As I mentioned last week, I recently came back from the Bold Strokes Books writing retreat, and while I was there, I reconnected with the fantastic ladies (and we few gents) of the company. It reminded me I wanted to spend some time with women of short fiction, and as luck would have it, Girls on Campus was recently released.
Today I’m speaking with Ali Vali, who was gracious enough to chat with me. If you’ve never heard Ali Vali tell a story, you’re missing out. I will never think of a power washer the same away again—but that’s a story for another day.
Today, we’re going back to school…
College: four years when anything goes and rules are made to be broken. A time for freedom, experimentation, and guiltless pleasures. Come join the co-eds for a homecoming bash, crash a girls-only party, and enjoy study hall where the topic is Eros. From roommates with benefits to sexy sorority initiations, hot professors demanding extra credit after class and summer vacation threesomes, this collection is required reading for anyone looking to earn an A in sex-ed.
NB: “Hard, Wet Lessons” (which, by the way, is a freaking awesome title) has student Bryn watching teacher Maison from the front row and wishing there was more being taught “hands on.” Given that Girls on Campus is an erotica collection, readers know they’re in for something hot—and then you lead with something unexpected and funny. As far as meet-cutes go, I wasn’t expecting a trip to the school infirmary. Do you like to send reader expectations sideways?
AV: Thank you, usually titles aren’t my strength, but I was inspired. I’m glad I got to use it at least once.
Humour is something I love in any given situation, so even though it was erotica I figured there could be a laugh, but answer your question yes, sideways seems to be my life on most days. If that’s the case, it’ll eventually end up in my work.
There’s that and I need a little build up before I rip someone’s clothes off, which isn’t true erotica, but it’s true Ali. And it’s important to not have the laugh come when someone gets their clothes torn off, unless it’s like by shark attack and the rescuer is hot. That might be a good lead off for the next anthology—shark attacks and the hot rescuers.
Sorry, I got sidetracked. As a reader I like when the story goes somewhere I’m not expecting and it keeps me guessing, so while readers know they’re getting sex in this one, why not start with a tumble of a different kind.
NB: Well, it worked. Like I said, I fell for them both right off. Was it hard to pick a scenario for the collection, or did teacher-student leap up as your first instinct? It’s fair to say there were zero professors in my schooling experience that drew my attention like Brie’s was drawn by Maison—was there some wish-fulfillment at play?
AV: If only huh, but like you, most of my professors inspired fantasies but of a completely different nature. Maybe that’s what inspired me to kill so many people in various books, it was from the stress of the college classroom. There was though, my high school science teacher when I was a senior and it was her first year of teaching. Hmm…that was a pleasant memory.
Brie and Maison, like most characters, were running around in the back of my brain and I finally got to give them their own story. The teacher-student storyline has been used often, but as a reader it never does get old. It made perfect sense for erotica since you know that kind of story is like a lit match. With the slight age difference and difference in circumstance the relationship will run hot and intense, but only for a short period of time. It’s the hot and intense that makes it fun and sexy.
NB: Intense is definitely something you’re known for. You’re a prolific novelist with dozens of books, and I’ve met quite a few novelists who struggle with short fiction. I love short fiction and find novels more of a struggle—does the format of the writing make the story come easier (or more difficult) for you?
AV: This question made me laugh since I’ve been told it takes me six thousand words to say hello. Short fiction is a real struggle for me since it’s, well short fiction. Short fiction is like a highway that gets you quickly from point a to b, where as I like the meandering scenic route.
I’m from the south, so we tell stories, enjoy a good food and cocktails, talk with our hands, and write lots and lots of words–not a good formula for shorts with very small word limits. Unless I’m being audited by the IRS, or in a police interrogation I tend never to be short and to the point. Or that’s the advice my attorney has given me should I ever find myself in those situations.
Writing something like this, though, is an exercise every author should participate in. There’s nothing like emails from the editors about word count to focus your story, so when you’re writing something novel length you can carry that lesson over. The story should still be tight, and focused but you can imagine a meal, drinks, lot of hand gestures and more words.
NB: Absolutely. Every time I’m edited I learn something, and it definitely crosses over to other formats.
AV: Thanks for letting me stop by Nathan, and I hope to get invited back. I’ll bring the mimosas next time, and perhaps a beignet or two.
NB: That’s a deal!
If you’d like a copy of Girls on Campus of your very own, you should head on over to the publisher page at Bold Strokes Books here. Or, check out your local brick-and-mortar store—it’s always a good move to check Indiebound.org here. And, of course, the book is available anywhere quality LGBT books are sold.
Originally from Cuba, Ali Vali has retained much of her family’s traditions and language and uses them frequently in her stories. Having her father read her stories and poetry before bed every night as a child infused her with a love of reading, which carries till today. In 2000, Ali decided to embark on a new path and started writing. Ali Vali is the author of The Devil series including the upcoming The Devil’s Due, the Forces series, as well as numerous stand alones including the latest book, Beneath the Waves.
Ali now lives outside New Orleans, and when she isn’t writing she works in the non-profit sector.