Sunday 6 December 2020

The Hippo Hangs Out . . . . with Val Poore


I'm delighted to be hanging out with Valerie Poore today. I recently saw someone recommend one of Val's books on Facebook and I left a comment to say that I liked the sound of this book as it was set in South Africa which has  and hopped over to Amazon to potentially buy it, only to find out that I'd already downloaded a copy of this book - five years ago! Yes, you did read that correctly, FIVE years ago!! This is one of the drawbacks to being a book blogger - so many great books to read and not enough time to read them all!

I was so embarrassed but I did go back and confess and luckily Val saw the funny side and we struck up a conversation which has resulted in her being here today. I've also purchased the other two books in Val's trilogy and promised faithfully that it won't take me another five years to read them!

Now that I've confessed, I don't think I should keep my guest waiting any longer so let me introduce you all to the very lovely Val Poore.

Photo courtesy of Val Poore

Val  Poore was born in London, grew up in Dorset and then moved to South Africa in 1981 where she lived for nearly twenty years. However, she decided to move back to Europe permanently in 2001. Her intention was to live in France, but love and life had other plans and she ended up buying a traditional barge and staying in the Netherlands. She is now a Dutch citizen as well.

Val has written eight memoirs and two novels. She writes under her full name, Valerie, and these days shares her time between her barge in Rotterdam and a cottage in the country. She teaches for a living, has two very grown up daughters (both in the Netherlands) and lives with her Dutch partner. One day, she hopes she and her partner can take her barge and exchange teaching for a life of gentle cruising along the canals in northern France, or Poland, or Germany or wherever the waterways take them.

Welcome to The Hippo Val, it's so lovely to have you here. Please pull up a chair, make yourself comfortable and let's dive in.


What book/books made you cry and why?
Ooh, Neats, I love this question and have to answer in the plural. I should say that most books about animals make me cry and I’ve even cried over my own books; anything poignant will make me well up. However, the one book I remember howling over at the end was Marley and Me by John Grogan.

I'm with you on this one Val. I've read the book and seen the film more times than I can remember and it gets me every time, I'm a wreck! 😭

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
No, never. I think that’s because when I started writing and publishing I only ever thought of people I knew as readers. This was in the days before Kindle and I used the very early self-publishing company, Because I was selling books to those in my own environment, it would have seemed strange to use a pseudonym. Once Kindle came along, I’d already been using my own name for a while so it didn’t occur to me to consider changing it.

What other authors are you friends with and how do they help you become a better writer?
I only know one other author personally, and she lives here in the Netherlands. On the internet, though, I’m friends with several other writers, and especially memoir authors. One of these is Dawne Archer, who’s been here on the Hippo too. I think I’ve learnt a lot from Dawne’s book and those of many other memoir writers. As a reader of their books, I can get a much better idea of what works well in the genre and also some new and fresh ideas about what to include. I have internet friends who write fiction as well, but since I wouldn’t consider writing in their genres, I’m just a reading fan.

You're right Val, Dawne was a guest here back in April. She was also the one who made the comment on Facebook which led to us meeting. 😳 It's funny how things turn out, isn't it?

What’s your favourite under-appreciated writer/book?
I like this question, but it’s hard to know who and what is under-appreciated, isn’t it? One of my favourite books of all time is one few people seem to know, so perhaps it’s under-appreciated these days. It’s Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene. I think I must have read it at least five times. I just adore it because it combines a travel story with two wonderful quirky characters. It’s a beautiful book and I find it moves me deeply each time I read it.


What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Maybe the fact that if I had to write by hand, I’d never write anything. I’m a strictly digital writer.


Do you often hear from your readers and what do they say?
Not every week, or even every month, but I receive emails from readers several times a year. I really enjoy getting them as they are so much more personal than a review. Mostly, they’re from people who have experienced what I’ve done or lived in the places I’ve written about. I’ve had several from readers who used to live in South Africa, for example, and they find my books evoke lots of memories for them. That’s always lovely to hear.

Having  some very special memories of South Africa myself, including meeting Jessica the house hippo and walking trunk in hand with elephants, I'm looking forward to reading your books. You might mention something that reminds me of the wonderful time I spent there. 😉

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing etc come from?
I’m guessing my love of books must have come from my parents because I’ve always had a thing for them. There’s a family joke about me and books that started when I was a child. I was about six years old and having a temper tantrum, and in a fit of extreme petulance, I said I was leaving home and taking all the books with me. My parents and siblings thought it was hilarious and laughed their socks off, which just made me even more furious. That of course started the joke that’s kept on going to this day. In fact my sister reminded me of it just the other day.

 I hope that you were planning on taking a favourite cuddly toy with you as well as all the books.

What do you think is more important: characters or plot?
Hmm, that’s a hard one. If you had to pin me down, I’d say that, overall, characters are more important, although obviously you need a good storyline and structure. The thing is, even if you have a great plot, it won’t work if the characters are wooden and unconvincing. On the other hand, you can have a story with little of no action, but if the characters are great, it can still be a good book. At least, that’s what I think now, but it’s open to discussion.

Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?
I don’t know about hidden, but I’m pretty good at woodwork!

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I'm really looking forward to reading Val's books about her time living in South Africa and with the current worldwide situation regarding travel, or rather the lack of it, I'm hoping to be transported to another country via her books. If you feel like taking a trip from the comfort of your favourite chair here's a little bit about African Ways, which is currently only 99p to download.

This is the story of a young woman’s first encounters with rural South Africa. Coming from the all-mod-cons society of Britain at the beginning of the 1980’s, the author is literally transplanted to a farm in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains in what is now Kwazulu Natal.

Once there, she finds her feet in the ways of Africa with the help of a charming, elderly Dutch couple,
an appealing but wily African farm hand, his practical and motherly daughter and a wise and fascinating neighbour who has a fund of local knowledge.

These are tales of a different kind of life, which include living without electricity, hand-milking cows, drought, veld fires and mad-cap adventures into the unknown.

They are stories told with deep affection and respect, and above all a liberal dose of tongue-in-cheek humour.

I think this sounds fabulous, not just because of my love for South Africa, but also because I love finding out about other people's lives. It's like when your're walking down the street and your neighbours have their lights on and their curtains open - I love to glance in to see what's going on! Hopefully I'm not the only one who does this, feel free to own up in the comments so that I know I'm not alone in this! 😧

You can find out more about Val, her books and connect with her using the links below:

Amazon UK
Amazon US

I'd like to say a huge thank you to Val for taking the time to hang out with me today. It's been great getting to know you better and I honestly can't wait to find out even more by reading your books.


  1. Thank you so much for having me round to hang out with the hippo, Neats. I thoroughly enjoyed answering these questions and they really gave me something to think about. It's been lovely!

    1. It was an absolute pleasure to find out more about you Val. I really am looking forward to reading your books and hoping that you mention some places that I've visited. ��

    2. Ah, Neats, I think there's a pretty good chance of that, especially in the third one :)

  2. What a wonderful interview Val and thank you Neats for your blogspot

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by Lindylou. I'm pleased to hear that you enjoyed our chat.

    2. Thanks from me too, Linda. Being on the road yourself at this time, I am even more grateful you took the time to read our chat!

  3. Loved reading this! Thanks so much for sharing more insights about your life and loves, Val, Neats asked great questions! :D

    1. I'm so happy to hear that you enjoyed the post Beth. Val is definitely a very interesting lady!

    2. Thank you both very much for the kind words! xx

  4. That’s a lovely blog Neats and Val. Hanging out with a Hippo is so appropriate for Val, what with her African experiences and her more recently discovery of wallowing on the European canals! And yes, I’ve got the African connection and love boating on the canals, so Val’s books are perfect for me.

    1. Lol Colin, that's a lovely way of looking at it! I love hippo's (just incase you hadn't already noticed!) and I had a once in a lifetime trip around SA several years ago which is why I'm so excited to read Val's books. Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and for leaving a comment.

    2. Ah, thank you, Colin. I'm so pleased we've had a chance to share both of those in real life as well. Neats, I 'met' Colin on FB too, but he and his wife made that reality by coming to visit us. We had a lovely day.

  5. Love this, Val. You are amazing beyond belief. Thank you for sharing this special blog. (Steph)

    1. I'm so pleased to hear that you enjoyed this Steph and thank you for stopping by.