Local author Valerie Biel (Johnson) announces the release of her debut novel Circle of Nine: Beltany on Oct. 24. The novel has been honored as one of five finalists out of 1000 entries in the Gotham Writers’ Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest.

Biel’s love for travel often provides the setting for her stories. Fascinated by Irish standing stone circles, Biel was inspired to incorporate their mystery and mysticism into a story for young adults. The book’s subtitle, Beltany, is the name of an actual stone circle in County Donegal, Ireland where key scenes are set throughout the novel. The story follows the path of fifteen year-old Brigit Quinn as she learns she’s descended from a legendary Celtic tribe that serves as guardian of these stone circles.

Readers are invited to an open house book signing party celebrating the release of the novel on Nov. 2 at Julie’s Java House, 409 N. Ludington St., in Columbus from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Copies will be available for purchase at the event.

Biel has been working on this novel since 2009, when she turned in earnest to her fiction writing. Previously she wrote non-fiction in her work as a fundraiser and publicist.

“I majored in journalism/public relations instead of English or creative writing at UW-Madison because I thought that I needed a degree that would allow me to earn a paycheck,” Biel said. “While I’ve enjoyed my career, I always meant to get back to writing fiction.”

Biel’s stories spent many years tucked away in a file until she was spurred into action by family tragedy.

“In 2003 our family lost one of my sisters to cancer,” she said. “We were devastated when the same terminal cancer was diagnosed in a second sister in 2009. When something like this happens, it causes you to reflect on your priorities and decide that your dreams can’t wait any longer.”

Throughout the process, the novel earned encouragement from the writing faculty at UW-Madison and was recognized as a finalist in the annual Young Adult Discovery Contest sponsored by the well-known Gotham Writers’ group.

“It was a wonderful boost to my confidence when people who critique novels for a living liked my story,” Biel said.

Biel has completed other novels for teens and tweens with cross-over appeal for adults.

“It’s fun to be able to write a story that readers in all age categories can enjoy,” she said.

Biel is a graduate of Fall River High School and UW-Madison with degrees in journalism and political science. When she’s not writing she spends time working on community theater projects with the Columbus Redbud Players and on historical projects with the Lost Lake – Randolph Historical Society where everyone knows her by her married name Valerie Johnson.

You can learn more about Circle of Nine: Beltany and other projects at www.ValerieBiel.com. The book is available on Amazon in both paperback and eBook versions and at select local retailers. It will be available online at Barnes and Noble in November.


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