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The Canon of Jacqueléne Dyanne, Vol.1”
Ms. Woods is a film and television writer/producer working on network and cable drama series such as Touched By An Angel, Any Day Now and Soul Food. She is a Co-Executive Producer/writer on the mini-series Tulsa for the Oprah Winfrey Network and writing/developing the film Tempest Rising for actress/producer Phylicia Rashad.
An avid reader while growing up on Chicago’s South Side, Ms. Woods began writing when, as a struggling actress in New York, she couldn’t find suitable audition material for women of color. This led her to write a book of audition monologues, Something for Everyone (50 Original Monologues). The book was initially self-published and is now published by renowned theatrical play publisher, Samuel French, Inc. (www.VCWoods.com)
After adapting an average play into a better screenplay, Ms. Woods was awarded a Walt Disney Screenwriting Fellowship and followed that up with writing and producing on network and cable drama series such as Under One Roof, Touched By An Angel, Promised Land, Any Day Now and Soul Food.
But fiction, her first love, compelled her to enter the world of prose. She had always written bits of fiction, short stories and a little poetry here and there.
In November 2012, Ms. Woods founded a micro-press: BooksEndependent, LLC (www.BooksEndependent.com) to support her work and the work of other new, independent authors of fiction and non-fiction.
The first title was Ms. Woods’ novella, I Believe… A Ghost Story for the Holidays. (Amazon.com) Then, what began as a gift became her second publication.
Several years ago, needing a birthday present for her sister Ms. Woods wrote a short story about a girl detective — a highly fictionalized autobiography of the adventures she and her sister experienced in childhood. Another story was written for Christmas, then one for Mother’s Day. That’s when Ms. Woods realized she was writing the kind of novel she and her sister would have loved to read as children, but which didn’t exist – the adventures of African-American Girl Detectives!
The result, Katrin’s Chronicles: The Canon of Jacqueléne Dyanne, Vol. 1 is now available in paperback and Kindle edition at Amazon.com.
13-year-old, Katrin DuBois decides it’s never to soon to start an autobiography. She needs to set the record straight about the outrageous rumors concerning certain adventures that began when she was in 6th grade. That’s when her elder sister, 8th grader J. Dyanne, began exhibiting extraordinary detecting powers. Volume 1 begins in the late summer of 1968 on the south side of Chicago, a turbulent time before cell phones, laptops and text messages became essential elements of pre-teen life. The girls manage to thrive in a world of social change with multi-generational family support, creative quick-thinking and fearless inquisitiveness. The dog days of August find them prohibited by their parents from visiting the Central Library downtown because of the riots during the Democratic Convention. However, there’s plenty of adventure in their own neighborhood as they become swept up in family mysteries, neighborhood political schemes and discovery of a surprising legacy of psychic, even supernatural, talent.
“Katrin’s Chronicles is not a novel—it is an experience. It is the kind of story that can only be written by someone with a deep, knowing love of their characters and an abiding sense of place and time. This is a novel you can fall in love with. The atmosphere, the smells and the sounds of this beautiful world, created by Ms. Woods, is surely a world she has inhabited.Although the funny and exciting adventures of the two young detectives would seem to be perfect for young teenagers, I also think this world of long ago will be a welcoming and healing place for many adults.” David Man, author of “About Acting…and Surviving the Sharks
An Interview with author, Valerie C. Woods
“Katrin’s Chronicles: The Canon of Jacqueléne Dyanne, Vol.1”
1) You’ve had a very successful career as a television writer. How is writing a novel different than writing an episode of television?
Both forms of writing require specific writing skills. What’s common to both is telling a good story. When writing for television the storyteller utilizes dialogue, great characters, action and interesting settings to convey the complexities of the story. And though dialogue is very important, television is a visual medium. Whenever possible, “show” rather than “tell” the audience. The writer needs to know what will successfully play onscreen, in a visual sense, and what is better played in dialogue. And also, write in such a way that the director, the actor’s, casting, set design and everyone else involved in bringing it to the screen can visualize the world from your script.
When writing a novel, the work of the author is to use prose to create the entire world in the mind’s eye of the reader. The author does the casting, set design, special effects, location scouting, directing, the reshoots, editing (at least the first pass!), all with the power of prose.
I remember the first time I was on set for a script I’d written. It was wonderful to see it come together, often just as you imagined. And, I love hearing from readers who became immersed in a world I’d created in a book. It’s all good!
2) Did you read a lot as a kid? Have you always been interested in “genre” (mysteries, SF, fantasy, etc.) material? Name your favorite book and author from when you were Katrin’s age, and explain why it appealed to you so much.
As a child, reading was one of my favorite pastimes. I saw my share of television, too. But it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized my mom limited our television viewing. Television was never our “babysitter.” But we could read to our heart’s content. And although we were athletic and active kids, especially in the summertime, some of my best memories are about sitting on our back porch reading. One time, I was there reading a book called “The Sherwood Ring” — about a modern day girl on a lonely estate where she becomes acquainted with the ghosts of her colonial ancestors. I was so completely in that world, I had no clue my picture was being taken, until my sister showed me the photograph.
I never thought of myself as having an interest in “genre” material, but when I look at my childhood reading list, then I guess that’s exactly what I read. Aside from literary classics like “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” or “The Secret Garden,” there were my genre favorites, like “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Encyclopedia Brown,” Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, The Merlin Trilogy, Nancy Drew, Harriet the Spy. And I remember the first book I read that didn’t have illustrations was called “The Ghost.”
And, looking back to the 1960s, I also realize the absence of adventure stories featuring people who looked like me. I didn’t question it then, but now, I’m like, where are the black girl detectives? That’s one of the main reasons why I wrote Katrin’s Chronicles. The other is that I needed a birthday gift for my sister, so I wrote her a short, and wildly exaggerated, story about us growing up.
3) How much of this book is autobiographical and how much is pure fiction? Name a few parts that are examples of each.
“That’s kind of hard to say. I was the same age as Katrin in this time period and was the youngest in the family, living on Chicago’s South Side. I have an older sister who is very smart and very intuitive. And we did have adventures in which she was the organizer and leader, when we were young. So the basic bones of the book are taken from my personal history. And a great deal is straight from my imagination.
For instance, my sister and I were big readers and visited the library often. My mother was the church secretary at our local church and my father did work construction. However, the experience the characters have at the Central Library is pure fiction, there was never an alleged kidnapping plot with the church minister’s son, and my father, well now that I think about it, he was pretty much the man I wrote about.”
4) Why do you think kids growing up in the 21st century will be interested in stuff that went on in the 1960’s? Which stuff in particular, and why?
“As a child of the ‘60s I certainly enjoyed reading novels about kids my age from historical time periods. A favorite book of mine was “Johnny Tremaine” as was Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy that started with “The Crystal Cave” and tells of Merlin as a child into young adulthood.
What I related to in these stories were relationships, struggles, politics, rivalries, heroes and villains – they all existed then and they still do in each generation. The details may change, but the essence of truth, of good vs. evil, these are eternal truths and it was helpful to me to know that kids like me got through tough times then and I could get through any tough times now.
There is a young woman who did an advance review of the book. She noted certain things in the book were still true today. For instance, at one point Katrin’s Mom says, “You two are stronger than I was at your age. Tougher. I guess you have to be these days.” This 14-year-old reviewer wrote in the margin ‘[This is] what people say now, in 2013 as well.’
To young people in 2013, the childhood of many adults (the 1960’s) is a historical era they don’t much know about.
The times were on edge in the 60s and they are again in 2013. Though the characters in the book are not directly involved in the national issues, they do become involved locally. I hope the story shows young people they can contribute at whatever level to which they have access. And, most importantly, to trust the wisdom of their inner voice.”
5) How is the city of Chicago like a non-speaking character in the book?
Ah, Chicago! I loved growing up in Chicago. And it was because of my parents. They raised us to explore, reach out, be independent and recognize that our neighborhood is also part of a much bigger world and to not be afraid to access that larger world. My father especially loved the city. As a construction worker he had jobs in a lot of different areas. Like most Chicagoans, we’d spend summer days at the lake, or visit Buckingham Fountain at night to see the multi-colored light display. And, like in the book, we made trips to see the Christmas displays on State St. at Carson Pirie Scott or Marshall Field’s Department Stores.
Chicago landmarks are fascinating to me, especially the old Water Tower that survived the great Chicago Fire of 1871. The city is known for its architecture. In 1968, the Hancock Building was still being built. There was no Sears Tower yet, but we have family photos of pictures taken at Buckingham Fountain, (I think all Chicagoans do!) in front of the Museum of Science & Industry, Jackson Park Beach, Wrigley Field, Comiskey Park, the list goes on.
Chicago’s identity was mirrored in each of us. It anchored us. And Chicago also has an attitude like no other city. And I hope the characters reflect that. It would be an entirely different story if set in a different city.