Joseph M. Rinaldo, Author of “Valerie’s Retreat”

18750966What is your book about?

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. Together they commit a little felony and leave the country.

What about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Hopefully the reader will finish a scene where something goes wrong for Valerie and think about how they might handle the same situation. At one point Valerie and Franco feel like they just don’t have any good options. That leads them to make extreme choices. What would have to happen in your life for you to commit a felony? How bad would things have to be? That breaking point is the interesting driving focus of Valerie’s Retreat.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

I type in Word with the outline a few blank lines down from the line I am currently typing on. As I finish a scene in the outline, I delete it. Of course, from time-to-time I forget to consult the outline and throw in a plot twist that requires either the outline be revised or the plot twist discarded. I rarely know how a book will end [is that normal?], so my outlines often only cover the next chapter or two. Sometimes I finish all the scenes on the outline and finish without one. I always start with some kind of written agenda, but not with a whole lot. I want the characters to go where they go without being handcuffed to the original idea.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

I want the reader to follow Valerie’s actions and have a strong reaction. Love her? Hate her? Think she’s crazy? I’d do that, too? Everyone has different levels of tolerance, compassion, understanding… for the trials other people face. Valerie (and Franco, her boyfriend) face some pretty daunting situations. Valerie’s abusive childhood left her few coping skills, but she’s forty years old and able to think for herself. What do you, the reader, think about her behavior?

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

Valerie is very likeable, outgoing, and appears to be a generally happy person. Yet, inside she has vicious demons assaulting her with bouts of insecurity and inadequacy that she hides. This is a contradiction that is difficult to put in print. Unlike many folks who might say this and don’t mean it, I do. If you read Valerie’s Retreat and feel I didn’t fully express this duality, please let me know through my website or with an Amazon review. When a critic incudes an idea about how the character or plot could’ve been better, I especially like that. New ideas about a plot or a book make a writer grow.

How has your background influenced your writing?

My background had 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.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

I don’t understand how anyone writing fiction could do this. Characters come to me and tell their stories inside my head. None of these folks enter my thoughts and preface their presence by announcing their target market. In fact, after I wrote Hazardous Choices, a book about a gang member trying to leave that lifestyle by accepting a college football scholarship in a small town, a thirty-five year-old woman told me how much she liked the book. I’d never have guessed that would happen.

Which is more important to your story, character or plot?

We’re talking about books, right? Movies today try to plot you to death with special effects forcing specific reactions from the character. The basic example is the building across the street blows up so the characters duck. To me, books are always about the character. No matter how interesting the setting where a character is, if I find the protagonist uninteresting, I stop reading it and move on. Hating the main character is fine; loving the main character is fine; being neutral about the protagonist is a dreadful commentary on the book.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

Names are hard to come up with for the important characters! Valerie is a well-known name, but I wouldn’t call it “common”. How many people know three or four Valeries? Franco, her boyfriend, took several name revisions. At first he was John, to sound average, but he was too dynamic for that impression. Then I thought about something more exotic, like Raul. But Raul sounds too foreign. Franco seemed to fit because it has an air of sophistication without pretension. At least, I hope it does.

What has been your greatest internal struggle to overcome in relation to your writing career?

To make a book really good you have to accept input from others. The input I don’t mind, but getting input, especially effective well-thought-out input, takes time. Being patient and waiting for the story to come together is the hardest part for me. I type the last period and want to put it on Amazon! My editor, David Pudlewitts [shameless plug], provides great advice and forces me to take plenty of time reconsidering the plot twists, character diction and behavior, and, most importantly, the conclusion.

Where can people learn more about your books?

My novel, Valerie’s Retreat, is currently available on Amazon in ebook format at It will also soon be available on Amazon as a paperback. The cover is displayed on the Amazon page for the ebook, and I offer potential readers a “sneak peek” inside the book, courtesy of Amazon.

My author photo can be seen on my Facebook page at I invite your readers to “Like” my author page and leave a comment. I also have a website at, and a blog at My Twitter profile is at, and my Goodreads profile is at I also have three other novels available on Amazon in both ebook and print formats: A Spy At Home, Hazardous Choices, and A Mormon Massacre.

Pat, thanks so much for this opportunity. I so appreciate the support of fellow author, and interviews like this one help me connect with readers in a way that would otherwise be impossible.

You’re welcome, Joseph. I’m always glad to do what I can to help other authors.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Joseph M. Rinaldo, Author of “A Morman Massacre”

What is your book A Mormon Massacre about?

This modern-day novel is informed by the actual massacre of 150 innocent Americans allegedly by Mormon zealots in the Utah Territory in September of 1857. This reigned as the largest mass slaughter of Americans by Americans until the Oklahoma City bombing, excluding the Civil War. In present-day Nashville, Tennessee, Jeremiah Cameron grows up with a prejudice against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the murders in 1857. Many Camerons died at the hands of Mormon assassins at Mountain Meadows.

Jeremiah’s hatred multiplies when his father, Luke, informs him that his mother suffered abuse at the hands of her Mormon husband after being forced into marriage at twelve years old. Due to his father’s association with the Mormon Victim’s Action Committee, Jeremiah gets an opportunity to go undercover in hopes of exposing Mormons as abusers. With his father’s encouragement and the knowledge of his mother’s horrific experience, Jeremiah accepts M-VAC’s offer to train and insert him into an LDS community.

Jeremiah’s objective broadens when he sees more than he expected. Now he wants to expose the entire Church as a violent and dangerous fraud.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

My stories have characters that are believable. You might see part of yourself in a character or know someone similar to one of the characters. For instance, in A Mormon Massacre, Jeremiah, the protagonist has a strong sense to justice that drives him to work undercover and save women from abusive, plural marriages. Something all of us would like to do.

Did you do any research for the book?

For me research falls into two categories: intentional and inadvertent. Inadvertent happens when you stumble across something that becomes part of a book you write. Such as, a family member might hate people who talk about religion too much. Too much might be defined by this person as any talk about religion. Intentional research is obvious. With the Internet a writer of fiction has no excuse for not including enough facts to be believable.

What about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

People are fascinated with Mormons, or members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A Mormon Massacre includes enough factual historical events to make the story come to life. The fiction in the book stems from actual history, and the two become intertwined.

At what age did you discover writing?

While reading Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks, I learned he received a million dollar advance. I thought, “He’s good, but I can do this.” That was in 2004, and I’ve been writing ever since. The confidence to do this came from my English teacher in my freshman year of high school. For the short story we had to write she told the class that I was one of five people who wrote so well she could help them with their stories. She was a tough teacher and never dispensed any compliments unless they were true. At that moment I knew I could write, but never thought much about it until 2004.

What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

Relate-ability. Everyone loves Harry Potter, because we’ve all been the outcast. The plot and setting can be anything or anywhere if the characters have something about them that relates to your life.

Have you written any other books?

I currently have three books available on Amazon: A Mormon Massacre, A Spy At Home, and Hazardous Choices. Five more are waiting until I can get them edited and out on the market. Editing is not something I enjoy, and it takes a long time, or at least it feels like a long time as I re-evaluate each book looking for flaws.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

The names of central characters can be very difficult. Jeremiah is the name of the main character in A Mormon Massacre because I wanted him to sound biblical and formal. The only person who calls him anything else is his best friend. With Jeremiah’s strong internal sense of justice, I didn’t want him to be Jeremy or any other common name because he’s unique.

What genre are your books?

I am proud to say that my books do NOT fall in a genre! When you read one of my books, I refuse to guarantee a happy ending like you know is coming in a Romance novel. The conclusion might be to your expectation, or not, or somewhere in between.

Do your characters ever take on a life of their own?

Always! I knew when I started writing A Mormon Massacre that Jeremiah would be going undercover. I didn’t know if he would panic or remain in control. You’ll have to read the book to see how he does.

If you could have lunch with one person, real or fictitious, who would it be?

Tina Turner; she has seen so much from abuse to racism and always comes out on top. She has a positive spirit that can’t be stopped. I consider her to be the most underappreciated American icon.

Where can people learn more about your books?

You can always go to Amazon to read the author biography, visit my website at, or simply contact me via Facebook or from my website. I always enjoy talking about writing.