Suzy Krause is the author of the new novel Valencia and Valentine. She lives in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Valencia and Valentine?
A: I think the very first seed of an idea for this book came from the song "Heart," by Stars. It’s been one of my favorites for a very long time—one of those simple, vague songs that sounds like there’s a whole story behind it. After years and years of imagining what that story might be, I began to write it down.
As for the characters: I heard once that every author’s first novel is really a thinly-veiled autobiography, and I think there’s truth to that—because it’s easier, on your first foray into writing made-up characters, to use characteristics of real ones that you know very, very intimately. And who do you know more intimately than yourself?
So when I started writing this thing, I decided to (very loosely) base Valencia’s character on the parts of myself that I didn’t like, and Mrs. V’s off of some version of myself that I’d like to be someday. Through the process of giving them lives and emotions and backstories, though, I grew empathy for Valencia and discovered that Mrs. Valentine still had a lot of her own issues—and that the two actually had a lot more in common than I’d initially thought, which is why the book ends the way it does.
Q: The novel is told in alternating chapters focusing first on Valencia and then on Valentine--did you write the novel in the order in which it appears, or did you focus more on one and then turn to the other?
A: I wrote it, for the most part, in the order in which it appears. I’d never attempted a novel before this (I was a blogger!), so being able to write in short vignettes was helpful.
Q: OCD is a major part of the novel, and you've noted that you've dealt with OCD for many years. Why did you decide to include it in the novel, and was it difficult to write about it?
A: I didn’t initially set out to write a book about OCD, but very early on it made its way in there and took over (this interview really makes me sound like I’m completely out of control when I write, and that’s very accurate).
I was writing chapter three and I realized more than decided that Valencia had OCD. I thought, oh, that explains so much—but, considering the thinly-veiled autobiography thing, maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise at all.
Writing Valencia’s character was such a good exercise for me, though, and really helped me to understand my own brain so much better. I think the absolute best thing you can do for your mental health is (simply put but not simply done) understand your own mind.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?
A: I’d love for people to read this book and realize that OCD isn’t a funny little expression that means “nit-picky.” Some early reviewers have been so caught off-guard by the fact that the mental illness represented in the pages of V&V isn’t “adorable” or “funny,” and I think that speaks volumes about the way this particular mental illness is thought of (or not thought of enough) in our society. I’d love for this book to be something that sparks conversation and teaches empathy for people who struggle this way.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on my second and third novels! One will be published in the summer of 2020, also by Lake Union, and hopefully the other will follow soon(ish) after. Book two is about three women who end up living in the same (purportedly haunted) house after their significant people “ghost” them and it’s a little more upbeat and lighthearted than this one.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Sure. Since I don’t think this is going to come up casually in any other interview, I would like it to be known that I wrote Valencia and Valentine, in its entirety, on a laptop with a T key that would pop off and fall on the floor every single time I hit it. Super, super annoying.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb