Author Interview | Meet passionate author Gina Vallance and her middle-grade novel #mglit #interview
I’m so excited because today I have a special guest featured on N. N. Light’s Book Heaven. Gina Vallance is a middle-grade author with a passion for creative writing, expressive writing, and art therapy. So, sit down, grab your favorite beverage, and join us for this insightful interview. Take it away, Gina:
What authors inspired you?
Middle-grade author Judy Blume inspired me as a child. I adored her book, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, along with her entire Fudge series!
As I grew older, I loved reading fantasy and historical fiction. Anne Rice was a massive inspiration for me as a writer, and I was so heartbroken when I heard about her passing.
When I realized that I wanted to write middle-grade fiction, I became enthralled by J.K. Rowling’s work. I loved her characters from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and I’ve always dreamt of writing as many books as she has. I also hope to one day see my book, Amberly and the Secret of the Fairy Warriors, adapted to film.
Author Sandra Cisneros is also an inspiration for me as a writer. One of my favorites is still her book titled, The House on Mango Street.
Have you always liked to write?
Creative writing has always been my first love. I have been writing since I was eight years old. I remember the first short story I ever wrote was in third grade, and it was about my sweet Scottish Terrier, Caesar. He was an adorable dog, and I loved writing magical stories about him.
If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
I would cast Jennifer Lawrence as the voice of Amberly for the animated film version of my book. She was terrific in the Hunger Games when she played the role of Katniss, a strong, athletic, and introspective teen. She would be perfect for the part of Amberly.
I would also cast Ellen DeGeneres as Safflower the butterfly because I loved when Ellen played the role of Dory in “Finding Nemo.” Ellen would be perfect for the voice of Safflower because Safflower has a sense of humor and who else has the best sense of humor other than Ellen?
I think that for the role of Spice, Amberly’s best friend, I would cast Rihanna. I loved Rihanna in the Dream Works animation film, Home, and I think she would be perfect for the voice of Amberly’s bubbly friend. Of course, I would also love to work with her on creating the film’s soundtrack. Rihanna has such a beautiful voice, and it would be a dream come true to have her sing in the movie!
What is your vice?
I’d have to say that coffee is my vice, mainly when I write! I love a fresh cup of coffee in the morning. It definitely helps the words pour out onto the page. Not only do I love the way coffee keeps me focused, but I love the aroma of a steaming hot cup of coffee in the morning. I don’t know what I’d do without my morning coffee. I’m pretty sure my characters would suffer without it!
Are you a plotter or a panster?
I’m a plotter. I love outlines because I always want to know exactly where my story is headed. I tend to write down the theme of the story first, then the problems my main character will face. Once I have that and their strengths and weaknesses decided, the fun part begins, and I can visualize my main character. Knowing my character’s strengths and weaknesses from the beginning makes it easier for me to visualize what type of character would work for the story, whether it be a human, animal, or fantasy creature.
What helps guide me with plotting is Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. It’s one of my favorite books on creative writing because it focuses on planning out the plot points of your story which ultimately makes the writing process even more enjoyable.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on the way they sound or their meaning?
I choose names because of their meaning. I research and pick names that reflect my characters' personalities. For instance, Amberly is a combination of Amber and Kimberly. Amber comes from the color amber, which describes a warm honey shade and means “jewel.” Amberly is a gem. She is a one-of-a-kind fairy, and her wings are an orange honey color.
The name Kimberly means “meadow.” The word meadow reminded me of the meadows in Whimsical Land where Amberly lives.
Also, Amberly’s father is named Foster, which means “guardian of the Forest.” I felt that this name was perfect for Amberly’s father since he is the protector of his family.
What is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear would be if I were in a situation that would cause me never to write again. That would be my worst fear because not only is writing enjoyable to me, but the mere act of writing is also therapeutic. When I focus on journaling and creative writing every day, it helps to rid myself of anxiety. Writing is also like breathing for me, so I would never want to be robbed of the ability to use my hands and my imagination to write.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
If I had a superpower, it would be the power to heal people and animals. I hate to see anyone suffer, and I would love to heal all who are ill or in pain, especially children and animals.
The character Onyx is a magical healer. Her character comes from that part of me that wishes to heal those I love and anyone who is suffering.
If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
I think that if I were an animal, I would be a hummingbird. Hummingbirds are small, fast, and colorful, just like tiny fairies. Their love for sweet nectar and sugar water reminds me of my own sweet tooth, and I love watching hummingbirds drink from our hummingbird feeders in our garden every day.
I feel a kind of spiritual connection with hummingbirds. They are not like other birds, and they are unique because they can fly backward. I think that is an incredible ability for a bird to have!
What were you like as a child?
As a child, I suffered from Meniere's disease, an inner ear disorder that causes dizziness, nausea, loss of balance, and hearing loss. Several days each month, I was completely bedridden due to dizziness and nausea, causing me to miss a tremendous amount of school. I also suffered from anxiety and depression due to the debilitating disease that I had no relief from until young adulthood.
However, when I experienced breaks from the unbearable and cyclical symptoms of Meniere’s as a child, I did a lot of daydreaming, and I Ioved to read and write short stories and plays. I loved theater and film and still do!
I appeared as a quiet child to those around me, but there were always lots of stories and action going on in my imagination! As an only child, I was lucky enough to receive a great deal of attention from my grandparents. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of when the Meniere’s symptoms would subside, and my grandparents would take me to Downtown Los Angeles to see the latest plays and Broadway musicals, further expanding my imagination.
I was in heaven when my grandparents took me to the Hollywood walk of fame to see movies and celebrity footprints in the front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. After, we would eat at Pink’s Famous Hot Dogs. We even took bus tours of movie stars' homes throughout the years. My favorite celebrity home was always Lucille Ball’s white mansion.
As a child, I was fascinated by nature and the outdoors. I felt like my backyard was my stage where I would create fairytale plays, fantasy fiction, and cartoon characters as I roamed the yard in creative thought.
I valued playing outside more than anything because so much of my time was spent recovering in bed. When I wasn’t making mud pies, trying to catch butterflies, or playing with my Scotty dog, I would sit on my swing that hung from our beautiful California orange tree and daydream about the stories I would write one day.
Scroll down to check out Gina’s latest book…
Title: Amberly and the Secret of the Fairy Warriors
Author: Gina Vallance
Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy
Twelve-year-old Amberly doesn't quite fit in with all the other fairies in Whimsical Land. One of her wings is undersized and paralyzed and instead of flying she has to run and leap through the air with the help of a stick. It's awkward, it's no fun, and she sometimes gets bullied for it, too. Worse than that, her mother worries about her disability and won't let her take sword-fighting lessons with her sorcerer uncle. But Amberly's been reading a fascinating book, Secret of the Fairy Warriors, and it's given her a clue to where her father disappeared when she was a young fairy. If she doesn't learn how to be a fairy warrior, she'll never get the chance to rescue him. Dark forces are at work, though, and Amberly and her fairy-butterfly watcher Safflower fall through a magical portal to where everything's in dark and scary contrast to the brilliance and light of Whimsical Land. Someone she meets and what she does there will change her life forever.
This middle-grade fantasy bursts with imagination and tucked into all the fun and adventure are unforgettable lessons on self-acceptance, personal empowerment, and overcoming adversity.
As Amberly leapt high into the air, she fluttered her wings and shook off her own pixie dust from her healthy right wing over the wildflowers. Then she saw Calista hovering below her. Amberly jumped right over Calista and rustled her sister’s soft, curly brown hair with her hand. “Hi sis!” she said. When she landed, her running stick sunk deep into the soft, damp soil. She fell backward and ended up in a sitting position beside her sister.
“Hi love. You all right?” said Calista as she fluttered her periwinkle blue wings.
Embarrassed, Amberly stood up and brushed herself off. “Why do I always end up falling to the ground? I’m a fairy not a troll!” she shouted as a few of the other fairies giggled behind her back.
“Don’t say that, Amberly! Being different isn’t a curse. You should be proud of your strength and speed. After all, it’s our unique abilities that can save us when we least expect it,” Calista said as she gently patted her little sister’s back.
“How can I save anyone, especially Father, if I have to use this stick forever! I hate it!”
“That stick helps you leap and run faster that any fairy can fly, little sis! If you didn’t have it, you wouldn’t be able to run and jump the way you do. Who cares if it interferes with your landings once in a while? That’s why you have this!” said Calista as she knocked on the top of Amberly’s acorn helmet with her curled fist and smiled.
“But, I’m the only fairy in the world that can’t fly. It’s not normal!” shouted Amberly.
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Gina Vallance has an AA degree in child development and a BA in English. She has worked as a preschool teacher and also as an art activity facilitator in a courthouse's children's waiting room. A childhood illness that sometimes left her marginalized and bullied was the inspiration for Amberly, a fairy who refuses to be sidelined by her disability. Gina works in Social Services in Los Angeles County and is happily married to her soulmate. They have a Shorkie dog named Emma, a Malshi dog named Raffaele, and two feline sisters named Belle and Jasmine. The next book in Gina's series, Onyx, is on the way.
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