by Carrie C. Causey
YOUNGSVILLE — Making The New York Times Bestseller List feels sinfully sweet for author Marquita Valentine.
The Youngsville resident recently had her book, Drive Me Crazy, included in a boxed set of six romance novels coined Sinfully Sweet, which reached No. 16 on the coveted list.
Valentine is a former kindergarten teacher who became a stay-at-home mom to take care of her children. When her husband, Matthew Winslow, asked whether or not she wanted to go back to work, Valentine opted to return to her hobby of writing.
As a child, Valentine enjoyed making up stories about the things around her. Her vivid imagination and enjoyment of drama led her to start writing novels.
“My first book will never see the light of day,” Valentine said, compared to the eight she has self-published. She later added, “I first started writing what I wanted to see in romance stories. … Now I write for me and my fanbase.”
She chose the romance novel genre and writes under her maiden name of Valentine, since it is more fitting to the theme.
Valentine networked with others in the industry, using social media to link with other authors and writing groups. She also joined the Raleigh chapter of Heart of Carolinas Romance Writers.
Through Twitter and Facebook that she became “virtual friends” with romance novelist Carly Phillips, who helped her getting started and invited her to be part of the Sinfully Sweet collection.
Valentine was sitting in the Louisburg College auditorium watching her daughter practice for a dance recital when she received the news about making the Bestseller List and describes the feeling as "in shock."
“I like happy endings,” she said of her genre choice. “There is never a question of how a romance novel will end compared to other books.”
“People like the escape,” Valentine added. “I had someone write to me saying, ‘Thank you for getting me through chemo.’ I just wanted to respond, ‘How are you thanking me? I’m thankful you are alive.’ It’s an escape because it’s guaranteed to end well.”
Being in the South is also a strong theme in many of her novels. Though they are made-up towns, such are Forestville, she takes elements of things around her.
“I’m from eastern North Carolina and I’ve never lived anywhere else,” she said. “It’s easy to write about North Carolina.”
She has multiple series, one named for the made up town of Holland Springs and the other called Going the Distance about NASCAR. She also has books, under the category “new adult “meant for early 20s and college age, that are part of Boys of the South.
Though the books are not based in real cities, some of her books reference places like Charlotte, Wilmington and Greenville, since she attended East Carolina University.
Though Winslow, who she refers to as “Hot Builder,” likes NASCAR and is a Southern guy, he hasn’t fully made an appearance in any of her work. She prefers to make up her characters while using specific characteristics from people in her life.
“I have a friend who adores Pez and one of the characters has a Pez collection. The friend saw that and loved it,” Valentine said. “I would never take a negative attribute of someone.”
Valentine said being self-published makes the process much easier and offers more control over book covers, editing and schedules.
Plus, the authors help each other, offer advice and stay positive, rather than pit themselves against each other in competition.
“The romance community is very supportive,” she said. “I really like romance authors and self-publishing. It can be stressful, but most jobs are. For me, it’s about the relationships being made.”
Her books can be found online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ebooks and other websites.