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Q&A with Lorena Hughes - The Queen of the Valley


The Queen of the Valley

By Elle Summers


We are thrilled to welcome Lorena Hughes to The Reading Corner to talk about her new release The Queen of the Valley released on the 29th of August 2023.


Driven and recklessly daring, Martin Sabater follows his lifelong dream of owning a cacao plantation in Valle del Cauca. But on the night of a spectacular gala, he disappears—and is never seen again. Now his hacienda is a budding Catholic hospital saving lives during an emerging epidemic. And novice nun “Sor Puri” is there to uncover the truth behind Martin’s disappearance. But her real identity—and her past with the heartbreakingly charismatic Martin—will put far more than her perilous search at risk.


A professional photographer, Lucas Ferreira is Martin’s best friend since boyhood. He has his own reasons for helping the determined, alluring nun. But what this reserved man won’t reveal about his thwarted dreams and unrequited passion could prove key to the past—or a lethal trap.


Martin was head nurse Sor Camila's only love—until an unfortunate mistake changed the course of her life forever. Now, Martin's home is an unexpected chance for her, Lucas, and Puri to set the past right. But with their secrets unearthing explosive memories and wrenching lies, can they survive the truth about Martin—and the consequences that will forever alter their destinies?


The Queen of the Valley

I would love to know more about the inspiration behind the Colombian setting of this novel. You include the real-life Cali earthquake, how much more of the novel is based on or inspired by historical events?


I try to stay true to historical facts as much as I can, but there are several challenges when writing historical fiction. For example, sometimes writers have to make educated guesses because there simply isn’t enough information available, or we have to take creative licenses for our stories to work. In the case of The Queen of the Valley, there are many things that are true, for example, the earthquake in Cali in 1925 as well as the buildings I mentioned that were destroyed. Although there have been several cholera epidemics in Colombia, there wasn’t one specifically in those years, but I needed it for my plot to work. The train from Buenaventura to Cali (Ferrocarril del Pacífico) truly existed but the little town of El Paraíso did not.


Following on from this, what challenges did you face when recreating the early 1900s and how did this impact your presentation of characters?


My biggest challenge was transportation. Because I needed my characters to go from one place to another, I had to understand how they would travel and how long it might have taken. One of the problems I discovered was that because Ecuadorian and Colombian geography was so dramatic (due to the Andes mountains crossing both countries) and there were many financing problems, roads and railroad tracks took years to develop (much longer than other Latin America countries). These challenges in transportation affected my characters because they ended up having to go to different cities than I had originally planned. It was also hard to figure out where they might have vacationed as it turns out that the “beach culture” we’re so familiar with developed later in the century in certain parts of South America.


I thoroughly enjoyed how this narrative incorporates so many story lines running parallel to each other and intertwining in unexpected ways. What is your method for creating not only a plethora of voices, but ones that seamlessly fits together?


This particular project was a little bit easier than others because being the sequel to The Spanish Daughter, I already knew my heroine’s personality and backstory very well. I also had a clear vision of Martin Sabater, who’s a pivotal character that ties all the stories together and whose mystery Puri is trying to solve. The first thing I do is figure out my plot, which is closely linked to my setting, and what scenes I need to write. In a separate file (or notebook) I write the stories of each important character so I know who they are. This sketch includes what their secret is (in a mystery everyone has one) and what they want. Then, I decide how they are going to contribute to the mystery and the plot. I usually write in order, but I just finished another novel that had to be written in parts and then put together.


We have seen the character of Puri before in your novel The Spanish Daughter. Was it always your plan to extend her story, and how did you find returning to her character after the success of the original novel?


No, I didn’t originally plan to have a sequel. It was my editor’s idea and my agent talked me into it, but I’m so glad I did it because the story came full circle with the sequel and I’m very satisfied with the ending. I loved coming back to Puri and Martin because I felt like I knew exactly how they were going to act and what they were going to say.


This book is full of mystery and keeps the reader guessing right up until the end. I would love to learn more about the process of crafting the novel, how did you decide how much information to reveal to the reader? Did you always know where the narrative was headed, or did you find yourself also being surprised along the way?


Writing mysteries is tricky because you have to withhold information but also reveal things along the way so readers don’t get frustrated or confused. It’s a balancing act that I learned with experience because in my early writing, I was too cryptic and my beta readers had no clue what I was talking about. I have a preliminary outline that changes constantly. I am always surprised as I write because characters and scenes reveal themselves as I’m writing them. At that point, I trust myself and let these changes happen organically because I typically know the characters and the situations better by the time I’m writing the scene than I did when I originally planned the novel.


Being an award-winning author, it would be amazing to hear about your experiences within the publishing industry. How did the journey to publishing The Queen of the Valley differ to that of your previous novels The Spanish Daughter and The Sisters of Alameda Street?


The main difference between The Queen of the Valley and the other novels is that this book was sold on proposal and that had never happened to me before. I’d always had finished manuscripts to share with agents and editors. The other difference is that this is my first sequel ever! I’d always written stand-alone novels. And yet, I think I wrote it in a way that you don’t have to read the first novel to understand this one. However, if you don’t like spoilers, I definitely recommend reading The Spanish Daughter first!


Where can people find your amazing book?


I think it’s going to be available in most bookstore chains and hopefully, some independent ones, too! Please visit my website: www.lorena-hughes.com or Kensington Publishing Corp for all the links.


The Queen of the Valley

Lorena Hughes is the award-winning author of The Spanish Daughter and The Sisters of Alameda Street. Born and raised in Ecuador, she moved to the United States when she was eighteen to study fine arts and mass communication & journalism. Publishers Weekly has called her work “as addictive as chocolate” and The Washington Post deems it “imaginative historical drama filled with sibling rivalry and betrayals.” The Spanish Daughter is an Amazon Editors’ Pick and a Publishers Marketplace Buzz Books Selection.


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