Monica Valentinelli is the author of the new enhanced e-book The Queen of Crows, but she’s more than just that: she’s a marketer and columnist who is active in gaming and fiction circles, as well. A tireless crusader for quality dark fiction and a talented writer in her own right, Valentinelli is emerging as an author to watch.
Monica, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m an author and game designer who loves to play in the dark. Lately, I’ve been blogging over at Apex Book Company about how to create an alien language as part of my promotion for an upcoming non-fiction book I’ve been working on. I’ve also been developing the card game based on the Hack/Slash comic with Matt Papa and the other folks over at Eden Studios. ‘Course, these days I’m also writing fiction like crazy and playing games into the wee hours of the night. You can always read more about me and my work at www.mlvwrites.com or horror webzine www.flamesrising.com. I often write and manage projects for FlamesRising.com, too.
In March, you released an enhanced e-book entitled The Queen of Crows. Can you tell us what it’s about?
A few years ago, I started experimenting with a setting called the “Violet War,” which was inspired by Alchemy. Somewhere between my novel’s first draft and the second, I wanted to offer my readers the chance to walk inside my world while I balanced day job, freelancing and revisions. The Queen of Crows is the cornerstone of this world and offers a submersive experience for my readers. In this forty page e-book, you get a lot more than a short story. It includes a character treatment, full-color illustration, my first draft and a lot more.
Set in the 1860s, the story is about a Navajo Elder named “Tse.” He must decide whether or not to summon Mahochepi — the Queen of Crows — without knowing who or what she is.
So, it’s Native American horror?
With the way that my world was built, I can offer just about any genre in any time period. However, the Violet War began after I was reading up on my American history. This whole world was inspired by my reaction to learning more about the Navajo Long Walk. I felt that I couldn’t just work on telling stories set in modern day without revisiting the origin and sharing that experience, which is how this project started to evolve.
Why did you collaborate on this project? Why not just focus on the story?
Even though I’m an author, I’m all about collaborating with other people that have different talents than I do. In my mind, I feel that I always need to put my best foot forward because the reader wears the crown. So, I decided to collaborate with other talented people because I wanted to give the reader their money’s worth.
Leanne Buckley, a professional illustrator, designed Mahochepi with me. Shari Hill helped me understand how I wanted the e-book to be laid out. Finally, to promote the e-book, composer James Semple (Who’s currently working on HOUSE OF HELL, might I add?) collaborated with me on an original piece for The Queen of Crows promotional video. In the trailer, you can also see Leanne’s work which is included with the e-book.
So, confession time. How did you do it?
You know it’s funny but five, even ten years ago, there is no way I would have been able to do something like this. There are so many online programs out there now that you can use to talk to people all over the world. James, for example, lives in England. So we worked together using a variety of file-sharing and instant message tools.
In terms of collaboration, I started with the story first. That, to me, was the most important thing to “get right.” From there, I developed a rough concept of what I wanted Mahochepi to look like and Leanne helped me fill in the blanks. Shari helped me flush out the table of contents and then I started working on the individual pieces.
Any horror stories to share?
Oh, I can tell you that the price of innovation is a migraine. It’s nice to be one of the first authors that have offered an enhanced e-book like this, but everyone involved has had their fair share of frustration with it. Although I’d love to offer The Queen of Crows in more venues than DriveThruHorror.com, that process got infinitely more complicated because of the format. Most e-book sites frown on the rich images and layout that we have; others that are more magazine-friendly cost way too much. Since I’m a relatively unknown author, I wouldn’t expect readers to pay a premium for my work right now. I tried one or two other sites that could handle the format (which shall remain nameless) but customer service was non-existent. As in, crickets were chirping and I was a corpse, apparently. Can’t troubleshoot if someone won’t talk to you.
In order to keep the cost (and headaches) down, it’s available through DriveThruHorror.com. (If you use this link, you can buy it for $2.99, too!) I have to tell you, it looks great on the iPad!
A recent reviewer pegged you as a “fearless author.” Are you?
You know, I’m the type of author and game designer who loves to experiment with my work. In that way, I’d say that fearless is an appropriate description. I’ve had a lot of people look at me in shock when I tell them I included my first draft in this e-book. Several other pros told me before I even worked on this that authors would be crucified professionally for publishing less-than-superior work. To me, I think that some readers might find a first draft a fascinating read. I view writing to be a process and if it makes sense, why not clue a reader into what went on behind-the-scenes?
No, not every reader will like my take on things, but that’s okay. As long as I have a few readers who keep following my work, I do my best to deliver. I may not always succeed, but there’s always another story to tell. In all honesty, I think that last statement is no different from any other author that’s out there. To that degree, I guess all authors are fearless.