Award Winning Author Winnie Griggs

 

 

 

 

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Marta Perry

 

MARCH 2010

 


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

MP:      Thanks so much for inviting me, Winnie. I�m born and bred in rural Pennsylvania, where I�ve spent most of my life. I have a teaching degree, married, taught for awhile, then had three babies, then went back to work as a Christian Education Director for a number of years before retiring to write full time. I�m now the proud grandmother of six beautiful grandchildren. My husband and I live in a century-and-a-half year old Pennsylvania farmhouse in a valley in Central Pennsylvania. With twenty-five acres, it�s a lot to take care of, but we love it. In the winter, though, we leave it behind for our vacation home on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, where it�s warm and sunny most of the winter!


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.

MP:      When I was eight years old I picked up my first Nancy Drew book � The Secret in the Old Clock. Most little girls finish that book and want to be Nancy Drew. I finished it and wanted to be the writer. That�s the first time I realized that the stories I loved had been written by a real person and that writing was something I could do.


WG:      Tell us about your journey.

MP:      Well, as I�ve mentioned, I got busy with teaching, marriage, children, and life, but eventually God seemed to start reminding me of that early dream. I began writing with an eye toward publication at a time when there were no writers� loops or organizations to help me. I found my way by studying the kinds of stories I wanted to write and then doing my best to create a story that would work. I began writing with short stories for children�s Sunday school publications, and my first story sold for the magnificent sum of $16 on its third time out. For a number of years I wrote short fiction before I realized that if I really wanted to write a novel, I�d better get at it. I had three books published before I found Steeple Hill when the line was first forming, and I wrote very happily for them for ten years before branching out to my Amish series for Berkley and my Amish suspense series for HQN.


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

MP:      I�m not sure I remember! As I mentioned, I did a lot of magazine work while I was attempting to break into novels. A couple of early unpublishable works I later cannibalized, taking aspects of them that I liked as part of different stories.


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

MP:      The first book I sold was a juvenile mystery, and the call was actually a letter, since I had failed to include my telephone number. That�s not a mistake I�ve made since then!


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

MP:      It�s a joy to be able to earn my living doing something I love as much as writing.


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

MP:      As I�ve moved into writing single titles, I�ve been a little surprised at the amount of time I spend on promotion. I have to try constantly to balance my writing life so that the writing�which after all is most important�gets done first.


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

MP:      I write most days, unless I�ve given myself a vacation for holidays and grandchild visits, etc. I�m my own boss, and I�m a pretty hard taskmaster!


WG:      Do you set writing goals for yourself?

MP:      I sit down with the calendar and create a schedule for myself, and I know how much I have to write per week in order to have the work finished on time. My contracts dictate my weekly goals.


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

MP:      I think about the deadline. That�s all the mood setter I need!



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

MP:      I do a lot of pre-writing, working on the character and storyline, using a notebook and writing by hand until the story begins to take shape. I usually spend about two weeks on that planning process before I ever type Ch. 1.


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

MP:      I usually start with a situation and then create the characters who will fit with the situation, but it varies.


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

MP:      That�s probably something a reader could answer better than I can! But most of my stories are about family�finding family, creating family, reconciling family.


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

MP:      My dedication, my work ethic, maybe my ability to sink myself deeply into the character�s point of view.


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?

MP:      My husband is very supportive of my writing, and since we don�t have kids at home any more, my writing time is my own. I would say that there are things which interfere with creativity in general, such as worry, ill health, family problems, etc., but fortunately none of those apply at the moment!


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

MP:      I really enjoy the Amish stories that I�m writing now, because it gives me a chance to utilize my Pennsylvania Dutch background and my current surroundings. Sometimes it�s fun to switch off and do something completely different, though, such as the continuity books I sometimes do for Steeple Hill. As a reader, I tend to re-read Jane Austen on a regular basis. I like cozy mysteries. Really, I�ll read anything, including the print on the back of the cereal boxes.


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

MP:      Not that I can think of, but you never know!


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

MP:      Read, read, read and write, write, write. There aren�t any shortcuts that I know of, much as we�d like to find them.


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

MP:      I don�t know that it�s really an �ah-ha� moment, but I�ve become convinced that in writing romance, it�s the emotional strength of the premise that sells the story.


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?

MP:      Glance at, delete, and move on. There�s always something better to do than stew about a goofy review.


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

MP:      Making a living doing what I love! Struggle�well, I guess that�s just the discipline of sitting down and writing the words every day, even when I�d rather knock off and go shopping.


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

MP:      When I�m not writing, I�m usually visiting my kids and grandkids. Right now my favorite thing is walking on the beach in the sunshine, but it�s been an unusually rainy winter here, so I grab those days when I get them. I enjoy the routine treats of life, like going out to dinner and a movie with friends.


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.

MP:      Recently I�ve been feeling very moved by a passage from one of Paul�s letters (I�m not stopping to look it up) which says basically that we are God�s workmanship, called by him in Christ for the good work He has already prepared for us to do. That seems very affirming to me�that God has already prepared the niche we are to fill.



WG:      Please tell us about your current project.

MP:      Right now I�m writing the fourth in the Pleasant Valley Amish series for Berkley Books. It will be out next year, and continues the story of the community that I started with Leah�s Choice, which came out in Nov. 09. This one is the story of an Amish mid-wife, and I find that topic to have a lot of resonance and emotion


WG:      What inspired you to write this particular story?

MP:      I have a friend who is a midwife, and I have just thought for a long time that this was a story I wanted to tell.


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

MP:      I�ve done a lot of research, as I do for all my books. My midwife friend has been very helpful, and she put me in touch with a Mennonite midwife, formerly Amish.


WG:      Tell us about your upcoming plans.

MP:      I have six books and one novella coming out this year, so you can see that I�ve been very busy. Once I complete this book, I�ll be working on a suspense novel for HQN that has an Amish setting. I actually have three series going at one time: the suspense for HQN; the Pleasant Valley Amish for Berkley; and The Bodine Family for Love Inspired.


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

MP:      You can find my website at www.martaperry.com and that links to my blog. Or e-mail me at marta@martaperry.com.


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

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