Dominique Valente describes herself as “Lover of grumpy monsters, quirky dragons, magic and mad things, gardens that whisper and houses that breathe. The coffee helps. The anxiety doesn’t. Has one arm. Fairly certain has some Benjamin Button type disease where you get younger as you grow older. Would love a hut on a cliff with a sea garden, and a pet whale. Will settle for a cup of coffee, a slice of cake and something good to read.” She also writes writes bestselling fiction under her pseudonym, Lily Graham, and is a former journalist.
Dominique is an entertaining and thought-provoking guest in this podcast, linked above and on all good podcasting platforms.
Here is Emma’s review of Starfell book two, Willow Moss and the Forgotten Day. Emma didn’t mention disability or grief in her review. Suffice to say, this book is fun escapism with added depth.
Interview questions and notes
You quit being a journalist to write because you preferred working in your pyjamas. Now lots of people are working in their pyjamas; was it worth it?
Please tell us about your Starfell books. (Dominique did a reading!)
Your books focus on characters who are different, odd.
The second book particularly emphasises grief and working through it.
Disabilities are a feature of Starfell but your disabled characters have agency.
Will Oswin’s backstory come to the fore in future books? I have a theory about Oswin and kobolds and I WANT ANSWERS.
You’ve written in other genres as Lily Graham, for example historical fiction about the impact of WW2 and Nazis on people living in Europe.
Why change your name?
Why change genres?
Memorable quotes from Dominique Valente’s website
Disability is always difficult, but not always for the reasons most people believe them to be, there’s honestly not a single thing that I find impossible to do, except say no to chocolate.
Our challenge as people with disabilities is to help ensure that in time that difference is normalised. I’d be lying if I didn’t explain that the hardest part really is other people’s reactions to me, though there are times, every now and again when the best part is other people too.
Is it true that you don’t like it when people refer to you as a ‘disabled writer’?
Yes. Partly it has to do with the phrasing. But even if it is phrased better – such as ‘a writer with a disability’ is it really necessary unless the article is specifically about disability? I don’t think we will make headway until we stop highlighting it as a difference. Shonda Rhymes once crossed out a speech that recognized her as a ‘successful, black woman’ screenwriter. She crossed out black and woman because it was all still true without those adjectives. I think we need to start doing the same when it comes to disability. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it, we definitely should – and I am always keen to chat about it, but I would prefer not to be defined by it.