Val Stasik shares a home in eternally sunny Santa Fe, NM, with her aging mixed terrier, Sugar, who allows her to sleep in his queen-size bed as well as sharpen her culinary skills for his benefit. Stasik spent many years as a writing teacher, helping other writers find their voice and tell their stories, and is a consultant for the Northern Virginia Writing Project. INCIDENTAL DAUGHTER is Stasik’s debut novel.
Stasik studied drama and English at the University of Pittsburgh and then transferred to the University of Maryland, College Park, graduating with high honors and a B.S. in Secondary Education, Communication. The year she attended graduate school was filled with student protests, bomb threats, and military helicopters.
Stasik became an editorial assistant for THE PHARMACOLOGIST in Bethesda. She then moved to Harpers Ferry where she taught for five years and participated in the Old Opera House Theatre onstage and behind the scenes.
In Harrisburg, PA, she became a groom and mutuels clerk at Penn National Race Track and, later, a commercial lines underwriter for Pennsylvania National Mutual Casualty Insurance Company. Right before her son was born, Three Mile Island happened. So far, neither glows in the dark.
In Virginia, Stasik enjoyed the enriching experience of teaching writing and literature in the Loudoun County Public School system, instructed other teachers in assessing student writings, and helped develop various English curricula. She also participated in the Fauquier Community Theatre on and off stage. From 2002-2004, she developed a part-time hypnosis practice. She then retired to Santa Fe where she has been writing—a few film scripts that have been produced (Café Destiny, on the Web, Spring 2013, www.cafe-destiny.com) and a couple of award-winning play scripts.
Stasik is currently a member of the New Mexico Book Association, the New Mexico Book Co-Op; Southwest Writers; the Independent Book Publishers Association; the Small Publishers’ Association of North America; the Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network; and Pennwriters.
Visit her website at www.ValerieStasik.com.
When successful publisher Liz Michaels’ marriage to blue blood, Addison Tiffin Payne, fails after the loss of their baby and his growing alcoholism, she pours all her creative energy and passion into her work and finds comfort in her friendship with the co-owners of her company as well as the appearances of the spirits of her Polish mother and grandmother, who never speak except in dreams she cannot remember. Only her feelings from those dreams linger.
When Liz’s ex-husband plans to stage her suicide by pushing her off the balcony of her high-rise home in order to collect on a life insurance policy, he topples to his death instead. When the police arrive, Liz, the potential victim, becomes the prime murder suspect. She meets Pittsburgh Police Detective Jim Shannon, who may threaten her freedom or possibly gain her love. Her swirling feelings are complicated by the simultaneous appearance of a talented, familiar-looking intern at her workplace. Although Liz is finished with a past that included a botched meeting with her biological father, the past is not done with her, for the intern and Shannon link to that past. Internal conflict is soon compounded by external threats created by her ex-husband’s mother as well as someone seeking revenge on Shannon and his fellow detective.
Who or what is the inspiration behind this book?
Growing up, I learned there were a few of us who might be termed WWII collateral damage—the offspring of women and innocent young men who went off to war. None of these women expected to become mothers; the stresses and uncertainties of war spurred them to compassion for the men who feared they would not return. Some men did not return, but others did. A few mothers, because of a feeling of betrayal or for whatever reason, chose to turn their backs on the men who in one night had drastically changed their lives.
Some of the children of these single mothers grew up to live normal lives while others faced challenges that either crippled them or honed them into very successful people. The years following WWII harbored secrecy; many of these children were told their fathers died in the war. When they grew old enough to see through the lie, they could still elicit very little information about their fathers. Such were the times.
In Incidental Daughter, I chose to tell the story of one child, Liz Michaels, who overcame her trials with the help of compassionate friends. I decided to explore what might happen if at the peak of her career, she loses a child and her marriage fails. Then I decided to throw in a few curves from the past that could ironically lead to the love and family that has always been out of reach. I’ve been asked if this story is autobiographical. No, it’s pure fiction, but many born into the same circumstances as Liz will see themselves in it and, perhaps, be inspired.
What are you currently working on?
Most people would say I’m shooting myself in the foot with my next project and that I should continue to build my platform by writing in the same genre. However, true to my habit of rebelling against expectations, my next novel will be a young adult science fiction novel, working title Catching Air. Young Chet Hain, saddled with phobias because of a car accident that took the lives of his older brother and later his father when they were driving him to a skateboarding contest, must, seven years later, deal with the mystery of who is watching his home. His discovery of the mystery watcher leads him into a world where appearances are not what they seem, where a powerful and dangerous conspiracy continually strives to derail research and development into free energy. There will likely be a sequel to this book.
Do you have any advice for writers or readers?
Writers: Do some amateur acting. You will learn a great deal about character motivation, dialogue, and the action and reaction dynamic between characters. In addition, physically participating in the unfolding of a story with a live audience may instill an instinctive sense of story in you that will help with plotting. Read and write poetry. Focusing on imagery will carry over into your prose writing, making word choices to convey vivid details easier. Read as a writer; read the good, the bad, and the mediocre. You’ll learn something from all of them. Be open to criticism, but allow yourself to be the final judge of what’s right for your story. Write many, many drafts and use Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King before you send your manuscript to an agent or out to someone for editing. You’ll save yourself a lot of embarrassment if you follow their advice.
Readers: Without you, we’re not authors. If you find a book enjoyable, share it with friends. And spare a few moments to write a short review for one of the online retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) or Goodreads. Yes, there are some writers out there running a racket just to make a buck, but there are many of us who love what we do, write the very best we can at the time, and want to share it. We are the ones who pray that when you buy our books, you will feel your money was well spent. Hearing from you or reading a positive review you’ve written encourages us to reach higher.
What are some of your long term goals?
Although Incidental Daughter is geared to an audience of women, I would really like to write several young adult novels. Some of the ones I’ve read tend to talk down to this audience. They are really far more sophisticated and discerning than many adults realize. I would also like to share some of the royalties from these novels to benefit one of my favorite charities that provides for children and young people who find themselves on the streets. I don’t and won’t name the charity in the future because I feel like I would be exploiting the organization just to increase sales of these future books. My readers will never know about this contribution.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from life so far?
People do the best they can with what they know at the time, don’t take things personally, and advice is wasted on people who don’t ask for it.
What is your favorite past-time?
Why reading, of course. When I’m not writing or taking care of daily chores, I’m reading.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Yes. Visit me at: