complete with original illustrations – The Douglas Family – I still have the handwritten story somewhere.

Then, for many years I wrote only professional papers and lectures, but when I re-married I relocated from Edinburgh to SW Scotland. I resigned from my job and shortly after that was diagnosed with breast cancer. The treatment was completely successful but debilitating. My immune system was suppressed by the chemotherapy and radiotherapy and I could not undertake many of the activities I enjoyed such as travel, swimming or walking. I just didn’t have the energy to do much and day-time television gets very old very fast.

I reverted to my first love, reading. I read voraciously and reviewed every book I read. Then, as I got a little better and had a little more energy, my husband laid down a challenge: ‘If you know so much about what makes a good book, why don’t you write one?’

It took me about three years to right that first novel, Hunter’s Chase. My main character, DI Hunter Wilson lives and works in Edinburgh. During that period I received a great deal of advice and encouragement from established authors including Peter Robinson who wrote the DCI Alan Banks series of police procedurals, Michael Jecks who writes historical thrillers and Erin Kelly author of Broadchurch and He Said/She Said.

I sent my manuscript to two independent, traditional publishers and naively believed they would both be happy to get it. I had no idea how remote the chances were of a manuscript being accepted for publication. So, when both replied saying they would like to publish my novel, I was thrilled. The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries had begun. There are now five novels in the series and the sixth is due out next year. I am also working on a new series of books based around the lesbian detective, DS Jane Renwick.

My writing journey continues and it still fascinates me and intrigues me in equal measure.

About the Author:

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, Hunter’s Chase, Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force and Hunter’s Blood are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by darkstroke. The fifth book in the series, Hunter’s Secret, was published this year and her first nonfiction book, Let’s Get Published is available now too.

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