ACT Writers Centre / Q&A

Powerful Storytelling with Valerie Parv

Valerie will be running her Story Magic workshop on the 25th of March at the ACT Writers Centre.  Come along to learn 5 spellbinding techniques to engage readers until the very last page.

While you’ve become an Australian hero on the romance scene, your most recent books have been a foray into science fiction. What enticed you to explore this new genre?

Stretching yourself as an author is always exciting and I recommend it to any writer. Every genre has different demands, and trying something new lets you go beyond what you’ve done before. The ‘Beacons’ series (Pan Macmillan Momentum 2016) allowed me to explore a complex story arc that encompassed three books and two novellas. There are romantic elements, because it’s me, but I explored them through the eyes of three aliens living among us. A major challenge was making sure their alien abilities were key to their characters and actions so they weren’t just dressed-up humans.

What are your must-haves in your writing survival kit?

Dr. Google for all the small details that bring fiction to life for me. I’m not happy to have a plant mentioned unless I know what it is and whether it’s in bloom in my story. I may not include every detail but I need to know them. Chocolate. Time and quiet to dream the story into existence through all the “what ifs” and false starts. Oh, and chocolate.

What is your creative process, and how do you get from idea to polished draft?

I believe there’s no one way to write a book, but mine is a gradual process. An idea hits out of the blue in the form of questions, characters or both. Then I start thinking on screen or more commonly on paper because it lets me be messy. Who are these people? What’s their connection? What’s at stake here? What’s keeping them apart (the conflict)? Why are they sticking around despite the conflict, when most of us would just up and leave? That usually leads me to the most interesting places for the story to happen (settings). The order of the elements may change but I need to know most of the answers before I start writing. Then it’s a case of writing a draft, then another, layering in elements such as emotional depth, back story, or whatever’s missing. Several layers and a nervous breakdown later, I have a perfect story. Until my agent and editors get at it.

What is one piece of practical advice you have for emerging writers?

If a story is nagging at you, if characters are demanding to be heard, tell their story as simply and directly as you can, through their viewpoint as much as possible. Be a Hemingway. Make us feel what they feel, be where they are, and take us for the ride right along with your characters.

What can writers expect from your workshop at the ACT Writers Centre on the 25th of March? What does Story Magic mean to you?

Today there’s so much focus on marketing, publicity, social media and the publishing process that we tend to forget what writing’s actually about. We’re taking readers into worlds we’ve created, making them care about our imaginary children. That’s a special kind of magic. Think of Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, da Vinci Code, Burial Rites. As writers we transport people inside these worlds, share the joys and tragedies of the characters, make readers think all is lost, then wave our word wand to make everything come out right. In Story Magic I bring the focus back to how we can tell our stories more powerfully, make our characters more vivid and make our readers both elated that all turned out as it should, and sorry that the journey is over, while waiting eagerly for what we write next. To me, that’s Story Magic.


 Valerie Parv AM is a Member of the Order of Australia for significant contributions to the arts as a prolific author, role model and mentor. An Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Medal recipient, Valerie has sold more than 34 million copies of her books, translated into 29 languages and as ebooks. She mentors new writers through the Valerie Parv Award created in her honour by RWA Australia, holds a master of arts from QUT and is the only Australian author to receive a Pioneer Award from RT Book Reviews, New York. At her blog she holds First Monday Mentoring to answer writing-related questions. She connects with readers via on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook and is represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd internationally.


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