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An Interview with Author Valerie Baeza

Valerie Baeza is a poet and author who writes upmarket fiction centered around interpersonal relationships with a unique sense of empathy for the human condition. A former feature writer for New Mexico Film News, she spent over three years writing and editing her debut novel, Story of My Life (October 2021). You’ll find Valerie on her website and on Facebook and Instagram.

What is your elevator pitch for Story of My Life?
Story of My Life is an intense page-turner about one man’s journey through love, grief, and discovering hope within the bundles of handwritten letters he exchanged with two women.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
The hardest part about writing this novel was one scene at the end. This book is about a man who wants to commit suicide. Saying more would ruin the story for readers, so you’ll just have to pick up a copy. But that scene at the end was the hardest aspect of the entire novel.

Who are your main characters, and why will readers connect with them?
There are three main characters in Story of My Life: Garence Leitner, Sabina Mondragon, and Chalise Bonner. Garence is a travel writer from Britain, so readers would appreciate his lifestyle. The second connection would be with Sabina and the hardships she experienced throughout her life. The life events between these two, all three characters actually, are relatable. Falling in love, marriage, death, depression, friendship, and discovering hope.

How does the setting impact the story and the characters?
The novel is set in Bourton-on-the-Water, England, a quintessential cottage community to represent love and romance, but England gets gloomy so it also corresponds well with the darker moments in the novel.

Tell us how the book came together.
It all started with a scene in my mind’s eye. There was a man walking up a hill toward a park at midnight. I didn’t see his face or hear his voice. All I knew was that he wanted to kill himself. I was curious as to why he wanted to take his life. I enjoy love stories, so I incorporated a woman, someone of color, then I made her Spanish.

The first draft took me a little over one year to write. I completed my own editing the following year and had beta readers provide their feedback, but it wasn’t until the third year when the story really kicked off. I hired a developmental editor, Kyra Nelson, and it was one of the best decisions I made. I thought I knew everything about the story and the characters, but Kyra revealed a slew of opportunities for improvement and she offered me the tools to really get to the heart of the novel.

Why does the book fit into the category of upmarket fiction?
Story of My Life is the perfect balance between internal conflict (literary fiction) and external conflict (commercial fiction). There are a lot of intense emotions and life events intersecting to form an intense read.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing Story of My Life?
There were many rewarding aspects of writing this novel. Organizing the storyline was one. I am a pantser, so organizing every nonlinear scene written into its now complex linear timeline, dual timelines at that, was like working a puzzle and fun.The developmental edit was awesome. Truly awesome. I can’t say enough about that experience and Kyra. The book cover design. Domini Dragoone presented me with eight options and I loved the one that you see now. The circles were an awesome way to depict the various stories in the novel. Circles are symbolic as is the full moon in the book, and having them in front of a garden gate is intriguing as well.

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
I predominantly write about love and the dynamics between individuals. I am fascinated by people’s stories, how they’ve coped with their trauma and how it affects other people. So, having the opportunity to create my own web of intrigue is a joy.

What are you most happy with, and what do you struggle with most, in your writing?
I struggle with my own pace. I am thoughtful and over analytical, so writing is a long process. The upside is I actually feel more strongly about what is written.

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received in your writing journey?
The best advice I can offer is to follow your own path. Listen to the characters as they tell you their story. Don’t force yourself to write or work on a particular scene or chapter. Let it go and inspiration will come when it’s meant to.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am going to pick up on a book I started writing last year in between edits. It is a change of pace from Story of My Life for sure. It is still within the upmarket fiction genre, but it’ll be a welcomed shift and set in Albuquerque!

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I appreciate the opportunity to share Story of My Life with you all.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

2021 New Releases for SWW Authors #3

Valerie Baeza, Parris Afton Bonds, BR Kingsolver, François-Marie Patorni, and Judy Willmore are members of SouthWest Writers (SWW) with 2021 releases that couldn’t fit into this year’s interview schedule. Look for interviews or updates for most of these authors in 2022.

A list of interviewed SWW authors with 2021 releases is included at the end of this post.

Valerie Baeza’s Story of My Life (October 2021) is a gripping epistolary novel that possesses unforgettable characters and impassioned storylines. When the worst happens, how do you move on? Garence Leitner had it all: a meaningful career traveling the world as a writer and photographer, the quintessential cottage in Bourton-on-the-Water, England, and the love of his life, Sabina. Now, with each passing day, the memory of her suffocates him. Even new romantic love delivers misery. Garence has sold the cottage, and can barely stand to look at what were once their prized possessions. But one alluring leftover item does claim his attention: a piece of luggage containing all the letters he and Sabina exchanged. As the letters transport Garence back through five years of emotional highs and lows, he will move into the shadows of despair—where love, hope, and friendship also pervade. Can these letters be his saving grace? If Garence cannot find a reason to live without Sabina within three days, he will take his life.

You’ll find Valerie on her website at and on Amazon.

The Betrayers (Lagan Press, May 2021) is the fourth book in The Texicans series by Parris Afton Bonds. Love and hate combine to endanger the Paladíns and all they hold dear. A violent scuffle between Drake Paladín and Roger Clarendon results in a none-too-subtle message to the Paladíns: politics is dirty business. From hereon, the Paladíns suffer failures and sabotage across their many business ventures. Eventually, even the sprawling South Texas ranch the family fought for and won the right to at the Battle of San Jacinto is put in peril. Rallying together to save their ancestral home, the Paladíns put niceties and tolerance behind them. This is war. But the battle to exterminate the Clarendons brings Preston Paladín to pre-war Nazi Germany—and the disarming charms of Fabienne Allaman. But on whose side is she really? And dare he risk the fate of his entire family for the love of a resistance fighter with nothing to lose?

For all of her books, visit Parris on her Amazon author page.

BR Kingsolver’s newest novel, The Gambler Grimoire (August 2021), is the first book in the urban fantasy mystery series Wicklow College of Arcane Arts. When Savanna Robinson arrived at Wicklow College to assume her new teaching position, she was curious about the abrupt departure of her predecessor. Then she discovered he had been murdered. No one knew who killed him or why, but everyone had their theories and suspects. Even the police—arcane and mundane—didn’t seem eager to investigate. But Savanna discovered a possible connection with the murder of a broker of rare arcane books. Were there really spells that could change your luck? When her own life is threatened, and the murders begin to pile up, she knows she can’t leave the mystery unsolved.

Visit the author’s Amazon author page.

The Politician’s Breviary: a Companion to Leaders and Influencers and Those They Seek to Control (French Legacy Press, June 2021), by François-Marie Patorni, is the first translation into English of the seventeenth-century Breviarium politicorum. This nonfiction book draws inspiration from the legacy of Cardinal Jules Mazarin, King Louis XIV’s mentor and prime minister. The original 1684 Latin edition was attributed only to an anonymous author, and subsequent editions over the following decades captivated readers as had Machiavelli’s The Prince a hundred and fifty years earlier. Yet, the Breviary’s principles and maxims that unveil how to achieve and retain power are even more relevant to guide today’s leaders and politicians.

The Politician’s Breviary is available on Amazon.

Judy Willmore’s debut novel,The Menagerie: Passion, Power, and Poison in the Court of the Sun King, was released by Artemesia Publishing in June 2021. Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart had to have Louis, King of France, but his other mistresses stand in the way. Then she meets a  sorceress and Athénaïs gets her wish. But soon Louis hears tales of witchcraft and poison, a conspiracy spreading through his court—like the beasts in the Versailles menagerie, courtesans are clawing their way to his favor, and his bed. He orders Lieutenant General of Police Gabriel-Nicolas de la Reynie to investigate. Mysterious deaths mount while La Reynie presses on, hauling in witches, charlatans, and the nobility alike. Grimey fingers point to Athénaïs, the King’s mistress, with whispers of a black mass celebrated over her naked body. Then La Reynie discovers a plot to kill her.

You’ll find Judy on her website at and on Amazon.

Ramblings & Reflections: Winning Words of SouthWest Writers’ 2021 Contest

Ramblings & Reflections includes 54 winning entries from the SWW 2021 writing competition. Inside you’ll encounter aliens, foreign lands, post-apocalyptic environments, supernatural beings, paeans to nature, tributes to the lost, calls to action, wry humor, mysteries to ponder and histories to marvel at. The authors in this volume emote, exhort, evoke, inform, implore, explore, explain, entertain and exorcise. They have engaged in all the best pursuits, which—in the end—are really just one: to look within in order to see more fully without. We hope you, too, will be transported and transformed on the journeys they curate.

Ramblings & Reflections is available on Amazon. For a look at the anthology’s table of contents, go to this page. And visit the SWW Publications page for all of SWW’s releases.

SWW Author Interviews: 2021 Releases

Jeffrey Candelaria
TORO: The Naked Bull
Marty Eberhardt
Death in a Desert Garden
Melody Groves
When Outlaws Wore Badges
Holly Harrison
Rites & Wrongs
Robert Kidera
BR Kingsolver
Soul Harvest
Marcia Meier
Face, A Memoir
Victoria Murata
The Acolyte
Barb Simmons
The War Within: A Wounded Warrior Romance
Gina Troisi
The Angle of Flickering Light

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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