Author Spotlight no.139 – Valerie Laws

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and thirty-ninth, is of Valerie Laws.

Valerie Laws is a crime and comedy novelist, poet, performer, playwright and sci-art installation specialist. Her eleven published books include award-winning crime fiction (‘The Rotting Spot’) in paperback and as an indie kindle, and a comedy adult-YA cross-over e-book (‘Lydia Bennet’s Blog’), poetry (latest ‘All That Lives’, ‘CSI: Poetry’ of sex, death and pathology), drama…

In recent years she has been Writer in Residence at Gordon Pathology Museum, London and Kings College London Medical School, and at Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Health, working with neuroscientists, dementia specialists, and pathologists on human specimens to study the science of dying and brain pathology.

She has written 12 commissioned plays for stage and BBC radio. Many prizes and awards include Wellcome Trust Arts Award, twice prizewinner in National Poetry competition, two Northern Writers Awards. Invents new forms of poetry, devising science-themed installations and commissions including the world-infamous Arts Council-funded QUANTUM SHEEP spray-painting random haiku onto live sheep, still widely published and publicised.

Her quantum haiku on inflatable beach balls featured in BBC2 TV’s Why Poetry Matters with Griff Rhys Jones, later live at Royal Festival Hall. Poetry audio-visual installations which move and change to reflect their subjects have featured in public exhibitions in London, Newcastle and Berlin, and her computer-controlled illuminated embedded haiku WINDOW OF ART is in St Thomas Hospital, London. Many other residencies, including in Egypt; newly at Dilston Physic Garden, Northumberland. She performs her work live at festivals and events and in the media worldwide.

And now from the author herself:

My latest book is my comedy e-book, my first as an indie author. It’s hard to pin down the genre, but if I say ‘Lydia Bennet’s Blog’ is Pride and Prejudice told in the voice of the youngest Bennet sister, the outrageous and shameless hussy Lydia, but in modern teen language with Georgian derivations, it will give you an idea! It’s not just a retelling from her point of view, for in my book Lydia is a lot cleverer and more ruthless than the others think, pulling the strings behind the scenes, and a lot goes on that Darcy, Lizzy, and even Jane Austen knew nothing about. It’s in the form of a blog so it’s a bit like Adrian Mole crossed with a younger Bridget Jones in Georgian times. The book idea just sprang into my head – I’ve always felt she gets a raw deal in the original book and I wanted to tell her story and for her to win! I like to cheer on underdogs! But I wanted her to stay shameless and full of herself. She is truly a modern teenager as Austen wrote her.

I’ve written ten books published in paperback by publishers – then my publisher let me put ‘The Rotting Spot’ on Kindle myself, cue learning all about formatting! Then I got an agent for ‘Lydia Bennet’s Blog’ but he couldn’t get me a publisher. They are wary of anything genre-busting, and also were wary of my heroine dissing the sacred Mr Darcy! So I put the book out on kindle and Smashwords, and it’s had great five-star reviews from writers like Linda Gillard, Catherine Czerkawska and Paul Magrs.

You’ll see a strong science thread running through my work, including physics, bio-medical science, pathology, and also comedy. I like to write in celebration, sometimes of things like skulls, and brains, and dead babies in jars, and the lives of people unsung by history. I like to give a voice to people and things both real and imagined. I like to know how, why, things work or happen. My Residencies in dissection, pathology and brains were my response to witnessing the deaths of both of my parents. I wanted to know what was happening inside when someone dies. This sense of exploration and wonder at human anatomy is in my poetry but also in my crime fiction – my first crime novel, ‘The Rotting Spot’, has a skull-collecting theme and forensic interests. It also has a sparky female homeopath protagonist, a sexy fit Detective Inspector who fancies and dislikes her, and family secrets in a sea-washed location.

But I also like to write comedy, I write funny poems about post-divorce dating and sex, my crime fiction has dark comedy in it especially in the dialogue, and my plays, mostly about local historical characters, combines moving tragedy with comedy. Sex and death, comedy and tragedy, laughter and tears, they are what life is about and I write about both sides of life!

Ah, I met Paul Magrs at booQfest in September. A really nice guy. You can find more about Valerie and her writing via…

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The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with crime novelist Mike Walters – the five hundred and sixty-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!

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You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

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