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Interview with Valerie Goree

After returning from the mission field, Valerie Goree decided to try her hand at writing for pleasure. However, the many other demands on her time—a husband, kids, and teaching career—gave her little time to pursue her craft. Years later, she purchased her first word processor and has been writing ever since. Today, she shares about her latest book, her favorite writing buddy, and a funny story about her name. Hint: Her name is pronounced “Gory,” and she writes romantic suspense.

Congratulations on the publication of your book! What drew you to writing suspense?
I enjoy reading romantic suspense, so it seemed natural for me to write stories in this genre. Creating a hook to end each chapter is always so much fun.

You seem to have international settings in some of your novels. Was this inspired by living abroad?
My novel, Forever Under Blue Skies, is set in Australia. My grandmother was born there, and I always had a hankering to visit her birthplace. After researching family history, my husband and I spent a long vacation there visiting cousins and scoping out the land.

Where is Justice at Dawn set, and why did you pick that location?
Justice at Dawn is set in California, specifically San Diego and the area west of San Juan Capistrano, Capers Wilderness Park, and the Cleveland National Forest. I needed a setting where a cabin could be located in an isolated area.

What's the most unique thing you have done in the name of research?
Back when I was younger and more agile, I asked my husband to tie my hands behind my back and help me get into the trunk of a car. I wanted to make sure my heroine could slip her tied hands around her bent legs and then open the trunk. (By the way, cars made in the USA since 2002 are required to have an emergency latch in the trunk.) After much huffing and puffing and contortionist’s moves, I was able to free myself.

The series is centered on an organization that retrieves kidnapping victims. Were you inspired by a real organization?
International Retrieval Organization, IRO, is my creation, a detective agency on steroids, with advanced technology and unlimited funds. It was so much fun to create a story world where my characters’ ingenuity was supported by the organization’s resources.

Where do you get your ideas for plots?
The plot for the Weep in the Night, the first novel in my Stolen Lives Trilogy, came from a spark of an idea. One day while doing laundry—yes, the mundane chore—I thought it would be unique to begin a story with the line, “I’d been in the Witness Protection Program for three years, when…” The rest of the story flowed from that initial idea, although I did not use that line. The two other novels in the trilogy were easy to plot because I already had IRO established and a large number of agents from which to choose as my hero or heroine.

What is your favorite part of writing? What is your least favorite?
I enjoy revising my story. The basic plot has been created. I can go back to add sights and sounds so the reader feels she is in the scene, and then I add depth to characters and, of course, fix holes in the plot. I don’t really have a least favorite part. Research is fun, creating backstory for my characters draws on my imagination, and although I have a basic plot outlined, the characters often tell me in which direction they want to go.

What do you believe is the most important thing to do if you want to become a good writer?
Read novels in your genre, attend workshops or conferences, read craft books, join a critique group, but most importantly, hone your skills by writing, writing, writing. You can only improve your skills by “practicing.”

What's the funniest thing that has happened to you as a writer?
My surname is pronounced just like the messy, “gory” word. Many years ago, before you could design business cards online, I went to Office Max to have cards made. As the young assistant helped me choose the font and wording etc., he asked if Goree was my real name. “Why?” “Because you said you write suspense, so I thought you might have chosen that name to complement your novels. You know, so people would associate your name with your stories.” Alas no, my husband’s family came to the USA from France in the late 1600s.

With three pets at home, are any of them considered your "writing buddy?"
My cat likes to be as close to me as possible when I’m working on my laptop. She’ll either sleep in the inbox on my desk or park herself on the sofa next to me, periodically giving me the “eye” because she can’t be on my lap.

What lesson do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Several points: Just going to church is not enough; we must strive to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Self-forgiveness is crucial to a healthy spiritual life. God is not a satellite system. We don’t get all the directions for our lives up front. We need to navigate the daily events with caution and pray over all decisions. That is how we access his guidance so we can pursue our God-given purpose.
Jody Stinson believes every story deserves a happy ending—even if she has to write one herself. After an international upbringing, she continues to travel whenever she can. Her goal is to take her readers somewhere new, make them smile, and give them hope through Christ. She currently writes freelance including articles, devotionals, commercials, and even a client's wedding toast.

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