Award Winning Author Winnie Griggs





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October 2007

Robin Caroll

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

RC:  Thanks for having me, Winnie! I was born and raised in Louisiana—grew up in north Louisiana, then moved to the southern part of the state and lived there with my husband for several years. My husband and I have been married for 18 years and we have 3 beautiful daughters—17, 7, and 5. We’ve been transplanted to Arkansas. We currently share our home with 5 cats and 3 fish. My hobbies are scrapbooking, although I haven’t had time to do that in quite awhile, and gabbing with my friends. And food! I LOVE food!

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?  

RC:   Joining ACFW was the best decision I ever made for my writing career. I learned the basics, met my mentor, and really got motivated to “just do it.” LOL.  I think meeting Colleen Coble helped me more than I can ever say. She was very quick to offer me advice, and isn’t afraid to just tell me what was wrong with my writing. She prepared me for the first contest scores, etc.

WG: Tell us about your journey.

RC:    I took my first writing fiction course from Writers’ Digest back in 1992. I began writing my first novel at that time. Then, we moved to south Louisiana, began letting life interfere with my dream. We had children, and I took time to raise them during the infancy stage. We moved to Arkansas and I began to write again. Tossed out that first novel which was AWFUL. Joined ACFW four years ago and began to get serious. Studied, took every online course I could, built up a collection of reference books. Wrote and rewrote. Entered in countless contests to get the feedback. Met my mentor and continued honing my craft. Began attending writers conferences. Then began submitting, and collecting enough rejection letters to wallpaper my office! LOL But it’s part of the learning. Eventually the rejection letters turned from “dear author” to more personal, with suggestions and good feedback. That’s when I began seeking an agent. It’s hard work, writing toward publication, and I’d like to say I was strong and always knew it would happen if I just kept learning and growing—but that’d be a lie. There were countless times I tossed manuscripts in the trash, only to have my husband or oldest daughter dig it out at night so it sat on my desk awaiting me in the morning! LOL

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

RC:   My horrible first novel is UNDER the file cabinet. I kid you not! LOL I have a couple of others that I wrote before the one I sold first, some are learning curves, some just aren’t ready to be published yet. It’s just not their time. My agent is currently shopping around my single title.

WG: What changed most about your life as a direct result of selling that first book?

RC:   DEADLINES! Seriously! When it comes down to the wire, my housework isn’t done, hubby grills supper, and I keep the oddest hours. I survive on coffee and junk food. And the marketing….that’s fun, but kind of scary, too. I had no idea, but I’m enjoying the learning as I go.

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

RC:   Typical day starts at 6:30am—get the kids up, fed, lunches packed, dressed, and off to school. Everyone leaves by 8am, so the house is quiet. I do a little quiet time, catch up phone calls with my friends, then settle down to write. As I’m serving as President of ACFW this year and next, there are constant things I need to handle in that capacity. But pretty much, I grab a sandwich at the computer. My “writing day” is over at 2pm when I go to pick up the kids. I do “mom” until the little ones go down at 8:30. I try to spend the evenings with my husband, watching tv or talking, but if I’m on deadline….well, I might start writing again and not fall into bed until 1 or 2am.

WG: Do you set writing goals for yourself?

Bayou JusticeRC:   Not really. I write fast—which means I keep my cps hopping, especially if I’m on deadline. My first book that sold, Bayou Justice (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense) I had brainstormed out, plotted, etc., so when I sat down to write it, I wrote it in 2 weeks. I know what I need to get done and when I need to have it done by, and that’s my only “goal.” LOL

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

RC:   I sometimes listen to music, especially if I need to write a certain scene. I’ll listen to Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, or CeCe Winans for inspiration. If I’m struggling with a really emotional scene, for me, I’ll watch a movie to invoke that emotion. I like A Walk To Remember.

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

RC:  I normally brainstorm my idea with friends. I have the general idea and then we go in-depth. I do a full 10 page character synopsis, which is basically what I use for my story synopsis. But I get surprises along the way. I’ll be writing along and something unexpected, definitely not planned, will crop up. I try to go with it if I can. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it’s a character trying to take center stage. I have to talk to them, promise them their own story, and they will normally let me rewrite. LOL

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

RC:  Mine is often a combo of the two. I usually begin with my character—her emotional issues, internal & external goals, and her inner conflict. Then I do the same for the hero. After that, I figure out how to use all that against them and plan the plot.

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

RC:  Forgiveness and not judging. I think because I’ve sat on both sides of that issue and those are issues God continues to deal with me personally on.

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

RC:  Wow, that’s a hard one. I’m a POV police, so I know my POV is tight and I don’t head-hop. I guess maybe that’d be the one strength I’d go with. LOL I don’t know. Read my book and you tell me! LOLOLOLOL

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?

RC:   For the last 4 years, my husband and I have faced legal issues. They’re still unresolved. But I write through them. I write when I’m sick. It doesn’t matter. I’ve come to the conclusion that life on earth is supposed to be rough and stinks at times because this is not our home. How much more will we appreciate Paradise after having walked on earth and dealt with all the difficulties life throws at us?

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

RC:   For me, the biggest thing is to find your voice, your niche, and work to enhance it. Make it yours. That’s the biggest “hook” there is, imho.

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

RC:   Suspense/Thriller as a reader.  As a writer? I like romantic suspense and straight suspense. I’ll read just about any genre—EXCEPT historicals! UGH. I need to explain that, probably. My mother, bless her heart, is a genealogist and from the time I was young, I’ve had history as a part of my life. I just don’t enjoy reading historicals, although I know some very talented writers who write in the genre. Nope, still won’t read them! LOL

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

RC:   One of the books of my heart is a legal thriller. I’d like to try that one day. Already have the title and the basic outline. I’m not ready yet. I haven’t learned enough to do it justice. But one day . . .

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

RC:   Someone once told me that becoming an author is 25% talent, 75% perseverance. I think I’ll go with that. You can’t let a bad score in a contest, a bad appointment, or even a rejection letter get you down for long. We should all continue to study and learn and grow as writers, no matter how many books you’ve written. It’s all a work in progress!

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

RC:   SEVERAL! LOL My favorite is, and I still hear it, is “it’s all about the story.” While that’s true to some degree, it’s not written in stone. Case in point….had the fiction coordinator of a publisher be brought one of my single titles prior to my getting my first contract. The acquiring editor brought it to her…she loved it. Took it to editorial committee. They loved it. She got me all excited. It got shot down by their sales/marketing team. I was basically told that it being a series, they couldn’t take a risk on an unproven author. Sigh. It’s the nature of the beast. So I tell everyone who asks…go with your gut. If you’re blessed to find a mentor, ask their opinion. And keep in mind the industry changes constantly. What’s true today might not be true tomorrow.

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

RC:   The most rewarding thing is sitting back and realizing how long I’d dreamt this. To have your heart’s desire granted you….it’s nothing short of amazing. And to see how many people believed in me BEFORE the book was contracted—my family, my mentor, my cps, my agent, and my editor, along with the editorial team at my publisher’s. So many people go into getting a book into print that I don’t think any author can take full credit. 

I struggle most with being a bit in awe….like I don’t believe it’s really happening. I praise God daily for this, but I struggle with the “what ifs”….what if my editor hates what I turn in….what if it doesn’t sell….what if it was a fluke and I never get another contract….what if all the reviewers hate it….

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

RC:   I love to scrapbook and my husband and I are both huge movie buffs. We love NetFlix! LOL

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

RC:   Grey’s Anatomy and Boston Legal. The characterization in both these shows amazes me. I love them. Even got my husband addicted. And we like Friday Night Lights.

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.

RC:   My favorite quote is by Anais Anais…. “no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”

WG: Please tell us about your current project.

RC:   I just finished the galleys on book 2 in the bayou series and am working on book 4. It’s due next month. Then, I’ll turn in the proposal on book 5. After that, I have another series in mind to turn in to my editor. I’m also working on my single title that placed second in the Genesis last year. And, doing the presidential stuff for ACFW. While time consuming, it’s also very gratifying to give back to the organization that’s given me so much.

WG: Tell us about plans for future books.

RC:   Well….book 2 in the series, Bayou Corruption, will be released in February 2008. Book 3, Bayou Judgment, will be released in May of 2008. And book 4, Bayou Paradox, will be released September 2008. We’ll see about the 5th book after my editor reads the proposal! :D

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

RC:   I can be reached on the web from Drop by and sign my guestbook and look for the current contest. My snail mail contact info is: PO Box 242091, Little Rock, AR 72223.

Thanks so much for having me, Winnie. I’ve enjoyed visiting with you. Now, where’s the Starbucks?! LOL