Author Interview: Gabriel Valjan

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life, where I have the great pleasure of chatting with my fellow authors across genres, which is always interesting. Today I’m happy to welcome Gabriel Valjan.

Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series from Winter Goose Publishing, as well as numerous short stories. He lives in Boston’s South End, where he enjoys the local restaurants, and his two cats, Squeak and Squawk, keep him honest to the story on the screen.

G Valjan

Welcome, Gabriel.

What is the genre of the book you’d like to discuss?

Corporate Citizen is the fifth book in the suspense/thriller Roma Series from Winter Goose Publishing.

G Valjan book

Briefly describe what Corporate Citizen is about.

Bianca, our former analyst for the covert agency Rendition, is called to Boston to help clear a friend framed for a double homicide. All her Italian friends except for her boyfriend come with her. The murder investigation uncovers a drug ring for synthetic heroin, which Rendition may or may not have an interest in. Bianca continues to receive help from inside Rendition through a mysterious agent named Loki. There’s a troubled vet and a love interest and a criminal mastermind, unlike any Bianca and her gang have ever encountered.

How did you come up with the title and what inspired you to write this series?

The title is a buzzword from the business world. Corporations, like people, have ethical, legal, and social responsibilities. I am intrigued as to who is responsible when corporations commit crimes. A CEO might be the face to an organization, but decisions are far more complex when there is an obligation to shareholders and the ultimate objective is profit. What do you do when you are a citizen and your country behaves like a corporation? Bianca left Rendition because of the necessary evils she witnessed. She learns that one can never leave Rendition.

G Valjan books


What do you do when you are a citizen and your country behaves like a corporation? This is a question many Americans are asking themselves right about now.

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

Yes and No. Bianca may resemble my younger self, when I was more logical than Mr. Spock. Like her, I acted that way as a coping and defense mechanism. With age, I allowed myself to relax. Where we differ is gender and I do hope that I was successful in putting across a woman’s perspective.

Is Bianca in all five novels?

Bianca is in all 5 novels. The graphic above depicts the book in chronological order.

1: Roma, Underground takes place in Rome. Bianca is enticed to participate in a sting to capture thieves stealing cultural artifacts from the city’s underground. A real group of amateur archaeologists are mapping the city beneath Rome and I let my imagination run with that idea.

2: Wasp’s Nest. Bianca returns to Boston under the pretense of helping a contact within Rendition, but she is fearful of the growing intimacy between her and Dante. I tried to showcase lesser known parts of Boston. The inspiration behind this outing was what if someone disrupted the pharmaceutical industry, particularly cancer research, with an invention that did away with chemotherapy and radiation.

3: Threading the Needle. Bianca and her gang tackle political terrorism in Milan. The inspiration here was what the Italians call The Years of Lead, which was a series of terrorist attacks from 1969 to 1984. The height of terror culminated in the kidnapping and murder of Prime Minister Aldo Moro. Speculation exists as to who funded and directed far-right groups to destroy the Communist Party in Italy.

4: Turning To Stone. Bianca is caught between the Camorra and the Sicilian mafia in Naples. The Sicilians are hatching a plan to destabilize the world currency market to their advantage. The Fiscal Crisis of 2007 provided the basis for this novel.

5: Corporate Citizen. Bianca is back in Boston to help a friend framed for murder.

Each of my novels includes the first chapter of the next one in the The Roma Series. Book 6, Crunch City, is situated in London and it will explore (or explode) the extent of surveillance. Bianca has a new and formidable nemesis at Rendition, but she also has an unexpected ally at her side. She’ll have to make a decision on her relationship with Dante.

Thanks for including the brief synopses. What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

I worry whether I have seeded the story with just enough clues so that it is not predictable. Am I too obvious? Was I too obscure? The reader is a god, who must be appeased, and yet should still be surprised with the creation. It’s kind of like looking at a platypus and scratching your head. There’s logic to the design.

Great questions to ask during the writing process. Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

My characters have a life of their own. When I write it is like meeting old friends. I’ve been fortunate to have a collaborative relationship with my publisher. I have a say in the editing process and in cover-art design. I believe the first sentence of A Tale of Two Cities describes today’s authors and publishers. Indie publishers have proven they can put quality out there in the market. The Big Five and literary agents are not necessarily gatekeepers for taste and talent. Self-publishing, while not new, is a hit or miss. Amazon has created both the markets and the platform. Readers are feasting and authors are like matchstick children hoping for a kind soul and a sale.

I found myself nodding at your answers above. What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

Walter Tevis’s Mockingbird. In a post-apocalyptic future where machines do everything and reading is illegal, an android named Bob Spofforth runs the world — and he is suicidal. Another character, Paul, is a conformist who teaches himself how to read. He falls in love with Mary Lou, a rebel who lives in a zoo. This is not Humanity versus the Machines story. Knowledge has slipped away. Watching Paul learn and then teach Mary Lou how to read is a reminder of why we read and why we are human. Tevis will reduce you to tears.

Another book for my reading list, thank you. Who are some of your favorite authors?

Tough question. Margaret Atwood. Jane Austen. Louise Brooks. Raymond Chandler. Eduardo Galeano. William Faulkner. Dashiell Hammett. Dorothy Johnson. E.J. Levy. Gabriel García Márquez. William Maxwell. Carson McCullers. Flannery O’ Connor. Victor Hugo. E.B. White. Richard Yates.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Dashiell Hammett and William Faulkner. Though these two writers polar opposites in style, they worked language in ways I envy. If you research Gertrude Stein, you’ll discover that it was Hammett — not Hemingway — who was responsible for the spare minimalistic style. Hemingway learned his craft from journalism (being shot at is excellent motivation for brevity) and reading Hammett. Faulkner – read his Nobel Prize acceptance speech (557 words) – and ask yourself this, Is not compassion first and foremost a necessity to being a better human being and a great writer? His novels are challenging but rewarding.

Is not compassion first and foremost a necessity to being a better human being and a great writer? Great question. For me, the answer is yes. I’m off to Google Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I have an MA in Medieval Studies. 

Gabriel, what is your favorite part of writing?

The beauty of a series is I have a cast of characters and each one has a personality and quirks. Corporate is a long, hard look at Bianca and what makes her tick. I enjoyed those moments when she surprised me with something she said or did. Bianca is guarded and she allows herself some vulnerability when she meets Nick.

G Valjan book

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

I write in my bedroom, where one or two cats stare at me and count keystrokes. I like reading in bed.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

The Roma Series is classified as genre fiction, but I hope that readers see each novel as an exploration of friendship and love, that what matters most in life is how we treat each other. Each novel takes place in a different city because I want readers to see how Europeans see the world, and how an American deals with a different mindset. I ask questions about culture and society throughout the Series. Do you work to live, or live to work?

I like the idea of offering readers an opportunity to see the world through different lenses. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

It depends on the definition of success. Sales have not made me a household name, but I have developed a small following. Social media has allowed me to meet other writers and for them to know me. If ‘success’ is word of mouth, then I would say other writers, established and struggling, know that I am a supportive and encouraging person. It costs nothing to be kind and positive. I think what I have done ‘right’ is be myself and let my name stand for something. I go to readings to support others, I tweet to get the word out on writers I know, and I’ll write reviews. The best community for me has been other writers.

I agree with your definition of success. I met you through your generous tweets of my book, so I can attest to your support of other writers.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped with your books?

It’s hard to tell because I believe everything is cumulative. The problem is you don’t know what will work. I have had mixed feelings about PR firms. They are expensive and I think they are figuring it out along with the rest of us. It’s been a learning experience.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Read and learn from the writers you enjoy. Take apart; analyze what you admire. Be consistent, persistent, and tenacious about improving your skills. Set aside your ego and write because you have a story to tell. Respect your reader’s emotions, intellect, and their time. To paraphrase Carver, your job is to capture the heartbeat and the ‘human noise.’

Well said. Website and social media links?


Twitter: @GValjan


Where can we find your book?

Amazon Author page:


What’s next for you, Gabriel?

Winter Goose Publishing will release the first book of another series in late 2017. The Company Files: The Good Man is what I would call historical noir. The story takes place in 1948 Vienna and it’s the early days of the American intelligence community. Jack Marshall is asked to find former Nazis in Germany’s atomic program before the Russians do. Someone is killing them and Jack has to put a stop to it. For touchstones for the writing, think of Joseph Kanon, Phillip Kerr or John Le Carré, and yet different.

Vienna and the American intelligence community. We will have to chat about that another time! Thank you for visiting today, Gabriel. All the best to you. 

About Eleanor:


Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book, A Decent Woman:
Please visit Eleanor at her website:


Author Interview: S. E. Rise

The Writing Life is pleased to welcome S.E. Rise, author of the erotic thriller, Simmering.

Dale Reierson

S.E. Rise is an author who enjoys writing in multiple genres: horror, thriller and erotica. He was raised as an Army brat and attended Austin Peay State University on a track and cross country scholarship in Clarksville, Tennessee. In 1991, he enlisted in the United States Air Force as a firefighter. He became a Department of Defense civilian Firefighter/Captain of an ALS ambulance in 1996.

S.E. Rise wrote his first horror novel in 2006 and self published with Createspace in 2007. He has written ten novels and one novella. He is now with Booktrope Editions under the imprints, Forsaken, Entice and Edge.

S.E. enjoys adventuring and doing the impossible. He lives in Anchorage, Alaska with his wife and two children.

What is your book’s genre/category?

Simmering is an Erotic Thriller. 

Dale Reierson book

S.E., please describe what Simmering is about.

Here is the back cover blurb. I think that best describes Simmering.

Who would you rather find in your bedroom, a steamy hose-wielding fireman or a dangerously obsessed ex-boyfriend? What if you found both? Romance writer Allison Fairchild is growing frustrated with her first attempt at erotica until she reads a well-timed magazine article. What working man makes the best lover? The article sparks an idea and her eyes are irresistibly drawn to the top-ranked firemen just across the street. It might be coincidence or driven by fate, but it is all the motivation she needs.

Ali has herself assigned to a firehouse and is committed to doing her job; getting incredible sex stories from actual firefighters and, in the process, trying not to become one. At least that’s her intention until she meets the Captain, a by-the-rules professional with an enticing off-duty wild streak. Ali and the Captain put their wills to the test to resist the chemistry heating up between them. But unbeknownst to Ali, her cheating ex-boyfriend has set his eyes upon her again and if he can’t have her, no one can.

How did you come up with the title?

I wanted something subtle yet sexy. I thought the best way to describe the barely held- in-check feeling of desire was with a cooking metaphor. Like a pot of water slowly building up to boil. Even if you set it to simmer, it is eventually going to boil.

What inspired you to write this book?

I have been writing horror and thrillers for many years. I realized along the way that I can write some pretty steamy sex scenes. So, I figured why not. I did some research on how to write erotica, read some erotica, and came up with plot outline.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I love creating worlds from my imagination. I love to create worlds that people can envision just by reading my words.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Learning and researching the things you write about. I do extensive research and never try to “BS” the reader.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Stephen King, Erik Stevenson, Glen Cook to name a few. I have a few favorites that I actually know, as well. I can’t name them all but here are a  few. Duncan Ralston, JG Clay, Scarlet Darkwood, and Sheri Williams.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

My biggest influences have been Stephen King, Erik Stevenson and Glen Cook. By reading their works I learned an incredible amount about world building. As well as storytelling.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

I usually write at night in my room at the fire station. I only sleep four hours a night and that leaves me a lot of time between emergency responses.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I am a Captain on an Advanced Life Support Ambulance. I work at a fire department in Anchorage, Alaska.

What surprises or learning experiences did you have during the publishing process?

That an author should always have their work edited by a professional Editor. I will never go without one, but some of us had to learn the hard way. I wrote my first book in 2007….it took me awhile to learn a hard lesson. All good now though.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I just started writing it. I ignored the naysayers and my own apprehension about switching genres. I ignored my own self doubts and just wrote it. I guess you can say I believed in myself and that’s all I needed.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Just write it. Don’t get caught up in whether it’s well written or good enough. That’s why we have editors. Write the story for you. If you are happy with the story then that’s all that matters. Write it for you.

You can’t publish something that isn’t written. There are plenty of avenues nowadays for writers to get published. but as I said you can’t publish it if it isn’t written.


Where can we find your book?

You can find my books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, as well as iTunes.

What’s next for you, S. E. Rise? 

I am finishing up Sizzling Book 3 in the Simmering series.  I am currently writing and publishing books in both the erotica genre and the horror genre.

He can be found on Facebook at

He twitters as well under the handle  @s_e_rise13

Great having you at The Writing Life, S.E. Rise. Best of luck with your books.

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

elliePuerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s best selling, debut historical novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Book club members across the United States have enjoyed the story, as well. Eleanor is featured in the newly published anthology, Latino Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. She is the mother of two awesome adult children and she currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

Author Interview: Eric Douglas

The Writing Life is very pleased to welcome Eric Douglas, author of Return to Cayman.

Eric Douglas headshot

Life is an adventure for author Eric Douglas, above and below the water, and wherever in the world he ends up. Eric received a degree in Journalism from Marshall University. He has worked in local newspapers where he honed his skills as a story teller. Following a stint as a freelance journalist in the former Soviet Union, Eric became a dive instructor. Not too much later, he became a Diving Medical Technician. Moving from California to North Carolina, he became the Director of the Training and Education Department at Divers Alert Network. The ocean and diving have factored into all his novels since then.

What is your book’s genre/category?

I write in a couple different genres, but my primary series of books, the Mike Scott series, is Action/Thriller/Suspense.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Return to Cayman is the sixth book in the series. They are all thrillers set in island/exotic locations with an underwater/scuba diving theme. I’ve had the good fortune to work in the scuba diving industry for nearly 20 years, and it has taken me to some beautiful places, all of which have (or will) be settings for books. My first novel, Cayman Cowboys, was set on Grand Cayman. For my latest book, my character is returning to Grand Cayman after being away for 10 years. Just about all of my stories contain an environmental element, and it is forefront in this one, but the primary theme/problem is cybercrime.

RtCayman book cover

How did you come up with the title?

Cayman Cowboys came out in 2005, so for this 10th anniversary, I wanted to take Mike Scott back. And Return to Cayman was born. It just made sense. Plus, from a marketing perspective, Cayman is a recognized place and I thought that would appeal to people interested in traveling vicariously to the islands.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

All my stories have some element of history or current events in them. In August of 2014, a cruise ship dropped anchor on a reef in Grand Cayman, destroying a section of reef. The locals and the dive community are working to restore the reef. The first action sequence in the book covers a cruise ship grounding and then spins off on tangents. It gave me a chance to talk about what happens to the reef when something like that happens. I also plan to donate a portion of the first couple month’s royalties to the reef recovery effort.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I always tell people I love to write because it keeps the voices in my head quiet. Or at least quieter…

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Focus.  My voices come up with so many great ideas, it is hard for me to pick and choose the stories that will make it all the way to the end. And, of course, in the middle of a book, when it feels like a slog and you are never going to get through it, it is so easy to get distracted with something new and shiny.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I grew up on science fiction: Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury. In my 20’s I really got into Tom Clancy. I’ve read just about everything from Clive Cussler and others in that vein. I really enjoyed The Art Forger by Barbara Shapiro recently, and I’m on my third book by Sheila Redling right now.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

From a writing/stylistic perspective, I’d have to say Clancy and Cussler. Clancy for the detail and the ability to weave multiple, disparate storylines together and end up at the same place. Cussler for the unabashed adventure and fun. I hope I do them both justice. I’d also have to give a hat-tip to Jacques Cousteau and reading National Geographic all my life for the desire to explore the world and the ocean.

Favorite place to write?

I have a home office. In the winter, I’m there, and I love to have a fire in the fireplace. That always gets me in the mood for writing. As soon as the air temperature breaks 50 degrees, if it is sunny, I am out on the patio writing. That’s really where it all takes off for me.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

Even though I have a public persona, and I really do enjoy talking to people and gain so much energy from it, I’m not an extrovert. I’m an intensely private person. I love listening to others, but I rarely share many personal details.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Probably the best learning experience is that there is no magic bullet. I’ve read (or at least started) some terrible books that are best-sellers and read a literary genius that sold a couple hundred copies. Anyone who tells you they have the “secret” to selling 1000’s of books is lying to you. It is hard work and something you have to push every day.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

Return to Cayman came out a week or so ago, and what I think I’ve done better with this book than any of the previous ones is to begin promoting it early in the process, and to gain supporters who can help me promote it. By offering to donate a portion of the proceeds to the reef recovery effort, for example, I have a group of people who also have a vested interest in seeing the book do well.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Everyone always tells you to read. I agree, but my advice is to learn about everything you can. Volunteer for everything you can; you never know where it will lead you. In my professional career, if I hadn’t refinanced my car in 1993 to take a trip to Russia, I never would have been hired by the biggest diving company in California in 1998. If I hadn’t done that, I never would have gotten the chance to study diving medicine, and to move to another company in 2000 that opened numerous other doors. You never know where things will lead and if you don’t explore those avenues, just because, you will miss out.


I’ve had the same website since 2005 when I only had one book. I was optimistic.

Where can we find your book?

Print books are available at all the online retailers, including Amazon. My ebook versions are on Kindle.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently putting the finishing touches to a novella, in a series of short stories I created, set on a fictional island in the Florida Keys. In June, I am taking on an oral history project (I also write non-fiction, documentary work), and I really want to work on a period story set in Charleston, WV in 1890 around the salt industry. It is a spin-off from a collaborative book I wrote with several other writers called River Town.

Thanks for a great interview, Eric. I wish you much success with your books, and happy traveling! Eleanor


About Eleanor Parker Sapia

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s work as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of PEN America and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club, Book of the Month. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and she currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon