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St. Marys native and author Kathleen Valentine has always loved books, and says she was influenced to write due to the many tales she heard while growing up in her hometown.
"I write because I love to tell stories," Valentine said. "I credit much of this to growing up in St. Marys, where there were so many storytellers. I remember sitting on my grandmother's porch, or in my dad's shop, or my mother's kitchen, listening to aunts and uncles and neighbors telling stories about so many things.
"I think telling stories is the oldest form of entertainment and it is also how we get to know one another. I've always loved writing. I love the use of language. Now, as a writer, I can indulge in those loves while telling stories that I hope people will love."
Valentine is a graduate of Elk County Christian High School and The Pennsylvania State University. Her parents are the late John â€śTinoâ€ť and Mary Ann Werner Valentine. She said a lot of people may remember her father, a well-known carpenter, and her mother, who worked for many years at "Widdies." She has seven siblings; her brother Wayne Valentine and her sister Anne Valentine Neubert still live in St. Marys.
"Growing up in St. Marys, I had a lot of positive influences," Valentine said. "I especially remember Mary Seelye, who was my 4-H leader for quite a few summers and, of course, so many of the nuns that taught us in school. I especially loved Sister Imelda and Sister Jane Frances-- I learned a lot from them."
So far, Valentine has published four full-length novels, five books on knitting, a cookbook/memoir, and many novellas and short stories. In 2012, she sold over 38,000 books and several titles were ranked "Amazon Top Sellers" on www.amazon.com.
Her novella, "The Crazy Old Lady in the Attic," was an Amazon Top Ten Horror Best Seller and Valentine was named an Amazon Top 100 Horror Author. Other books on Amazon Best Seller lists were "The Mermaid Shawl & Other Beauties," a book on knitting lace; her cookbook/memoir "Fry Bacon. Add Onions;" and a novella, "The Reluctant Belsnickel of Opelt's Wood," which was based on the St. Marys tradition of Belsnickel.
"I grew up reading Daphne DuMaurier and Shirley Jackson and, I am told, their influence shows in my fiction writing," Valentine said.
Valentine started out as a graphic artist. She moved to Houston, Texas in 1980 as a graphic designer and typographer in the art departments of Enron and Pennzoil. In 1987, she relocated to New England, first to Maine and then to Massachusetts, and has lived in the coastal fishing town of Gloucester, Mass. for the past 20 years. She worked in the art and marketing departments of some high-tech companies, but left in 2003 to start her own home-based design business, creating websites, books and promotional materials for a variety of clients, many of whom are artists and writers.
In 2006, she started "Parlez-Moi Press," a small independent publishing company.
"At first I just published paperbacks by local authors, including my own books," Valentine said. "In 2009, with the advent of digital books, I began to also publish my own books digitally for Kindle and Nook. I still do some design work for clients, especially book covers. But most of my time is spent writing and marketing my own books."
Her newest book is entitled, "The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall: Secrets of Marienstadt." The collection of 11 stories is based on stories Valentine heard while growing up in St. Marys.
"For example, I took stories I heard about Ritter's Mill housing a notorious moonshine operation and turned it into a story called 'Drugs, Alcohol, Bacon, Firearms,'" Valentine said. "It (the novel) was fun to write. Even though the book is set in rural Pennsylvania, I have received emails from people all over the country, as well as England and Germany, telling me how much they identified with the stories."
When she is not writing, designing, or posting on her blog, http://parlezmoiblog.blogspot.com/, Valentine likes to knit and sew. While she does this mostly for pleasure, she has also created original knitting designs and sold them on the internet. Essentially, she enjoys all things artistic.
"Over the years, I've been involved in quite a number of organizations, almost always involving the arts. I moved to Gloucester because of the vibrant artists' community here, and for several years, I painted a lot-- mostly watercolors. But since I've started writing and publishing, it seems that's all I want to do now," Valentine said.
From a charitable aspect, she donates her books to various fundraisers, most recently giving copies of her cookbook for a fundraiser at her library and participating in Operation eBook Drop, which makes books available to members of the armed forces serving overseas.
"It's very touching to get emails from soldiers thanking me for reminding them of home with my stories," Valentine said.
Valentine said after she moved in 1980, she would return to St. Marys at least once a year, usually around Christmas.
"I loved spending the Christmas holidays there, especially when I lived in Texas where snow was rare," Valentine said. "However, after my parents died I went for quite a few years without returning until this past August. I was in Pennsylvania for a week and spent a few days with my sister, Anne."
Valentine said she was surprised how much some things have changed, especially the downtown area, while others are exactly like she remembers, in particular Luhr Park on Chestnut Street, where she and many other residents spent a lot of time as children.
Since many of her stories are based on the people and places of St. Marys, it is no surprise that on her last trip here she visited some of her old haunts.
"I drove out Vine Road to see Mary Opelt's Woods because that was the other place where my friends and I spent hundreds of hours [besides Luhr Park]. I've been gone so long that, other than family, I don't really know many people in St. Marys anymore, but it was still sweet to be there," Valentine said.