Award Winning Author Winnie Griggs





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Victoria Bylin




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

VB:      Hi, Winnie! Thanks for inviting me. I'm celebrating the release of Wyoming Lawman this month. It's my 11th book, which makes this a great time to stop and appreciate this amazing journey. I'm grateful for many things but especially my family. My husband and I have been married forever. We have two sons, both grown. The oldest is getting married in October, and the youngest has military commitments. We live in Lexington, Kentucky now. It's the "Thoroughbred Capital of the World," and our house backs to a horse farm. Life is good!

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.

VB:      My dad passed away in February 1998. That led to a time of reflection. What did I want to leave behind? What would I regret if I got hit by space junk (family joke) and made a quick trip to eternity? I realized that I didn't want to leave this earth saying, "Gee, I wish I'd written that book." That's when I got serious about writing.

WG:      Tell us about your journey.

VB:      On January 2, 1999, my New Year's Resolution was to finish a book-length work of fiction. It didn't have to be good, and it didn't have to sell. I just wanted the satisfaction of knowing I'd lived the dream. I sat down at my old Dell 486, named the heroine Susan and put her in a barn with a dead body. Around Chapter Three I hit a roadblock. I had no idea what to do next. Instead of giving up, I went to the library where I discovered Section 808.11. That's where the library shelves books on the craft of writing. Jack Bickham's 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes changed my life. I finished that ms, sent it out and received my first rejections. I'd already started my second ms, and that one sold to Kim Nadelson of Harlequin Historicals in February 2002.

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

VB:      I sold my second completed ms. That's quick, and it's also a bit of a disadvantage. When my editor asked, "What else do you have?", I said, "uh, not much." I eventually rewrote that first-ever ms and sold it as West of Heaven, my second Harlequin Historical. I've also written a contemporary (twice, actually) and it hasn't sold. Frankly, that book wasn't ready, though. I still love the story.

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

VB:      You know how people scream and jump and do the happy dance? I froze with stark terror. Somewhere deep down, I knew this phone would change my life. The book book I'd written just for myself was going to be read by a lot of people. I'd have deadlines and commitments. Writing had been an escape for me. Now it would be public display. I was stunned . . . then I made Hamburger Helper for dinner. It was the craziest mix of "normal" and "new" I'd ever experienced. And lest anyone think my husband dropped the "celebration" ball, he didn't. We had lobster at the Palm in Washington, DC over the weekend.

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

VB:      I kept my part-time job until just recently. Before I sold, I was a wife, a mom, and a church-goer. None of that changed. But I had to be careful with my time. The thing that suffered most was the house. I could do two of three things: work part-time, write books, or have a clean house. I picked working and writing. No regrets, but the house was a constant disaster.

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

VB:      I was surprised at how much work goes into a book after it's written. Line edits and proofreading are part of the process, then there's the promo. In this digital age, authors are expected to be on Facebook, blogs, twitter, etc...

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

VB:      WI write best with a set schedule, but life has a way of changing rhythm just about every day. My favorite writing days start early and I work in a very quiet house. If a deadline's looming, I write whenever I can.

WG:      Do you set writing goals for yourself?

VB:      Yes. My goal is to draft or edit 10,000 words a week. My first drafts are awful, so I spent a lot of time editing.

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

VB:      I used to play music. Sometimes I still do, but lately I've been writing in total silence. I've had to learn to go with the flow. When I play music, it's anything from a movie soundtrack to country to western ballads to instrumentals.

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

VB:      I wish I could plot in advance . . . If I could change one thing about how I write, I'd be a plotter instead of someone who flies by the seat of her pants. This is pretty much my pattern: Write a lousy scene, read, rewrite, edit, delete, write, rewrite edit, polish. Write a new scene, Repeat all of the above. It's not very efficient.

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

VB:      Always with a character. I've tried to look for the plot first in the interest of learning to outline, but it just doesn't work.

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

VB:      Oh yes! My three favorite themes are: (1) Redemption, (2) Resurrection (second chances); and (3) Restoration (reunion stories). My heroes tend to be tortured bad boys. My heroines are often nurturers.

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

VB:      That's hard to say. My best friend tells me I write great male characters. If I do, it's a tribute to my husband who's my real-life hero.

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?

VB:      Every writer has a list of obstacles and mine is typical. If I had to name one thing that most gets in my way, it's . . . me! I know better than to get online before noon or so, but it's a huge temptation to check email, look at Facebook, read the news. My rule is to write first, check email second. This is where the expectation that writers do a lot of social networking is problematic. It's a ton of fun to be in touch with readers and fellow writers, but the internet kills my creativity. It needs to be last on the list.

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

VB:      I love all inspirational romance, both historical and contemporary.

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

VB:      I've got ideas for three contemporary romances. I would love to tell those stories. They've been in my head for a long time.

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

VB:      Enjoy the process. Think big. Stay brave. Believe in your story. Trust God. Don't give up unless you really, really want to. And if you do want to give up, it's okay. The calling will come back, or it will be used in a way you're not expecting. I've wanted to write my whole life, but it took a confluence of certain events to be able to sit down and actually write a book.

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?

VB:      I'm pretty philosophical about rejections and bad reviews. They're part of the trip. Everyone has an opinion, and that's the way it is. It's like coffee . . . People have different tastes and expectations.

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

VB:      Lately I've been writing almost all the time. I had a challenging year in 2009-2010. My mom passed away from COPD. My husband left his long-time job. We sold the houe and moved 540 miles to Lexington, Kentucky. My oldest son is getting married, and I had two books out. I got behind on deadlines and have been working like a maniac to catch up. When my current ms is done, I'm going to sit and stare at the sky!

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

VB:      My favorite movies are "The Sound of Music," "Witness," and "An Officer and a Gentleman." Romances always appeal to me, but I want a happy ending with the promise of marriage. I don't watch much television anymore, but I confess to enjoying "American Idol."

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.

VB:      It's from Oswald Chambers: "Human nature if it is healthy demands excitement. And if it does not obtain its thrilling excitement in the right way, it will seek it in the wrong. God never made bloodless stoics. He made passionate saints."

WG:      Please tell us about your current project.

VB:      The book that's out now is Wyoming Lawman. It's the second book in "The Women of Swan's Nest" series, and it features Pearl Oliver. A victim of violence, Pearl moves to Cheyenne, Wyoming in search of new beginning. There she meets Deputy Matt Wiley, a man with a troubled past and a daughter who needs a mother. It's a story about justice, honor, love and family.

WG:      What inspired you to write this particular story?

VB:      Pearl suffered in The Maverick Preacher. I wanted to show how her faith helped her recover from violence. Deputy Matt Wiley proved to be a good match because he understood what she'd experienced.

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

VB:      My favorite parts of Wyoming Lawman revolve around a set of blue hair ribbons. I wanted Matt to send Pearl a huge bouquet of flowers, but that wasn't very realistic in Wyoming in October. Flowers could have been shipped in via the railroad in 1875, but I couldn't be sure. Five years later? No problem, but I couldn't document it for 1875. Instead of flowers, he gives her hair ribbons and it added a whole dimension to the book.

WG:      Tell us about your upcoming plans.

VB:      I'm working on the fourth and final book in the "Women of Swan's Nest" series. The other titles in the series are The Maverick Preacher (2/09), Wyoming Lawman (10/10--available now), and The Outlaw's Return (2/11). The book I'm currently writing doesn't have a title yet, but it's set in Wyoming and features a retired British army officer who needs a mother for his two children.

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

VB:      My website is I'm also on Facebook.

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

VB:      Thank you, Winnie! The pleasure was all mine!