Valerie Himick – a voracious reader and a writer with stories constantly in her head – as well as a person who is inspired and awed by the beauty of northern Michigan.
When Valerie Himick was in high school at Bay City Central, she was involved in the production of a play based on James Hilton’s classic book Lost Horizon. A few weeks ago, she went to the Traverse Area District Library on Woodmere, and saw a copy of one of her books on the same shelf as Lost Horizon and it was a thrill. Books have always been important to this author. Before she finishes one, she has to have another waiting. Often, she admits, she is reading several at once. After retiring from a career as an Account Manager with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, she got serious about writing. Valerie says she feels fortunate to live in what she considers one of the most beautiful areas of the country, Grand Traverse County in northern Michigan, home to many great wineries, which have inspired her stories.
How did you become a writer?
I started writing my first book when I was 10 years old. Fifty years later, I finished my first book, not the one I started when I was 10, that one is long lost. I do still have a spiral notebook of poetry that I wrote about the same time. Some of that childish poetry inspired Sunday’s magic spells in The Birds & The Bees.
How do you write? What is your process?
One nice thing about writing is that you can do it anywhere, anytime. When I’m not sitting at my kitchen island with my laptop, I have paper and pens to jot down notes and ideas. Story ideas are constantly running through my head, most of them get discarded.
Who are your favorite authors?
Early on, my favorite books were the Trixie Belden series by Julie Campbell Tatham. When I was still too young to graduate from the children’s room in the library, my mom would check out Ernest Hemingway, Nevile Shute, and Mary Stewart books for me. Later I found and devoured John D. McDonald, especially the Travis McGee series. I love how Stephen King can turn the ordinary to terror. Rosamunde Pilcher, Anne Rivers Siddons, Janet Evanovich, Lee Child, Charles Frazier, are all current favorites. But my all time favorite, the books I read over and over again, always finding something new to appreciate, are Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.
What authors inspired you?
All of the above and many more. Although, often when I read something really great, I get discouraged, wondering how I could possibly think that anything I write could be anywhere near as good.
What books are on your bedside table?
That’s an ever changing pile of library books, books recommended by and borrowed from friends and family, books I’ve picked up at Horizon Books from writers doing signings there, a book of short stories written by a college friend of my son, and whichever Diana Gabaldon book I am currently rereading. But that’s just my go-to pile. At night, I usually read e-books on my Kindle, so the light doesn’t bother my husband.
What writing projects do you have planned next?
I might do another Northern Lights story. I’ve had a good time with Chloe and Devlin. Reading Annie’s Ghost recently, and hearing Steve Luxemberg at the National Writers Series, reignited my interest in a story that I have been toying with for a few years. Doing some family history research, my sister discovered that our great, great aunt Minnie died in the Traverse City State Hospital. I may explore a fictional story based on her life.
What advice do you have for young writers?
Relax, have fun, let your imagination run wild. Write what you love, what you would like to read. If you don’t like it, nobody else will. Proofread! Have someone else proofread! Proofread again! Everyone makes mistakes and typos and it’s hard to catch your own mistakes. You know what it’s supposed to say and your eyes often pass right over mistakes. Use spellcheck and grammar check. You have great tools available to you, use them. Make sure your punctuation is correct. I’ve quit reading many self-published e-books because the mistakes were so distracting. And mostly, don’t wait 50 years to finish writing a book like I did.
Her latest book
The Birds & The Bees continues the story of Chloe Applewhite, retail manager of Northern Lights Winery on beautiful Old Mission Peninsula in Grand Traverse County. We met Chloe and her fiancé, winemaker Devlin Carmichael, in her first book, Life is a Cabernet. In The Birds & The Bees, Chloe and Devlin meet single mom, Rosemary Walker, and her daughter Sunday, a young beekeeper who believes she can use magical powers to train her bees to find her father. Both books are available in softcover at Horizon Books and Thompson Pharmacy in downtown Traverse City, and online on Amazon for $9.99. Kindle e-book versions are also available through Amazon.