New York Times bestselling author and Mamiverse contributor Alisa Valdes has released a new book, this time a young adult fiction novel, The Temptation. The first in a trilogy titled The Kindred and published by HarperCollins’ imprint HarperTeen, The Temptation is actually her second young adult novel. The author of The Dirty Girls Social Club and more recently Lauren’s Saints of Dirty Faith, Valdes has sold more than 1 million books. The prolific writer is also a screenwriter and film producer.
Already The Temptation is getting good reviews on GoodReads. You can see a short book trailer for The Temptation here.. Valdes’ first memoir, Learning to Submit, will be released in 2013. She took time from her busy writing schedule to answer a few questions for Mamiverse. In addition to sharing her personal paranormal experiences and why she loves writing for young people, find out why Valdes says it’s important that mothers nurture themselves before their children.
Mamiverse: The Temptation is a paranormal love story between a ghost and a living teenage girl. What sparked the idea for you to tackle a relationship with such seemingly insurmountable odds?
Valdes: As strange as this is going to sound, the answer is ghosts. Ghosts inspired me to tell this story. Throughout my life I’ve had strange experiences with things I can only describe as ghosts, some who were people I’d known and loved in life and some I’d never met before. These experiences made me start to wonder what the science or physics behind ghosts might be. I started to watch this amazing show on the BIO network, called “I Survived: Beyond and Back,” about near death experiences, and I became increasingly convinced that our bodies are just flesh machines, receivers that house the soul, or that accept the soul’s broadcast. This made me think of String Theory and music, both of which are about vibrations, the vibrating nature of everything in the universe. So I came up with my own theory of souls, that they are expressed in vibrations or frequencies, like light, sound. This led me to the idea of harmony, soul harmonies, and kindred spirits as souls that vibrate in harmony or, in the case of your one true kindred, unison. I decided that if two souls vibrated in unison, that it would be the greatest love imaginable, and that nothing could stand in its way, not even death.
Mamiverse: Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
Valdes: Yes. All the time. Writing, for me, is a form of channeling sometimes. I’ll write something, and it will come true. I can’t explain it at all, and I’m really not a weird new-age type. I’m pretty normal and pragmatic, so whenever this stuff happens it very much freaks me out. Most recently, my grandmother visited me. It wasn’t anything I could see. I felt her in the room with me. Hard to explain. I was having a difficult time, and she’d passed away not too long before that, and then suddenly I smelled her perfume, and felt her in the room, and it was this incredible comforting presence, like she was holding me and reassuring me. I was blown away. I spoke to her, and said that if it was really her to give me some sign, and it was in that moment that the fringe on a shawl hanging from a chair in my room began to sway like fingers of a metronome. There was no breeze in the room, no reason that should have happened, and nothing else moved, just that one shawl. I spoke to her again and said, “If you’re doing that, make it stop,” and it did. It stopped instantly. I am absolutely convinced there is life after death.
Mamiverse: Do you believe in soulmates?
Valdes: Yes. I do. I believe we have countless souls that vibrate in harmony with our own, meaning multiple soulmates. I like to think we have one true mega soulmate, like Shane finds in Travis in the novel. I recently spoke to a shaman and healer about this idea and she told me that she calls it “twin flames,” and that this kind of one true soulmate experience stems from two souls having come from the same particle of star dust that went into making us. I love all of these ideas. They make me happy.
Mamiverse: Do you think we ever really move on from the powerful punch that is our first brush with true love?
Valdes: Yes, we do. We have to. Very few of us end up married to our first love. But I’m not sure love ever feels as gigantic as it did that first time out of the gate.
Mamiverse: You capture the essence of teen isolation, angst, and youth finding their way in the world incredibly well. Was it difficult for you to write from such a vantage-point?
Valdes: Thank you. I am lucky that I kept meticulous journals in middle and high school, because now that I am writing for a teen crossover audience I can go back and see the sorts of things I thought about, and how I approached life and love. What strikes me most is that I wasn’t all that different from who I am now. I think grownups consistently underestimate the intelligence and capability of young adults and teens. We never “feel” young, or old for that matter; all of us, no matter our age, always just feel like ourselves.
Mamiverse: Travis, the ghost in The Temptation was also a cowboy when alive, and very grounded to his natural surroundings. Through his character, are you saying his way (ranch life) is a dying way of life, both mystical, revered, and a thing of the past?
Valdes: Wow! I hadn’t thought of him like that. I don’t think the rural way of life is dying out at all. I do think, however, that it is ignored and stereotyped by the media at large. We pay a lot of attention to certain kinds of diversity in American—namely racial and ethnic—but we ignore some other types of diversity that are every bit as fundamental and essential to who we are as a people. I think of Travis as representing rural America, rural people, in a way that I hope is not stereotyped at all. The urban-rural divide in this country is monumental. I wanted the love story between Travis and Shane to be against all sorts of odds. She’s a city girl, he’s a rural boy. Her family had a lot of money, his didn’t. He’s dead, she’s alive. And yet, the message goes, these two seemingly “different” people share the same soul. Literally. This is my way of saying, yes, we all have lots of things that make us different from one another, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter where you’re from, how you look, how you dress, what accent you have; at the end of the day it is the quality of your soul that defines you.
Mamiverse: So many talented authors are turning their genius to writing books for young adults. What made you decide to do so?
Valdes: This is not my first young adult book. I wrote another one a few years back, called Haters. Being a mom has heightened my awareness of children’s literature. Young readers are wonderful readers, they feel things more powerfully than their jaded adult counterparts. It is truly a joy to write for young people.
Mamiverse: You’re a classically trained musician. Do you find there is a connection between how you hear and interpret the world, and your writing?
Valdes: Yes. I write as a musician, not as a writer. I have no formal training in fiction writing, though I do have a degree in print journalism. I approach language as music. As sound. As cadence. As color and shape. As mood. I always have a soundtrack when I’m writing.
Mamiverse: You have a son. Has motherhood altered what you aim to accomplish through your writing?
Valdes: Not exactly. I have always had very simple goals in my writing. I want to tell a good story in a fun and clear way that lots of people can enjoy. I want to play with language. I want to make people feel good. I want to celebrate what makes life worth living. I have nothing against happy endings. Life is hard enough for most of us as it is, so a big goal I have as a writer is to never, ever contribute to someone’s misery. I don’t understand why anyone would want to write a book that leaves readers depressed, and yet there is no shortage of writers who do exactly that. My goal is to uplift, entertain and engage. That’s about it.
Mamiverse: So many moms have a difficult time making their self-expression a priority. What words of wisdom do you have for busy moms trying to find time to nurture their own pursuits?
Valdes: If you’ve ever taken a flight on an airplane, the attendants give you a little song and dance at the start where they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before trying to help your child with hers. Why is that? That is because a child cannot be helped by a mother who is suffocating. I think it’s the same in life. You cannot show a child how to lead a fulfilling life if you yourself are not living one. You can only show them how to put their own needs on hold. Children learn by example. I will never forget the evening when I had to take my son to a talk I was giving for a nonprofit organization that gave me an award in San Diego. My childcare had fallen through, and I was in a bind. I felt so guilty for forcing this little boy to sit through a stuffy formal dinner and a bunch of talks, including my own. But you know what? When I finished that talk he was the first one out of his seat, with a huge smile on his face. He was seven years old, and he did a big fist-pump and shouted to the crowd, “That’s my MOM!” He was proud of me. After that, he had all kinds of questions about what it was to be a writer, and he saw me in a totally new way. I wasn’t just the lady who made macaroni and cheese and took him to the park. I was a writer, with a story to tell. Soon after that, he began writing his own stories down. Everything you do for yourself, to better your own life, you do to your child as well. Your happiness is a gift to your kid.