Award Winning Author Winnie Griggs





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Kathleen Rice Adams


January 2015

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

KRA:      Hi, Winnie! You are so kind to invite me to join you today. I feel special, like I'm on Opra's couch!

I'm just your average, everyday troublemaker. Folks think I'm making it up when I say I descended from a long line of Texas ranchers, preachers, and teachers on one side and Kentucky horse thieves and moonshiners on the other, but it's true. My grandfather told the most spellbinding tales about running from revenuers in the Kentucky hills-and my grandmother backed him up, so I'm sure the stories were legitimate.

As for me? I've been a journalist for…let's just say a whole lotta years. I write fiction at night, on weekends, and during holidays-when the three canine tyrants who are gracious enough to let me share their home aren't looking. I'm really quite boring, but I live a dramatic imaginary life.

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.

KRA:      I can't point to one thing that spurred me to write. I've loved reading-disappearing into other lives, other times, other places-for as long as I can remember. I'm sure that contributed to shoving me off the fiction-writing cliff. Like many other authors, I've been writing one thing or another since I could hold a pencil. I'm quite accustomed to making a fool of myself, so why not misbehave on paper?

I do have to say I owe quite a bit in terms of voice, style, tropes, and themes to authors like Zane Grey, James Fennimore Cooper, Piers Anthony, and William Faulkner. (Yes, I did include Piers Anthony. His ridiculous humor made me groan and roll my eyes, but I read almost all of his books.) I also have to thank a bevy of contemporary authors for convincing a girl from a long line of-gasp!-English teachers with Very Serious Attitudes About Literature that there's nothing wrong with reading or writing romance.

WG:      Tell us about your journey.

KRA:      I've always wanted to write a book. Doesn't everyone? I allowed many things to hold me back-family, work, life-but the biggest thing I let get in the way was me. The only genre I ever seriously considered writing is historical western, but I was so afraid I'd get the details wrong that I researched everything to death. That satisfied my inner history nerd, but did nothing for a nascent fiction-writing career.

Once I convinced myself to back away from the reference materials, my first two manuscripts actually did pretty well. They won quite a few RWA chapter contests, placed in more, and earned requests from agents and editors…to which I never responded because of all the horror stories about rejection. My words have been published in magazines and newspapers for [censored] years, yet I lacked confidence in my ability to write fiction.

Finally, Livia Washburn Reasoner and Cheryl Pierson, the founders of Prairie Rose Publications, dragged me into the world of published authors in spite of myself. Don't fool with those women. They're dangerous. Did I mention they have flying monkeys at their disposal?

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

KRA:      My first completed novel-length manuscript, Prodigal Gun, became my debut novel November 20. Right now, I'm trying my darndest to finish and polish an incomplete previous manuscript with the hope it will see the light of day sometime in 2015. Before Prodigal Gun, Prairie Rose Publications published six of my short stories in anthologies. Two of those are now available as standalones: Peaches and The Second-Best Ranger in Texas (both western historical romance).

Today, my fiction resume includes seven anthologies, the two short stories I mentioned, and one novel. All but the novel were written between November 2013 and November 2014. The pace was a bit dizzying, but the experience was a tremendous amount of fun.

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

KRA:      I actually didn't get that call. What I got was more like, "You're contributing to this anthology. Get your butt in gear and send us a story, or you'll meet the flying monkeys up-close and personal."

I knew Cheryl and Livia for some time before they decided to take a chance on an unproven fiction writer. I love, admire, and respect them both for their talent (both are authors) and their enormous hearts. Let me just say this, though: I don't advise trifling with either of them.

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

KRA:      My brothers refuse to admit they know me. Of course, I've been refusing to admit I know them for most of my life, so we're good.

Becoming an author really hasn't changed my life much at all, except for the amount of work required to promote a book. That soul-sapping responsibility quickly divests the newly published of anything resembling an inflated ego-at least if they live in the real world.

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

KRA:      The most notable surprise was my other half's reaction. I thought he'd be embarrassed to claim a romance author. You could've knocked me over with a feather when he starting carting copies of the anthologies around and pointing to my name on the cover!

I'm also a bit surprised I haven't been locked in a dingy garret and forced to suffer for my craft…although knowing Livia and Cheryl, that's on the horizon if I don't get them the next manuscript PDQ.

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

KRA:      "Process" and I have never been introduced. I sit, I write, I bang my head on the keyboard, I write some more. It may not be the prettiest way to accomplish a goal, but it works.

I don't maintain a schedule, mostly because I wouldn't know what to do with one if a tidy, well-organized set of tasks and hours were presented as a gift. I am the very definition of untidy and disorganized, but somehow everything comes out all right in the end. The good guys triumph, the bad guys go down in ignominious defeat, and the hero and heroine ride off into the sunset on a white charger.

Typical? Is that a word?

WG:      Do you set writing goals for yourself?

KRA:      In a manner of speaking. My overriding goal is to avoid meeting the flying monkeys face to face. I understand they can be a cranky lot.

Honestly, my goal is to complete as many stories as I can in the time I have left. After all, one should never miss an opportunity to engage in sanctioned lying.

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

KRA:      My mood-setter is the racket in my head. When I get stuck, though, I'll listen to Marty Robbins's Gunfighter Ballads or the Eagles Desperado album or other music of that ilk. I also take showers-lots of showers. For some reason, I get my best ideas in the shower. I'm sure a video of the resulting klutzy dash to plant ideas on some semi-permanent medium before they evaporate would go viral on the internet in nothing flat.

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

KRA:      I'm one of those despicable plotter-pantser hybrids. I usually prepare a sketchy outline (though no one would recognize it as such), but stories never fail to take off in their own direction without so much as a by-your-leave. I've never yet written the story I set out to write. On a good day I cling to sanity by the thinnest of threads, so I generally find it less taxing let the story have its head-and hope both of us don't end up stampeding into an abyss.

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

KRA:      Each story is different. Right now, I'm working on a short story that popped into my head as a line of dialogue in search of both characters and plot. A scene snippet sitting in my "do something with this" file comprises an interaction between two characters…who have no story. A partially completed manuscript awaiting my attention has a long, involved plotline, but I still don't know much about the characters. Remember how I said I'm untidy and disorganized? Yep.

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

KRA:      I always seem to want to redeem lowlifes. Not heroes who've been framed or been forced into outlawry by circumstances beyond their control, but honest-to-badness black hats who are sincere in their villainy. That can make finding a suitable antagonist a mite difficult, but someone usually shows up just begging for the job.

Through no conscious effort on my part, I also seem to return to themes of family and identity with some regularity. Unintentionally, family members can do quite a bit of damage to one another, and that dynamic evidently fascinates me.

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

KRA:     It would be much easier for me to list my weaknesses, but that might take all day. It's always difficult for one to point out her own strengths, but I've been told my writing displays a distinctive "voice" and a sense of humor. If that's true, I'm very flattered.

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?

KRA:      My day job never misses an opportunity to get in the way, with its frequent demands for twelve or more hours of my attention in a twenty-four-hour period. There's not much I can do about that except resign, which would leave the dogs and me living in a cardboard box under an overpass. Understandably, the dogs are not in favor of that plan.

I try to make the most of the time I have. Despite advice to write in bits and pieces whenever I can snag five or ten minutes between something else that needs to be done, I've never been able to untangle my thoughts under those conditions. I work best when I have uninterrupted blocks of time. That means I usually sleep between midnight and 6 a.m., accept few social invitations, and spend the rare vacation at a keyboard pecking away at the next story. The system works for me.

However, I believe everyone should be warned that I will be rich and famous one day, and anyone who has thwarted me along the route will pay.

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

KRA:      If I had a process, I would be delighted to share. First, though, I'd have to steal a process from someone else. That could get messy.

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

KRA:      As both a reader and a writer, my favorite romance sub-genre is western historical. I'll read almost anything inside or outside romance, though.

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

KRA:     I've had this vague idea for a western steampunk rambling around in my head for a while now. Remember the classic TV show Wild, Wild West? Something like that, but set during the Texas Revolution and involving an ancient, unseen race.

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

KRA:     For your own good, don't use my path as a roadmap.

In all seriousness, blaze your own trail. Don't let anyone tell you your plot is wrong, your characters are inappropriate, or your idea won't sell. Tell your stories in your own inimitable way, ask for help when you need it, and learn as much as you can. Once you've achieved your goal, never ever fail to offer help and support to those still trying to find their own success.

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

KRA:      Even those of us who've made our living writing for umpteen years can make really embarrassing mistakes. A dry mouth typically does not feel like a dessert, for example. I won't mention who committed that spelling sin.

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?

KRA:      In my opinion, you can't call yourself a real author until you've experienced at least one of each. All the titans of literature received rejections, poor reviews, and terse missives from irate readers. Celebrate those things. You'll be in good company.

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

KRA:      There's so much bad advice and "conventional wisdom" out there, it's difficult to narrow the list. If I had to choose just one target to pelt with flaming arrows, though, it would be this: Heroes must be pure of heart and possess gleaming teeth, and villains must be despicable to the core. Really?

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

KRA:     The rewards and struggles are intertwined, I think. Red Smith famously said, "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." Frankly, I'm surprised I have any blood left...but there's no better feeling than finally stanching the flow by writing "the end."

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

KRA:      When I want a break from writerly shenanigans, I cook. I dearly love to bake-bread, pies, cakes, all kinds of desserts (not deserts), all from scratch. Now if only I could find someone to clean up the mess…

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

KRA:      I harbored a secret desire to become an actress, but my family was of the opinion I should aim to make a living. My degrees are in psychology. How I ended up as a journalist is anyone's guess.

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

KRA:      I was sent to this planet as part of an advance force tasked with subverting the population and fomenting revolt.

Honestly, I doubt I could surprise anyone. Surely by now everyone realizes I'm unbalanced and likely to say or do something bizarre at the drop of a hat.

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

KRA:      That list changes all the time. I haven't watched a movie in ages, but one I remember being unable to tear myself away from was Memento. The storytelling technique-unraveling back to front, without explanation-was astounding. I don't watch much TV either, but for the past few seasons I've kept up with Sleepy Hollow and Hell on Wheels. Sleepy Hollow is a guilty pleasure; I watch it just for fun. Hell on Wheels captivated me with excellent characterization and risky plot turns in earlier seasons, but this past season was just disappointing.

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.

KRA:      I have a quote-collecting habit, too! Different quotes speak to me for different reasons at different times, but the two that pop into my head most often are "When something goes wrong in your life, just yell 'Plot twist!' and move on" (author unknown) and "The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of Hell, a hell of Heaven." (John Milton)

WG:      Please tell us about your current project. 

KRA:      The manuscript I'm trying to finish and polish and turn in before the flying monkeys land on my doorstep bears the working title Ghosts in the Shadows. It's a contemporary western romantic suspense in which an Apache ex-con and the woman who helped send him to prison ten years earlier are swept into a whirlwind of treachery, desire, and murder.

WG:      What inspired you to write this particular story?

KRA:      The hero in GITS popped up out of the blue, and I had no idea what to do with him. I knew essentially who he was-convicted of a crime he doesn't regret, devoted to Chiricahua tradition, and one of those characters who are secure in their villainy. I couldn't afford to let him wander around loose for fear he'd get into all sorts of trouble, so I devised trouble with limits and plopped him into the middle of it. Because that was my first manuscript and I was woefully unprepared to yell "Plot twist!" and move on, I got lost among the trees and missed the forest entirely. I've since found the forest.

It's amazing what a little time and distance will do for one's perspective.

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

KRA:      GITS is full of Apache lifeway beliefs and language. All of that required an enormous amount of research, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Traditional Chiricahua culture is extremely different from anything most of us have encountered. To call this project difficult would be an understatement-and even that's an understatement.

WG:      Tell us about your upcoming plans.

KRA:      I don't have anything under contract right now, but never one to be overly invested in details, I'm forging ahead anyway. Next on my agenda is another western historical romance, a follow-on of sorts to Prodigal Gun. The hero in Below the Salt, the Texas Ranger from Prodigal Gun, meets his match in a widowed Tejana who is busily engaged in a political rebellion near El Paso.

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

KRA:      Readers can find me on my woefully out-of-date website,, on Facebook (, on Twitter @DisorderlyWords, on Google+ (, on Pinterest (, and wherever else there is mischief to be made.

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

KRA: Thank you, Winnie! This was a lot of fun. My best wishes to you and your readers for a new year filled with life, love, and laughter.