Award Winning Author Winnie Griggs

 

 

 

 

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AUTHOR VIP

Becky Avella

 

April 2015

WG:      Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.

BA:      Thanks so much for having me, Winnie. I'm excited to be here. I am a former school teacher, but a full time homemaker and writer now. I live in the Northwest with my husband, our three kids, and our backyard chickens.


WG:      Let's talk about your own personal road to publication: 
Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer? Explain.

BA:     I can't remember a time when I didn't want to be an author. I couldn't imagine anything more exciting than creating my own characters and make believe worlds. But I was the queen of beginning stories without finishing them. When my friend, Lisa Phillips, encouraged me to enter the Happily Editor After contest through Love Inspired Suspense, it was the push I needed to actually complete a manuscript. It was through that contest that I eventually sold Targeted.


WG:      Tell us about your journey.

BA:      This journey has been a humbling one. After participating in Happily Editor After pitch and being asked to send in my whole manuscript, my submission was rejected. I think I thought that just because I'm married to a cop I was qualified to write romantic suspense. I had a lot to learn. I didn't know the genre or the line well enough and made some pretty big errors.

It took a while to get over the sting and to be able to read the rejection letter from a fresh perspective. My awesome writing friends (which happen to include fellow LIS writers, Lisa Phillips and Heather Woodhaven) helped me to see that instead of the closed door I thought it was, the letter was actually an invitation to try again. I wanted to grow as a writer and to learn how to work with editor feedback, so I decided to rewrite the story and resubmit. The setting changed along with at least two thirds of the original story, but I like this new version so much better, and I hope I'm a better version, too.


WG:      How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?

BA:     As I said above, I have begun many (many!) stories, but Targeted is the first novel that I actually finished. Before that, though, I published a non-fiction book called And Then You Were Gone: Restoring a Broken Heart After Pregnancy Loss.


WG:      Can you tell us something about your experience in getting 'the call'?

BA:      My kids and I were just leaving swimming lessons when I discovered I had missed a phone call from New York City. We sat in the pool parking lot listening to my editor's voicemail message over and over again.

As soon as we arrived home, I locked myself in my bedroom to call Emily back. I was so nervous and shaking, I could hardly speak. It definitely wasn't the confident, professional conversation I imagined I would have with her someday, but somehow she didn't change her mind about offering me the contract.


WG:      How has being a published author impacted your life?

BA:      It has allowed me to treat writing as my career instead of my hobby.


WG:      What aspect of life as a 'published author' surprised you the most - either in a good or bad way?

BA:      I wasn't prepared for how nervous I would feel about people actually reading my story. It's a strange mix of being elated and terrified. Each step of the publication process helped me feel less afraid. Now that we are so close to release day, those fears have taken a backseat to anticipation. I'm thrilled that I can finally share Targeted. I'm really proud of what it has become.


WG:      What about your writing process? Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?

BA:      I'm one of those creative, absentminded-professor types who is easily distracted. I've never been good at time management, but I know that in order to succeed in the writing business, I need a consistent schedule. I'm working hard to develop a system that will work for me, and I think I'm finally figuring it out.


WG:      Do you set writing goals for yourself?

BA:      Yes, but I have to be careful. I put a lot of pressure on myself as I started my next novel, and I shut down creatively. Now my goal is to write every day and to write from a place of joy not stress.


WG:      Do you have a 'mood setter', something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?

BA:     The best way for me to prepare is to go for a long walk first. I love that time to pray and brainstorm before I settle in to write.


WG:      Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?

BA:     I do as much as I can upfront, but so far I've been more of a discovery writer than a plotter. I'm hoping as I grow in experience, the outlining process will become more natural for me. Having a map to follow would certainly make it easier.


WG:      Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?

BA:      It's a combination of the two, but I enjoy developing the characters most of all. They need to feel real to me before I begin.


WG:      Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories? 

BA:      God's grace is a key theme in my stories.



WG:      What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?

BA:     Writing characters and settings that feel real.


WG:      Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?

BA:      I'm so blessed to be able to work from home, but housework is never done. It can be difficult for me to tune out all of the chores calling my name in order to prioritize my writing. I've had many days when everything else seemed more urgent. Leaving the house to work from a coffee shop or the library has helped a lot.

Also, my husband's work schedule is non-traditional and changes every four months. I've had to learn to be flexible and to embrace change. With three active kids, I spend a lot of time driving them around and sitting at ballgames and practices. I listen to audiobooks and writing podcasts while I drive and take my laptop with me everywhere so I never miss an opportunity to write while I wait.


WG:      Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?

BA:     I've learned to be okay with what works for me, not what I've heard is the "right" way to do it.


WG:      Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?

BA:      I enjoy a wide variety of genres, it's hard to pick a favorite. Outside of romantic suspense, I also read everything from classics to contemporary YA to fantasy and dystopian novels. My only requirement is romance. If there's no romance it's a "why bother" for me.


WG:      Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?

BA:     I would love to write speculative fiction and YA.


WG:      Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?

BA:     There are so many wonderful online resources that are free. My favorite are podcasts. I love to be able to learn about the craft of writing while I'm doing housework or driving. My other piece of advice is fight against pride. It shows up in unexpected ways. Stay humble and teachable and take risks even though it will terrify your pride.


WG:      Is there a specific 'ah-ha' moment you've had as a writer that you would like to share with us?

BA:      One of my struggles early in my career was being too episodic. I learned to imagine a line of dominoes and try to make sure that each event is cause and effect, that each moment of the story will knock over another domino and propel the story forward.


WG:      Rejections, less than stellar reviews and notes from unhappy readers are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?

BA:      "There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing." -Aristotle


WG:      Is there some piece of advice you received or bit of 'conventional wisdom' that you wish you had ignored?

BA:     It wasn't necessarily advice, just more of an impression. I thought great writers were born. I wish I'd figured out earlier that writing is something that can be learned and that many writers continue to grow and improve throughout their lives.


WG:      What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What aspect do you struggle with the most?

BA:     I love living a creative life. I'm so grateful I get to be a storyteller. I know a lot of writers will think I'm crazy, but the editing and revising process is my favorite part. I love to play with the words that already exist, to move them around and to feel the thrill of figuring out the best way to say something. I really enjoy watching the story get stronger. The hardest part for me is the blank page.


WG:      When you're not writing, what do you do for fun or what is your favorite self-indulgence?

BA:      My hobbies include art journaling, reading, and hanging out at my favorite coffee shops. I love to be outdoors and do a lot of walking, usually to the library to write. Being surrounded by books makes me happy.



WG:      When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

BA:     Always a writer, but also a marine biologist and a teacher to the deaf.


WG:      What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?

BA:     I'm completely blind in my left eye.


WG:      What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?

BA:      My favorite movies are the Hunger Games trilogy, P.S. I Love You, Pride and Prejudice, and Little Women. I never miss an episode of Downton Abbey, and I've been binge-watching the Gilmore Girls on Netflix. My husband and I were also die-hard fans of 24 and Stargate SG1 when they were on. (I told you I had eclectic taste!)


WG:      I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.

BA:     I love quotes, too, so it was impossible to pick a FAVORITE but here is a good one to inspire our creativity:
"To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, so do it." -Kurt Vonnegut


WG:      Please tell us about your current project. 

BA:      I'm working on another Romantic Suspense story about cowboys, drug runners, and wildfire.


WG:      What inspired you to write this particular story?

BA:      The town where my parents live inspired this story. I've always loved its rugged landscape and the hard-working, big-hearted people who live there.


WG:      What sort of research, if any, did you have to do? Did you stumble across any unexpected interesting/fun tidbits along the way?

BA:      Targeted, has a lot of autobiographical details where this story does not. I know the location well, but the main characters have skills that I don't have. I needed to learn a lot about airplanes, rodeo, ranchers, and wildfires.


WG:      Tell us about your upcoming plans.

BA:      I hope to write more for Love Inspired suspense, and I will have a novella in the Team Love on the Run Boxset #2 which will release Fall 2015.


WG:      And before we close, tell us how your readers can get in touch with you.

BA:      I'm active on social media and would love to connect with readers. I can be found on:
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Pinterest
teamloveontherun.com


WG:      Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. It was fun 'chatting' with you, as always!

BA: It was my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.    

 

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