Award Winning Author Winnie Griggs





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Gina Welborn


December 2014

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

GW:      Hi, Winnie! Thanks for having me here. While my father was in the army during most of my childhood, we pretty much only lived in Lawton, Oklahoma. I met my husband at the Baptist Student Union. He served at three Oklahoma churches before he took a job as youth pastor at a church in Richmond, Virginia. After eleven years there, we moved back to Oklahoma. We have five children (20-17-15-11-7), one dog, two rabbits, four guinea pig, and a fancy Russian dwarf hamster named Tom Bob Deucalion.

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.

GW:      The summer I was pregnant with Child #3, I read the newest release from, at that time, my favorite CBA author. When a reader finds the villain more of a hero than the hero, is it any surprise she throws the book against the wall? I told my friend, "I can write worse dreck than that." She challenged me to prove it. So I did. Trust me, my drecky writing was more drecky. LOL I had to learn how to write, but I hadn't have accepted my friend's challenge, I would have never begun the journey.

WG:      Tell us about your journey.

GW:      I wrote five 90k manuscripts in those first five months of writing. The internet had just gotten started, so most of what I could learn about how to get published came from books. After several editor and agent rejections, a well-known CBA agent sent me a hand-written note. Join RWA and online critique groups. Enter writing contests. She also asked me to resubmit after story changes. I never resubmitted because after joining RWA and an online writing group, attending a writing conference, and entering a writing contest, I realized how much I still had to learn about writing. For many years, I struggled with balancing writing desire with family responsibility. After my manuscript finaled in RWA's Golden Heart, I signed with my agent, Tamela Hancock Murray. Still, several years passed before I sold a novella to Barbour. Some people are gifted writers. I'm not. I've had to learn the craft. I'm still learning. God keeps blessing me with bringing mentors and author-friends into my life to help me on my journey.

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

GW:      I wrote five full manuscripts and re-wrote the first three of those over and over before I finally sold on a proposal to Barbour. Since then, each of my sales have been on new stories. Part of me hates the years I spend re-writing those stories, but I know I'm not a gifted writer. Re-writing was part of how I learned.

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

GW:      Becky Germany had asked my agent to find four authors to write an anthology featuring Scottish immigrants. Tamela chose Laurie Alice Eakes who then invited Pamela Griffin, Jennifer Hudson Taylor, and myself. To be candid, my first sale came as a result of the strength of their names. To this day I am thankful for the opportunity they gave me.

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

GW:      I've had to be more disciplined and organized. I've sat through too many awards ceremonies and listened to authors thank their families for "understanding" why mom spent her evenings writing instead of spending time with them. I've been that type of author. Since selling, I feel burdened to write when my kids are at school and then not while they are home.

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

GW:      I didn't expect the marketing aspect to consume so much time. Earlier this year I decided to set up an actual website instead of a blogsite. I'm too cheap to pay someone, and College Boy told me building one was easy with a good host. Took me a month of working eight hours a day to build it. The other day I had to add info about my next Barbour anthology. Two days of work! In today's market, the author has to be more than just a writer.

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

GW:      Monday is brainstorming with Becca Whitham at Starbucks. T-W-TH-F from 9am to 4pm, I work on writing stuff and do some housework so I'm not sitting on my toosh all that time. I then make dinner. Evenings and weekends are family time. Sometimes deadlines mean I have to write in the evenings but I try to do that after kids go to bed.

WG:      Do you set writing goals for yourself?

GW:      I don't have words-per-week or month goals, unless I am working on a contracted manuscript and under deadline. I do have goals for how many books out I want each year. Right now I only have one traditionally published book releasing in 2015, so to "fill in the gaps," I will be indie publishing some novellas with a group of author-friends.

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

GW:      I can't write with anyone in the same room. No music either. If I'm working on a manuscript, I just need my laptop, a stack of research books, and a bottle of water. Well, my dog is usually at my feet. And the washer and dryer are going.

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

GW:      Those first five manuscripts I wrote were totally seat-of-my-pants. As I've learned about craft, I realize I write better when I do some pre-planning, which does include deciding on how I want the story to end. I like to fill out Alicia Rasley's Outline Your Novel in 30 Minutes. Becca and I often brainstorm the first couple of chapters.

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

GW:      A combination. I don't write chapters until I've sold the story or unless I am including requested sample chapters in a proposal. What I always do first is write a paragraph blurb of the story and then figure out my spiritual theme. With my next Barbour novella, I started with a storyline: Bachelor courts 12 women at the same time but falls in love with a 13th. From there I had to figure out what would make him likeable and heroic.

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

GW:      Oh wow, I hadn't ever thought about that. I tend to write alpha heroes who will do the right thing even at a cost to self. My heroines tend to be opinionated and fighting, to varying degrees, against the expectations of society, family, and the church. I seem to always have an over-the-top secondary character.

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

GW:     Strong but not preachy spiritual thread. Characters whose fears, hurts, needs and wants drive the story.

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?

GW:      I don't have an office in our current house. Sometimes I write at the dining room table. Sometimes on the sofa. Sometimes on in the bed. When we first moved to this house, not having an office was frustrating. Instead of focusing what I don't have or any inconveniences, I choose to thankful for what I do have.

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

GW:      My oldest daughter was frustrated because her cousin wanted her to buy this $300 write-a-book-in-a-year computer program. Jerah kept explaining all the other things she'd rather spend $300 on. I offered to give her a writing program I bought this past summer but had writer's block every time I tried to answer the questions. Not all writing programs or craft-of-writing books are for everyone. There's no one right way to learn to write. There's no one right way to write a book. What matters is finding a way that works for you.

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

GW:      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?

GW:      Remember those first five manuscripts I mentioned? I'm revising them into a YA fantasy romance series. I also have a contemporary time-travel-yet-not-a-time-travel romance I hope to start writing sample chapters in January.

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

GW:      Join RWA or ACFW, depending on which market you are targeting. Join an online critique group. Enter writing contests. Judge one writing contest for every two you enter. Like writers, most judges aren't naturally gifted at judging. It's a learned process. Judging will help you be more analytical of your own writing. Attend a writing conference, but start with a small one before going to a national one.

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

GW:      In 2013, I was sitting at the ACFW gala dinner with Bonnie Calhoun. She is a hoot! After I shared with her my YA dystopian idea, she flat out said I had started my story with Act 2. We chatted inciting incident and ordinary world. I knew ordinary world but after she explained it, something clicked. Not only did I know how I needed to write a whole new opening, I realized I had to write a new opening to Masterpiece Marriage. Chapter 1 of the book is because of Bonnie. After I finished Masterpiece, I had to write The Marshal's Pursuit, my second Harlequin LIHP. I'd written the first three chapters to sell the book. My "ah-ha" moment with Bonnie made me see I had to write a new chapter one, as well as three new scenes for my hero.

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

GW:      Ahh, rejections! Sometimes it's the writing. Sometimes it's the timing (editor just bought a marriage-of-convenience story, publisher not buying dystopians, etc). Sometimes it's the idea. Don't take everything personal. Shake off what you can't learn from.

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

GW:      I can't think of one I wish I had ignored but hadn't. I do wish more writers would ignore the "conventional wisdom" to read what they write. Read outside your genre, at least while you are writing a manuscript. Birds of a feather flock together. You become who you hang around with. Yes there is a good side to that, but the bad side is losing your individuality. Don't regurgi-write what you read.

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

GW:      I love having someone say my story was a fun read. I struggle with getting started. The two chapters are always the hardest to write.

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

GW:      I spend time with family and I paint. Either bedroom walls or upcycling furniture.

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

GW:      What I wanted to be depended on what interested me at that moment or whatever was my favorite tv show. I first thought about being a writer when I was in 6th grade.

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

GW:      I got my first (and so far only) tattoo for my 43rd birthday. Simple black letters on my left forearm. All is well. All will be well. It's a more classy way of saying, "Hey, Gina, take a chill pill. God is in control. Everything's going to be all right. This trial you are in-this pain you feel-isn't going to last forever.

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

GW:      Shrek, Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and Star Trek & Star Trek into Darkness. Three movies, different genres, only Shrek is a true romance, yet all three movies are perfect examples of story structure where character and plot are intertwined.

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.

GW:      Have you ever seen any of the Demotivator posters? My favorite one is of a cat holding onto a string by its mouth. The caption says: "Give Up. At some point, hanging in there just makes you look like an even bigger loser." Cracks me up! Life is hard and it sucks sometimes. It's a little easier when you laugh and learn not to take everything so seriously. Sometimes a demotivator is the motivator we need.

WG:      Please tell us about your current project. 

GW:      I'm blessed to be a part of Abingdon's Quilts of Love Series. Masterpiece Marriage is about a Philadelphia textile mill owner who seeks his aunt's help to create a quilt pattern to salvage his damage fabrics. When he arrives at her summer quilting bee, he discovers the only way to get what he wants is to partner with a vexing lady botanist, who isn't any more welcome to his aunt's matchmaking designs.

WG:      What inspired you to write this particular story?

GW:      While researching for my initial Quilts of Love Series proposal, I went to Google Books in hopes of finding some historical tidbit to spark my imagination. There I found a Good Housekeeping magazine from the1880s with a life-experience story written by a man named Zenus Dane. His Aunt Priscilla lived and breathed quilts. What he wrote inspired the quilt for my novel. Plus at the back of the magazine, I found advertisements for textiles and packaged fabric scraps for quilters. Plus, I couldn't resist naming my hero Zenus instead of a typical romance hero name. One of my title suggestions was When Zenus Met Varrs.

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

GW:      I research constantly when I write. My heroine Mary is a botanist. When I was researching cross-pollination, I discover back in the 1880s and 1890s there was a huge debate between the government, corporations, farmers, and scientists over patenting life-forms (everything from seeds to livestock) based on their genetic coding. It wasn't until this century that the government actually allowed corporations and individuals to do just that. Good thing? Bad thing? Jurassic Park thing? GMO-protesting thing? Hmm…

WG:      Tell us about your upcoming plans.

GW:      MMy next Barbour novella release in May. "Baker's Dozen" is part of the Most Eligible Bachelor Collection. It's my take on The Bachelor tv show. In addition, I have a fifth Barbour novella releasing in spring of 2016. "All's Fair" is part of the Lassoed by Marriage Collection. I hope to have additional contract news to share soon.

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

GW:      Start with my website: There you can find links to connect with me via social networking, also through e-mail. Thanks, Winnie, for the wonderful opportunity to visit.

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