Award Winning Author Winnie Griggs





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Karen Kay a.k.a. Gen Bailey




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

KK:      Originally from southern Illinois, I've lived all over the US - in California, Florida, Washington DC, Virgina, Vermont. Mostly I claim Vermont and California as my most favorite places in the world (Montana, too). And of course Illilnois. Education - some college. Loved high school - hated college. What can I say? It was during the hippie era and I seemed out of place.

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.

KK:      I'd have to credit L. Ron Hubbard with my desire to write. I've always loved to read and have been an avid reader most of my life - but I think that he inspired me to try my hand at writing.

WG:      Tell us about your journey.

KK:      The road to publication was a tough one for me. I wrote for about 13 years before I sold my first book to AVON. In truth, I can't say I got many rejections because I rarely would send a book out more than once. (Not a good idea when one is trying to get published.) In truth, I found the writing process fun and inspiring, but the publication process a little scary. The only thing I can advice for others is to hang in there and don't do as I did and hide your manuscripts under your bed. : )

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

KK:      Only one book did I complete thoroughly before I completed the book that got published. I had a lot of proposals (3 chapters and a synopsis), but only one other book actually completed.

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

KK:      Sure. I was a Realtor in Vermont. At the time I was going through a divorce and the world didn't look very good to me. I remember very specifically, it was early morning, I was watching the phones in the office and in came the phone call from my agent telling me that she'd sold the book - almost... She wanted to know if I might like to come to the RWA conference happening in St. Louis - I wasn't a member of RWA at this time. I told her I wasn't planning to go but if my new editor were to be there, I would come with wings on. That was the point where the editor bought the book and so I came to St. Louis to meet my new editor, who was Ellen Edwards, by the way.

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

KK:      Gosh, I think I felt like a princess for a couple of years. Took a while for that to wear off. =)

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

KK:      Probably how much work it was and the fact that one didn't just stay at home and write. One needed to get out there and promote and meet people and tour and do all kinds of things - not just simply write.

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

KK:      When I'm under deadline, I have a very tough and set schedule - sometimes writing as much as 15 - 16 hours a day. When the deadline isn't so pressing, I like to write about 5 hours a day and then get on with living or research or cooking or something else. I also work for my husband and so I spend time doing that also.

WG:      Do you set writing goals for yourself?

KK:      Most definitely. Typically I try to write 5 pages a day. I'm happy with that. I'd love to do 10 pages a day and when under deadline, I've been known to write 20-25 pages a day - sometimes more. But I love getting up first thing in the morning and getting right to writing and getting that 5 pages done and then get on with the rest of life & other work.

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

KK:      Sometimes. Do you?� When I'm creatively writing, I do like to have some sort of music that inspires me. It's always different songs for different books and to this day when that song plays again, I'll start writing that book again. =)� But if I'm editing or anything BUT creatively writing, I find music and that sort of thing a distraction - so I reserve it for creativity.

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

KK:      Well, you know nowadays, one writes from outline and so that outline is done and I pretty much try to stick with the outline. If I had my way, I'd just write. But we live in a world where the editor needs to know what you're doing, as it's her book too, to a great extent.

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

KK:      Gosh, good question. Usually I start with inspiration - it's usually a scene - and it can be anywhere in the book. I've written books just to get to that original scene that started the whole book (but the scene doesn't happen until later in the book). So I guess I'd say it's the scenes - the emotions that are the things that start the book for me.

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

KK:      Well, I write Native American and so yes, I do. Always, I like the throw in a bit about the culture and their ethic values and their beauty. These are often themes in my books. Also I find the Thunderer often stealing into my plots. I've written 17 books and I think the Thunderer has been in at least 5 maybe 6 of my books. Interesting...

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

KK:      Huh, what a question. I think my strengths are as a storyteller - I love to tell stories - maybe too my love of the subject that I'm writing about...I think one has to be enthusiastic about what you're writing about. One must love it. Hopefully I can count that as a strength.

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?

KK:      Yes. Well, I work at two other jobs. Not for all of my career, but at present I do and so that cuts in considerably into my writing time and my promotion time. Each time this comes up, I have to sit down and actually write a schedule for myself - it's different with each book it seems. But if I get it down on paper, for some reason I'm more apt to stick with it. Especially during deadlines, I have to have a schedule I can see and look at each day. Helps keep me on track.

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

KK:      I read a lot. A lot of romance, a lot of research, a lot of non-fiction and a lot of fiction. I really think one has to read - lots - but one also has to live a lot. I'm a big fan of if you don't know what it does or if it works, go find out. Live a little.

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

KK:      Romance is #1. After that are Westerns, Science Fiction and perhaps mystery after that. I'm not a big fan of fantasy - except for the Harry Potter books. Nor am I a fan of courtroom drama. My favorites truly are romance - Westerns and Science Fiction with romance topping the list by several degrees.

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

KK:      No, not really. I'm so in love with romance that I can't see me writing anything else. I love what I do. If anything, I have considered taking a stab at non-fiction, specifically nutrition - I seem to have so many remedies in my head for so many different things - and they've come mostly from family. So that remains something that I might like to do.

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

KK:      Write and submit. Write and submit. Write and submit. Don't be like me and hide manuscripts. No one is going to come to your door asking if you have an extra manuscript on hand. And the more you do it, the better you get at it.

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

KK:      I still remember a conversation I had with Christine Zika who was an editor at Berkley and at AVON and who currently is with Rhapsody. I learned that there is a balance between narrative, action and dialogue. Believe it or not, I'd never thought of that before. I've just always considered myself a storyteller and didn't really know the basics of writing and storytelling. It was fascinating to learn this.

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?

KK:      I don't read reviews unless they are sent to me and to tell you the truth, I seldom get notes from unhappy readers. Rejections...sigh... Like you said, it's a part of the business.

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

KK:      Oh, yes. Mostly concerning promotion. One writer had me believe that one had to "woo" one's publishers by going to NY every year. I'm not so sure that's true. I tried it and it didn't actually work for me. Quite the opposite, actually.

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

KK:      The most rewarding thing about being a writer is being able to create that story and get it down in a form another can read and hopefully enjoy. That for me is the best thing of all.

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

KK:      Probably the thing I'd do more than anything is cook. I've developed quite a love for cooking. It's quite creative, actually. Fun is family and outings and seeing each other and being with each other. Family. I love my family.

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

KK:      I guess that I used to want to sing opera. Even today, I sing a lot (to myself) and I still love the opera (not heavy opera) but light opera like the old Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy movies. Ah...delightful.

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

KK:      Gosh, I'm so out of it. I don't watch TV and rarely go to movies. The other day I picked up a magazine and had no idea who all those stars were. My favorites are the old movies like Bringing Up Baby, the old Abbot and Costello movies, Cary Grant. Must admit, however that I have all the seasons of Third Rock from the Sun. They make me laugh.

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.

KK:      This is probably one of my most favorite quotes. I used to live in Washington DC and friends of mine and I used to go to the Mall and hang around the museums and such. At the Jefferson Memorial is a quote that I have always remembered, although I'm not sure I'll be quoting it here exactly, but it goes something like this: "I have sworn on the altar of God eternal hostility against any agency that would enslave the mind of man." It's probably not exact, but oh, how I loved it. The Jefferson Memorial is round by the way, not square, which I found very appealing

WG:      Please tell us about your current project.

KK:      At the moment, I'm working on three different works, two of them historical and one of them contemporary - just to try my hand at a comtemporary. =) When they'll be available, I'm not certain at this time.

WG:      What inspired you to write this particular story?

KK:      One of the stories, the contemporary was inspired by the Lakotah Indians in their bid for freedom very recently. They declared themselves independent from the United States. I found this fascinating and a great backdrop to a story. Another story is a not too distant from present time historical - and it features in it a foreclosure. Because of the world situation at present, I thought it might be uplifting to have a storyline like this that turns the tables on the bankers...just for a change.

WG:      Tell us about your upcoming plans.

KK:      At present I am writing another historical, but I'm back in the West again (my last two books have been centered on the East Coast). And I might try my hand at a contemporary...we'll see.

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

KK:      Ah, yes. Readers can always write to me at PO Box 29134, LA, CA 90029-0134 or visit my website at or -- my email is right there. You can always write to me. :)

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