Award Winning Author Winnie Griggs

 

 

 

 

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Terri Brisbin

 

MAY 2010

 


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

TB:      Thanks for inviting me, Winnie!

I'm from a small town in southern NJ on the outskirts of Philadelphia and, as my bio says, I am married and have three sons (only one still at home). I am actually a registered dental hygienist and in practice a couple days a week. Since I don't have the pet gene, I don't have any creatures (other than my three sons!). LOL!

My only hobbies are playing with my new iPhone and reading romance novels. Boring, I know!


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.

TB:      It's funny - I remember the time I really thought about writing romance - or admitted it to myself: I was sitting at a workshop given by Kat Martin at a long-ago RT convention and realized I really did want to write romance novels!

But, I've always been a writer - I wrote short stories and poetry in high school for the creative arts magazine, then wrote articles for my dental hygiene association journals and newsletters. I just didn't see myself writing longer fiction and especially not romance. Then, I found Prodigy online service and met romance authors, readers and writers and attended several RT conventions (still as a reader) - the last one just as I was looking around, thinking - hmmmm, maybe the ideas I have in my head are for stories? At that same time, I was under a lot of stress and found that writing helped ease that stress and I listened to my husband's suggestion of just trying to write.


WG:      Tell us about your journey.

TB:      Well, not long after that RT workshop, I began paying attention to writing workshops within the Prodigy romance community and began meeting writers from NJ. I attended a meeting of the New Jersey and learned more in that meeting than I had in months of research so I knew I'd found a good place for writers.

Once I began attending meetings and their conference, I began to focus on getting published - I pitched my first short contemporary romance to several editors at one of the NJRW conferences and got several 'good' rejections. I know, there shouldn't be something called a 'good' rejection, but the ones I received all were personalized with lots of suggestions and an open door to sending each of the editors involved something else! So, I knew I was close, that my work was of 'sellable' quality and that I needed to find the right story for the right editor.

I ended up pitching a time travel romance to a Berkley editor at the next NJRW conference and she asked to see it when it was complete. That took some months, and even included an appearance on Lifetime TV with Debbie Macomber!, and when I finally sent it to Cindy Hwang at Berkley, she made THE CALL and offered to publish it.


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

TB:      Well, although my research at that first NJRW meeting told me that the average published romance author wrote and submitted 5-6 complete manuscripts before selling, I sold my second! I was shocked and surprised and a bit unprepared since I'd expected to have time to learn more craft and business before selling. BUT, that's okay with me!

That first manuscript remains hidden away for LOTS of good reasons.


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

TB:      I was just home from the hospital, recuperating from...breaking my back a second time when THE CALL came! The physical therapist had just arrived for my session when the phone rang and Cindy Hwang made an offer to publish my book. I think I began to hyperventilate when it hit me, but I remember saying I would need to call her back and I hung up and began screaming - making the physical therapist very nervous!

Within a week, I'd signed with an agent, sold my book and gotten out of bed for the first time in weeks....

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

TB:      I'm not sure how it has - I mean it means more deadlines and writing on a regular and hectic basis, but I've always had more than one job so it's blended in pretty nicely for me. Of course, it does mean more pressure...and needing lots of support from my family, but it's all good.


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

TB:      I think the thing that surprised me the most is that as soon as I accepted that offer, and even before my book came out, I suddenly became smarter - LOL! Or least people thought I was smarter - I got calls with questions, I was asked to judge contests and to present workshops. It took some adjusting to that whole perspective change because I believed I was still the same person I'd been before that sale.


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

TB:      I have no typical writing day or schedule except that I write to deadlines. When I have one, whether for proposals or completed manuscripts, I write furiously in the weeks before it to finish the work expected. I do a lot of what I call 'mental percolation' and research during the in-between times.


WG:      Do you set writing goals for yourself?

TB:      Well, only the ones called books under contract!


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

TB:      I listen to Celtic music while I write and I am most productive if I sit at my desk in my office. I tend to write mostly later in the day and evening, using the daytime to clean-up what I've written the night before, before going onto new material. I also have to snack on crunchy pretzels while I write...don't know why but they work.


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

TB:      I do enough plotting and planning to write a synopsis which is necessary since I sell my work 'on proposal' or by writing an outline and the first few chapters. It usually takes the longest for me to write the first 100 or so pages because that's where all my unconscious planning and plotting comes in. I can't always stay right on my synopsis as I begin to learn the characters better and figure out where they're going and what they really want and need.


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

TB:      Each book is different - sometimes I hear or see the characters and they tell me their stories, sometimes I know some of the plot. Sometimes it begins from an incident in another story. I just keep asking 'what if' and find out as much as I can before trying to place the story in time and location.


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

TB:      Yes. I am a sucker for dark, tortured heroes and for the theme that 'love conquers all'. I think there is so much 'fodder' for writers in flawed characters and love to write them.


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

TB:      I think my strength as a writer is being able to write emotionally compelling stories, bringing characters back from the edge of darkness to find the redemption that only love can bring.


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?

TB:      None that I can think of...



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

TB:      Only that all-night binges o'writing are great for 20-something college students but are really, really hard on 50-something year olds! And, if I could follow my friends' advice and write in a nice, even-paced way I wouldn't have to finish it in an energy-draining flash of sessions.


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

TB:      I would say my answer for both is the same - I love historical romances!


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

TB:      Every time I say no, I think up a possible story in some different genre or subgenre that I never thought about.... I do have some interest in historical fiction, but I don't have the time to develop it right now.


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

TB:      Be prepared to learn your craft and the business that you are entering. First make the decision whether you simply want to be called a published author or if you are seeking to make a career of romance/writing -- and be ready to make the decisions that you need to make in order to pursue your choice. Read....read....read!

Be prepared for rejection. Remember you can't sell unless you complete work and submit it....and you cannot avoid rejection - it's part of the business of writing.


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

TB:      I can't remember one...


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

TB:      Rejection - whether from a publisher, a reviewer, or a reader - hurts! Writers put so much of themselves into their work that we cannot completely separate our hearts and souls from it. When someone says something not nice or rejects it, it cuts deeply into us - we can't help it.

I generally whine a lot to some friends, eat chocolate, commiserate with other writers and then try to move on. (if the rejection is something I can print out, I have been known to put it in a large, heavy-duty zipper-type bag and stomp on it!


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

TB:      Not that I can think of right now...


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

TB:      The most rewarding thing about being a writer is discovering that my work influences readers and helps them during difficult times in their lives.


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

TB:      I love to read and to research in my spare time. I love to sightsee and travel. I love watching TV especially SyFy channel.


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

TB:      Hmmmmm - can't think of anything that surprising about me! LOL


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

TB:      Movies? Anything with Gerard Butler in it! LOL....And I love The Fifth Element, National Treasure, The American President, Dave, The Day The Earth Stood Still (the original version). On TV I loved Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, Caprica, Doctor Who, Torchwood, Modern Family, and lots on the History, Science, Discovery and Food channels.


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.

TB:      May the universe grant to you in tenfold all that you have given to others....kind of a slant on �what goes around, comes around� - both my favorites!


WG:      Please tell us about your current project.

TB:      My current release is a novella "A Storm of Love" in the Kensington Brava anthology UNDONE. I was thrilled when Kensington asked me to join well-known bestselling historical romance author Susan Johnson and newcomer Mary Wine in this historical collection. I mean THE Susan Johnson, one of the very first romance authors I ever read...wow!


WG:      What inspired you to write this particular story?

TB:      Well, I can't say too much or I'll give away the ending of the first STORM book - A STORM OF PASSION - which came out last December. When I finished writing that book, I knew I wanted to reveal how the hero came to be, but I didn't want to write a full-length book. So this novella was perfect to give that back story.


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

TB:      I had the chance to visit the places that I used in this story while in Scotland last fall. I drove the length of Kilmartin Glen, stopping at a number of standing stones, cairns and other ruins until I reached the ancient hillfort of Dunadd! I wish I could have climbed to the top of the fort but I was wiped out by exploring Carnessie Castle at the northern end of the glen... It was a mysterious, mystical and magical place, one of many I discovered on my trip through Scotland.


WG:      Tell us about your upcoming plans.

TB:      I'm working right now on the last of my Knights of Brittany trilogy for Harlequin Historicals. When I mentioned loving dark, tortured heroes and how much I like writing them, I had this book and this hero in mind. Dark, dangerous and desperately in need of a heroine who can remind him of the good man who lives within him, Soren may destroy the one person who can save him. Tentatively titled THE WARRIOR'S WOMAN, it will be released in mid-2011.

I just turned in the second book in my STORM trilogy - A STORM OF PLEASURE - which is an October release from Kensington Brava. This is the second brother's story, set in the Orkney Islands and the northwest corner of Scotland, with a highly-emotional tale contrasted by the stark environment.


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

TB:      Readers can stop by my website - www.terribrisbin.com - and post a note on my news blog there or email me at terri@terribrisbin.com or mail me at P.O. Box 41, Berlin, NJ 08009-0041.


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

TB:      And Winnie, thanks so much for inviting me to do this with you!

 

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