Award Winning Author Winnie Griggs





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Ruth Logan Herne


June 2015

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

RLH:      Oh my stars, well now the secret's out! I'm going to answer this question and you'll all find out I'm a stinkin' fraud and you'll stop buyin' my books and start wonderin' how it is I think I know so much… but… sigh… here we go!

I live in upstate New York between Rochester and Buffalo, where the words "lake effect" mean HEAP BIG SNOW. We live on a small farm that we rented out to other farmers for the past fifteen years, but Dave's looking retirement in the eye (which will be a whole other blog, believe you me!) and he's starting up his little farm again, so that's an excitement! We have six kids of our own, brilliant, of course, and a slew of grandbabies who love their Grammy to pieces (I bribe them with cookies and presents, so of course they love me!) and I have two dogs, three farm cats, occasional kittens and 50 laying hens. And one noisy rooster. I've held almost every hairnet and nametag job you can imagine, I didn't go to college (EEK!!!! I'm admitting it in print, oh my landsakes, I can't believe I'm doing that!) but I made sure every one of my children did!

My writing is my hobby. I garden because I love a pretty garden, I love to fix things in the house and outside the house, I love to create but right now my writing is my hobby. Folks call it a job, but honestly I'd write for nothing (and did for many years!) so the reality of getting paid (BONUS!!!!) is so stinkin' wonderful that it just makes me smile! (It makes Dave smile, too, he's such a BOY.)

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.

RLH:     This was my life-long dream. This was my destiny, and I knew it when I was a child. Sounds weird, right? But I knew it, I could feel it inside me, and when my teachers encouraged me, I knew they were right… but then six children later, I felt like they needed me more right then. More than any income I might earn even if I was a quick success! (Ha, that's another blog, too, the idea of being a quick success in publishing!) So the catalyst was the gift of talent via my mother… and the Holy Spirit, reminding me. As odd as that all sounds, that's how it went down. And to Sr. Mariel and Mrs. Bagley in high school, I send my warmest gratitude for seeing the talent inside the awkward girl and encouraging it!

WG:      Tell us about your journey.

RLH:      Hahahahah! Well, about seven years, give or take, with so many mistakes that it's ridiculous now to even think of it so I won't! :) I did a lot of self-teaching, I studied the best-selling romance writers through the library (we had no money) and I practiced daily before work. I entered contests and got shellacked… and then entered more and did better! And then entered more and finaled and won and met my good buddies "The Seekers" and we formed a community to help us… and others… to publication! And then came the call in 2009. UNBELIEVABLE!!!!

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

RLH:     Gosh, about fifteen I think. And yes, I've sold (mentally counting)… versions of nine of them. Wait, ten, I have a tenth one of the original books coming out in September from Franciscan Media. And it's such a beautiful story!!!

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

RLH:      It was crazy and surreal. I was out of town, babysitting a grandchild and had no Internet…. And my daughter called me and said someone from Harlequin left a message only which Harlequin???? Two different offices had my work on their desks, so I checked the area code…. NEW YORK!!! LOVE INSPIRED!!!! :) And so it began! Happy dancing in upstate!!!!

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

RLH:     Oh, gosh. In so many ways. I love touching hearts and souls. I love giving women in particular messages of Christ's love and healing and encouragement! These days it's especially important for us to see that God loves us and wants us happy but with that comes big responsibility and we gals need to step to the plate! And being paid for something I love to do is such a wonder, Winnie! I pinch myself all the time!

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

RLH:      Well, I still scrub bathrooms. :) And sweep the porch, and change a lot of diapers, and teach small children manners and alphabet and kindness and Bible stories! So not much, really, because other than the books, not too much has changed.

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

RLH:      I write every morning at 4:00 AM. I love my writing time, it's my gift to myself!

WG:      Do you set writing goals for yourself?

RLH:      Always. I plan a year ahead and I leave in extra time in case I want to do a novella for traditional publishers or for the indie market. I love writing novellas, and I've branched into historicals… WINNIE!!! WHAT FUN THEY ARE!

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

RLH:     Sleeping dogs. :)

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

RLH:     Some of both. I have to have a plot idea, an end goal. And to sell on proposal, I need to have a few chapters written, and that's actually helpful. I throw away the FIRST chapters I write, and then re-write. That's usually so much better!

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

RLH:      Combo. When an idea comes, I wonder what if… what if it's something in her past? What did she see when she looked up to that window? Why is he waiting there? What's the significance of his look? Why doesn't she move forward?

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

RLH:      Yes, themes of women who've been hurt by circumstances of their own or another's choosing. I want my stories to minister to women. I've always believed that's what God intended for my writing and that he threw in the humor as pure BONUS!!!

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

RLH:     Oh, gee whiz, none! I can't see my own, but I can see it in others. Well, wait, the work ethic is a big one, I talk to folks about that all the time. Writing every day, treating it like a profession. That's a biggie.

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?

RLH:     I work full-time and I have since I started, so I have to budget time around that. Most writers start out as full-time workers, so it's important to plan your time, drink coffee, and then drink more coffee. :) I just batted a big moth away from my face and had to check to make sure it didn't land in my coffee. It didn't. We can proceed.

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

RLH:     Hahahahahah! I begin at the beginning and write. I know some folks can skip around but I can't do that without grinding my teeth and creating more wrinkles. We must avoid the wrinkles!!!

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

RLH:     No. I read a lot and I write different things, but right now I'm focused on the inspirational romance market. It's my favorite!

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

RLH:    Inspirational fantasy. C.S. Lewis style. I love that kind of thing, the kind of story that makes kids pick up a book and adults think harder.

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

RLH:    Churchill's "Never Give Up" speech. Where he says "Never Give Up" and sits down. That's it in a nutshell.

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

RLH:     The moment I discovered chocolate was not illegal!

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?

RLH:      Gosh, I was in sales…. I was a waitress. I worked for Greek restaurant owners for ELEVEN YEARS. Dealing with the public for all of my life in a host of hairnet and nametag jobs taught me just do your best no matter what job you're doing…. No matter how menial. And smile. And if you can do that, you can handle anything writing sends your way! For me none of those are a big deal, they just mean: Try Harder. So I do.

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

RLH:    I actually wish I'd listened sooner. Eyes down, mouth closed, and write. I think conventional wisdom is wisdom because it's generally true. And then, once established, bend the rules in your favor. BUT… that doesn't mean we shouldn't try all the new opportunities publishing is offering, because it's a wonderful thing we've got going now! Never before have authors had such wonderful, marvelous choices! Love it!!!

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

RLH:     I love the ability to create. It's a joy. The struggle…. Time. The lack of time is my most difficult thing right now, but I'm semi-retiring in a few months and will get to breathe a little! I've loved my full time job as a daycare provider, but now I'll get to do full-time writing and part-time babysitting. Flip-flop!!!

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

RLH:      I, um…. Write. I love it. It's my gift to myself. I do like to garden in summer, too, because plants never talk back. In my world, surrounded by family, big, big family, plants that don't talk back are a marvel!

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

RLH:     A mom and a writer! WIN!!!!

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

RLH:     Oh, gosh, I put it all out there, so they know most everything. I'm bossy, so people are surprised that I'm short, as if only tall, big people are bossy. That tells me they don't know enough short Italian women, LOL! :) I'm Irish, but the bossy woman description fits!

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

RLH:      NCIS and Castle. Why??? Did you just ask me WHY????? Well, Gibbs, of course! And I love relationship shows without all the sex and nonsense they put in so many to make them sleazy. Castle is wonderful because the growth relationship between Castle and Beckett has been spot on from the beginning. Love it!

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.

RLH:     Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken"… I'll just use the last stanza, but I love this whole poem. And I love Frost. I'm touched by that moment of decision, of wondering which way to go and how often we face that crossroads… and then wonder at our choice!

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

WG:      Please tell us about your current project. 

RLH:      Right now I'm editing the first of three cowboy stories for Waterbrook Press, and I love these stories… I wanted to write a trilogy about three motherless boys, all grown up, and how being motherless affected them. Think Bonanza meets My Three Sons meets Dynasty!

WG:      What inspired you to write this particular story?

RLH:     I'm always looking at how our childhood affects the person we grow up to be. Sometimes subtle… sometimes not so subtle!

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

RLH:     I'm always researching, and I love it! Yes, I learned so much about the cattle industry. I thought I knew a lot because I've used it before, but the landscape for raising cattle and cross breeding is changing! So that was fun to see!

WG:      Tell us about your upcoming plans.

RLH:      : I am multi-contracted right now, I have to bless my agent Natasha Kern like EVERY DAY!!!! I've got "Refuge of the Heart" coming out from Franciscan Media in September, I've got a 4 ½ Star romance that just released from Love Inspired "Healing the Lawman's Heart", a new set of novellas with friends coming out in early July and I'm working on the cowboy books and my next LI and my next Franciscan novel now, so everything is spinning up here! I couldn't be happier, Winnie!

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

RLH:      Easy-peasy! or leave a comment on my website Winnie, thank you so much for having me! I loved this!!!! And I brought fresh cookies for everyone, because it's always good to have cookies!

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