Photo by Paul Neevel

Valerie Brooks

“I had an idyllic childhood,” says Valerie Brooks, who grew up out in the country, seven miles from the town of Tilton in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. By age 19, she was married to a Vietnam vet and was pregnant with their son, Jason. Three years later, in 1973, her husband decided to move to Oregon, and the family landed in Vida, along the McKenzie River east of Eugene. “He always wanted to move around,” she says. “We were divorced in ’76.” She met Dan Connors, who lived a few miles downriver in Leaburg, later that year. They were married in 1988. “When Dan and I got together, I went to Lane Community College and put together my own graphic design curriculum,” she says. A year after graduation, she returned to LCC as strategic planner for its nationally recognized Cooperative Education Department. “I wrote and illustrated the first textbook for women in non-traditional careers,” she says, “like welding, carpentry and drafting.” When she left LCC in 1988 to pursue a personal writing career, she became friends with aspiring cartoonist Jan Eliot, who incorporated her as Val in the comic strip Stone Soup, nationally syndicated since 1995. “She stole my hair, my love of Lycra and my attitude,” Brooks notes, “but we still get together once a week.” After a year of study at the University of Oregon, Brooks wrote three literary novels, hired three New York agents and got three rejections. “I started thinking, ‘What do I really love?’” she says. “Growing up in New England, I loved gothic, dark-side stories. Heck, I’m going to write noir!” Her first “femmes-noir” novel, Revenge in 3 Parts: Part I, addressing the #MeToo movement and set in Paris, was published by Black Leather Jacket Press in 2018. Part II, addressing economic inequality and set in Oregon, is scheduled for release in March.