Good afternoon, Creeps.
After a few technical difficulties (read: I’m a halfwit who obviously can’t count OR read a calendar), I have a new victim today! Please welcome Val Muller, author of the lovely little horror gem, Faulkner’s Apprentice, to play twenty questions with me!
English teacher by day, writer by night, Val grew up in cold and haunted New England, which seems to have colored her works with a tinge of the macabre. She currently lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two corgis, a rambunctious and curious dog named Leia, and a kind and obedient (yet terrified) dog named Yoda. Val writes for children and adults and, when not performing her day job as an English teacher, attends book events and elementary schools to conduct writing workshops.
20 Questions with Val Muller
SHR: Tell us a bit about yourself:
VM: I’m an English teacher by day. I wake up very early to write, and I spend my weekends at book signings and fairs—and hanging out with my corgis, of course! I love the outdoors, and I hate the claustrophobia of cities. I would rather live in an isolated cabin near a lake than a loft in New York City.
SHR: How long have you been writing?
VM: I have wanted to be a writer since I could hold a pencil. My first “novel” was The Mystery of Who Killed John Polly, something I wrote in first grade. I never took writing seriously, though, until after college. I thought becoming a writer was something that just happened, not something one actually worked towards. I got a wake-up call, started taking writing seriously about six years ago, and have been successful since then.
SHR: What made you want to write?
VM: It’s a drive that’s in me. There’s an Isaac Asimov quote that applies: “I write for the same reason I breathe… because without it, I would die.”
SHR:What is a typical day in your life like?
VM: I wake up at 4:40, make lunch for me and the husband (to take to work), let the dogs out, and answer emails. Then I spend a good hour or two writing, marketing, or editing. I try to remember to eat breakfast before getting ready for work and heading out the door. I spend 8-10 hours at work (I’m an English teacher and sponsor some activities at school). When I get home, it’s walk the dogs, off to meetings, or doing cover design (which I do on the side). After dinner, if I’m not exhausted, I try to get in some more writing or reading before bed. If I’m exhausted, I just fall asleep in front of the TV.
SHR: Favorite author?
VM: Ray Bradbury.
SHR: Favorite book?
SHR:Tell us about your most recent work and where we can get it:
VM: Faulkner’s Apprentice is available at Amazon and other online sites. It’s a supernatural chiller about twenty-something Lorelei Franklin, an aspiring writer who doesn’t try very hard. But she finds herself winning a writing contest and earning a three-week stay with the master of horror, L. Cameron Faulkner. But her stay at his mansion is not what she expected, especially when a creepy character she refers to as “the bad man” shows up and seems to have his claws dug deep into the will of anyone close to Faulkner.
SHR: How many genres do you write in? Which is your favorite?
VM: My other published works are part of the Corgi Capers mystery series (for kids ages 7-12). Though they have a few creepy elements (like a tricky burglar or a Halloween prank), they are all realistic with no actual supernatural. My works for kids tend to be more realistic, with the imaginations of kids in the stories bringing all the creativity. My works for young adults and adults are more imaginative, involving ghosts, time travel, alternate realities, and dystopian futures.
SHR: Your inspiration – is it from your imagination or from personal experience?
VM: Many of my stories are inspired by dreams—I keep a notebook near my bed. Others are inspired by daydreams that happen in the middle of menial tasks (like mowing the lawn or gardening). But each of my stories is no doubt influenced by personal experiences. It’s entertaining when friends and family read one of my works and ask, “Am I supposed to be such-and-such character?” Each character and plot is a mix of my experiences, and no one character or event is completely based on my life.
SHR: If given the opportunity to meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be and why?
VM:I would want to meet the bad man because I would want to stare true evil in the face. But I would hope our meeting would be quick and uneventful!
SHR: How do you go about researching your stories?
VM:It depends on the story. I prefer writing about things I actually experience. For instance, my newest Corgi Capers book involved a fire hall. There’s one I go to up in Pennsylvania for fundraisers, and when I’m there eating a crab dinner, I’m actually taking mental notes for my book.
SHR: Who is in control when you write, you or your characters?
VM:I start out in control, but the characters always take over. That’s the way it should be.
SHR:What inspires you to write?
VM:It’s simply a drive. I could literally entertain myself all day by staring at a wall. My imagination never stops, and writing is a way to tap into that creative flow and release it a bit into the world.
SHR: When you write, is it with or without visual/audio stimulation (tv, music, etc.)?
VM: I don’t like television. If it weren’t for my husband, I don’t think I’d have Cable—I’d only watch movies on weekends. I can write in silence or with instrumental music. Vocals mess up my thought process. If there are other noises in the room, I prefer music.
SHR: World building: fun game or awful chore?
VM:My favorite part of writing is the first draft. It’s so free and creative. In a less pleasant metaphor, I think of it as vomiting up an idea—get it all out now, and clean it up later. It’s the going back and editing for consistency that I enjoy much less.
SHR: If you were told you could never write again, what would you do to fill your time?
VM:You are describing my worst nightmare. But I would definitely go into art. A part of me always wanted to be a graphic designer.
SHR: Literary Hot Button: What are your thoughts on Writer’s Block? Does it exist? How do you overcome it?
VM:The only time I have writer’s block is in the middle of winter when my mind is lost in the doldrums of despair. All I have to do to get the creative juices flowing is go outside and enjoy nature.
SHR: As an author, what’s next for you?
VM:I’m currently polishing several young adult manuscripts and drafting Corgi Capers 3.
SHR: If you could live in any period throughout history, which would it be and why?
VM:Without a doubt, I would want to experience the American Revolution. Despite giving up modern conveniences, there is something about the human spirit during that time that is simply lost today. We are so coddled today that we take everything for granted and aren’t really, truly passionate about anything. I would want to experience the ardor of the time.
SHR: If the apocalypse happened tomorrow, how would you react?
VM:A little part of me is fascinated with the idea of an apocalypse. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of freedom, and I think our government—and all governments today—have taken too much of our individual freedoms away. There’s a small part of me that thinks an apocalypse-like situation is necessary to “restart” our civilization without all the red tape and pointless bureaucracy of a nanny state. But then I think—could I live without regular showers and running water?
Published: April 30th, 2013
Word Count: 84,000
Genre: Horror (Supernatural Thriller)
Content Warning: Suggestive themes, non-graphic sexuality, and mild violence
Age Recommendation: 18+
Misfit and struggling writer Lorei Franklin has always struggled in life. Juggling an ailing mother, busy-body friends, and dead-end jobs, Lorei finally catches a break: she has won the L. Cameron Faulkner fiction contest, earning a three-week stay with the reclusive and famous horror writer. But her time at Faulkner’s mansion is not what she expected. She is plagued by a man in a fedora, two frightened assistants, and a series of strange visions–not to mention all the scratches on the walls. She also struggles with her feelings for Faulker–she’s had a crush on him since his cameo appearance in his movie, but he’s much more intimidating, and attractive, in person. The isolated mansion makes it difficult for Lorei to contact her dying mother, the only person who knows the identity of Lorei’s real father. As the novel progresses, Lorei learns that the creepy visions she’s experiencing are flash-forwards of her own future life in the mansion. As she discovers, the man in the fedora has a sinister purpose–as the devil, he has claimed Faulkner’s soul but will relinquish it in exchange for Lorei’s–as it turns out, she is his daughter, and he’s been out to possess her for years. Now desperate, the devil is pulling out all his cards. To beat him, Lorei will have to fight her growing lust for Faulkner, ignore her love for her mother, stifle her fear of the mansion and that which is hidden in the walls, and abandon her dreams of becoming an author. If she can only accomplish those things, perhaps she can escape the devil’s grasp and avoid becoming the tormented old woman in her visions…