CHB Interviews: Valerie Joyner

hollyhoodfinal-cover CH resident Valerie Joyner just had her first novel, Hollyhood, published, after working in the TV industry for many years.  CHB asked her a few questions about the book and her time in the neighborhood. 1. How long have you lived in the neighborhood?  What brought you here?

I landed in Brooklyn in the Fall of 1999.  I moved here from Los Angeles and ended up in this area based on the recommendation of a friend.  She told me lots of artist lived in the neighborhood. It sounded like the perfect place since I was moving here to benefit from the strong writing community found in NY.

2. You've just published your first book!  Tell us what it's about.

Hollyhood follows the life of Ty Hart, a young black television producer. His hit show comes under scrutiny when the ratings drop and the studio execs want to change the format of his show to appeal to the white audience.   And everyone else around T is pushing their own agendas.  Determined to live his dream, he must use his street smarts and savvy instincts to keep his show on the airwaves.

3. How did you end up with a book deal?  Any advice for aspiring authors looking to get published?

It was a long journey to getting a publishing deal.  I completed Hollyhood in 2005.  Then I started sending out query letters to agents I though might be interested.  I signed with one, then another and then a third.  The first two agents were too busy and perhaps too big for a new writer like me. It was the third agent Mondellea Jones, who aggressively shopped my manuscript.  Many editors passed on it.  Hollyhood was not an easy sell.  Finally Esi Sogah at Avon Books expressed interest. But when the deal finally went down, I was once again without an agent.  It took weeks to find someone to handle the deal.

I always tell aspiring writers, sending query letters to agents WORKS.  Agents really do read query letters.  That process was always very successful for me.

4.  You worked on TV shows in the 90s.  Which ones?

I worked on In Living Color, The Wayans Bros and The Jamie Foxx Show.

5. What was your favorite show to work on and why? Hands down....In Living Color.  I was surrounded by all these amazingly talented and funny people each day.  Tommy Davidson, Jamie Foxx, Jim Carey, Marlon Wayans to name a few.  And this is in addition to a team of comedy writers.  What sealed the deal was the ping-pong table in the office. It was just a few feet away from my desk. Best gig ever!

6. How significantly did your TV show experience influence your book?  Did you use any real life examples?

My experience figures significantly in Hollyhood.  It was based on my experiences and the experiences of co-workers.  The story lines are not real life, but there are many production details and nuances that are very real.  I went out of my way to give readers a realistic look at the weekly schedule of a TV production and how it is produced.

7. Any plans for a second book?

Absolutely.  I have two that I've started.  Just need to finish one.  :-)  Finishing is the hardest part.   I'll write a Hollyhood sequel, if there's a demand.

8. What's your favorite place to hang out in Clinton Hill?

I have two.  Tillies.  I wrote most of Hollyhood there.  And Kush Cafe.  It's off the beaten path, Grand and Putnam. Great food.

9. What one thing would you change about the neighborhood?

I'd forgo some of the bike paths and make Dekalb Avenue and two lane street again.

10. If you were a flavor of ice cream, what would you be and why?

Baskin and Robbins Jamoca Almond Fudge.  I'm hip (coffee is soooo hip), a little nutty and chocolate through and through.


Valerie will be signing books at Sucre (520 DeKalb Ave) on June 20 at 6pm!

Finally, here's a funny book promo: