|Today’s author interview is with the talented Val Tobin, author of The Experiencers, The Valiant Chronicles, and Gillian’s Island.
Please welcome Val Tobin to XterraWeb’s Author Interview Series. We hope you enjoy this interview as much as we did.
Before we get started, we would like to thank Val for taking the time to give us this interview.
Amor Libris: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Val Tobin: I have a diploma in computer information systems and ten years of industry experience doing software and web development. That satisfied the left brain part of me. However, I’ve always had a fascination for the paranormal, philosophical, theological, and spiritual.
In October of 2004, I became a certified Reiki Master/Teacher. I went on to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Parapsychic Science from The American Institute of Holistic Theology in 2007 and then a Master’s in Parapsychology in 2016. During that time, I also went to Kona, Hawaii to study under Doreen Virtue and completed both the Angel Therapy Practitioner ® training and Advanced ATP ® training.
I’ve participated in paranormal investigations in the US and Canada.
I draw on all of that in my writing.
Throughout my life, I wrote whenever I could, but I only published non-fiction articles. I wrote for Community MX and other online publications. I have a story published in Angel Words, a Hay House book by Doreen Virtue and Grant Virtue.
My dream was always to write a novel, and in 2012, circumstances allowed me to write The Experiencers. Since then, I’ve been publishing one or two novels a year.
Amor Libris: What is your favorite motivational phrase, and why?
Val Tobin: “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
That quote resonates with me because creative people live in their own worlds, as I always have. When I was a child, I was accused of daydreaming, being over-sensitive, and being odd. Pursuing education in a field that explores the metaphysical reinforces that reputation.
I once woke up in the early morning to find a man standing next to my bed. At first, I was terrified that someone had broken into the house. When I realized I could see through him, I relaxed. It was only a spirit. Many would believe I was dreaming or hallucinating, but that’s just another version of hearing what others might not—in this case, it was seeing what others might not.
Amor Libris: What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Val Tobin: Read. I read like a fiend.
Amor Libris: What books and/or authors have influenced you the most?
Val Tobin: Authors: Margaret Atwood, Nora Roberts, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Marion Zimmer Bradley, George R. R. Martin, Ayn Rand, Stephen King. There are too many to list them all.
Books: The Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, Duncton Wood, The Chronicles of Narnia, Charlotte’s Web, Gone with the Wind, A Handmaid’s Tale, Rebecca, Atlas Shrugged, A Wrinkle in Time, Anne of Green Gables. Again, there are too many to list them all.
I’ve listed some children’s novels, because they influenced my evolution as a person and as a writer.
Amor Libris: Are there any new authors who have caught your attention?
Val Tobin: Some authors who recently caught my attention (so, new to me, not necessarily to the writing world) include Nora Roberts—yes, I only discovered Nora Roberts in the last couple of years—Michael Connelly, Lee Child (also discovered in the last year or two), Gillian Flynn, and Jodi Picoult.
As well, I’ve got some indie authors on my list of new author gems: Nico Laeser, Rebecca Bryn, Alan Annand, Jennifer Young, Janet Cameron, John Erwin, and too many more to name. Most of the indie authors I read can be found on the IASD website or on Your Next Favorite Author.
Rebecca Bryn I discovered when I beta read her current WIP (Work in Progress). She posted on Facebook that she required beta readers, and I volunteered because her story sounded interesting. It was based on a true story and is historical fiction. Her style is riveting.
I became interested in Nico Laeser’s work the same way.
Amor Libris: Can you share the title and blurb of your latest book?
Val Tobin: Earthbound is my current WIP (Work in Progress). It’s a prequel to The Experiencers and part of The Valiant Chronicles series.
Jayden McQueen is dead. However, that’s the least of her worries. Turns out, she’s a murder victim, and nobody knows it but her.
Who killed her? Why? How?
In her quest to find answers, Jayden sets in motion events that propel humanity toward a future already written. But just because events appear inevitable doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight them. Does it?
Amor Libris: Who is your favorite character from your latest book, and why?
Val Tobin: Jayden McQueen stole my heart. She’s scrappy and saucy and relatable. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to attend my own funeral. I explore that through Jayden.
Amor Libris: Are any of the characters and/or experiences in your books based upon yourself or someone you know?
Val Tobin: Arnie Griffen, from The Valiant Chronicles, is a composite of two guys I knew years ago. Gillian Foster from Gillian’s Island is an introvert, as am I, so in that way, you can say her character is based on me. However, my characters are a construct of the story world. They evolve based on their family history and environment, not on what I steal from reality.
The experiences in my novels do at times draw on real-life experiences, particularly The Experiencers.
Michael’s “dream” of Jessica reflects an experience someone I know had, as does Carolyn’s encounter with a UFO in the school yard. Carolyn’s visit from someone in the spirit world when she’s sitting on her back deck reflects the incident of the spirit that I mentioned above. Her method of picking up psychic messages reflects my own, though she’s much more psychic than I’ll ever be.
Amor Libris: Can you share with us about what you are working on now or your next project?
Val Tobin: My next project will be a contribution to the About Three Authors series of books available on Amazon. So far, there are two published works in the series, Whoever Said Love Was Easy? by Patti Roberts and Stolen Hearts & Muddy Pawprints by Georgina Ramsey.
My contribution, Out There, follows three wannabe authors suffering from various mental disorders who find love in unexpected places when they interfere in the investigation of a colleague’s murder.
Amor Libris: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Val Tobin: Hire an editor. Mine have saved me from making some embarrassing errors public.
Amor Libris: How can we contact you and find out more about you and your books?
FB author page: www.facebook.com/valtobinauthor/
Amazon profile page: www.amazon.com/Val-Tobin/e/B00KC5S69K/
Smashwords profile page: www.smashwords.com/profile/view/valtobin
Universal Links to Books:
The Experiencers: www.books2read.com/TheExperiencers
A Ring of Truth: www.books2read.com/ARingOfTruth
Gillian’s Island: www.books2read.com/gilliansisland
Storm Lake: www.books2read.com/stormlake
15 Ways to Make Readers Hate Your Book
All authors want readers to enjoy their books. Authors want readers to feel good, come back for more, and tell their friends to read the author’s book. No author wants readers to hate their books, stop reading, or feel like throwing the book and/or Kindle.
In life, we can’t make everyone happy, and everyone won’t always like us. The general rule is that 30% of people will like you no matter what, and 30% will never like you no matter what. You can affect whether or not the remaining 40% will like you.
The same concept applies to books and readers. Every reader won’t love your book. Approximately 30% of readers will love your book no matter what, and 30% will hate your book no matter what (e.g., don’t like the genre, don’t like sex in books, don’t like strong language, there is a trigger for them in the book). Worry about the 40% of readers who could go either way. Focus on making them love your book, and use the tips below to avoid making readers hate your book.
1. Book Covers That Don’t Fit
The book cover is often the first thing a reader will see. Readers have expectations for the covers of specific genres. If a book cover screams romance but is really a mystery, readers will feel misled. Not only do readers expect the cover to fit the genre, they also expect the cover to relate to the story and give them some insight into a piece of the story and/or a character. If a book cover features a castle on it, there better be a castle that plays an important part in the story.
2. Too Much Description and/or Background Information
Readers do not want to be overloaded with background information (a.k.a. info dump). Giving too much background information at once can bore readers and lead to skipping pages or putting your book down. If the information is integral to the plot or the character, then by all means, share it, but spread it out throughout the story. Share the information through a mix of narrative and dialogue.
When it comes to detail, readers don’t want to know everything, nor do they need to know everything. Yes, detail helps paint a picture for readers, but readers don’t need to know every nook and cranny of a room and every characteristic of every item in a room. Detail can help explain what a character is doing and why, but readers don’t need to know every single thing a character does before and after the important piece of detail. If each step is explained in detail, you risk readers skipping that section, which could lead to readers missing an important piece of information that was included in the detail. If it isn’t important for the plot or the character, stick with something simple.
3. Unwarranted Romance and/or Gratuitous Sex Scenes
Don’t throw in romance just because. Romance needs to fit with the plot and the characters. If a romance between two characters isn’t necessary to make the plot work or for character development, then don’t add it. Romance thrown in just because will stick out to readers and leave them trying to figure out how the romantic relationship fits with the plot. A romance thrown in just because can also change the way readers look at your characters.
Don’t add sex scenes just for filler or because you think readers want them. If the sex scene isn’t integral to the development of the relationship between two characters, doesn’t move the plot forward, or doesn’t add to the characteristics and development of a character, leave it out. There’s no reason to throw in a random sex scene just because. It leaves readers with the impression that you were looking to provoke a reaction in the reader or attempt to garner interest in your story again.
4. No Hook Within Chapter One
Within the first chapter, preferably the first page, authors should “hook” the reader. The reader should be enticed with an interesting character or premise. Present something that is different, stands out, captures the reader’s attention, and leaves the reader wanting to know more. A hook is an attention-getter that causes readers to keep reading. If a reader’s curiosity hasn’t been piqued, they may choose not to continue reading your book.
Read more about Creating a Hook.
5. Death of Too Many Characters or Death Without Meaning
If it’s a war or big fight scene, it’s okay for multiple unknown characters to die. However, killing off a main character’s entire family and all of his/her friends throughout the story will cause a problem with readers. It feels like a ploy to garner sympathy for the character or turn the character into a victim or “poor me” character who always has something bad happen to him/her and his/her loved ones.
Yes, you can kill off one or a few characters readers might have connected with; however, there must be a meaning or purpose to the death. If there is no meaning to the death, readers will feel the character was killed just for the sake of adding drama/conflict to the story through means of a main character who is now grieving.
6. Predictable Plot
Yes, there are similar plots, especially within specific genres. Romances are one genre that have one of the most predictable plots—girl meets boy, stuff happens, and girl and boy live happily ever after. A general predictable plot is fine, but your plot needs to stand out so it isn’t completely predictable. What makes your story different? Are there any unexpected conflicts and/or twists? What makes your characters unique? What makes readers feel your story is different from all the other stories in this genre?
7. Stereotypical Characters
Stereotypical characters are ones that readers easily recognize like Mr. or Ms. Perfect, the victim, the school bully, the boy/girl next door, the damsel in distress, the antihero, the absent-minded professor, and the femme fatale. Readers already know everything about this character and can figure out what will happen with this character quickly. Your character needs to be unique. Something about your character needs to stand out to readers so they can connect with your character.
If you create a stereotypical character, be prepared for readers to complain about a boring, flat character who they couldn’t really connect with.
8. Cliffhanger Not Done Right
A cliffhanger is designed to leave readers in suspense while they wait for the next book, but it needs to be done right. An abrupt ending with no closure that doesn’t answer any questions or resolve any conflicts will lead to angry readers who want to throw your book. A cliffhanger done right will resolve at least one major conflict for one main character. A cliffhanger done right will answer most of the questions readers have but will leave them with new questions at the very end.
9. Head Hopping and/or Unclear POV
Head hopping and/or an unclear POV will leave readers wondering who, what, and why. Head hopping occurs when the viewpoint shifts between characters without proper transitions. Readers won’t know who is doing what, why a character is doing something, and why a character is feeling a certain way. Readers will have no idea if it is Laura or Mark who is late to the meeting nor will they know if Laura is upset with Mark or Mark is upset with Laura. It can make it difficult for readers to determine whose head they are in and whose experiences they are following. This leads to confusion and destroys the emotional connection readers have with characters.
Read about Choosing a POV.
10. Overused Clichés
Clichés lose meaning and impact the more they are used. Clichés are boring and readers get a sense of “blah” when they read a cliché instead of feeling what the author intended to convey. Instead of using a well-known cliché, use your own words to create metaphors that will resonate with readers.
11. Unhappy Non-Ending
Everything doesn’t need to be a perfect happily ever after at the end of the story. The ending can be unexpected, happy for now, or even not so happy, but don’t leave readers without an ending and a sense of closure. This will leave readers feeling disappointed, disgusted, and dejected.
12. Characters Who Break Character
Characters can change throughout the course of the story, but this change should be gradual. Bob can’t be a vindictive, heartless jerk who kicks stray dogs in one chapter and then two chapters later be a kind, caring man who volunteers at the homeless shelter and adopts stray dogs.
A sudden change will leave readers confused, unable to connect with the “changed” character, and with unanswered questions as to the how and why of the character’s change. A character’s change needs to occur over a period of time and something needs to trigger that change. There has to be a period of reflection showing the character recognizes who he was and what he was like compared to the person he is becoming.
13. Awkward Phrasing
Awkward phrasing is difficult or confusing to read. Awkward phrasing includes sentences that are too wordy, have dangling and/or misplaced modifiers, are repetitive, and include unnecessary passive voice.
Awkward phrasing can slow readers down and leave readers guessing at the author’s intended meaning. Readers might miss something important or interpret a sentence in a different way than the author intended. Readers may have to read a sentence several times in an attempt to understand what you are trying to say. Readers don’t want to have to guess at the author’s intended meaning, nor do readers want to reread sentences. If this occurs too often, readers will become frustrated and may stop reading your book.
14. Lack of Consistency
Consistency is important not just to your characters and plot but also to readers. If consistency is lacking, readers will notice. Lack of consistency can confuse readers and cause readers to look back in the book to make sure they didn’t miss something. Be consistent with capitalized terms and spelling (especially names and terms you’ve created). Be consistent with locations and their descriptions, character descriptions, and timelines.
15. Too Many Typos and Errors
Yes, even traditionally published books might contain typos and errors, but too many typos and errors, especially encountered early in a book, will lead to frustrated readers who put your book down. At the very least, readers expect that authors will have reviewed their work and had it reviewed by others. Some typos and errors can be caught and fixed if authors have carefully reviewed their work and had beta readers or advance reviewers read their book. Some readers expect that authors, whether traditionally published or self-published, will have had an editor go over their work, and these readers expect to find very few, if any, typos and errors.
Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Do you agree or disagree with the points in this article?
Authors, have you discovered other things that make readers hate a book?
Readers, what makes you hate a book?