Award Winning Author Winnie Griggs





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Veronica Heley


MARCH 2012 

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

VH:      I'm from Birmingham, England and spent most of my childhood and teens in anxiety through the War and my father's slow decline and death. I moved down to London to get an interesting job, met my husband to be, married - and have been living in the capitol ever since.

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.

VH:      I always knew I could write. I wrote stories even as a small child, and went on doing so all the time I was growing up. But I had to get out and earn my living before I had anything worthwhile to say - and then I had to learn my craft before I was publishable.

WG:      Tell us about your journey.

VH:      When we got married, my husband asked if I'd mind him giving up his well-paid and secure job, in order that he might train as a probation officer. I agreed - and everything in the house broke! But we managed. So when he had qualified and our daughter was old enough to go to school, I asked if, instead of returning to paid work, I might try my hand at writing. It took me two years to be good enough to get published.

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

VH:      I've consulted my Records Book and find there were eleven stories written before I got anywhere near publication. A good friend told me I wouldn't be publishable till I had learned how to edit what I wrote. Even after I got my first book published, I still hadn't quite got the trick of it, and every other story was rejected. Fashions do change, too. I thought I was doing well with historicals and suddenly, mine weren't needed. I turned to writing for children, instead.

And yes, I have some children's books somewhere that never sold. Are they worth digging out? No. They're for the shredder!

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

VH:      I can't explain my ability to create stories except by saying it is a gift. But even when you have a gift, you have to learn to make use of it - and that takes time, energy, and a lot of hard work.

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

VH:      I don't have to go out to work for other people, which is just great.

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

VH:      I'd earn more money by cleaning other people's houses - but I wouldn't get so much satisfaction from it.

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

VH:      I get the house straight in the mornings and turn my computer on at ten. With breaks for this and that, I turn it off in the evenings in time to cook supper. That's five days a week. Sometimes I do a little on Saturdays, too. But never on Sundays. Or hardly ever...

WG:      Do you set writing goals for yourself?

VH:      I aim for an edited chapter a week. But promotions, newsletters, correspondence, copy editing and proof reading can make this a fond hope rather than a fact.

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

VH:      I attend to my Bible Reading notes directly before I start work. No noise. No music. No staring out of the window at what's happening outside.

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

VH:      I write two gentle crime series, where the setting is already fixed. Before I start a story I know who the villain is, why they've murdered (or whatever), and how. I know how my heroine will follow the trail, and how it will end. I also work out how the story might or might not affect the development of the heroine and other characters.

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

VH:      Both my heroines are older women with dependent relatives.

'A' is a suburban widow who has recently re-married, but she has a bullying daughter and a lack of confidence in herself which she has been working to overcome. She networks in the community to work out who has done what.

'B' is a widowed businesswoman living in affluent Kensington, with a self-important son. One sort of crime fits the suburbs better than the other. So one about family relationships might fit heroine A while one about trafficking girls into the country would fit heroine B. I write one about Ellie Quicke every six months, and then I write one about Bea Abbot. They are very different characters, with different lifestyles, living in different parts of London. It's fun to switch personalities.

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

VH:      Yes, I do; I tend to home in on relationships which would affect the older woman. I was concerned that I might be repeating myself and turning readers off, but my editor and my agent tell me that each time I pick up one of these major themes, I treat it differently, so I'm happy to go on doing it.

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

VH:      The ability to invent likeable characters, with whom the reader can identify. Taking Christian thinking into the mainstream. Some gentle humour?

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?

VH:      My teeth are not brilliant. My dentist is wonderful, but every now and then...argh! But I work through, on pain killers, knowing I'll have to do double the amount of editing later.

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

VH:      I've been a member of a book reading club for over 40 years, so I get to read all sorts. Some I enjoy. Some I don't. For pleasure I read gentle crime, especially from the new wave of Scandinavian writers, who bring social history into their stories.

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

VH:      Is there a genre I haven't tried? I've done; romance/suspense, historicals, crime, a biography of St Paul, loads of books for children of all ages, story-boards for cartoons, short stories and articles galore. I've tried straightforward romance, but I haven't the right mind for it. Sci-Fi is not for me; my brain doesn't work that way.

No, I'm very happy where I've ended up, thank you.

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

VH:      Learn your craft.

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

VH:      I think that was when I discovered that readers identify best with a heroine who is vulnerable in some respect.

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?

VH:      Get on with the next story.

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

VH:      I'm afraid I've always thought for myself, and therefore have never been good at taking advice from anyone . . . though I've had to do so from my agent and my publishers.

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

VH:      The most rewarding thing is to make someone laugh, to lift their spirits, or encourage them when they feel 'down'.

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

VH:      Chocolate. A chat with our daughter, or with friends. A good meal. A daily cup of coffee at our local coffee shop with my husband.

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

VH:      A writer. Yes, I really did!

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

VH:      That I prefer beer to wine?

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

VH:      At the moment in the UK, it's CALL THE MIDWIFE. DOWNTON ABBEY has been great. The weekly satirical show: Have I Got News for You. Strictly Come Dancing. We even watch the repeats of CSI, but only the NY and Gil Grissom ones.

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.

VH:      'For evil to triumph, it is only necessary for good men to do nothing'

'Dear Lord, you know that I must be busy today. If I forget you, please don't you forget me.'

WG:      Please tell us about your current project.

VH:      The last book of mine to come out in the States is FALSE REPORT, which is the 6th for the businesswoman, Bea Abbot, and her domestic agency. She's asked to find some domestic help for an eccentric little musician who's been falsely accused of murdering a young girl whom he'd befriended in all innocence.. It's about girls trafficked in for sex, and then used for the badger game. But the musician mourns her loss, driving him to write a song for her.

Now I don't write poetry. Well, not much; and I don't think anything of it. But in this case I kept 'hearing' the song in my head. I agonised over every word in the song he wrote. Perhaps it's good. Perhaps it isn't. It cost me something, and it's right that it should because it's an elegy for all these lost girls.

WG:      What inspired you to write this particular story?

VH:      I'm not sure. Perhaps something I read in the papers? All I know is that one day I had the idea in my head, and had to develop it.

WG:      Tell us about your upcoming plans.

VH:      There's lots coming up. After False Report, I wrote another for Ellie Quicke, called MURDER IN MIND. That will be out in the UK at the end of May, and in the States three months later. This will be the 13th in the series! I can hardly believe it. Ellie, the suburban housewife, is drawn by her bully of a daughter into investigating the 'accidental' deaths in a most unlikeable family .. . only to find there are good reasons for their behaviour, and that some of the family are worth saving . . . if possible.

Then there's another short story to write for the Methodist Recorder for Easter. Their readership is mostly retired people, so I have been doing three a year for them for some years, about the concerns and difficulties of three retired men and their families.

After that, there's to be another Bea Abbot - and this time she's been dragged into the odd and sometimes sinister happenings at a particular block of flats . . .

And then . . . I can't remember how many more I'm contracted for, but I think it's another Ellie and another Bea.

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

VH:      You can always find me through my website: My publishers, Severn House, also twitter about my doings from time to time.

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