Interview by Dr. Amitabh Mitra:
1. You were publishing the Skyline Literary Journal from New York, which was unique in its contents and quality. What made you start such a print publication?
Skyline Online was born in August of 2001, just a few weeks before the horror of 9/11. I say ‘born’, because Skyline was my ‘baby’. It was the heart and soul of someone who had been a struggling writer for most of her life; that someone being myself, Victoria Valentine of NY, USA.
Being a writer, I knew the difficulties of becoming a published author. I remember well the hardships new writers face, eager to receive that first, most necessary publishing credit. I was bound and determined to help as many promising beginners as possible, to receive their much-deserved first credit. Some of our authors have gone on to larger, professional publication.
Our second Skyline issue was a dedication to 9/11 victims and families, with focus on the heroic efforts of rescue teams of firefighters, police, volunteers and private citizens. Because of the quality of work we received and the devotion of our faithful writers, I felt it only fitting to reward their efforts with a print magazine. So following 9/11, I produced the first issue of “A Tribute To America” print magazine, which went through 3 reprints, as we received more and more work that had to be added.
One of Skyline’s major goals was to publish as many writers as possible, both on the Internet and in print. It was our pleasure to offer new talents a platform in which to display their work. In the early days of Skyline Magazine, I produced about 100 magazines per month, by hand, by myself, at home. They were beautiful 8 x 11 inch tabloid size, full color magazines printed on gloss paper.
Authors (and by that time many fabulous artists had also found a place in Skyline) each received a copy of the issue their work appeared in. Never in my wildest imagination, did I ever dream Skyline would take off as it did, with professional distribution across the USA and internationally. But more and more people wanted copies of Skyline, so I eventually had to have each issue printed professionally, to keep up with the demand. Right before closing, we were distributing over 10,000 copies per issue, using 3 national distributors.
Skyline magazines were also distributed by subscription to major libraries such as the New York Public Library, major Gulf Coast libraries, high schools, colleges, book stores, reader homes, etc. Skyline was also found in fine hotels, restaurants and resorts, as the magazines were known for their fine quality and elegance.
2. You grew up in New York which is one town that gets under your skin. Tell us about growing up in New York, your favorite joints, Greenwich Village and all those things that influenced your poetry.
I don’t get into the city as often as I like these days, as I now live almost 2 hours away, in upstate NY. The Village is a busy and colorful place, with narrow, crowded streets, tall buildings, beautifully inspirational and unique!! The Village, packed with shops, vendors, bookstores, people rushing and idling. I love it! But…when I do visit the city, I make certain to grab a small table in a corner of bustling Grand Central, to sit and watch the goings on, especially during holiday season.
To me, Grand Central and surrounding streets and avenues host some of the most intriguing sights; tourists and travelers, excitement everywhere! The city is enthusiastic, charming, adventurous, a wonderland of multicultural diversity. After a day in any part of NYC, one can find much to write about!
I was born in the Bronx, attending elementary and junior high school there. From those days, and the ‘neighborhood’ at that time, I could write an entire collection of fantasy and frightening stories, drawing from memories of legends, events and childhood imagination. While in elementary school I won many art contests, for painting and drawing. I was quiet and shy. Upon entering high school, I soon found writing to be a necessity and outlet for my emotions.
Much of my writing reflects beauty, love and the sadness I feel inside; about life and death, those I have loved, those I still have with me, those whom I have lost. Most times I don’t write ‘about, but rather ‘for’. Although I didn’t major in literature in college, I took writing courses as well as some courses in music theory. After taking time out to start a family, I realized my interest in poetry, as well as short story writing.
My first full novel was a horror story, The Last Resort. That manuscript went through numerous revisions, with excerpts blending into the conclusion of At the Stroke of Midnight.
3. ‘At the Stroke of Midnight’ is a collection of horror stories and poems. America has its own league of horror writers but not many horror poets.
Although I enjoy writing thrillers, as well as romance, I find horror to be a favorite venue in which to share my imagination, as well as my emotions, my fears and my dreams. As a spiritual individual, be it in my imagination or reality, I feel in touch with ‘the other side’ of life, and that which lies beyond…and of course, I've had personal encounters with ghosts and possibly a demon or two. Some may find this statement humorous or even dubious, but until you’ve been there, or rather once you’ve been ‘touched’, you become a true believer and respect that which cannot always be seen or understood, yet does exist, right here beside each one of us! There is much truth in my horror poetry, and other writings, including feelings and experiences, colored with imagery.
4. Do you think Horror Poetry could be an attraction to readers and young poets? The Indian subcontinent which is grappling with social and religious norms, horror based poetry from its poets would be iconoclastic.
I would not venture to mix horror with religion. My idea of horror is found within the supernatural; ghosts, frightening ‘nighttime’ curl up and squeeze your partner playtime. It’s pure entertainment utilizing scare tactics. I find horror to be a realm of its own, to be explored, exploited and devoured.
Horror, as well as religion, has individual voice and expression. Why not believe in, and enjoy the individual characteristics of both? I think young poets could enjoy and express horror creatively, without tarnishing or destroying religious beliefs. I don’t believe horror is sacrilegious. Horror is also an enticing stimulant, an emotional roller coaster that bumps, grinds and climaxes, quite similar to romance. I draw a parallel between the two. Horror is fun! It’s a fabulous release.
You say you feel dead
So how can you tell?
Is it a lonely
Or a dark empty shell
How can you feel?
If you're dead inside
Is it all lost forever
Or do you just hide
You say you feel empty
But empty can't feel
Cause if empty had feelings
Then you would feel real
So how do you know if
You're dead or alive
Have you ever felt pain
Or the will to survive
Full of emptiness
Full of pain
Are they both simply feelings?
Just one in the same
And what does full mean
Life's breath of fresh air
Then dead would be empty
So how can you tell
Death cold or life warm
I mean if you're dead
There's no place you belong!
© Victoria Valentine