Debut Author ~ Michelle Griep ~Interviewed

Minnesota author, Michelle Griep, has been writing since she first discovered Crayolas and blank wall space. She has homeschooled four children over the past twenty years, and teaches both Civics and Creative Writing for area co-ops. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s debut historical romance, GALLIMORE, is scheduled for release December 15, 2008.

Read a review of Gallimore.

What is your current project? Tell us about it.

I’m taking a vacation from time-travel and visiting the land of cozy mysteries…and this time I’m taking along someone to help carry the luggage. A writer buddy of mine—you may have heard of her, Kelly Klepfer—and I are co-conspirators of Out of the Frying Pan. Shameless but brief blurb: Murder in Paradise whips life into a froth. Zula and Fern Hopkins, sisters-in-law, grudging roommates, and sometimes friends reside in Sunset Paradise retirement community. Their escapades land them in hot water when they attempt to sniff out a murderer. The added ingredient of a handsome, young detective who’d make a fine main-dish for their niece spices up the action even more.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head?

I didn’t actually get a call. It was an e-mail. I’d been a closet-writer since 2000. The first manuscript I wrote is so incredibly horrible, I use it as an example of what-not-to-do in a Creative Writing class I teach. I finished my second manuscript, Gallimore, in 2005. I shopped it around a bit, then edited and re-edited until there was no more red ink in my pen. I sold it to Black Lyon, Spring ’08. I’m pretty sure the stunned disbelief that charged through me fried a few thousand brain cells, but with a little counseling, I’ll be fine.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.

One man’s self-doubt is another man’s catalyst. Doubt about my writing skills most often pushes me to refine my craft. However, for the times it shoves me over the cliff into a I’m-the-worst-stinkin’-writer-on-the-face-of-the-planet depression, then I usually sob on a writer friend’s shoulder. Another writer can commiserate like none other. And if that doesn’t work, I drown my sorrows in a triple-shot mocha breve followed by a Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey chaser.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I’ve recently had an incredible epiphany—agents and editors are…drum roll please… human. All the palpitations, sweaty palms, and acid reflux I endured when even thinking of talking to an agent or editor was a complete waste of time and Pepto Bismol. Do yourself a favor and take them off the pedestal. They don’t belong there.

What’s the best or worst advice (or both) you’ve heard on writing/publication?

BEST: Get yourself a copy of “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Browne & King

WORST: When you get a rejection, slap on some red lipstick and kiss it good-bye, which is a bad idea unless you use lipliner first…makes the edges much more defined.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

I frequently mark ideas in my Bible during personal devotions. Romance, intrigue, reconciliation…there’s an endless variety of great storylines found in God’s word that can be transferred to any setting or timeframe.

Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.

Setting: Small church sanctuary, seated in a back row on a folding chair with my family, conversations are beginning to hush as we await the imminent opening scene of an Easter play.

Action: Late arrivals scoot in and seat themselves a few rows ahead and across the aisle, one of which is an old friend I haven’t seen in years—and he’s a paramedic. Just what I need!

Dialog: “Psst. Hey, Earl!”

He looks over his shoulder, as does the little old lady behind him, and smiles.

“If someone were stabbed in the back and slumped over forward, how long would blood ooze out after his heart stopped beating?”

Old lady’s mouth drops.

“It depends on if an artery’s been hit or not.”

Old lady’s eyes bug out.

“Could you give me both scenarios?”

Before the old lady’s dentures fall to the floor, the play started and we continued our conversation later in the foyer.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share? Or have you ever been at the point where considered quitting writing altogether?

Without going into the gory details, yes, in my short writing career, I’ve already taken off a year…not necessarily by my own choice. Family’s have a way of throwing curve balls that can land you in the dunk tank.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

Pride goes before a fall. I don’t think I want to go there.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

One day I’d love to be able to have the time to write more than one night a week. Currently, that’s my allotment. I’m happy to have it, but I wouldn’t mind more.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

FAVORITE: Working out my own theological questions and dilemmas in the lives of my characters.

LEAST FAVORITE: Writing a synopsis—I’d rather cough up a hairball.

What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?

MRU’s. Way too technical for my fluffy brain.

Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you’d like to share?

I start out each writing session by dedicating the time to God to redeem. I keep a journal with each manuscript I’m working on and center my thoughts/heart on Him first.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

Shudder, shudder. This is one area I want to get better at. I start out with a thought of a beginning and an end, but I usually have no idea how I’ll go about getting to the end.

What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?

I struggle with logic. I am as analytical as a rock badger. I count on several trusted friends to critique my rough draft and let me know when something isn’t plausible. How’d you like that word—plausible—think I’ll use that sometime.

Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?

Write for the enjoyment of playing with one of God’s great blessings to us—words. If you’re writing from your heart, and it’s a heart centered on God (not publication), you will glorify your creator. That’s what writing is all about.