Joseph M. Rinaldo's wife is sixteen years his senior, so many of their triumphs and trials made their way into the book Valerie's Retreat. Their relationship provided a good foundation for the two main characters’ lives portrayed in this book Valerie's Retreat. For one year Joseph labored as a Head Teller at a bank. This employment history has enabled him to create a believable bank robbery. The theft is skillfully described in Valerie's Retreat.
D.O: Thank you for joining us today, Joseph M. Rinaldo, on Authors' Curtilage Book Dialogue.
JR:Thank you for having me, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this dialogue.
D.O: We have more writers succeeding at their goals than ever before. Briefly share with us the steps you took to get your publishing deal.
JR:We decided to self-publish.This has been a hard path. Showing the reading public that we offer well-written captivating novels has been a struggle. I understand people are hesitant to give independent authors a chance. You’ll find Valerie’s Retreat and my other three books, A Spy At Home, Hazardous Choices, and A Mormon Massacre available on Amazon. If any of these titles intrigue you, please go to the free "Click to Look Inside" and sample the first chapter. If a book grabs you that quickly, you'll probably be glad you got it. Also, if you are in a book club that reads one of my books, I'd be honored to join your discussion. Feel free to contact me through Facebook or my Website
D.O: The journey to publishing even for traditional authors is not easy so I can imagine. When editors read manuscripts, they are looking for one thing ---- DO THEY GET HOOKED? What did you do in Valerie's Retreat to make readers feel fear, concern, sadness, love and laughter?
JR:We hired an editor, and he is great! [shameless plug: David Pudlewitts of St. Albans Editing] David usually likes the overall plot and character development of the first draft I send him, but his job is to improve the book. He points out areas of concern regarding plot, setting, dialogue, etc.which he does very well. As for creating feelings in the reader, I spend time on the character. You see Valerie react in this situation and thinking that, so you get to know her. As for the feelings the reader feels, that’s up to them. In all my books I try to create protagonists with a lot of grey between their good and bad sides. We all have well-defined good and bad in us, but most of the things we think and do fall into the middle ground. Valerie’s action will rate somewhere on your moral scale. Where she falls is up to you.
D.O: All right then, it's up to the readers. Scrutinizing the structure of the story Valerie's Retreat from the little I've read, one can tell this is a story written by a professional and a gifted person. Did you take some writing courses or is this just a pure talent at work?
JR: Thank you for the compliment; I’m self-taught. I just sit down and write. No classes, but I do lean on my editor, mentioned above, and my wife. The more you write and have people who will give honest evaluations about your work, the more you will grow as a writer. You can learn a lot from reading. But, no matter how much you learn from outside sources, the basic character, plot, and twists have to come from your creative mind. No one can help you consistently in those areas.
D.O: Hmm. That's very true. The gift of writing is the special ability that God gives to certain people. Some start writing stories by having pictures in their minds or simply by hearing voices. In fact there are different ways this special breed gets ideas. How did your own writing journey begin, Joe?
JR:The actual impetus for me to begin writing came while I was reading Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks. When I got to the part where he received a million-dollar advance, I thought, “Holy cow! He’s a good writer, but I know I can do this, too.” I’ve been writing for commercial reasons since that day in 2004. Long ago in 1996 or 97 I started a novel and read it to my then girlfriend over the phone. This was my first attempt and she bluntly pointed out how the characters didn’t tell the story. I threw that away and didn’t write again until 2004. Now that girlfriend is my wife and I know I can trust her tell the truth about my stories. My writing’s gotten better, and she’s become more diplomatic in her criticism.
D.O: Valerie Fortson robs a bank with her boyfriend’s help. And the book blurb says we might forgive her when we read about her traumatic childhood. Not every head teller in a bank has the nerves to carry out the kind of operation Valerie carried out. What kind of character is Valerie Fortson?
JR: Troubled. Outwardly, I hope you find her likeable and someone you can relate to. Inside, her mind is a raging sea of conflict and fear. Her abusive childhood left her without the tools to emotionally handle unfair situations. This void in her development leads to poor decision-making. She robs the bank out of desperation, but she’s far from arrogant or confident about it. Once the bank is robbed, and she runs with Franco at her side, they have to deal with the stress of constantly looking over their shoulders. I hope you find it interesting where they run to! No hints; you’ll have to read the book for that.
D.O: [SMILES] Sure, the readers will love the book and Valerie too. The lives of you and your wife helped to create the characters Valerie and her boyfriend in Valerie's Retreat. But what changes did you make to bring this character up to professional standards?
JR: Valerie experienced a harsh childhood. That had to be handled delicately in her interactions with Franco. The reader learns the stark, disgusting truth with insights into Valerie’s thoughts.Writing this differs greatly from being in a relationship where you can’t see the other person’s thoughts. To make the interaction between her and Franco realistic, the truth must come out a little at a time. Franco must be left in the dark to an extent, and the reader wonders how much of herself she’ll reveal to him. The more Valerie reveals, the more the reader believes she’s in love. The converse is also true when she hides her past from him.
D.O: Hmm. What does Valerie want most in the world?
JR: Valerie wants a chance at inner peace. Finding the spot on this planet where she’s free from traumatic memories and contentedly in love with Franco is her goal. One might obviously conclude that the place she’s searching for can be anywhere or nowhere. That’s easy to say when you’re not the tormented person.
D.O: What did she do in order to achieve her goals?
JR: Made her own luck by robbing a bank! Only partly kidding; the money got her out of one mess and into another. Valerie moved toward her ultimate goal of inner peace by emotionally opening herself to Franco. She luckily stumbled onto a man who was good for her and mustered the inner courage to let him see her troubled side. I believe that’s how the biggest success comes, by changing ourselves.
D.O: In real life we all have values. Some we inherit from cultural values and other are simply created based on early life experiences. This is also true with our fictional characters. Because of this, great stories grow on conflicts between values. What are core truths for Valerie?
JR: In Valerie’s core, she sees the world as presenting opportunity. That’s a part of her make-up. As a child she learned to distrust religious authority figures. This leads me to conclude that Valerie is a cautious optimist. She believes in the good, but worries about the evil.
D.O: Mm. Interesting character. What are the two conflicting values you created for her?
JR: Trusting and not trusting; she wants so bad to be accepted and have someone she accepts without condition, but she grew up hearing how she failed to live up to expectations. In the childhood world where she grew up,she was left feeling like half a person. Yet, in spite of all that, she looks for the good in people. This is the source of her inner conflict.
D.O: Do these values make sense from her backstory?
JR: That’s for the reader to decide. Some books have that magical quality where the main character resonates in you. I think we all understood E.T. wanting to phone home, because all of us have been lost at some point. Hopefully readers will connect with Valerie’s inner turmoil and maybe find her realistic relationship with a younger man intriguing.
D.O: O.K. Readers please, [GIGGLING] Joe, is telling you again to find out. [SMILES] In the end of Valerie's Retreat, did the story goal satisfy Valerie's ambition, did she devise another method to achieve her goal, or did she fail?
JR: Sorry, but I can’t answer that question directly; however, I’m a writer; so I have to give an answer. I cannot write in a genre, because I can’t abide by strict rules. For instance, Romance novels must have a tidy ending with a bow on top; Mystery novels must solve the crime whether the perpetrator is caught or not. Given my abhorrence for the mandated conclusion, I will say that Valerie’s Retreat has a realistic ending. How good, bad, right, or wrong is for the reader to determine, given their set of values.
D.O: O.K Joe. . . . What do you want readers to take away from Valerie's Retreat?
JR: Personally, I enjoy books that keep me thinking about them after I finish reading them. Valerie might touch some readers in that they’ll continue to debate how much forgiveness and compassion Valerie deserves. I hope readers put themselves in her place and judge her by their moral standards. If a reader continues to do that after finishing Valerie’s Retreat, I’ll consider it a success.
D.O: Do you have any favorite quotes you'll like to share with us?
JR: If you think you can, you can; if you think you can’t, you can’t. Either way you’re right.
D.O: Hmm. Writing a good book isn't a laughing matter. Please, briefly analyze the best methods you think are good to write a great story.
JR: When you hear the voices in your head, let them tell their own story. All you do is type like taking dictation. That’s how it works when the story’s really flowing. Have no fear; type freely. After you complete the manuscript, an editor will help you figure out where you went wrong.
D.O: Hello Lovely Readers, I hope you have enjoyed reading this interview. I on the other hand have enjoyed hosting Joseph on the blog today. Don't forget to pick up your very own personal copy of "Valerie's Retreat." Thank you for joining us today,Joe.
JR: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate your well-thought-out, focused questions. To the readers, feel free to contact me via any of the below links and give my books a chance. Read the free “Look-In” on Amazon to get a feel for the book. If you’re willing to share your thoughts on my work, good or bad, I’d be grateful to hear them. Feedback will help me grow as an author.
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