Life on a small farm provides inspiration for Valerie Comer’s contemporary inspirational romance stories. Like many of her characters, she and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement, as well as their creation-care-centric church.

An active blogger, Valerie enjoys helping other writers through her To Write a Story blog, as well as online writing workshops. Her debut full-length novel, Raspberries and Vinegar, released earlier this month.

Valerie and her husband live on a small farm in Canada with assorted cows, chickens, pigs, and bees.

What sparked your writing journey?

Friends and family always enjoyed my newsy letters back in the day. Remember letters? Those things we wrote with a pen on stationery with flowers in the corners, then folded up and tucked in an envelope with a stamp and put in a box at the post office?

I also enjoyed writing in school and I adored reading, but I somehow never put the two together for many years. It didn’t dawn on me that normal people could write books. I will now wait for the laughter to subside. Turns out writers aren’t really normal. They only look normal. Inside their heads is a whole ‘nother story.

Anyway, I began the journey of learning to write fiction because I was bored at work. True story. I had one of those jobs where I had to be there but had many hours in a day when nothing begged my attention. I wrote my first novel at that job. Also my tenth. Got my first contract for a novella, Rainbow’s End, while I worked there.

I’m writing from home these days, starting my eleventh novel. I’m so glad I got bored at work!

Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?

If you’d asked me in high school where I saw myself living and what I saw myself doing, I probably would have said “missions” as most of my older sisters are career missionaries. I never dreamt the guy I fell for would turn out to love farming . . . and that I would, too (most of the time). Much of my life has been spent living on a farm, providing the fodder for the stories I love to write. Could God have used me in overseas missions? No doubt. But He gave me the calling that was right for me.

How does your faith play into your writing?

Passionately! I say I blog “where food meets faith.” I guess you could say my novels are “where food and faith meet.” Many Christians don’t think of their relationship with food as spiritual, but I do. It goes far beyond the biblical sin of gluttony. Faith should affect our eating choices in dozens of ways.

I will get off my soapbox now. . .

Let’s talk about your new book, Raspberries and Vinegar (Choose NOW Publishing, August 2013). Please tell us about it.

Sweet like Raspberries. Tart like Vinegar.

Josephine Shaw: complex, yet singleminded. A tiny woman with big ideas and, some would say, a mouth to match. But what does she really know about sustainable living as it relates to the real world? After all, she and her two friends are new to farming.

Zachary Nemesek is back only until his dad recovers enough to work his own land again. When Zach discovers three helpless females have taken up residence at the old farm next door, he expects trouble. But a mouse invasion proves Jo has everything under control. Is there anything she can’t handle? And surely there’s something sweet beneath all that tart.

You’re a foodie, which relates naturally to the theme of your book. What is “farm lit?”

It’s this decade’s answer to Chick Lit—but more. It’s part of a growing trend where people are growing heirloom tomatoes on their apartment balconies, cooking with fresh herbs, and sourcing grass-fed beef. They’re becoming fascinated with not only small town life, but rural life . . . farm life. The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, has helped to bring this lifestyle to the general public. At the moment, Farm Lit is still new. It encompasses memoirs (like Drummond’s) as well as any fiction based on farm life.

My new series is called Farm Fresh Romance: Farm Lit with sweet simplicity and a bit of zing.

How did you become interested in growing and preserving food? Do you do a lot of public speaking about the topic?

Both my husband and I were raised in households where our moms cooked from scratch and did a lot of canning. It was natural for us to continue the traditions. At first it was to save money but, as the quality of “store-bought” food came into question, the priority switched to knowing where our food came from and what was in it. Now with genetically-modified crops (I refuse to call them food) so prevalent, growing and preserving our own food has taken on an almost desperate feel.

I’m so thankful we live on a farm in a fruit-and grain-growing area. There aren’t many basic foods we cannot raise or buy locally. With three little granddaughters, I’m focused more than ever on helping to provide real food for healthy young bodies!

Because our area is quite remote, I don’t have many speaking opportunities.

A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

I try to separate rewards from food, but it doesn’t always work! My favorite treat is a few squares of a smooth dark chocolate (organic fairtrade). My current favorite is Camino Dark. If I buy the coconut or caramel crunch bars, it’s harder to stop with two squares.

I have one home-brewed mocha a day. Take a large mug, put in a dash of cinnamon, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of cocoa (organic fairtrade), fill most of the way with hot brewed coffee (organic fairtrade), then top with a splash of real cream. Yum. (Can I go downstairs and fix myself a second cup this morning? Pretty please?)

This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?

I don’t. When I was a teen in a Christian boarding school, I seemed to hang out with the musical types. If there was one thing I could have changed about myself back then, this would have been it.

My husband plays guitar, sings, and has led worship teams. Our two kids have inherited his voice, not mine—I’m thankful for small mercies. My musical ability has been limited to learning to run the soundboard at church so I could assist his worship team in that way. We all do what we can, right?

If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?

I’d like to be a song of worship. Something victorious that people wanted to dance to with hands uplifted to heaven.

In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?

I’m probably the girl next door. I’m definitely NOT the Type A leader personality, and I’d rather wear farm boots than high heels any day of the year. Okay, really, hiking boots or sandals. Or bare feet.

I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.

Right now we have a black Lab cross dog, Brody, who’s five and was supposed to be much smaller than he is. He’s got a wonderful temperament, now that his brain cells connect to each other—don’t ask about his puppy years! We also have two cats who are almost three, littermate calicoes, Moxie and Coonie, who love to give Brody back massages. He is tolerant to a point! I’m more of a cat person than a dog person, though we’ve usually had both.

Thanks, Valerie! It’s nice to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.

It’s been awesome to be here. If any of your readers have questions, I’d be happy to try and answer them in the next day or two.

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For more information about Valerie, visit her website or her blog.

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