Thursday, 16 May 2013

Valentine Williams: Losing It

Please welcome author, Valentine Williams, to the blog today. Poet and novelist, Valentine releases her third novel today, Losing It.

Losing It is unlike anything Tirgearr Publishing has put out before. This is a heart-gripping story. Part psychological thriller, part drama, part self-help, part inspirational in its own way, this story is not for the faint-hearted reader. There is some serious reading in this story.

Inspired by her work in the mental health field, Valentine pens a story of a woman who's lost touch with reality, Jane. She's been institutionalized for a crime she knows nothing about until Dr. Bruce enrolls her in a program to bring about her memories. Emotionally tortured, Jane escapes when she's allowed to attend her sister's funeral and returns to Belgium, and the scene where it all happened. Memories flood back in intense floods. How can she cope with what she's done? Is there only one solution for it?

Losing It will have you sitting forward in your seat as you read. It will have you clutching your throat to hold back your own emotions. It will send you through a whirlwind of your own, battling between feeling sorry for Jane and wanting to see her get what she deserves. Gripping stuff. I love books which make me think, and this one gave my mind a real workout.

Before we get to the excerpt, we had a chance to chat with Valentine, and asked her about her life when she's not writing.

Welcome, Valentine!

You're one busy lady . . . novel writing, poetry, teaching . . . so we really appreciate you've had a moment to speak with us.

I have it in my mind that I want to know more about where you got the idea for this story and what your research was like, but I'll save that for the next interview. Today, let's concentrate on *you*, the author, and how you work. Please, describe your writing space for our readers.

I work in a small room upstairs in my cottage, surrounded by reference books and assorted stuff (vinyl LPs of obscure Heavy Metal bands, discarded artwork and unwanted camping equipment left over from when our fourth son lived with us) and although cluttered, it is at least quiet. There is a small guest bedroom next door. I have a small china ornament next to my desk, a bearded Chinese sage resting by a barrel, which I love because he looks so contented, and a small wooden handmade toy of pecking chickens, a favourite of my grandaughter, that I bought in Poland. The door to my room, being old, is warped and has a latch, which I like because it reminds me of the house I was born in. I work on an old  PC and one day when I have some money I'll update it, but it does for now. Although I can see out of the window in front of my desk, I often draw the curtains across in case it distracts me. Just now the garden is coming alive with blossom – very distracting!

There are shelves full of my own books to the left of my desk – poetry, self help, two fiction novels I published with Immanion, anthologies with my stories in them, dictionaries, a thesaurus and box files with notes for future work. Oh yes, there's also a small filing cabinet for contracts and correspondance.  I promise to tidy it all up soon!

Heavy metal? Really?? It's always the quiet ones you have to watch out for. We'll have to talk bands one day. That could be an interview in itself {she says, turning up the volume on Pink Floyd}

So, tell us what your writing routine is like. Do you have a set schedule, like a {gulp} real job, or do you just see what the day has planned for you?

I get up early, attend to various chores and sit down to write  at around eight thirty, armed with a coffee and a note about what needs doing. Revisions? Website? Contact publishers? Check emails? That done, I work on whatever the current project is. At present I'm working on a murder mystery set in Italy, so I'm spending time researching 'Ndrangheda, the Mafia offshoot. At around midday I go down to the kitchen and get some lunch and chat to Mr W., then I go out for exercise and return to my writing late afternoon or early evening. Last week my routine was interrupted by a radio interview, a poetry open mic event and a reading by three poets. I collect a poetry prize next month, and preparing for that has been time consuming too. Sometimes I'm surprised I manage to finish anything, but deadlines keep me focused. 

Congratulations on the poetry prize! You do sound busy, but it also sounds very productive, which is a good busy. Your mafia story sounds interesting. Will be have another Mario Puzo in the future? I'm thinking, maybe!

What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

Mostly what I do when I'm not writing is to join my husband or friends and visit art galleries, flea markets or music events, and as many of our friends are artists, musicians or poets, this is  always interesting and comes under the heading of FUN in my life. We both love world cinema and have recently seen Untouchable for the second time, with the remarkable Omar Cy. Having cooked for six hungry people every night for years, I now take every opportunity to eat out and somehow we usually end up in a curry house, or a pub. Keeping in touch with family and friends means we travel quite a lot, but I've become adept at using our trips away to take notes and get ideas for stories. I really love listening to the stories told to me by people we meet, and usually find a way to incorporate them into the plot, with their permission of course! Because I need time by myself to reconnect with the natural world, I sometimes go wandering along the shore, or in the hills, finding a quiet space to inhabit. It always refreshes my spirit. Writing can fill you up and drain you at the same time, I find, so for me this occasional solitude is essential.

Sounds like empty-nesting is agreeing with you. I love flea markets, too. So much junk in one place! I haven't seen Untouchable, but on your recommendation, I'll look for it.

Thanks so much for taking time out of your obviously very busy day to chat with us. And best of luck with Losing It.

Now, for that excerpt -- 

• • •

Jane has been locked up in a high security hospital for killing her children. Well meaning intervention by Dr. Townsend begins to uncover early events in Jane's life. While attending her sister's funeral, Jane escapes and goes back to the Belgian caravan site where the murders took place. She connects in a real way with her past, is brought back to the hospital but being fully aware of her own actions now, feels she cannot go on living.

 • • •

Once there was a girl who grew up knowing that the choices she would make as an adult would be bad choices.
Sometimes there are no good choices.

Keep quiet and out of sight and pretend it's all right; that's one choice. Make a scene and fight and kick and scream all you want; that's another choice, but you'll only end up getting banged up or beaten. You see what I mean about choices?

I once made a choice about my children. I forget what it was now, but it's why I'm here.

Back to this girl. She was all right, this girl. Took care of her mother and her younger sister. Tried her best to behave and be good; even her teacher praised her for trying her best. She liked her teacher. But even her teacher couldn't always see how tired the girl was, or how much she worried.

Her grandmother was kind, and this girl loved her, though she wasn't around for long enough to make a real difference. When she grew up, after all the bad things happened, it was another older woman who understood her and took care of her. This older woman's name was Elsie, and she was a grandmother too.

She wasn't an orphan, or in care; this girl lived with her parents. But her mother couldn’t help. She should have been able to but she drank too much and the girl had to find food and cook for the family even when there was no money. Her father left when she was only ten, and her mother’s drinking got worse. No wonder she and her sister clung together.

My name is Jane, by the way.

After they took her sister Michelle away, the girl just wanted to escape, so when she met Fedo it seemed like a dream come true. Good–looking and strong, he knew how to take care of himself. He attracted this girl because he came from somewhere else and he paid attention to her; that was the main thing. He made her feel like someone special. Everyone needs that. She had to make a choice, to go with him or to stay with her mother. She was sixteen. You have to understand that. She was sixteen, so she chose to go with Fedo.

This girl I'm telling you about, she tried her best, but some things can't be mended. See, I'm crying now.
For the first time ever I'm making the right choice. This is my witness.

• • •

Valentine is a writer and poet who gained a late MA in Creative Writing at Edge Hill and was then commissioned to write two self-help books for Sheldon (SPCK). Trained in psychotherapy, she has worked in Mental Health and allied fields most of her life, having failed to keep order as a teacher and bored to tears by banking, her first two career choices.

Published in many poetry anthologies and winner of several prizes last year, Mary keeps tabs on the Liverpool poets she met while on her MA, and helps run a writers’ and poets’ group in her home town. She is a member of the Keele Poets at Silverdale. When not at her computer or kitchen sink, she can be found on her allotment or in the local flea market. Married with four adult sons, she lives in Shropshire in an inconvenient cottage full of paintings by friends and family members with her art-therapist husband and tries to stop the garden getting into the house.

Find Valentine online --

• • •

Tirgearr Publishing is giving away a copy of Losing It today to one lucky commenter. Leave Valentine a message with your email address, or ask her a question, and be automatically entered into the random drawing.

Or grab a copy of Losing It here.


  1. This sounds absolutely fascinating, Valentine - one for the TBR pile! Lovely to see you write poetry.

  2. Congrat on the release, Valentine. This is a super intense read. Real edge of the seat stuff. Good luck with it.

  3. As I was writing it, I had to take a break every now and then and step aside from the character. I'm quite optimistic by nature, and felt I needed to show that Jane, the central character, wasn't without hope, or support.
    But in the end there was no escape from the reality. I think I'll go and have a cup of tea now!

  4. I know what you mean about stepping away from characters for a while for a dose of reality. I'm sure Jane must have had a real hold on you though. Sometimes things with people hang on a thread. This is an excellent telling of when the thread snaps. Truly.

  5. Hi Valentine. When Kem first announced your arrival at Tirgearr, along with a bit of info on Jane, I have to admit I was taken aback. Not that I mind an intense read, mind you. I have to give you credit. You walk where angels fear to tread! That said? I believe we're ready for this story. Not just Tirgearr, but as a society.
    Good luck to you!

  6. Hi Carley.
    I've met a few Janes and their male equivalents in my time. Recently my husband, an art therapist, worked as a volunteer in a local prison and even with serious violent offenders, some with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, when he got to know them he could see how and why they ended up inside. That's not to excuse what they did, but it does explain it. When you can't live with yourself, there's no way out. Thanks for your good wishes.

  7. Just sold some of the heavy metal albums - scary covers! Anthrax, Suicidal Tendencies, Gang Green. I'm surprised my kids grew up normal.

    1. Hey, if you're selling any Zeppelin . . . Just saying! :-)

    2. Zeppelin is class! I can even cope with Slayer, but Gang Green is off my radar. Music to burst ear drums to. The son who played them is now in Auckland putting up with noisy Maori parties next door - not sure what music they're into, I'll have to ask, but it seems like justice! If I find any Zeppelin you're first in line.

    3. I listen to a lot of Zeppelin. Love them. I have a YouTube account and collect Zep videos. I listen to them in the background. The Celebration Day concert from 2007 was class! They were honored last year during the annual Kennedy Center Honors which was amazing. If you're interested, here's their segment. Came at the end of the program, nearly 25 minutes long. Watch Robert Plant when Heart sing Stairway to Heaven. He was obviously choked up. I was too watching his emotions --

      Here's Celebration Day if you want to see that (they brought in John Bonham's son, Jason, on drums for this gig . . . and at the above honors program to play with Heart) --

      Now you know what my office sounds like most days ;-)

    4. I tried to open the links you gave but can't get them to work. I'll copy and paste them instead.

      I won a major poetry award in London on Saturday - still getting over the shock. The runner-up travelled in from Boston on the Red-eye. The prize was for poetry with a medical theme, the Hippocrates Prize, and the room was packed with psychiatrists and poets - amazingly they seemed to mix quite well!

    5. Congrats on the poetry award. Email me the details! What a mix of attendees, too.

      I hope you enjoy the links.


    Here's the link to the Hippocrates Prize.

    I just heard Alice Walker on the radio talking about her life and her writing. I could identify with a lot of what she said. At the poetry prizegiving there was masses of stuff about creativity and illness. Very interesting. I promoted LOSING IT to different groups at the symposium, and had some interesting responses. Re your links, I think drum therapy would go down well in the mental health world. It was therapy for me!

  9. Congratulations again on the award! That's some achievement. I hope you find something extra special to do with your prize!

    I think drum therapy would be an interesting treatment. I love Kodo drumming. Of course, the best drum therapy for ME comes with the accompaniment of bass and electric guitars ;-)

  10. Oh yes! I've been playing some old favourites lately - Dire Straits and Paul Simon's Graceland, Paolo Nutini's These Streets and some early Blues.
    It's quality stuff. Just depends on my mood! I don't know about Kodo drumming - sounds Japanese?

    1. Yes, Kodo Drums are Japanese. Really interesting sound and SO much energy from the performers. The Japanese don't do anything by halves and drumming is no exception. Hit and put in kodo drums.

      I've been going between Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd a lot over the last few weeks. Got onto a David Gilmore trip this week somehow.

      And have you heard Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation? Or Robert Plant and the Band of Joy? Apparently he's been performing with Band of Joy off and on since the 60s. How did I not know this?!

      Youtube has both the Plant concerts, Gilmore, and everything else, or so it seems.

  11. I heard today that infamous child murderer and psychopath Ian Brady is asking to be allowed to leave the secure hospital he's in and serve his sentence in a prison, because it would be easier there for him to end his life. Ring any bells?