end-based writer (and Mountain View High School grad) Kathleen Valenti spends her days writing advertising copy—but she's just published her first novel, a mystery titled "Protocol." I picked the book up recently, and like many mysteries that have held me in their grip until it's late in the night and my family has abandoned all hope of a home-cooked meal, Valenti's page-turner ended up occupying the better part of my weekend. The book follows young researcher Maggie O'Malley as she gets swept into a web of murder and deceit.
I sat down with Valenti after reading the book to talk shop.
Source Weekly: Let's talk about your writing process and how you went from being an advertising copywriter to an author of mystery novels.
Kathleen Valenti: I had this delusion that it wouldn't be so hard. That was the beginning of a very long journey with lots of twists and turns, but here I am today with a book in my hand. I would say that from the beginning of the concept to book in hand, it took about six or seven years, it was a really long time. A lot of that was because I didn't really treat it like a job. I wrote when I felt like it which, when you write all day long for your job, turns out to be not very often.
SW: What was your publishing experience like?
KV: Trying to find an agent is really competitive, it's tough to break in, but through that process I got a lot of requests to read which was great, and every agent gave feedback, so if I started to notice a trend in that feedback I would go and rework the manuscript. A year and a half ago I found an agent. Just a few months after that I got a contract with a press called Henery Press. They do mostly mysteries and it was a great fit.
SW: How did you learn how to structure a book, after writing ad copy for so long?
KV: I went about it pretty studiously. I read books and I went to seminars and all that kind of stuff. I sort of outlined, but I got lost along the way, especially in the overall structure. That was the hardest part, and the feedback I kept getting from agents. They said they loved the characters, they love the voice, but the pacing was off. It took me a long time to figure out what that meant and what it came down to in a mystery was having the right order of events and sequencing them in such a way that you're compelling the reader to turn the page.
SW: But the story wasn't over yet, was it?
KV: What my final revision was before landing the agent was: I actually took my book completely apart. I didn't throw it out, but I ripped out all the scenes and reordered the entire thing. It was fantastic, but it created a lot of editing challenges, because I had all kinds of continuity problems, like what day I was on, and it made for really confusing editing, but it was the right choice.
That first book took six or seven years, and I just finished my second book, which took about six months. A lot of it was because I took it way more seriously because I had a deadline, but the other part was that I did learn some lessons.
SW: You have one book on shelves—but we're not done with Maggie O'Malley yet, are we?
KV: I wrote this book as a standalone. When I was approached by this publisher, they said, "We love the characters, we would like to make it a series."
I said, "Well, it's not a series, it's just one book."
They said, "Well we would really like to make it a series." This was great because I knew the characters and had all of their backstories; it worked out. The first three books are lined up and then we will see. If they do well then hopefully they'll want to continue. It just depends on how everything goes.
-Intern Sophia Sahm contributed to this report.
by Kathleen Valenti
From Henery Press
Available at Roundabout Books, Barnes & Noble, Amazon & iTunes.
Reading with Kathleen Valenti
Part of the Deschutes Public Library's "Know Trails" program
Thurs., Nov. 16
East Bend Public Library
62080 Dean Swift Rd., Bend