In celebration of International Women's Month, we are interviewing several incredible ladies that are part of the Renegade family. We are working on a project for the fall with one of the most talented authors in the industry, Monica Valentinelli, so we reached out to her with a few questions about her life and career.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi! I am a full-time writer, game designer, editor, and artist who is best known for my work related to the Firefly TV show by Joss Whedon, and for creating the Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge. I was the lead writer and developer for the award-winning line of Firefly RPG books, and also wrote the Firefly: The Gorramn Shiniest Language Guide and Dictionary in the ‘Verse which was released from Titan Publishing in April 2016. My recent releases include In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition, and the anthology Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling. You can find out more about my work at http://www.booksofm.com.
How did you become involved with the gaming industry?
I first started working in games back in 2005 with a small press publisher. Since then, I’ve worked with dozens of companies on the creative and the business side, and have designed, developed, and written for many games and systems. At one point, I was the Marketing Director for Steve Jackson Games, too!
What do you do outside of gaming?
I write fiction, design jewelry, paint, and travel to conventions. Making art is a huge part of my life, and couldn’t imagine what it would be like without it. I also like to cook, too.
What are your favorite games?
I prefer games that either have a strategic element, or are quick to play like Poo. Dominion, Gloom, and Revolution are some of my favorites, because they have a lot of variability and I enjoy the rules. I also love cooperative games like Pandemic, because they’re one of the best ways to introduce new players to the hobby.
What do you think the biggest challenges facing writers in the industry currently are?
Though all writers face the same issues to varying degrees, I think one of the biggest challenges game writers are addressing now is how to balance writing for ourselves versus writing for other people. The work we do is typically work-for-hire, which means that we don’t own the rights to what we write for other companies. While that is a viable way of building a career, as writers in comics, television, and fiction have done, it can have an impact on us long-term. For example, it’s often harder to make a jump to selling our own games and stories if we don’t find the time to produce when we’re not under contract. Having a passive stream of income that we control can also help weather payment gaps and issues with scheduling, but I’ve found it’s important because it generates new readers and players, too.
What inspires you to write stories?
Stories hold a lot of power, imagination, and wonderment. For me, writing them is a way of reaching through the page, to touch a reader’s heart the way mine was touched. I see stories everywhere, because people are filled with stories and they’re fun to listen to. I never have the problem of being blocked; my issue has always been how to connect my creative side with the ability to earn a decent wage.
Looking back at your career, what surprises you the most?
Hrmmm… Good question. I think what surprises me the most, is the realization that I should have started producing my own stories and games much sooner than I had originally planned. My thinking was that I wanted to establish my reputation doing solid work, which I did do, but developing and writing for licensed games wound up being so much work I didn’t do much else. Then, when a couple of major balls dropped, which is bound to happen to all creative professionals at some point, I felt like I was starting over. Mind you, I’ve steered the proverbial ship back in the right direction, but I could not have done that without a strong support system and the knowledge that was only temporary.
For a lovely surprise, I continue to be amazed by the genuine love of gaming that we all share and the talent in this industry. Yes, there is such a thing as a friendly rivalry, but most of the time everyone wants the same thing: to produce games (on time, of course!), so players can have fun. That collaborative effort is something I enjoy far more than I ever thought possible.
What is your favorite type of setting?
My favorite setting to write is dark fantasy, because I enjoy the challenge of creating something new and non-Eurocentric. I also love the idea of being surrounded by darkness, and finding your way to the light. My favorite to read, however, depends on my mood. For wonderful brain breaks, I tend to heavily rely on Pratchett’s work because I appreciate the puns and the meta-commentary on the fantasy genre.
What is your favorite convention to attend?
I’ve been traveling to Gen Con: Indianapolis for the past decade or so, and for me it’s like going home for Christmas. I’ve made so many friends over the years, it’s been lovely to see and hear how people change/grow as time goes on.
Thank you, Monica, for giving us some great insight into your life and your role in the industry! It's alway amazing to learn more about all the diverse roles needed to make a game!
Make sure to stop by Monica's Blog and consider attending her upcoming online class!