Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Steven Valenti – Steven Valenti grew up in South Central Pennsylvania. With inspiration from his 7th grade English teacher, flourishing under her tutelage, a passion for writing developed.
Thanks so much, Steven, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Steven Valenti: As far back as I can remember, I loved the act of writing. Putting pen to paper and using the hand to create words and sentences was my form of art once I learned cursive handwriting. The loops and lines all coming together stirred something inside me, like an artist learning to paint. Despite the love of writing, I didn’t think I was good at it until I reached my forties when I started writing short stories and novels.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
SV: My style is distinct, and at times breaks convention. I write what comes to me in the way that it comes to me, it’s steam of consciousness writing that comes from the heart. While some may criticize my style, wanting to be different, I stick with it. Of course, I value feedback, and am always looking for ways to improve. However, I like my prose to be short and concise. Up until now my writing has been contained to gay erotica and romance but I’ve recently started a novel that’s far different that includes murder and betrayal in a heterosexual context.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
SV: Pursuits of the Heart, which appeared in a college student publication was my first published piece. It was a short story about an older college student who falls in love with a much younger classmate. Despite the odds, they become a couple for the experience of true love.
JSC: What do you do when you get writer’s block?
SV: I set a timer for five minutes and write whatever comes to mind without worry of grammar, punctuation, or mistakes. Simply focusing on putting thoughts to paper seems to open up my mind and the writer’s block disappears.
JSC: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
SV: Stick with it. Never give up, even if you have to step away from it for a while. And most all of all believe in yourself and your writing. While not everyone may like it, there will be those who do.
JSC: Do you ever base your characters on real people? If so, what are the pitfalls you’ve run into doing so?
SV: Yes, but when I do so, they are a combination of people and personalities I’m familiar with. It’s never one single person. This allows me lots of freedom and familiarity in creating a persona that’s fluid. Avoiding the pitfall of making it obvious to people I know that I’m writing about them.
JSC: How long do you write each day?
SV: Normally four to six hours. I like to write early in the morning, starting around 5 a.m.
JSC: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
SV: My first novel At the Heart of Love took four months.
JSC: Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?
SV: When it’s time for a book idea, I ask myself: What are you going to write about next? It’s a question that produces ideas. The idea that sticks out the most is one that has a strong beginning, middle, and end, and one with great characters.
JSC: What is the most heartfelt thing a reader has said to you?
SV: That my writing was so descriptive and concise, they felt they were there in the midst of the story and the places within the story.
And now for Steven’s new book: At the Heart of Love:
Nothing in life is by chance; it all happens for a reason. Something, Roger Janzen, a farm boy from Ohio, realizes after escaping to Chicago. Instantly finding Brent Pierce, a financial executive, who transforms Roger into a socialite. Following Brent’s murder, Roger discovers it’s not the life for him. While Scott Turner and Alec Lopez, high school seniors, fall in love. It too tragically ends, allowing Roger and Scott, young widowers, to meet for the repeat of love and death. Roger’s the prevailer re-encountering, Barak Christopoulos, an artist he met ten-years ago. Together they meld for the perfect coupling and life’s pinnacle—true-self-discovery of the heart.
Discovery of sexuality. Surrender of virginity—that first orgasm shared with another. First loves that end and those that follow. At the Heart of Love is a gay erotic romance set in the mid-90s and into the millennium as Roger, Brent, Scott, and Alec journey from boys to men. They discover love at first sight. Intimate, loving relationships that blossom and grow, with experiences of true love ending in breakups or death. Lives intertwined and meshed for their souls’ journey and hearts’ fulfillment of love.
They stepped into the empty cabin. Brent pushed the sixtieth floor. The elevator lifted upward with such force Roger swayed into Brent, who caught him. The whooshing of the elevator overtook the silence as it rapidly climbed. The head lifted upward. Eyes bore into Brent’s. It was the moment they had longed for. Hands placed on the shoulders. Roger lifted onto the toes, stretching toward Brent’s face. Head tilted as the hands wrapped around Roger’s neck for an inward pull. Their bodies met and fit together perfectly as if they were custom made for the other. The electrical impulse of desire sensed as their lips called out for the other. Their mouths converged; the Romanesque nose tucked alongside Roger’s as their chins connected. The satiny smoothness of their overlaid lips ignited a fire of passion between them. Tongues swirled and twisted into oneness as they melted into the other. Intense sexual longing brought deep-rooted arousal. Their erections stiff and strong. Orally united in bliss until a chime and swish of the doors forced its end.
Inside Unit 6017, six floor-to-ceiling windowpanes with a glass door leading out to a circular balcony displayed an array of skyscrapers twinkling with lights caught Roger’s attention, instantly reminding him of New York City.
A blueberry suede matinee sofa faced the windows. Two canary leather barrel chairs adorned with patterned throw pillows tucked in their corners were cocked on either side of a square, plush beige area rug pointing toward the sofa. In the middle of the ensemble sat a massive cocktail table. Its solid natural wood resembled a bowl topped with a crystal vase filled with lavender, pink, and rose gladiolus—the room elegant and well put together. Roger immediately felt at home.
Hands placed onto shoulders; Roger was spun around. Brent’s face lowered and kissing ensued. The leather jacket slid down the arms falling to the floor. A reach under the shirt, fingertips explored the hairless, soft skin of the toned upper chest. They moved upward and cupped around Roger’s neck. The once gentle kissing turned savage as if their mouths were suffering from starvation, devouring the other with an insatiable appetite. Brent knew things had to slow down. If they continued as they were in a drop of the hat, they’d be in the bedroom. Roger was a delicacy. One to be savored, not consumed hurriedly with a ravenous appetite.
Steven Valenti grew up in South Central Pennsylvania. With inspiration from his 7th grade English teacher, flourishing under her tutelage, a passion for writing developed. Formerly an international flight attendant with a major U.S. carrier, having traveled the globe many of his worldly and life experiences can be found within his writings. Currently, he resides in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex with his teenage son and their precious pup, Henry.