Author Joseph M. Rinaldo is here today! He’s telling us a bit about his newest novel, the romantic thriller, Valerie’s Retreat.
Welcome, Joe. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live in Nashville, Tennessee with my wife and daughter. We like to go boating as a family, and I jog to stay fit. My daughter has Down syndrome and competes in Special Olympics powerlifting, bowling, and basketball. I'm an assistant basketball coach and helper "coach" for powerlifting. My arms are so tiny they make Barney Fife look strong.
Please tell us about your current release, Valerie’s Retreat.
The reason you’ll enjoy this book is relate-ability – Valerie’s a very likeable woman. The reader will be on her side. However, as Valerie makes more choices, the reader will have to decide the strength of their allegiance. Gone Girl also encouraged readers to reevaluate their allegiances to the characters. Gone Girl and Valerie’s Retreat keep the reader on edge by bringing in surprises just as the reader thinks they have the story figured out. Gone Girl’s remaining plot seems so obvious in one chapter, only to be completely turned upside down in the next. Valerie’s Retreat follows this recipe to keep the reader guessing.
Valerie's Retreat puts Valerie's crisis management skills on display. You'll get to know her pretty average life. Her job as the head teller at a bank, her one bedroom apartment, and her exceptionally lazy cat give the impression that she could be anyone you meet in your daily life. However, when things start to get rough, her first reaction is to run. An abusive childhood you learn about as the story proceeds left her with shaky decision-making skills. Franco, her boyfriend, doesn't know what the right answer is either. Between them they commit a little felony and leave the country.
What inspired you to write this book?
My background has a teeny influence on Valerie's Retreat. Valerie meets a man sixteen years her junior at a local church dance. My wife and I have the same age difference and met at the same kind of place. We still smile at each other when we drive by that dance hall/community center even after fourteen years of marriage. Dang, we're cute! Seriously, like my wife, Valerie is NOT a cougar on the prowl. We met long before anyone heard that term. Valerie wasn't searching for any kind of specific man, she just happened to find Franco. He happened to be younger, and neither of them cared.
Valerie’s Retreat Excerpt:
Valerie walked into her modest, nicely kept, one-bedroom apartment; a ten-minute drive from where she worked. Caesar immediately greeted her just inside the door. She hoisted him up. "You’re the fattest kitty in the whole world." The tiger striped tabby cat came from the Animal Shelter and resembled anything but a kitten. "You’re also the best kitty in the whole world."
She began to change her clothes and pulled her cell phone out of her purse. The blinking red light indicated a message.
"Hey, Val! It’s Janet. You promised to come to the singles dance at Saint John the Baptist tonight. I’ll be by to pick you up at six-thirty unless you want to get a bite to eat before we go? I get home a little after five, so call me at home after five-fifteen or call me at work before five or on my cell phone between five and five-fif-" Valerie smiled, wondering when Janet would learn that the voicemail would, in fact, cut her off, regardless of the topic. Janet Knead pulled double-duty as Valerie’s best friend and Social Director.
She deleted the first message, and the second one played. "That cranky little mailbox of yours cut me off! I think you probably got the message of when and where to call me, so I’m going to hang up before your mailbox cuts me off again, and I have to call back to show that little spoiled piece of electronic whodads just who’s boss. Call me."
Valerie looked at Caesar, who had laid across her right foot while she listened to the messages. "I’d rather stay home with you, but I promised I’d go." She reached down to rub his head. As her fingertips approached, he rolled onto his back and stretched, exposing his belly. "That’s my cute cuddly fat kitty."
Still only halfway out of the dress she wore to work, she grabbed the phone and went to her bedroom. She hit speed dial as she unzipped the back of the dress. Janet answered on the first ring.
They exchanged greetings, and then Valerie asked, "Would you be disappointed if I didn’t go to that dance with you tonight?"
"I definitely would be disappointed! You need to get out of the apartment and do something fun," Janet chided.
"I know, but I had a really bad day at work, and I just don’t feel like it."
"What time is it?" Janet asked rhetorically, checking the digital clock on her office phone.
"Four twenty, you sure do keep banker’s hours."
Valerie laughed. "Yeah, working from ten till eight almost every day, including Saturdays, I might add, not to mention working one to five most Sundays, those are great hours. Seriously, this working at an in-store branch is getting old."
"It’s great for the customers though. I get my banking and grocery shopping done all in one stop. Maybe I should write commercials for Community First National Bank!?" In her best radio voice Janet said, "Community First, where service and convenience aren’t in our name, but they’re in our heart."
"Wow! You should keep your day job," Valerie suggested.
"I will," Janet sighed. "Being an administrative assistant is my life. Well, anyway, I’ll pick you up for dinner, and we can discuss whether we’ll go to the dance or not."
Valerie laughed again. "If you’re driving, I know where we’ll end up."
"I’ll be there at five-thirty or six or abo-"
"Or whenever you get here," Valerie interjected for her unpunctual friend.
"Be dressed appropriately."
"Tight jeans with a shape-showing top?"
"That’s my plan!"
"Janet, that’s what you wear to work, to dance, to workout-"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, just be ready when I get there."
What exciting story are you working on next?
Life After Life; right now I love that title but it might change. This is about man who thinks he's crazy because he knows he's reincarnated. In his previous life he served as man-servant to Alexander the First, the Tsar of Russia. The Tsar's death is surrounded by mystery and suspicion. This man knows the truth.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
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 since that day in 2004.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I work full-time as Financial Manager of an air conditioning distributor, so finding time to write is very hard. I mainly write on rainy weekends when I can’t get outside. At the time I wrote Valerie’s Retreat, I worked part-time and my wife was the major bread winner. Back then I wrote a book in about four months.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I really haven’t experienced writer’s block. Oh, I may write something that I realize later doesn’t work. That’s why God gave us the delete key. Normally I sit down and start typing without any real hiccups until I reread it.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A financial counselor helping people manage their money. As I grew up I realized two things: one, poor people who need help managing money doesn’t have any to pay the counselor; two, rich people only trust other rich people to handle their empires. I didn’t think either avenue was a fit for me.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I understand people are hesitant to give independent authors a chance. If any of the books I've mentioned interest you, please go to the free "Click to Look Inside" spot on Amazon and sample the first chapter. If a book grabs you that quick, 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.