Mason Cooley said, “Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”
A Center Stage Moment shines a spotlight on writers who give us great places to visit with characters we love and want to call friends.
Today, I have the pleasure of introducing to you Mara Valderran!
Mara Valderran is an author of young adult and new adult books and the Marketing Director for Blaze Publishing, but she’s more than just a madwoman with a writing box. She is an avid reader and fan of all things sci-fi and fantasy. She loves roller skating and movies, though typically not together. She hopes to one day meet Daniel Jackson from SG1, or at least the actor who played him. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing video games, or counting down the days until DragonCon.
Without further ado, here is Mara’s interview…
I love reading the bios of authors. Many of them did not start out as writers. Sometimes people stumble upon the craft. Did you always want to be a writer? No, actually. When I was younger, I wanted to be an actress. I fell in love with the written word and acting through Shakespeare when I was about eleven or so. I’d always written things—little stories here and there. I would write scripts or short stories. I eventually moved into fanfiction, and then started coming up with stories of my own. I didn’t realize I was a writer until I finished my first book and people told me I should get it published. That was the moment I realized that I’ve always been a writer and it has always been such a huge part of who I am that I never thought to define it.
Why did you choose to write science fiction/fantasy? I love magic and sci-fi—the possibilities there are endless. I feel like fantasy encourages dreams and sci-fi encourages thinking that the impossible can one day be possible. Reaching outside of the box.
What is the strangest subject or topic you’ve ever written? Hmm… strangest? I’m not sure I have one of those. I mean, I write sci-fi and fantasy so I guess you could say there is an element of strange to everything I write. But it doesn’t feel strange to me.
What are you currently working on? I just wrapped up the second book in my Young Adult sci-fi dystopian series, and am now moving to the third book in my New Adult fantasy series.
What motivates the plots of your books? Exploring relationships are huge motivations and inspirations for my books. Heirs of War has five strong female leads that are torn from their own world, thrust into a world filled with magic and in the middle of a war, and then told that they are all related to each other. These young women are complete strangers to one another and then told they are cousins and sisters, so for me, that’s one of the most interesting parts of the series. How do these girls adapt to their newfound families? How do they relate to one another when they’ve missed a lifetime of sisterly bonding?
Altar of Reality explores the relationship between childhood best friends Madeline and Brandon. When Madeline finds herself in another reality and runs into another version of Brandon, she can’t help but feel like she is home and feel an overwhelming need to protect him and do anything for him. Because he’s her Brandon, even in another reality and with a lifetime of different experiences, that love and that bond is still there, and drives her to do things she never thought she would in order to survive and keep him safe.
What was the hardest story for you to write? The first books in a series are always the hardest for me to write. They are so introductory, and since I know what is coming, I’m anxious to get there. It takes a lot of patience to get me to work through introducing characters, building histories, and introducing the worlds they are in.
What process do you use to plan your novels? I use Scrivener to create an outline, then create a physical story board to help me map everything out and move things around if the timeline calls for it, then I sit down and write and inevitably end up scrapping half of what I planned when the characters take me in a different direction. [Kind of a hybrid plotter-pantser.]
Who has been your favorite character to write and why? Egad, I don’t think I can choose. I love Ana in Altar of Reality. You get to see two different sides of her (one in each reality), which shows what a complex character she is. In one reality she’s terrible, and the other she is one of the best allies you could dream of. Heirs of War has so many characters close to my heart. That series is my baby since it is how I started in the writing world. Ellowyn is a lot of fun to write. She is Zelene’s best friend and basically a slave. She was raised normal enough in a magical world, but when she doesn’t develop any gifts and her parents die, things change for her. Those without magic are called the Tainted and totally shunned, which leaves her retreating back into her shell. Seeing Zelene pull her out of it is really cool for me.
Do any of your characters reflect facets of your personality? All of my friends and family would shout “Zelene” in unison at this question. Seriously, channeling your inner-Zelene has become a thing they say now. She comes from a rough childhood and speaks fluent sarcasm. She’s a bleeding heart who doesn’t really show many emotions besides anger. She’s passionate and after living the life of an underdog who got thrown to the top of a hierarchy she never even imagined, she’s all about sticking up for those on the lower rungs. I relate to her a lot, but I think most of my characters have a piece of me in them somehow. Except maybe Madeline in Altar of Reality. She’s probably the female lead character that is the least like me.
Have you ever experienced writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it? Yes! I recently went through some big and traumatic changes in my life, and was completely blocked. I didn’t write for about seven months. I’ve had writer’s block in the past and been able to overcome it, so I tried some of my old methods. I listened to my playlists. I watched videos of actors who inspired my characters. I tried rereading my books, reading positive reviews, responding to Wattpad comments or questions—anything to get me enthused about my stories again. Nothing worked.
Then I went to UtopYA. And I swear it was like someone breathed life into me again. [Yes… Utopia is like a mecca for YA/NA writers. Next year, it will include Middle Grade writers.] Being around all of those other authors, getting to meet online friends in person for the first time, all of the positive energy—it reinvigorated me. I came home and within the month had the first draft of my next novel finished.
If you were to choose another genre to write in, what would it be? This might sound cheesy, but I don’t really choose the genres I write in. The stories choose for me. After I wrap up these two series, I have a contemporary romantic thriller in mind. No speculative elements to it at all, and completely outside of my normal wheelhouse. But the story popped in my head and won’t get out, so it needs to be written. [That happens. I have a NA contemporary romance story in mind. Definitely not my normal thing to write.]
Which authors inspire you? Jane Austen is a cliché inspiration, but still mine. She followed her passion and her heart at a time when [the idea of] women writing books was thought of as scandalous and even shameful. She chose to pursue her career despite the obstacles in her path and was driven to succeed no matter what the cost. I admire that so much, and when things get tough for me, I think of her and all she must have gone through on a daily basis just to be able to do what I am so free to do now. It puts things in perspective.
What novel would you read multiple times? I’ve read lots of novels several times–the entire Harry Potter series, Pride & Prejudice, Mansfield Park, The Sword of Truth series.
If you could meet anyone in the world, alive or deceased, who would it be and why? Audrey Hepburn because she lived such a fascinating life and was more than just an onscreen beauty. She strived to be a good person and to give back to those in need, and I find that awe-inspiring and moving.
What is your favorite quote? “Die when I may, I want it said of me by those who know me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower when I thought a flower would grow.” –Abraham Lincoln
What is your favorite animal, real or imaginary? My cat Sweetie is my absolute favorite animal in the world. I’ve had her for twelve years and she is my little writing companion, so it is hard to choose another favorite over her. She’s on my lap right now, actually!
What is your favorite color? My favorite color fluctuates between purple and teal. [Magical!]
Mara Valderran is a full-time author with a full-time job.
Please explain how that’s possible. Writing is most definitely a full-time career for me, even though I also have a full-time job. I know most people consider it part-time when you have a full-time job, but I don’t. I spend most of my free time doing research, marketing, writing, or working on other writerly related projects. So it’s like having two full-time jobs for me.
You can catch up with Mara Valderran online…
Thanks for being a part of A Center Stage Moment! It was great having you here.
Join me next week as I feature Daniele Lanzarotta!