Award Winning Author Winnie Griggs

 

 

 

 

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Janet Dean

 

JANUARY 2012

 


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

JD:      I've lived in Indiana all my life. My husband and I met at and graduated from Indiana University. Go Hoosiers! I taught first grade then stayed home with our two daughters, now married with children of their own. I enjoy stamping greeting cards and playing bridge and golf. Actually golf plays me. LOL My husband and I enjoy IU sports, travel and spending time with family and friends. I'm allergic to cats and dogs but an adorable, feisty cockapoo grand dog, Gapper, is well worth taking allergy meds to visit.



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.

JD:      I believe my love of storytelling and history came from listening to my father and grandfather's anecdotes about real people in the past. At twelve, I wrote and illustrated little romances. From that point on I knew I'd write a book one day.


WG:      Tell us about your journey.

JD:      I wrote off and on but didn't get serious about pursuing publication until our girls were almost grown. With much to learn, I joined Romance Writers of America and entered chapter contests. The judges' feedback was invaluable. Later I joined American Christian Fiction Writers. I met my critique partner and mentor, Shirley Jump, at our RWA chapter. Shirley and I kept each other going during years of rejection. Contest finals and wins, especially the two Golden Heart finals and one Genesis final, were the bright spots during the nine years I waited for The Call.


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

JD:      By the time I sold, I had finished four completes. All but one of those books has sold. I hope to sell the single title.


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

JD:      The moment I read that Steeple Hill, now Love Inspired Books, planned to launch an historical line, I knew a door had opened. I revised my single title orphan train story and sent the proposal to Senior Editor Melissa Endlich. She asked for the complete. Other editors had requested completes but this time an editor actually needed inspirational historical romance manuscripts. At five PM on June 29, 2006, my agent called to report that Melissa had offered to buy my book. I was over the moon with joy!


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

JD:      To realize my dream, to have the validation that an editor believed in my talent and wanted to publish my stories had a huge impact on me emotionally. No matter how much I'd tried to keep strong, years of rejection had undermined my confidence. Many good things have come from the writing journey - the most important has been the dear friends I've made. Publication hasn't changed my life in any major way. I now get paid for what I write but the income hasn't changed our lifestyle. Yet. =)


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

JD:      In some ways publication is a wild emotional rollercoaster ride. Bottom line, writing books is a job. Like any job there are good days and tough days. I still need that rhino hide I developed pursuing publication. Proposals are rejected. Editors ask for changes. Deadlines add pressure. A bad review, contest losses, a negative e-mail aren't fun. Yet, the good reviews, the contest finals, the positive letters, along with the feeling I'm doing what God has called me to do, make this the best job in the world!


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

JD:      I'm not a slave to my schedule but generally I'm at my computer ready to write by 10:00. I've already gotten to Seekerville (www.seekerville.blogspot.com), the group blog I belong to, and checked e-mail. I usually break for lunch and typically work until 4:00, when I take a walk or go to Curves. On days when I have Bible study or another activity that takes me out of the house, I vary my writing schedule. Line edits, revisions, AAs are all part of the job and take precedence. When a new book releases, I squeeze in time to promote.


WG:      Do you set writing goals for yourself?

JD:      I divide up the number of words I have to write by the time I have to write it and try to meet my word count each day. I fail in that, but I allow an extra month or two to revise and make up for those days that I didn't reach my goal. As a deadline nears I work far longer hours.


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

JD:      I prepare by spending time with God every morning, asking for His wisdom to write the story He wants. Once I'm at my computer, I prefer quiet to music. The best way for me to get into the story is to read the last scene I wrote. If I get stuck, I reread the entire manuscript.


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

JD:      I plot but not as much as I'd like. To sell on proposal I turn in the first three chapters and a synopsis. Once I have an idea for a story and for the hero and heroine, I usually just dive in and write the set up. By the time I write those first chapters, I have a sense of who my characters are, which helps me plan the turning points of the book. Then I write the synopsis. Things change as I go along.



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

JD:      With my first books, I started with a historical tidbit that interested me like the orphan train phenomena, and then would ask "what if" for a character, usually the heroine. For example, What if a spinster saw the orphan train as her only chance to mother a child? Of late, I've examined strong conflicts to trigger a story. When a secondary character gets her own book, I start the story with her.


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

JD:      My stories tend to center on the need to forgive ourselves and others and the risks of self-reliance instead of putting our trust in God. My heroines are always strong. Sometimes too strong, something they need to learn in the course of the book.


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

JD:      I'm good at creating my characters' internal conflict, their back story and how that impacts them now. I hope that strength makes my characters feel real and multidimensional so readers care what happens to my story people.


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?

JD:      My husband and I like to travel, to spend time together and with family. The lifestyle we enjoy means I'm not as prolific as many authors. Though I'm trying to improve my productivity, I don't want to look back and wish I'd written fewer books and lived more. That doesn't mean I don't sacrifice. Deadlines must be met. But I seek a career that enables us to have a balance that's important to me.


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

JD:      My process is not set in stone. I'm trying to figure out how to do it better and faster.


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

JD:      My favorite sub-genre to read and to write is historical romances. Not that I don't enjoy contemporaries or women's fiction because I do.


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

JD:      I'd like to write a children's book or in non-fiction, perhaps a devotional.


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

JD:      Be teachable. Open your work to criticism. Enter contests, get a critique partner, do whatever you can to improve your craft. When you see growth in your work and start winning contests and getting "good" rejections from editors, that success will keep you going. Don't give up!


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

JD:      I've had several 'ah-ha' moments. Remember I had a lot to learn. J Of Late the value of using details from the character's past or from the setting as a way to create emotion clicked with me. I'd used physical reactions and introspection to up emotion and still do, but I hadn't fully understood the depth and power details add to a scene.


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?

JD:      I've been known to whine. LOL That rhino hide definitely helps. As does the belief that God is in charge of my career, that He has a purpose for each story I write. Not that each story is for everyone but that each story is for someone. Someone He has in mind.


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

JD:      I was told to give up on writing historical romances. At the time historical fiction was not selling well. Fortunately, the tide turned so I didn't get branded in a genre that didn't fit me best.


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

JD:      The most rewarding thing about being a writer is hearing that my books were either an escape during difficult times or helped readers resolve an issue in their lives. As a writer, I struggle with finding the time and the expertise to utilize social media effectively.


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

JD:      Besides the hobbies I mentioned earlier, I enjoy reading books and magazines. A favorite indulgence is meeting friends or my daughters for lunch or shopping.


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

JD:      At twelve, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Later, I suspected I couldn't support myself with writing and wanted to teach.


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

JD:      Not surprising really, considering creating is in my blood, but before I sold my first book, I painted gourds and drew with colored pencils. If I wasn't writing, I'd take art lessons.


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

JD:      My favorite movies are Christmas movies, kid movies, romantic comedies and Christian movies like Courageous. I also enjoy dramas that end happily like War Horse, The King's Speech and The Help. I watch HGTV. I love decorating and open houses so to see a ho-hum room transformed or guess which house the family will choose is fun.


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

JD:      A paperweight on my desk reads: Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're probably right. How we think becomes our reality. I remind myself of this truth when the negative "what ifs" pop into my head.


WG:      Please tell us about your current project.

JD:      My current project, a marriage of convenience set in TX, is not yet approved so I'll talk about An Inconvenient Match the book releasing January 3, 2012.

THE BEST OF ENEMIES

His family destroyed hers. But Matthew Cummings's job offer - to care for his recuperating father - is impossible to decline. Schoolteacher Abigail Wilson can swallow her pride for the sake of a summer paycheck that will help her sister. And when Abigail's employment ends, old loyalties will separate the feuding families once more.

If there's anyone in town stubborn enough to deal with Matthew's cantankerous father, it's Abigail. It's just a business arrangement - and a temporary one, at that. Her good opinion shouldn't matter a lick to Matt. Yet their different backgrounds belie a surprising kinship. Perhaps unexpected love will be their reward for the summer's inconvenient match.


WG:      What inspired you to write this particular story?

JD:      I've always found famous feuding families like Romeo and Juliet and the Hatfields and McCoys interesting conflict. I wanted to write my own small town version. I found delving into how the feud impacted my characters interesting.



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

JD:      I toured an historical mansion and modeled the Cummings' house after the mansion. One interesting tidbit I learned from during the tour was the existence of a walk-in safe in the dining room for the family silver. I researched colleges in Iowa in 1901, the setting of my story.


WG:      Tell us about your upcoming plans.

JD:      If my proposal is accepted, the book I'm working on will release in 2013. Besides the release of An Inconvenient Match in January, my novella "Last Minute Bride" Brides of the West anthology will release in April 2012.


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

JD:      I love to hear from readers. They can reach me through my Website www.janetdean.net or through Love Inspired Books, 233 Broadway, Suite 1000, New York, NY 10279.


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

JD:      Winnie, thanks for having me on your blog. Always good to spend time with you and your readers!

 

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