Interview with Val Stasik, author of romantic suspense ‘Incidental Daughter’
Val Stasik shares a home in eternally sunny Santa Fe, NM, with her aging mixed terrier, Sugar, who allows her to sleep in his queen-size bed as well as sharpen her culinary skills for his benefit. Stasik spent many years as a writing teacher, helping other writers find their voice and tell their stories, and is a consultant for the Northern Virginia Writing Project. INCIDENTAL DAUGHTER is Stasik’s debut novel.
Stasik studied drama and English at the University of Pittsburgh and then transferred to the University of Maryland, College Park, graduating with high honors and a B.S. in Secondary Education, Communication. The year she attended graduate school was filled with student protests, bomb threats, and military helicopters.
Stasik became an editorial assistant for THE PHARMACOLOGIST in Bethesda. She then moved to Harpers Ferry where she taught for five years and participated in the Old Opera House Theatre onstage and behind the scenes.
In Harrisburg, PA, she became a groom and mutuels clerk at Penn National Race Track and, later, a commercial lines underwriter for Pennsylvania National Mutual Casualty Insurance Company. Right before her son was born, Three Mile Island happened. So far, neither glows in the dark.
In Virginia, Stasik enjoyed the enriching experience of teaching writing and literature in the Loudoun County Public School system, instructed other teachers in assessing student writings, and helped develop various English curricula. She also participated in the Fauquier Community Theatre on and off stage. From 2002-2004, she developed a part-time hypnosis practice. She then retired to Santa Fe where she has been writing—a few film scripts that have been produced (Café Destiny, on the Web, Spring 2013, www.cafe-destiny.com) and a couple of award-winning play scripts.
Stasik is currently a member of the New Mexico Book Association, the New Mexico Book Co-Op; Southwest Writers; the Independent Book Publishers Association; the Small Publishers’ Association of North America; the Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network; and Pennwriters.
Visit her website at www.ValerieStasik.com.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Val! Can you tell us where you are from?
I lived in Pittsburgh until I was twenty and have lived in Maryland; Harpers Ferry; Harrisburg, PA; and Virginia. I’ve been an editorial assistant, a commercial lines insurance underwriter, a racetrack groom and mutuels clerk, and a teacher. I’ve also dabbled in theater. I took early retirement from teaching a few years ago and moved from Virginia to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’ve never looked back.
Q: How did you come up with your title?
My critique group and I brainstormed several titles. My working title was The Boating Party because of the protagonist’s fascination with the Mary Cassatt painting of the same name. It represented family to her. I then ran a contest asking people to vote on the title that appealed to them the most. (I randomly selected three winners from the pool of entrants.) The majority of entrants voted for our favorite, Incidental Daughter. The protagonist has been incidental to so many people in her life.
Q: They say you can judge a book by its cover. Can you tell us a little about your cover and who designed it?
I designed the cover using a template provided by the printer. Normally I would hire a designer, but I found a template and photograph that fit the story perfectly. The woman on the cover represents the protagonist’s mother facing the window through which she ended her life. It represents the major turning point in the protagonist’s life, and the window also suggests opportunity.
Q: Can you tell us something about your book that would make me run out and buy it?
Readers tell me they couldn’t put the book down, and that the characters really touched them. It’s full of twists and surprises.
Q: Are there any messages in this book that you want the reader to know about?
Eileen Arnesson from the book says, “Fear is the root of all evil.” Also, no matter how negative circumstances are, there are people who will reach out to help you. Perhaps one of the things Liz Michaels, the protagonist, learns is that one shouldn’t rush to judgment, and that sadness makes a deeper well for your happiness.
Q: What was your most favorite chapter to write and why?
There are so many I enjoyed, it’s hard to say. I enjoyed Detective Shannon’s interrogation of the suspect in Liz’s ex-husband’s death because it revealed aspects of both characters’ personalities. Shannon disguises his cleverness behind a façade of polite interest until the suspect has nowhere to go and then pounces on him. He also wings it without a tape recorder or reading the suspect his rights, and then manages to get the suspect to write a confession, a risk he took based on his assessment of this particular suspect.
Q: Why did you feel you had to write this book?
I have been thinking of this story for many, many years, even creating character and setting charts as well as an outline. I abandoned it, but it kept surfacing and wouldn’t let me go. Many of the elements are based on my own life and the lives of some of my friends although it is not autobiographical.
Q: Now, some fun questions – What deep dark secret would you like to share with us?
I’m pretty much an open book (no pun intended). What I don’t like to admit to is that I often stay up way later than is reasonable—not very dark or deep. Oh, sometimes—not often, you understand—I spend the day in my nightgown.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
New Zealand. Some years ago, I read a travel article in The Atlantic about this country. It sounded like paradise. Perhaps the author of the article was an exceptional writer, and I’d be disappointed if I ever visited. However, I’m quite content to stay in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which has its own magic.
Q: Are you a morning person or a night person?
Definitely a night person although I’d like to change that (fat chance) because early morning is such a lovely time of day. I suspect I’m like this because my grandmother let me stay up when I was very young so that I would sleep late the next morning. Apparently, I was a handful, and it was the only way she could find time for housework.
Q: Are there any members in your family who also like to write?
My father’s mother liked writing about the family history. Her grandparents were homesteaders in Sundance.
Q: As a child, were you a dreamer?
Oh, yes! I would wander off in my head in just about any situation where I was bored. I finally had to break myself of that habit because as I got older, I realized I was missing out on some real living.
Q: Last but not least, the magic genie has granted you one wish. What would that be?
Dear Magic Genie, please send me a housekeeper and a secretary so that I can spend all of my time writing.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview! Do you have any final words?
Visit me at
and let me know what you think of Incidental Daughter.