Interview with Valerie Pepper, Author of The Widow’s Guide to Second Chances
Welcome to the third in a series of interviews with fellow romance authors! This time I’m thrilled to feature fellow contemporary romance author Valerie Pepper. She just released her debut contemporary romance, The Widow’s Guide to Second Chances, on April 11th. I’ve read it, and it is exceptionally well-written, funny, sweet, moving and oh so very spicy. I genuinely loved this book, and her male main character is right up my alley (dirty pun fully intended). I have no doubt you will be hearing much more about Valerie in the future, and I’m thrilled that she agreed to sit down with me for an interview.
I have to admit, though – you’re not the first to clap eyes on this interview. If you were a subscriber to my monthly email newsletter, you would have already read this one week ago. Click here to subscribe so you don’t miss out anymore.
Interview with author Valerie Pepper
Tell us about yourself and your journey to becoming an author.
I’ve been writing for over 20 years, and banged my head relentlessly against the traditional doors of publishing for most of that. I wrote seven books, racking up anywhere from 400 – 500 agent rejections (I lost count) writing literary fiction, women’s fiction (and I hate that description), and middle grade (aimed at 8 – 12 year olds). Once I switched to romance, I landed an agent but she didn’t have luck with my first or second manuscripts (books 8 and 9. I started a tenth book, a romance to kick off a different series, and decided to indie publish. A few months later, my agent called to tell me she’d sold my first two manuscripts to a small publisher. So it felt like I went from zero to sixty almost overnight. Life as a hybrid author has mainly been a non-event, but I think it’s because I’m at the very beginning of everything.
Why do you love to write and/or read in the romance genre?
I didn’t start reading romance with any regularity until 2019, and then I absolutely devoured it. After six months or so of inhaling it, I pivoted away from the middle grade fiction I’d been writing and decided to try my hand at it. I’ve never looked back. I love writing romance. It is such a wonderful genre, because you know you’re getting an HEA or HFN at the end, and our world can be such a dumpster fire that I really love being able to give readers a few hours of escape.
What are your favorite romance tropes to read and/or write, and why?
I am an absolute sucker for romcoms and contemporary. I’ve been sucked in to Regency romances, but I’m extremely picky about those. I’ve not read enough alien, shifter, and dark romance yet—those are next on my list to dive into. It’s hard, though, because I like to read what I’m writing.
What is the best writing advice that you have ever received, or that you yourself have to share?
Read deep and wide in your genre. But also, read outside your genre, because you’ll learn new techniques you can take back to your side of the house.
Tell us something surprising about yourself that no one would ever guess!
My first “kiss” was from John Schneider (aka Bo Duke from the Dukes of Hazzard) when he was touring with the General Lee. I was probably 8 or so, and I waited in line to meet him. He kissed my cheek, and in that moment, he displaced Simon LeBon (lead singer of Duran Duran) as the man I’d definitely marry one day.
What is the best book marketing advice you have ever received, or that you yourself have to share?
It takes a lot of time; more than anyone would prefer. As an indie author, you have to be the one to care. If you don’t care, or don’t believe in yourself and your book, then no one else will. Also, don’t scrimp on your book cover. People do, in fact, judge books by their covers. Finally: hustle. There is no such thing as putting your book up on Amazon and just sitting back and waiting on the sales to come in. That’s not how this works.
Who is your favorite character that you yourself have ever written, and why?
Ooh, that’s hard. I’ve written 13 books at this point. I wrote a ghost Elvis Presley for one of my middle grade books and he was absolutely hilarious and clueless, always running around in a white tank and a Hawaiian shirt and generally causing havoc while he tried to “help” the 11-year-old characters catch ghosts. He still makes me giggle when I think of him. I’m currently writing a character, Price, in my Guided to Love series who’s a secret underwear and romance cover model that everyone has written off as a “himbo,” and he’s turning into quite the book boyfriend. I’m certain he’ll have plenty of fans when he steps into the light.
Are there any other writers who have influenced your own writing, or whose books are comparable to your own?
The romance writer who yanked me into the genre is Rebecca Yarros, and I love her books. Readers who like Lucy Score, Tessa Bailey, Abby Jimenez, and Melanie Harlow will like my books. I try to put some Emily Henry-level emotions into mine, as well.
Tell us about your latest work(s). Where can we connect with you and buy your books?
My debut novel, The Widow’s Guide to Second Chances, is out now on Kindle Unlimited and print on Amazon, plus print on BookShop.org. While Widow’s Guide is technically “book 1” of the Guided to Love series, you can head over to my website to sign up for my newsletter and get a free novella that is a prequel to that series, too.
Finally, I’m most active on IG and TikTok, and am @AuthorValeriePepper on both.
Thanks again, Valerie, for sitting down with me for an interview. On Monday, May 22nd, I’ll post my interview with sci-fi romance and paranormal romance author Jessica E. Subject, so stick around.
Now, did you know that I already announced the title of my upcoming sequel to The Catch?
I did – both in my monthly email newsletter (first), as well as on my social media channels. Don't miss out ever again! Click here to connect with me on all of my different channels.
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