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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Starr Valentine by Wende Dikec - Interview & Giveaway

About Wende Dikec

Wende Dikec has spent her life traveling the world, and collecting stories wherever she visited. She writes in several romance genres, and her books are quirky, light, and fun. Fluent in several languages and married to a man from Istanbul, Wende is a trekkie, a book hoarder, master of the Nespresso machine, and mother of three boys. A puppy named Capone is the most recent addition to her family, and she blogs about him as a way of maintaining what little sanity she has left.
Book description
What happens when the beautiful swan becomes the ugly duckling?

Starr Valentine has a perfect life in Middleton, Ohio. She was named captain of the cheer squad, her mother finally allowed her to get highlights, and the cutest boy in school asked her to homecoming. But everything comes crashing down when she finds out her parents are actually monarchs in exile from a mysterious planet called Vega. Starr doesn’t want to leave, but loves the idea of being a princess, and decides moving to an alien world might not be so bad. When she gets there, however, she discovers that something is terribly wrong.

Starr has always been the winner of the family, but now everyone is fawning over her chubby older sister, Astra. And everyone, even a handsome and annoying young duke named Julian, seems to hate her. That is when she realizes the awful truth. Astra is now the pretty one. Astra has all the friends. Astra gets all of the attention. And Starr Valentine, voted Miss Perfect, is now the ugly duckling. Her biggest fear is…will she be able to turn back into a swan, or is she doomed to be a loser forever?

1) Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

I studied Japanese and Economics at university and lived abroad for six years. I met my husband while we were both working in Japan, and we got married in his hometown – Istanbul, Turkey. Now we’re back in my hometown in Pennsylvania, where we’re raising our three sons and a rather crazy puppy named Capone the Wonder Dog (he has his own Facebook page – he’s quite the internet sensation).

2) Your story is about what's beautiful and where beauty comes from. What inspired you to write it?

It had a lot to do with the time I spent living abroad. I saw different ideas about beauty in different places. Did you know that in Japan the back of a women’s neck is thought to be sexy? That’s why kimonos are designed to gape at the neck. It’s sort of the equivalent of showing cleavage here.
In Turkey, a curvy woman is admired. This is an old photo of a famous belly dancer. Isn’t she lovely?

In the States and other western cultures, the interpretation of beauty can be quite narrow. I wanted for young girls to understand that there are many ways to be beautiful. I also wanted to express to them something I saw in every country I visited. True beauty cannot be defined because it comes from within.

3) Can you describe Starr in five words?

Oh, gosh.






4) How did you come up with the idea of the planet Vega?

All my life I’ve been obsessed with sci-fi in any form – books, movies, television – and I’ve spent a great deal of time imagining other worlds. I’m also a linguist (I speak three languages fluently), and was interested in how two cultures and languages could begin at a similar spot, and yet evolve differently over time. While living in Turkey, we had friends who were descendants of Sephardi Jews – Jewish people forced to leave Spain during the Spanish inquisition around the year 1492. At home many of these families spoke Ladino, a form of classical Spanish. It amazed me that this small community could hold onto a language for generations like that. When I had to figure out a language for my Vegonians to speak, that’s how I ended up with Elizabethan English. The fact that I also love Shakespeare was simply a bonus.

5) Could you describe what beauty means to you?

Beauty to me is more about personality and confidence than anything else. It’s about believing in yourself and your own worth. I think Maya Angelou sums it up perfectly in her poem, Phenomenal Woman. These are the first few lines, but you can read it in its entirety if you click on the link below.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

6) You write about girls who take care of their appearance. What makes you choose that topic and what inspires your great detailed descriptions of the way they look?

In “Starr Valentine,” Starr is obsessed with appearances and being beautiful. It’s how she identifies herself. She’s “the pretty one”, and what’s interesting is what happens when that is taken away from her.

In my other book, “Tiger Lily,” Lily is hiding a secret under a façade of perfection. By controlling her appearance, she feels like it gives her some semblance of control over her life. Her love interest in the book, Nick, sees through it right away.

7) Who designs your beautiful covers and how does the process work?

Najla Qamber is the brilliant artist who designed both of my covers ( Here’s how the it works. First, I fill out a long and very detailed form. I tell Naj info about my characters, and I also send her a synopsis of the story. I choose a few photos that I think either capture the essence of my story, or remind me of the characters or something in my book. She then works her magic and comes back with a rough idea. We go back and forth a few times, ironing out the details, until finally it’s perfect and we both love it. I’m lucky to have someone like this to work with. Some writers are simply given a cover and have no say in it at all. Here are both my covers. Aren’t they awesome?

8) What are your 3 favorite books?
I think the books we read as children have the most power and influence in our lives. As a middle grade reader, I was addicted to the book “A Wrinkle In Time” by Madeleine L’Engle. Because of that book, I actually dreamed of becoming a physicist someday (until I discovered that physics is mostly math, and I hate math!). After that, I moved onto “Little Women,” “The Secret Garden,” and “A Little Princess” - classics that every girl should read. When I was a teenager, I enjoyed scary books by Stephen King, but I also enjoyed romances by Barbara Cartland and Danielle Steele. I guess that explains a lot about my personality and what I write. Calling me eclectic would be a kindness.

9) You teach at the Young Writers' Institute, could you tell a bit more about it? And what's the number one advice you always give your students?
The Young Writers’ Institute was a summer program held every year at a local high school. I taught the youngest writers, the 4th and 5th graders, and I loved every minute of it. We met every day for two weeks in the summer for an intensive writing program. Now I teach workshops (mostly for middle schoolers) at local libraries. I enjoy that, too. The number one advice I give my students is to write forward. You can always go back and edit, but you should not be continuously editing yourself as you write. Some people do this, and those are usually the people who never complete a first draft. They remain stuck, forever, with an incomplete manuscript. Isn’t that sad?

10) What can we expect from you in the future?

I’m working on a sequel to “Tiger Lily,” but I’ve been sidetracked by my other work (I write adult romances under the pen name Abigail Drake). I hope to get back to that and finish it soon. I’m also playing around with the idea of writing a young adult book with a boy as my main character. I’ve never done that before, but I have three sons. I think I’m an expert on teenaged boys at this point. I exist in a sea of testosterone, and I’m now completely immune to both the smell dirty socks and the smell of Axe. It’s kind of my super power.

$25 Amazon Gift Card to a Newsletter Subscriber,

to be awarded June 1, 2016.

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