Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Christmas Journey Review and Interview with Author Winnie Griggs

Ry Lassiter, a prosperous lawyer from Philadelphia, hurries back to Texas after he receives a desperate telegram from Belle, his childhood friend. But before he can reach her, two thugs accost and shoot him. Josie Wylie, a livery stable owner he’s briefly met and helped, realizes the thugs are following Ry and mean to harm him. She charges after them, and her quick thinking saves his life. When a thug gets the upper hand, Ry rescues Josie before he passes out from his injuries.
Josie brings Ry to her family’s boarding house, where everyone treats him like a hero, much to his dismay. His convalescence is slow, and as Josie nurses him, their mutual attraction grows. But she’s locked into a position as her family’s main breadwinner, and her heart's cry is to see the world as an independent, single woman. As soon as her family members can fend for themselves, dutiful Josie will be out of there.

Since neither of the two places Ry’s lived in--a Texas ranch with his siblings and a posh dwelling with his grandfather in Philadelphia--gives him a sense of belonging, he yearns for a place he can call home. Belle dies before Ry is well enough to travel, and he finds himself a guardian to Viola, Belle’s young daughter. Now he must find a home for Viola too, and he wants Josie to be a part of it. But she’s more determined than ever to fulfill her dream, which doesn’t include marriage or getting tied down to the only place Ry wants to live.

Ry and Josie both possess a strong will and deep sense of honor and duty, and their differences often cause clashes that push them in opposite directions. Yet these conflicts force them to examine themselves and deal with issues that they had either ignored before they met or didn’t realize existed. When seriously seeking the Lord becomes their only recourse, they must choose between His will and what they desire above all else.

I enjoyed The Christmas Journey very much. Loved Ry’s and Josie’s strengths and vulnerabilities, though I wanted her to give up her silly desire for independence and accept the inevitable (What can I say? I’m a sucker for those wonderful, sensitive heroes). As a writer, my editing brain often tries to pop up and spoil the story for me, but Winnie Griggs kept me so engrossed, I forgot about everything but the characters and their efforts to resolve their struggles. I highly recommend this book to all romance lovers.

Publisher: Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical (Harlequin)
Publication date: October 13, 2009


MAP: According to your website bio, you’ve been published since 2000. How much of a challenge was it to adjust from non-published to not only published, but finishing books at specific deadlines while still working a 8-5 job?

WG: LOL - That’s three questions in one. First, the transition from unpublished to published was affirming, heady, and just a touch scary. On the subject of writing to deadline, the first book I had to face that challenge with was actually my third sale (the first two were nearly completed when they sold.) That was the scariest transition I had to make along my writer’s journey to date. I live in constant fear that I’ll get an ugly case of writer’s block, miss a deadline, and be washed up as a writer. As for writing while holding down an 8-5 job, that’s the only way I’ve ever done it, so I have nothing to compare it to. But I plan to retire next spring and am looking forward to seeing how the “other half” does it!

MAP: I predict you’ll love the change. Before you were published, you submitted your manuscripts to numerous contests and either won or placed in many of them. Do you feel they positively contributed to your career?

WG: Absolutely! In the early days, I got lots of feedback that helped me refine my writing. Later when I’d reached the point where I was finaling, I had the opportunity to get my work in front of some super editors and agents. In the process I made some fantastic contacts that are part of my network to this day.

MAP: I’ve read several of your secular and Christian historicals and enjoyed each one. Did you find the transition from the former to the latter easy, difficult, or somewhere in between?

WG: My characters in both my secular and inspirational books have always had a strong Christian worldview, so that part was not difficult. What worried me the most was the fearful responsibility of delivering an overt faith message. The thought that I wasn’t up to the task, that I would somehow flub it, paralyzed me for years, even though a number of critique partners encouraged me to give it a go. Finally, though, other doors began to close, one by one. I took the hint and tried my hand at an inspirational. The result was The Hand-Me-Down Family, which hit the shelves last March.
MAP: Hm. I’ll have to get that one. Would the idea of writing in another genre intrigue you?

WG: I’ve toyed with an idea for a middle grade book for years. Some day I plan to get serious and go for it!

MAP: I wish you well. How much marketing do you do to promote your books?

WG: Probably not as much as I should. I participate in a group blog (www.petticoatsandpistols.com) and I try to keep my personal website up-to-date, including putting fresh content up each month. I also do guest blogs and online interviews occasionally. (Thank you for having me here  ). And I like to present workshops at writers’ conferences a couple of times a year. That’s about all I can find time for right now.

MAP: Your hero and heroine are very honorable and committed to helping others even though it puts their own desires on hold. Did you use a specific tried-and-true method to develop them, or did they just kind of evolve as you wrote the story?

WG: Thank you! As for how I develop my characters, I don’t have any set method per se. They usually grow organically out of whatever story seed I’m currently nurturing as I develop my proposals.

MAP: I like that visual. What do you like best about writing fiction?

WG: The freedom it gives me to explore situations and themes, to build worlds and characters from my imagination, and to share all of that with others who derive enjoyment from it.

MAP: That’s great. Some authors pump out books following a template that is so blatantly obvious, I’ve felt cheated and quit buying their books. How do you keep your novels fresh and unique?

WG: Again, I have no set method. I usually start out with the seed of an idea, one spurred by a “what if” or scene snippet, or character type that intrigues me personally. I’m easily bored, so it must first be of interest to me before I can spend the time it takes to develop it into a full blown story.

MAP: Got some advice to the newbie who’s trying to develop a strong writing discipline?

WG: Make yourself WRITE EVERY DAY. Skipping days can lead to further procrastination and eventually inertia, until it becomes easier not to write at all. No matter what else is going on, you can always fit in a paragraph or two, even if you just jot them down on a notepad. Not only will that keep your momentum going, but it’ll also keep the story fresh in your mind.

MAP: Good advice, Winnie. It’s too easy to let other priorities take precedence when the going gets rough. Thanks for sharing your insights.

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