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Wednesday 10 April 2019

ℚ Velvalee Dickinson: The "Doll Woman" Spy - Barbara Casey

Many apologies for the delay today; finally we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Velvalee Dickinson: The "Doll Woman" Spy (, Strategic Media Press , 150 pages), a True Crime Biography.

"This is a fascinating story of a little-known American woman who played an important role in WW II by spying for the Japanese against the United States. Casey not only has done her research, she presents the story in an entertaining way. Like her other two nonfiction books, Assata Shakur: A 20th Century Escaped Slave and Kathryn Kelly: The Moll behind Machine Gun Kelly, Casey’s writing style is unique and enjoyable to read. Anyone who enjoys reading true crime, biographies, and historical nonfiction will want to read this." ~ 5* Amazon review

|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

A very warm welcome to Barbara Casey; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!
"Thank you so much for inviting me."
Here at BooksChatter we love music; do you have a music playlist that you used in Velvalee Dickinson: The "Doll Woman" Spy , or which inspired you whilst you were writing it?
"Whenever I write, I only listen to Classical music.  In fact, I pretty much have it on all day.

My love for Classical music comes from when I attended the University of North Carolina and NC State.  I majored in English and History, but minored in Music History."    
Velvalee Dickson's Doll Shop
What compelled you to write, Velvalee Dickinson: The "Doll Woman" Spy, where you explore a very serious true crime?
"I was doing some research on another book I am working on when I came across a brief mention of Velvalee as a doll collector who became a spy.  I was intrigued as to how a woman who was an expert in rare, antique, and foreign dolls could become involved with an enemy of the United States Government."
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing Velvalee Dickenson: The Doll Woman Spy?
"In my research, I discovered that Eunice Kennedy, sister to President John Kennedy had a connection with Velvalee and tried to help her even after she was released from prison.

Eunice Kennedy
Velvalee Dickinson

Even though Eunice lost one brother in the war, and President Kennedy was wounded, she still felt compelled to reach out to Velvalee.  It was an interesting relationship.

In sharp juxtaposition to this, I learned a great deal about doll collecting."
Why should we read Velvalee Dickinson: The "Doll Woman" Spy and what sets you apart from the rest?
"Velvalee Dickinson is an interesting glimpse into what led up to World War II, and how one American woman could have brought about an entirely different outcome had it not been for the FBI.

There are no other books written about Velvalee Dickinson, so my research involved the FBI, the FBI Vault, FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), personal letters and documents, old photographs, and period newspapers.

I write not only about Velvalee, but about codes that were used and other information that very few people know."
Letter from Velvalee Dickinson, 20 May 1942l.
One of Velvalee's dolls.
What has been your greatest challenge in writing Velvalee Dickenson: The Doll Woman Spy? What was the hardest part to write in this book?
"Finding personal information on Velvalee was a difficult challenge, but so rewarding. Because I had used many of the same resources for my previous two nonfiction books (Kathryn Kelly: The Moll behind Machine Gun Kelly and Assata Shakur: A 20th Century Escaped Slave), I was able to access information through the FBI that previously had been unavailable to the general public."
Can you share with us a favourite passage / section from Velvalee Dickinson: The "Doll Woman" Spy?
"Velvalee was a tiny woman—weighing less than 100 pounds and only about 4 feet 10 inches tall, if that.  When the FBI followed her into the bank’s safety deposit vault to arrest her, she fought like a wild animal, kicking, screaming, and throttling the agents with her purse.

As serious as that was, I still smile thinking about it.  The agents eventually had to lift her off the floor and carry her by her armpits from the bank."
Who would you recommend Velvalee Dickinson: The "Doll Woman" Spy to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"Readers of American history, especially the war years during the late 1930s and early 1940s will find new information in Velvalee Dickinson.  Also, anyone who enjoys reading about strong women will enjoy meeting Velvalee.

Another theme in this book is the story of doll collecting and how, even today, it is one of the most popular hobbies.  It is a fascinating subject."
Which do you think you have the most of: talent, intelligence, education, or persistence?
"I honestly can’t say, but I do know I don’t easily give up on things I am trying to accomplish. I feel I have learned something valuable with each book I have written over the years--now totalling eight novels and three nonfiction books—and it has come with a lot of hard work and persistence."
What has been the worst advice you received as a writer? What has been the best?
"I don’t know that I have received any bad advice—at least nothing that I listened to—but the best advice when I first started to write was to not submit my work until it had been fully edited.  As both an author and an agent, I run into this a lot with other writers who don’t take the time to edit their work and submit it before it is ready."
Do you feel differently about yourself now from how you felt when you were younger? Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self?
"Along with age and experience comes knowledge.  I don’t sweat the small stuff so much now because I feel comfortable knowing that things happen for a reason, as they should, and for the best."
You are known for your award winning novels, articles, poems, short stories and non-fiction. Your true crime book, Kathryn Kelly: The Moll behind Machine Gun Kelly has been optioned for a major film and television series, and your non-fiction book, Assata Shakur: A 20th Century Escaped Slave, is under contract for a major film.

This is very varied; which type of literature do you find most rewarding to write?

"Before Kathryn Kelly, I always wrote novels—fiction—and really didn’t have any desire to write non-fiction unless it was an article for a magazine.  When my publisher asked me to consider writing about Kathryn, I accepted the challenge.

What I found was that I really loved doing the research.  Each little piece of information I discovered was like finding a rare gem.  Like my book Velvalee Dickinson, no other books had been written about Kathryn Kelly, so research was extremely difficult and time-consuming.  But the effort was rewarding, and I didn’t hesitate when my publisher asked me to write a book about Assata Shakur.

Even with the success of these two books, and now Velvalee, I still enjoy the freedom that comes with creating fiction.  However, writing both fiction and nonfiction is rewarding but in different ways."
Which would you say you enjoy the most: to write, research, or to read when you can?
"For me it has always been the journey of writing and where that takes me.  I have been so blessed to be published, knowing that others in the industry like what I write.  That gives me so much satisfaction.  But, even if I weren’t published, I would still find joy in writing."
Can you tell us about your writing process, and does this change depending on the focus of your current piece of work and who you are working with?
"I am a very routine-oriented person.  I can’t function when my routine gets disrupted.  Perhaps it is because I have so many balls to juggle.  My husband is partially disabled, my 96-year-old mother lives with us, I have three wonderful rescue animals, the Barbara Casey Agency which I started in 1995 has well over 100 clients, and I am a partner with an independent publisher, in addition to my own writing.  So my life is full and I feel very fortunate.

In order to get everything done that I want in any given day, I get up at 3:30 in the morning.  That is the time that I can write for three or four hours, before other responsibilities take up my time and attention.

I always have a notepad and pen nearby throughout the day and night to write down any thoughts that come my way on what I am working on.  Sometimes it is just a word; other times it might be an idea for an entire chapter."
What’s the one thing you’ve always wanted but still don’t have?
"I can honestly say that I have everything I could ever want."
Now, that is unusual and good to hear and it makes me smile.

What’s in store next for you as a person and writer?

"I am completing the fourth and final book in a young adult mystery series I am writing called The F.I.G. Mystery Series.  It is about three young girls, orphans with IQs in the genius range, each girl trying to understand her situation and cope.

The first three books in the series are published, and I hope to see this final book released by the end of the year.  This is bittersweet, because I have gotten to know these characters so well.  I will miss them."
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
"I mentioned my three rescue animals.  There is Benton, a hound-mix who adopted me when I first moved to Georgia.

Most recently two kittens decided to join our family, and Benton has become their nanny. So there is Reese, a black cat, and Earl Gray, a gray cat who is Reese’s best friend.

Needless to say, there is a lot of love in this family."
Hello Benton, Reese and Earl Grey! Lots head-scratches and belly-rubs to all three of you; you are all beautiful!

Barbara, thank you for sharing your lovely furry ones. And apologies for the delay today, I had to tend to one of our fur-babies who got himself into some trouble...

"Flora, I can’t thank you enough for your interest in my books and me as a writer. I have truly enjoyed visiting with you.."

Velvalee Dickinson: The "Doll Woman" Spy
Available NOW!

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Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Barbara Casey said...

Flora, it is wonderful to be here. I am looking forward to spending some time with you and your bloggers.I hope your little fur-baby is doing better.

My best,