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Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing

Oct 1, 2021

Mark has a conversation with Canadian author Valerie Francis, a literary editor, podcaster, story nerd, and the bestselling author of the steamy romance, Masquerade (think Bridgerton for the 21st century).

Prior to the main content, Mark shares a personal update, recent comments, thanks Patrons and offers a few words about this episode's sponsor regarding their forthcoming marketplace.

This episode is sponsored by Findaway Voices.

You can learn more about how you can get your work distributed to retailers and library systems around the world at

In their conversation, Mark and Valerie talk about:

  • - Valerie's introduction to becoming a StoryGrid editor in 2015 when she had finished her first novel, a middle-grade fantasy she had written on instinct
  • The New York trip Valerie took to a two day workshop and how her writing took a quantum leap from that
  • How, despite learning the intricacies of story and breaking elements apart, Valerie hasn't lost her love of story
  • The different tools that writers can use when crafting a story
  • The concept of the "potato chip length" chapter
  • The origin of Valerie's 12 part serialized novel Masquerade
  • The tagline for Masquerade: "What would you do if you knew you wouldn't get caught?"
  • The designs that Valerie commissioned for the print book version
  • Defining the target audience for Masquerade and how it was designed specifically as an escape for them
  • Creating a romance with protagonists in their 40s
  • The five different plot lines involved in the Masquerade story
  • How the entire project of Valerie's novel Immortal came about
  • Learning how to create a story within a story, multiple story lines and a non-linear structure Challenges that come with having to hook your audience multiple times with multiple story lines
  • Throwing away the entire first draft of her manuscript after 18 months of work
  • The fact there are 57 million books on Amazon right now and what that means for authors
  • And more...

After the interview, Mark reflects on Valerie's long-term hard work ethic of writing the best books she can and really understanding her target audience.


Links of Interest:


Canadian writer, Valerie Francis, is the bestselling author of the steamy romance, Masquerade (think Bridgerton for the 21st century). She's also a literary editor, podcaster, and story nerd so obsessed with the craft of storytelling that she's started an online book club featuring stories by, for and about women.

Valerie is currently writing her first thriller, Immortal. It's like Gone Girl meets Dracula.


The introductory, end, and bumper music for this podcast (“Laser Groove”) was composed and produced by Kevin MacLeod of and is Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0