The following is an interview conducted by a good friend of mine on the 29th January 2010. It covers a lot of personal detail about my life and discusses how I got into writing. I hope you enjoy it.
Q: First of all I would like to say congratulations on the publication of your first novel. I have been very eager to be the first to interview you as I have known you for so many years.
A: Thank you I’m looking forward to it too.
Q: So, Valentine tell us how old you were when you first began to write?
A: It’s hard to say because I first realised that I had a talent for creating stories around age 9. During this time when my grandmother was ill I would spend hours telling her stories. We did this for many months before she passed away and she told me then that I would be a writer. But in terms of actually putting pen to paper well then I would say it was in 1985 and I was about 13.
Q: So did you write your first book at 13?
A: Oh definitely yes. It was called the Obsession and it was over a hundred pages. Many of my friends at the time appeared as characters including my boyfriend at the time. At lunchtime what I had written would be circulated around the lunch table amongst my friends and they were always very eager to read the next twist in the plot. The story was about lust, revenge and murder - probably not something that a thirteen year old girl should be writing about! I spent hours writing it and would often work on it during my lessons at school – which was very naughty.
Q: Did you know from that point forward that you wanted to become a writer?
A: Um, it’s hard to say because I was quite creative as a child and would also spend time drawing up until around age 12. However, to be honest most of my time was taken up by dance and my aunt who is a professional ballet dancer was determined to make me become a dancer as well. Well, specifically she wanted me to become a ballet dancer but I had other ideas.
Q: I didn’t know you all those years ago but you had several years of performing at a high level at a young age didn’t you?
A: Yes I did. At the time I was living in America, which is where I grew up and danced for the Major League Soccer team, the St Louis Steamers. Their name has since changed as this was quite a few years ago now. The first time I ever auditioned for the dance line I was completely intimidated as there were so many girls and they all looked so glamorous and beautiful, I felt like I had walked into Hollywood. The next year I was successful and became part of the
Junior dance team known as Junior Mist. The whole dance troupe was known as Steam Heat and consisted of the ‘Big girls’, as we called it, who were 18 and over; My line, the junior line aged 11 to 18; and the little line aged 5 to 11. It’s very similar to the LA Lakers or Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and I believe the dance troupe still exists today. We were all classically trained dancers and could do ballet, tap and Jazz. The head director and co-partner had a previous career as a male dancer and performer for many years during the 70s. So he expected us to be very polished and technically sound. In total there were 100 of us and when we all performed together it was quite an electrifying sight. We not only performed at the Soccer games, but also danced for the St Louis Cardinals now the Rams, of the NFL, and also the St Louis Blues the major league Hockey team. We easily could do 2-3 promotional events a week around town as well as performing at the games. Not to mention hours and hours of practice and dance lessons. It certainly kept me busy and out of trouble.
Q: So from a young age you were encouraged to express yourself, and it sounds like you had a lot of fun doing it too?
A: Yes, I was fortunate in that respect. As I came from a single parent household it made my mother happy to know that I had something useful to dedicate my time to. I lived in the dance studio during those years from age 11 to 18 and learned a lot about the world of dance and performance.
Q: So did you go on to pursue a career in dance when you left school?
A: Sadly, no. I did go on to become a dance instructor and made good money at this for a few years but at age 21 I instead wanted to see the world and travel and came back to the UK. I was surprisingly interested in Economic Development and tried to go down that path but it didn’t work out for me.
Q: But you did get back into the world of performance later on didn’t you?
A: In an Indirect way. Around 1997 I began to work for Mark Borkowski who is a well-known publicist in the UK. From the moment I walked into the office I loved the energy of the company. It was small, dysfunctional and original and located in Camden Town, at the time a very eccentric and unique area of London. I enjoyed those years working for Mark. Coming from a background in dance I had previously been exposed to dramatic, arty types so I wasn’t intimidated by him and the other personalities around me. During those years he was well known and respected for bringing a variety of acts in the performance and theatre world to the public. Cirque du Soleil and Stomp are household names now, but back then they were big clients of his and were looking to raise their profile. Well, they both certainly succeeded with his help.
Q: Being in this environment did you begin to feel that you wanted to write for a living?
A: Yes, I began to realise that there were alternative outlets for writing. It was my role to assist the Copywriter and I learned a lot about professional writing working with him. During that time as well I began to do freelance writing, writing for small arty magazines and doing theatre reviews. It didn’t go anywhere but it made me realise that I wanted to work and earn a living as a writer. The problem was finding the work and opportunities.
Q: Is this what motivated you to write your novel?
A: Yes, because I wanted to have something finished and polished in my hands so that I could create my own path. And I specifically wanted to write fiction.
Q: Did you find it difficult coming up with the ideas to write this novel?
A: Not at all. I began writing this first book in 2001 and wrote the first draft in 3 months, it was completely finished in 2003 in between my day job. I sat down to write an adult novel and was pleasantly surprised that a child’s voice was coming through very strongly. I carried it forward and developed the character of Zoe who has a lot to tell. When I write I see everything as a movie and I am able to rewind, fast forward and hit pause. Most people look at me strangely but I have come across another writer who knows exactly what I mean.
Q: Did you spend a lot of time planning out your characters and the plot lines, from what I understand this is Book One of a 4-part series?
A: No, I keep mostly everything in my head and work out all of my ideas visually in my mind. I have written down my character’s biographies just to help keep track of who looks like what etc.. This goes against what you are taught in creative writing classes but my mind does not do well with linear thinking and unnecessary structure. I just allow my higher self to guide me and write down what I see and hear. I recently have been given the complete plot of Book II, it has come through in bits and pieces over the years including the name, Star of Alderbaran, and I’m currently writing this now. I have bits and pieces of Book III and IV in my mind as well but I haven’t been given the full plot line yet, as it’s not time!
Q: Have you been given the titles for Book III and IV yet?
A: Yes, but it’s a secret!
Q: Do you have any other potential books stashed in your mind?
A: Yes, it’s an adult book and will be a historical novel. But it’s not time for this one yet, so it’s a secret as well.
Q: You use a lot of spiritual and metaphysical ideas in your work is this something that is close to your heart?
A: I’m a big believer in the world of the unseen and also in the world of Quantum physics. Maybe in a next life I’ll come back as a Quantum Physicist, that would be great.
Q: Well, Valentine this is my last question. I want to thank you for being so open and honest with your answers. As I know you, I am aware that Valentine is not your real name, what inspired you to use this name?
A: Valentine St Aubyn is my pen name and is my father’s first and middle name. My father died when I was 6 so I have always seen his name and thought it was incredibly unique. In a way I always knew that I would adopt his name as my own pen name. I suppose you can say I have allowed him to become immortal in a sense.