Award Winning Author Winnie Griggs





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November 2010

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

CP:      Thanks so much for having me, Winnie. I'm very happy to be here in the November spotlight! I was born and raised in Oklahoma, the youngest of three sisters. My dad was a chemical engineer for an oil company, which meant he was on call 24/7, and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. I had a great childhood, and often use those days to "draw" on in my writing. I've done all kinds of things in my working career - I've been a secretary in state and federal offices, worked as an x-ray film developer (before you actually had to have training in that!) taught piano and guitar lessons, and been a 911 operator, among other things. I hold a B.A. in English from the University of Oklahoma, and I have been married to the same guy for 31 years! We have two grown children who live nearby here in Oklahoma City, and I have a "granddog" that I babysit for quite a lot.

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.

CP:      No, not really. I always knew I wanted to write. When I was little, before I could even write my name, my mom would give me a pad and pen in church to occupy myself. I wrote stories and poems from the time I was able to. I just had to get to a place in my life where I had some time to write and put two sane thoughts together.

WG:      Tell us about your journey.

CP:      My business partner and I teach writing classes in the Oklahoma City metro area. One of the people in our classes brought in a call out for submissions to an anthology for Adams Media's "Rocking Chair Reader" series. I subbed to that and subsequently, to every anthology they were looking for stories for and most were accepted. Meanwhile, I was looking for an agent for my manuscripts. I found one, but the old saying about "No agent is better than a bad agent" was so true, in my case. Lots of wasted time. Lots of rejections, but no real feedback as to why. When I heard about The Wild Rose Press, I subbed to them and was accepted there. I had a wonderful editor in the Cactus Line (historical westerns) who really loved my manuscript for FIRE EYES, and worked with me to get it into shape.

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

CP:      I completed 3 others before I sold FIRE EYES, which was my 4th. I sold one of the others since then, TIME PLAINS DRIFTER, but to an unscrupulous publisher. So I have since taken back my rights and am looking for another "home" for it. Right now it is under consideration at Berkley Publishing.

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

CP:      Well, it was truly one of the most memorable days of my life. I got an e-mail from Helen and she told me that she loved the book, but that I would need to be willing to work with her to get it in shape. After working with so many new authors, I understood what she was getting at. I was more than willing to let some of the things I held so dear about that manuscript slip away, knowing that her expertise and knowledge was far greater than mine. The end result was wonderful, and I totally understood why some things just "had to go."

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

CP:      It hasn't, really - I suspect because so far I'm with a smaller house. But I'm content with things as they are. I'm not a person who enjoys being in the public eye. I just hope someday to be able to live on my royalty checks.

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

CP:      I think it's the idea that people believe because you have a book published you are now "rich" and can do whatever you want. I know I've had 2 or 3 students in my writing classes who have made those kinds of comments aloud. I always let them know that I am probably making about 2 cents an hour for the work I've put in over the time I've written, edited and re-edited, and done promotional work for each of my books and short stories.

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

CP:      No. I have never had a "typical" day. When the kids were little, they always came first. I'm finding that that doesn't really change even though they are grown - just the needs have changed. I've never been one for schedules.

WG:      Do you set writing goals for yourself?

CP:      No. I don't think I could work that way. That's a lot of pressure!

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

CP:      Not really. I have a large "Florida room" that overlooks our swimming pool. I usually go out there to write because it is calming to me.

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

CP:      I never plot. I usually have one scene in my head that is the "starter" - that doesn't mean it comes at the very beginning. Sometimes, it might be in the middle of the book, and I have to write my way to it and beyond it, but I always write that scene out first.

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

CP:      A combination, I would say. I have to know who my characters are for the starter scene. Then I have to know where they are headed and where they came from.

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

CP:      I always have a wounded hero. Don't know why, but my hero always is either just recovering from some kind of physical wound or gets one as the story goes on. I always have a villain that is very strong - and usually, at some point, the hero will have to kill the villain. I've never written anything where we didn't know what happened to the villain. He always DIES. LOL

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

CP:      I think that most everything I write is very realistic. My dialogue is real and the situations, while they might be unusual, are genuine because of the characters I have created.

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?

CP:      No, not really - I don't work outside the home other than teaching and working with clients on their manuscripts and editing, so I can work that around my writing time.

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

CP:      Western historicals, and historicals in general. And I also enjoy reading/writing contemporary romantic suspense, but the historicals hold a special place in my heart.

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

CP:      I have always wanted to write a story set in medieval Ireland. So that might be my next undertaking.

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

CP:      Remember that just because an agent or editor rejects you, that's not the end of things. They are only one person, and so much depends on what side of the bed they got up on that morning. I had a book that one editor rejected and said "it couldn't happen" - I asked one of the sr. editors to have a look at it and she accepted it. It's gone on to do very well in the short time it's been out, with nothing but great reviews. Keep plugging at it.

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

CP:      Probably when I started getting my first reviews for Fire Eyes. They were great reviews and the reviewers and other readers seemed to really like it. It let me know that I wasn't the only one who enjoyed the story - and that's really why I write. It's all about entertainment and making the characters and the story come to life.

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?

CP:      I have a really funny story about the reviews. When Fire Eyes first came out, it got some really wonderful reviews, but one woman wrote a review of it and just ripped it apart. It was the first (and only) bad review I ever got for it. I wrote her a note on her review blog and told her that was my debut novel, and I was sorry she didn't enjoy it. But maybe she'd like Time Plains Drifter which would be coming out in a few months. Not long after Time Plains Drifter came out, I saw where she had ripped it, too. Then it got funny. I was just sitting there at the computer laughing, because I was thinking, "OK, you didn't like Fire Eyes, and then you went and bought Time Plains Drifter, and you didn't like it, either. Why do you keep buying my books if you don't like them?" I was tempted to write to her and let her know I had Sweet Danger coming out on October 1, just to see if she'd buy it too. But on a serious note, you really can't let these things get to you. Not everyone is going to like everything you write. If that was true, we'd all be buying the very same book in Barnes and Noble.

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

CP:      Probably the most rewarding thing for me is the fact that I can see the project through from start to finish - from an idea to something concrete. The thing I struggle with the most is the way other treat that same thing - as though it's really "no big deal." To someone who has never actually done it, I suppose that is understandable because they don't know what it takes to complete something like that, so it is very hard for them to comprehend - even when you talk about it.

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

CP:      Something really simple like putting on a favorite movie and ordering a pizza.

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

CP:      I wanted to be a nurse for the longest time. I think it was because I had that Little Golden Book about Nurse Nancy and Doctor Dan. LOL I also wanted to be cowboy, when I was little. I didn't want to be Dale Evans, I wanted to be Roy Rogers. LOL Finally, when I was about 9 or 10, I said I wanted to write stories, and I remember my parents saying, great, but what do you REALLY want to do?

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

CP:      Probably that I am a classically trained pianist. That was kind of one of those things that my parents spent a lot of money on for lessons, and I gave up a lot of my childhood for (practicing) that, while it's nice to be able to play just about whatever I want to play, I don't really think was very practical. My mom was one of the most practical people I've ever known, but when it came to piano lessons, she made sure all three of us had them. It just happened that where we lived at the time I was taking lessons had a wonderful teacher who played divinely. And that was all she did-play and teach. So that was what she expected of her students - at least two hours of practice every single day, more if we could get it in.

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

CP:      My favorite movie of all time has got to be To Kill a Mockingbird. The cast was just perfect, and the story is such a classic. If that happens to be on tv, I will always stop whatever I'm doing to watch it. Another favorite of mine is The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. I love those old black and white movies - and the old actors like Jimmy Stewart and Gregory Peck, John Wayne and Charlton Heston.

TV shows - I don't watch a lot of tv now. I loved the original Star Trek series, and most of the old westerns. Nothing on today really trips my trigger, but I will say out of everything on today I would have to choose NCIS as my favorite.

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.

CP:      "To the whole world, you may be just one person. But to just one person, you may be the whole world. "

I love this quote - don't know who said it, but it's one I've reminded myself of and taught my kids. You just never know what even the smallest thing can mean to a person.

WG:      Please tell us about your current project.

CP:      I just completed another western historical, GABRIEL'S LAW, back in the spring that is under consideration with Berkley Publishing! I'm really excited about that one. Since then, I've been wrapping up some other things I've had going and working on some short stories for anthologies.

WG:      What inspired you to write this particular story?

CP:      GABRIEL'S LAW is one of those stories that just happened. I had had the idea for a while, but had not done anything with it, because I was doing the final edits for SWEET DANGER. When I started writing it, it flowed easily - and that doesn't happen often for me. My inspiration was the idea that I got doing some research for genealogy in my family. It was on the subject of Indian boarding schools and orphanages in the late 1800's - early 1900's. My characters met at this orphanage. The heroine's family was murdered by Indians. This particular orphanage was not exclusively "for Indians." Therefore, the hero was brought there because he was half white. Conditions in boarding schools/orphanages at that time were abominable, whether you were a white or Indian orphan.

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

CP:      Oh, this was not fun research at all, but it was terribly interesting. It was very very sad. The reason I started doing this research in the first place was because my great-great-great grandfather had been stolen from his Indian family and given to a Presbyterian minister to raise. Back then, it was believed that this was a good way of assimilating the Indians into Anglo society. Also, for Anglos who would agree to do this, there was quite a tidy little stipend from the government. The minister took away my ggg grandfather's Indian name, adopted him and called him David Walls. They sent him to medical school in Missouri, and he became a doctor. I have been wanting to do some in-depth research for years - it's just a matter of finding the time to do it. I've hit a lot of brick walls because of them changing his name. I do know that he returned to Ada, which is in the Chickasaw Nation, so that might be a clue as to his tribe affiliation.

WG:      Tell us about your upcoming plans.

CP:      I am just finishing up another contemporary romantic suspense that I am hoping Berkley or The Wild Rose Press might be interested in. I have three short stories that will be coming out in November in holiday anthologies. And right now, I have two manuscripts under consideration at Berkley.

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

CP:      E-mail me at and visit my website at

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