Interview with Valerie Nieman, Author of To the Bones


Today’s interview is with Valerie Nieman, author of To The Bones.

Please see below.


-Vincent Lowry


1) What is your author name and in what state do you live (or country if not in the US)?
Valerie Nieman, North Carolina
2) What is the title of your newest book and what is the genre?
To the Bones is a horror/mystery about the use and abuse of power in coal country, where that legacy is very long indeed. It’s also a story about the love for family and home and the fight to save them. As a reviewer in the Colorado Review wrote: “In this unusual tale of death and monsters and environmental devastation, horror, science fiction, romance, and satire bleed together to form a vibrant literary delight that is as powerful and imposing as the fearsome orange-hued river that runs through it.”
3) What is the book about? 

       Darrick MacBrehon, a government auditor, wakes among the dead. Bloodied and disoriented from a gaping head wound, the man who staggers out of the mine crack in Redbird, West Virginia, is much more powerful—and dangerous—than the one thrown in. An orphan with an unknown past, he must now figure out how to have a future.

Hard-as-nails Lourana Taylor works as a sweepstakes operator and spends her time searching for any clues that might lead to Dreama, her missing daughter. Could this stranger’s tale of a pit of bones be connected? With help from Marco DeLucca, a disgraced deputy, and Zadie Person, a local journalist investigating an acid mine spill, Darrick and Lourana push against everyone who tries to block the truth. Along the way, the bonds of love and friendship are tested, and bodies pile up on both sides.

In a town where the river flows orange and the founding—and controlling—family is rumored to “strip a man to the bones,” the conspiracy that bleeds Redbird runs as deep as the coal veins that feed it.

4) Where did you come up with the idea?
I homesteaded a hill farm in West Virginia some years ago. The land lay over the top of the former Farmington No. 9 coal mine that tragically blew up in 1968, killing 78 men and leaving 19 entombed. That knowledge was always in the back of my mind as I worked the gardens and tended the cattle. A “mine crack” appeared in the back pasture as the ground settled into the mine workings. I always used to say that if I ever were going to kill someone, I’d throw the body in a mine crack. So for this book, I did exactly that.
5) How long did it take you to write it?
I set myself the task of writing quickly, as the material all came from my years as a journalist and farmer in West Virginia and did not rely on extensive research. It took me less than a year — normally, it’s a 4-6 year process for me to finish a novel.
6) Did you learn anything from the project?
I learned that my reporter-powers of writing fast, tight, and on deadline never went away.
7) Do you have an author website and/or blog? How about a book video?
8) Do you have any success tips to pass on to fellow authors? How about any great editors/cover artists? 
Keep at it! Writing is a long game, a marathon rather than a sprint. My MFA director used to say that the biggest problem for writers is attrition–so don’t attrit.
I’ve relied on a network of writing friends and small writing groups to keep me productive and on track. Just can’t go to group empty-handed! My first editors are always these writers–we read each other’s work and are brutally honest. To the Bones was read by a writer of SF/fantasy and scholarly works on UFOs, a fantasy/horror writer, a literary novelist/poet, a literary novelist/memoirist, and a writer whose themes include the Asian immigrant experience and Malaysian history, so quite a wide range of approaches. Each had useful suggestions that led to the final manuscript, which then went through peer review at West Virginia University Press and had three more goings-over.
9) What genres do you like to read? Are you open to reading new authors and reviewing their work?
Since childhood, I’ve read widely, omnivorously, without regard to genre or age-appropriateness. I started by reading the classics I could find at home–Poe, Hawthorne, Stevenson, Shakespeare, Twain, Tennyson, Hardy. When I was a young teen, I discovered science fiction and fantasy and plunged deeply into that world. I’ll read what comes to hand, especially when I am traveling–biographies, Ed McBain, local authors, science writing, Agatha Christie, spy stories and westerns and historical epics. I am always behind on reading the many volumes of short stories and literary novels from my friends and colleagues. And I am always reading, and writing, poetry.
10) What is your favorite book of all time and why? 
Oh, that’s not fair! I could never choose a single book. If I were marooned on a desert island, I might opt for the Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
11) Fun Question: Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?
None right now, though I borrow a dog occasionally and consider my neighbors’ pets as my own.
12) Fun Question 2: Do you own an electronic reading device? If so, what kind and how do you like it?
I do not, though I have the Kindle and Libro apps on my iPhone. I use them occasionally, but am still enchanted by the printed page and the heft of a book in my hands.
To the Bones,an Appalachian mystery/horror novel
Visit my website or Facebook page
Twitter @valnieman, Instagram @valnieman

SEPT. 24 – Sunrise Books, High Point, NC, with Gerry Stanek.

SEPT. 28 – Books-a-Million, 1-4 pm, Beckley, WV.

SEPT. 30 – Gabor Folklife Center, 7 pm, Fairmont, WV.

OCT. 4-6 – West Virginia Book Festival. Speaking at 9 am Saturday.

OCT. 9 – McNally Jackson, NYC.

OCT. 19 – West Virginia University with Women of Appalachia Project.

NOV. 16 – Kentucky Book Festival.

JAN. 24-25 – Roanoke Regional Writers Conference.

FEB. 28-MARCH 1 – Mysticon in Roanoke, VA.

MARCH 13-14 – Charleston SC reading and workshop.

MARCH 20-21 -Upcountry Literary festival, Union, SC

APRIL 10 – Wordstream Radio in Knoxville, TN. Reading at 7 pm, Union Avenue Books. 

APRIL 26 – Women Improving Race Relations Book Club, Greensboro, NC.

*As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


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