Charlotte Vale-Allen On Writing
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About Charlotte Vale-Allen

Charlotte Vale-Allen On Writing

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Daddy's Girl

Island Nation Press

Katharine Marlowe


It was never my intention or ambition to become a writer but my efforts to publish DADDY'S GIRL resulted in a full-time writing career. And it was as a full-time writer that I was able to have DADDY'S GIRL published as my sixteenth book.

Because of my experiences as an abused child, I have, from the outset, brought to my writing a heightened awareness of the role various forms of abuse play in the lives of women and children, as well as the problems confronting women in general.

Each of my novels has been different because I've tried to deal with different issues. This has not necessarily been to my advantage, but I could not, in all conscience, create a formula and use it over and over in order to become financially successful. My feeling all along has been that this would have resulted in my becoming somewhat irresponsible in terms of my readers. After all, people read not only for entertainment but also for information. So, typically, I have chosen the more difficult path in writing, just as I have in life. In other words: If there is a hard way to do anything, that's invariably the way I'll go.

I left my birthplace of Toronto in 1961 to live in England, returned to Canada from 1964 to 1966, and in June of 1966 emigrated to the U.S. where I have lived ever since. My daughter (soon to be 30) has the good fortune of having dual Canadian/American citizenship. And I continue to maintain my Canadian status as it's an integral part of my identity.

Since 1976 I have been a full-time writer and to date, writing under two names, have published thirty-six books. I visit Toronto regularly-to walk on sidewalks, go window-shopping, see movies and live theater and, of course, visit with friends and family. My life in Connecticut is quiet, to say the least, and I do much of my writing there.

The writer's life, at least for me, entails very little glamour and large chunks of time spent alone-which, all in all, suits my temperament. When the decks are clear and I can get down to it, I am very happy writing

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On Writing Dreaming in Color

In my writing I always try to accomplish two things. First, I attempt to illustrate an issue that is relevant to women, and to offer a possible manner in which to deal with it. Second, I seek to "entertain" readers by offering sympathetic and/or intriguing characters. I tend to set my book either in Toronto, where I was born; in England, where I lived for three years; in the West Indies where I also lived off and on for several years; or in New England, my home since 1970.

In the early 70s when I began to write, I wanted to create the sort of books I most liked to read: ones that engaged and enlightened me, and left me feeling positive, even reinforced. I strive to be truthful in describing the interior lives of women, as well as in detailing the influences and experiences so many of us have shared.

Too many women's issues are treated superficially in commercial fiction, and a novel like Sleeping With The Enemy is a prime example, because of its heroine's ready ability to become romantically and sexually involved with a man soon after escaping from an extremely violent marriage. As in television movies and sundry novels, a serious problem is used merely as a device to move the narrative forward. Simply saying that a problem exists is not nearly enough. And suggesting that one can shrug off the effects of a particular problem is dishonest and serves no one well.

My intent in writing Dreaming In Color was to look closely, without flinching, at wife-battering, and also to explore, via fiction, my own experience of visiting a close long-time friend in the West Indies only to find myself a captive witness to her family's violence-a harrowing episode that distresses me to recall even more than a decade later.

A report published in June 1992 by the American Medical Association called domestic violence "a public health problem that has reached epidemic proportions." The association went on to say that nearly one quarter of women in the US "will be abused by a current or former partner sometime during their lives."

In Dreaming In Color I have tried to illustrate one case of abuse, and to show that it is possible to recover from the effects. I don't suggest that this is a short-term goal, but I do believe that with support and caring a woman can, in time, come to realize her own strengths and even to have successful relationships.

Using four generations of females allowed me to show the contrasts as well as the timeless similarities between women, and also provided an opportunity to introduce a significant degree of lightness. It is important to laugh, and equally important to arrive at the end of a book feeling optimistic. My hope is that readers will care as much for Bobby, Penny, Alma, Eva, and Melissa as I did.

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