Tuesday, January 31, 2023

A Conversation with Local Author and Blogger Suzette Valle

Suzette Valle and the cover of her brand new book
Suzette Valle and the cover of her brand new book. Meet her at a book signing at Bay Books this Thursday, Nov 19, from 5-6:30pm.

Suzette Valle, a Coronado local for the past 24 years, published her first book on October 19th titled 101 Movies to See Before You Grow Up

I recently had a chance to catch up with Suzette Valle to learn more of her story and the background behind her book. How did Coronado influence her parenting, work, and current success? What is it like to have a publisher call you on the phone and ask you to write a book? How will her book tie into Coronado’s first film festival in January?

She shares the answers to these questions and more in this personal interview. Thank you again, Suzette! Also, don’t miss a chance to meet her in person at her book signing at Bay Books this Thursday, November 19th, from 5-6:30pm.

Two pages from Suzette's book.
Two pages from Suzette’s book.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a writer. When did the passion and interest in film begin?

I’m originally from Baja California, but I left at 18 to go to college. My parents are American, so I was raised with both cultures and both languages. I went to USD for college, and then to Oxford for my Masters degree. I was recruited to work in banking in London, where I met my husband. A mutual friend in Paris introduced us over the phone, and eight months later we were married! We’ve been married for 25 years.

As for my blog, one of my college friends, Sharon Waxman, started TheWrap.com in 2009 with funding from Starbucks’ Howard Schultz to cover Hollywood news. Sharon was the one who said, “You need to start writing!” She gave me my break to start writing for her publication, but at the same time she pushed me to start my own blog and to write about parenting, and about how Hollywood affects values, morals, and families. At that time, everything was saturated by the media and we had little guidance as parents. I tried to navigate the whole media scene with my kids by finding a good balance, and where I didn’t just let the TV be the babysitter. After writing for TheWrap.com, I started writing for the Coronado Patch, and was invited to join a panel discussion on the Dr. Phil show about the negative effects of reality TV.

As you said, we live in a media-saturated society. How did you navigate that with your kids?

I think it’s important to share media with your family. For us, family movie night was an important tradition every Friday night. We also had daily dialogue about what was on TV.  There were a lot of questionable reality shows at that time, and tough situations, but I didn’t want to keep them from being a part of mainstream society.

Many movies are made based on books, so you can buy the books and read them to your child, and then in a few years you can watch the movie together. We went through that with the Harry Potter series when my daughter was about eight and my son was eleven. It was magical, we didn’t want it to end! My husband and I would read the books out loud, and then we would all go see the movies. It was such a precious time in their lives.

101 Movies Interiors-page-33
Two pages from Suzette’s book.

How do you think Coronado affected your family as your children grew?

When we were looking to establish ourselves as a young couple with a six-month-old, we looked at different areas in San Diego, but only one filled our requirements. We hand-picked Coronado as the place to raise our children because of its wholesome feel, location, schools, and history. My husband works downtown, so the proximity to his job was also key.

Were there things about Coronado that contributed to the closeness and values of your family?

After living here for 24 years, we’ve participated in many community organizations that helped us build that sense of community in Coronado. From Coronado Little League to ISF, and from PTA/PTO, church, coaching kids, to being a room parent, team mom, and our kids’ community service, we did it all as a family — and still do. This is what reinforced our family unity while at the same time giving back to the Coronado community that nurtured us.

How did Coronado influence your book and blog?

Coronado has the tranquility that’s essential for a writer, and this glorious and unique island also has a rich history and ties to Hollywood. The Hotel Del and the storied “Wizard of Oz” connection are well known for their relation to Tinsel Town. Dig a little deeper and you’ll also find many inspiring people who live here.

I’m also thrilled that my publisher, Walter Foster Jr/Quarto Children’s Publishing Group, is supporting the Coronado Island Film Festival as a Literary Partner. VIP pass holders will find my book in their gift bags. What an honor!

Yes, let’s talk about your new book! Congratulations! Can you tell me a little bit about this process? How long did it take to write?

It was a year in the making. Last October, Quarto emailed me and asked me to write a book based on a new series they were developing called “101 Things.” They offered me the theme of “101 Movies To See Before You Grow Up.” After reading that email — well, I like to compare it to Julie and Julia when the blogger gets the call about writing a book. I felt like screaming, “Are they sure?! Me?!” It’s been quite a ride.

Quarto said I had a year to write the book, but the actual writing was just four to five months. The publishing cycle is usually a year including editing, revisions, design, layout, illustrations, printing, and shipping. So they needed the book by March. I treated writing that book like a job, 9-to-5 every day, discipline, discipline, discipline!

I also had to re-watch a lot of movies, and some movies I had to watch for the first time — two of these were The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. My son works at Comic-Con and said, “Mom, you have to see these!” I watched them with my son, who gave me so much insight. The transition from Tolkien’s page to Peter Jackson’s screen blew my mind. Those are some movies I avoided for a long time, and I regret that I did that.

Two pages from Suzette's book.
Two pages from Suzette’s book.

How did you choose 101 Movies?

That was the most daunting task. I would ask my kids (who are 20 and 24), “What are your favorite movies?” They said Pocahontas, Emperor’s New Groove, and Hercules. I said, “OK, these movies can’t just be what we like! A list like this has to have backing.”

So I started researching the American and British Film Institutes, the National Film Registry, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and other lists. I started seeing some movies across all the lists, and that helped me narrow it down from thousands to hundreds.

Then I consulted other websites and books, like Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin, and current film critics. I also consulted Nell Minow, Movie Mom, and my friend at The Wrap. Both Minow and Waxman endorsed my book, too. ​

And my poor husband and two kids! They would listen to me read to them over the phone, Skype, breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

And now your book will be a part of the Coronado Island Film Festival?

Yes! I contacted Doug St. Denis — Executive Director and founder of the film festival — about the book. I asked Doug if there was a spot for the book during the festival and how we could collaborate. She consulted the board, and they loved it. They thought it would be great to offer the book to the attendees, and my publisher is donating the book for the VIPs!

And lastly, because I have to ask, what is your favorite movie?

This is a tough question, and it’s often asked. It’s impossible for me to name a single favorite movie out of the 101 movies in this book. I can tell you that there are only a few I’ve watched several times because they’re special or nostalgic for me: Mary Poppins, The Lion King, Star Wars, Aladdin, Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter, and Iron Man. These movies have top-shelf billing in our home!

Thank you so much, Suzette! Don’t miss our newest local author at Bay Books this Thursday, November 19, for her book signing from 5-6:30pm.

Her book is also available on Amazon and at all Barnes & Noble stores.​

Becca Garber
Becca Garberhttp://beccagarber.com
Becca is a Coronado local, military spouse, mother of three, and an ICU nurse on hiatus. In Coronado, you will find her at the playground with her kids, jogging to the beach, or searching the Coronado library for another good read.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]