Valerie Martin

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Valerie Martin
Martin reading at the 2014 Gaithersburg Book Festival
Martin reading at the 2014 Gaithersburg Book Festival
BornValerie Metcalf
(1948-03-14) March 14, 1948 (age 74)
Sedalia, Missouri
OccupationNovelist, short story writer
Alma materUniversity of New Orleans (B.A.)
University of Massachusetts (M.F.A.)
Notable worksProperty
Mary Reilly
Notable awardsOrange Prize for Fiction
2003 Property
Robert M. Martin
(m. 1970; div. 1984)

Valerie Martin (née Metcalf; born March 14, 1948)[1] is an American novelist and short story writer.

Her novel Property (2003) won the Orange Prize for Fiction. In 2012, The Observer named Property as one of "The 10 best historical novels".[2]

Early life[edit]

Martin was born in Sedalia, Missouri, to John Roger Metcalf and Valerie Fleischer Metcalf.[3] Her father was a sea captain[1] and her mother was a housewife whose family goes back several generations in New Orleans, Louisiana.[4] She was raised in New Orleans[5] from the age of three, attending public elementary school and a Catholic high school[4] (Mount Carmel Academy).[6] She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of New Orleans in 1970 and graduated from the MFA Program for Poets & Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1974.[1] In the 1970s, Martin took a writing course at Loyola University New Orleans taught by Southern novelist Walker Percy.[6]

Academic career[edit]

Martin has taught at multiple colleges and universities in the United States, in both visiting and tenure-track positions.[1]

While at the University of Alabama, Martin lived a few blocks away from novelist Margaret Atwood and they became friends. Martin was the first person to read the completed manuscript of Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, claiming she told Atwood that the book would make her rich. Atwood returned the favor and read some of Martin's then-unpublished works, and liked them enough to send them to editor and publisher Nan A. Talese, who has remained Martin's editor ever since.[5]

Writing career[edit]

Martin's fictional works include Set in Motion (1978), Alexandra (1979), A Recent Martyr (1987), The Consolation of Nature and Other Stories (1988), The Great Divorce (1993), Italian Fever (1999), The Unfinished Novel and Other Stories (2006), Trespass (2007), and The Confessions of Edward Day (2009). She also wrote a biography of St. Francis of Assisi titled Salvation: Scenes from the Life of St. Francis (2001). Her most recent novel, The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, was published in 2014, and Sea Lovers: Selected Stories appeared in 2016.

Her 1990 novel, Mary Reilly, a retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from the point of view of a servant in the doctor's house, won the Kafka Prize in 1990 and has been translated into 16 languages.[5] It was released as a film in 1996 by Columbia TriStar Pictures, directed by Stephen Frears and starred John Malkovich as Dr. Jekyll and Julia Roberts as Mary.[9]

The short film Surface Calm (2001), directed by Michael Miley, is based on her short story of the same title from her first book, Love (1977).[10]

With her niece, poet Lisa Martin, she has written a trilogy of children's books about cats named Anton and Cecil.[11]

Personal life[edit]

She was married to artist Robert M. Martin from 1970 until their divorce in 1984. They had one daughter, Adrienne,[1] born in 1975.

Martin resides in Dutchess County, New York. [8] She lived with her partner, the translator John Cullen, and her cat named Jackson Gray. Cullen died in April 2021[12].[7] She enjoys gardening.[3]

Martin has continued to teach at the college level even though her writing career has been successful, sometimes taking breaks from the classroom in order to complete a work. She says she needs the social activity of working with young authors to balance the solitary activity that is writing. She initially writes in longhand, later transferring the text to a computer.[13]




  • Love: Short Stories (1977)[24]
  • The Consolation of Nature, and Other Stories (1988)[25]
  • The Unfinished Novel and Other Stories (2006)[26]
  • Sea Lovers (2015)[27]


  • Salvation: Scenes from the Life of St. Francis (2001)[28]


  • Anton and Cecil: Cats at Sea (2013)[29]
  • Anton and Cecil: Cats on Track (2015)[30]
  • Anton and Cecil: Cats Aloft (2016)[31]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Louisiana Endowment for the Arts grant (1983)[3]
  • Kafka Prize (1990)[5]
  • National Education Association award (1990)[3]
  • World Fantasy Best Novel nominee (1991): Mary Reilly[32]
  • Nebula Best Novel nominee (1991): Mary Reilly[32]
  • Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction Best Book winner (2003): Property[32]
  • Louisiana Writer Award (2010)[7]
  • Guggenheim Fellowship (2011)[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Martin, Valerie 1948 –". Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. Vol. 200. Gale, Cengage Learning. February 17, 2020 [2010]. Retrieved March 6, 2020 – via
  2. ^ Skidelsky, William (May 12, 2012). "The 10 best historical novels". The Observer. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d "Martin, Valerie Metcalf". Who's Who of American Women. Vol. 2002–2003 (23rd ed.). New Providence, New Jersey: Marquis Who's Who. 2002. p. 839. ISBN 0837904285. ISSN 0083-9841.
  4. ^ a b Herbert, Rosemary (March 7, 2003). "Books: Property lines – Author explores the peculiar psyche of a female slave owner". Boston Herald. Boston, Massachusetts. p. 34.
  5. ^ a b c d Biguenet, John (Winter 2012). "An Interview with Valerie Martin: An Excerpt". Brick: A Literary Journal (88). Archived from the original on September 3, 2014. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Berry, Jason (December 3, 2001). "Divine Inspiration". Gambit. New Orleans, Louisiana. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c "Martin to be honored with 2010 Louisiana Writer Award". The Advocate. Baton Rouge, Louisiana. October 31, 2010. p. Magazine section, 02E.
  8. ^ a b "Biography". 2020. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  9. ^ Maslin, Janet (February 23, 1996). "Film Review: Of the Jekyll-Hyde Duo and Their (His?) Maid". The New York Times. p. Section C, 18. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  10. ^ "Movies". The Times-Picayune. New Orleans, Louisiana. April 27, 2001. p. Lagniappe section, 33.
  11. ^ Smith, Sarah Harrison (October 11, 2013). "Catsaway". The New York Times. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
  12. ^ MacArthur, John R. (April 23, 2021). "In Memoriam: John Cullen: I would have preferred those few moments of silent reflection to be multiplied by ten, if only to encourage the political and media leadership to shut up and think about…". Harper's Magazine.
  13. ^ a b Walsh, Etta (April 29, 2011). "Visiting professor at Mount Holyoke wins Guggenheim for Ghost Ship novel". Daily Hampshire Gazette. Northampton, Massachusetts. p. Colleges section.
  14. ^ Martin, Valerie (1978). Set in Motion (1st ed.). New York: Farrar Straus Giroux. ISBN 9780374261405. OCLC 3729895.
  15. ^ Martin, Valerie (1979). Alexandra. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux. ISBN 9780374102647. OCLC 4775377.
  16. ^ Martin, Valerie (1987). A Recent Martyr. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 9780395436134. OCLC 14932474.
  17. ^ Martin, Valerie (1990). Mary Reilly (1st ed.). New York: Doubleday. ISBN 9780385249683. OCLC 20220341.
  18. ^ Martin, Valerie (1993). The Great Divorce. New York: N.A. Talese. ISBN 9780385421256. OCLC 28338033.
  19. ^ Martin, Valerie (1999). Italian Fever: A Novel (1st ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780375405426. OCLC 40142915.
  20. ^ Martin, Valerie (2003). Property (1st ed.). New York: Nan A. Talese. ISBN 9780385504089. OCLC 49576479.
  21. ^ Martin, Valerie (2007). Trepass: A Novel (1st ed.). New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. ISBN 9780385515450. OCLC 77004322.
  22. ^ Martin, Valerie (2009). The Confessions of Edward Day (1st ed.). Nan A. Talese. ISBN 9780385525848. OCLC 429502417.
  23. ^ Martin, Valerie (2014). The Ghost of the Mary Celeste (1st ed.). New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. ISBN 9780385533508. OCLC 842880686.
  24. ^ Martin, Valerie (1977). Love: Short Stories. Amherst, Massachusetts: Lynx House Press. ISBN 9780966861235. OCLC 4145248.
  25. ^ Martin, Valerie (1988). The Consolation of Nature, and Other Stories. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 9780395467886. OCLC 16226843.
  26. ^ Martin, Valerie (2006). The Unfinished Novel and Other Stories (1st ed.). New York: Vintage Contemporaries. ISBN 9781400095506. OCLC 60543223.
  27. ^ Martin, Valerie (2015). Sea Lovers: Selected Stories (1st ed.). New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. ISBN 9780385533522. OCLC 898529237.
  28. ^ Martin, Valerie (2001). Salvation: Scenes from the Life of St. Francis (1st ed.). New York: Knopf. ISBN 9780375409837. OCLC 44413939.
  29. ^ Martin, Lisa; Martin, Valerie (2013). Anton and Cecil: Cats at Sea. illustrated by Kelly Murphy (1st ed.). Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Young Readers. ISBN 9781616202460. OCLC 828042153.
  30. ^ Martin, Lisa; Martin, Valerie (2015). Anton and Cecil: Cats on Track. illustrated by Kelly Murphy (1st ed.). Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Young Readers. ISBN 9781616204198. OCLC 898925350.
  31. ^ Martin, Lisa; Martin, Valerie (2016). Anton and Cecil: Cats Aloft. illustrated by Kelly Murphy (1st ed.). Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Young Readers. ISBN 9781616204594. OCLC 933272467.
  32. ^ a b c "Valerie Martin". Retrieved March 14, 2018.

External links[edit]