Bonnie Grove started writing when her parents bought a typewriter, and she hasn’t stopped since. Trained in Christian Counseling (Emmanuel Bible College, Kitchener, ON), and secular psychology (University of Alberta), she developed and wrote social programs for families at risk while landing articles and stories in anthologies. She is the author of Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You; Her first novel is Talking to the Dead (David C. Cook). She and her pastor husband, Steve, have two children; they live in Saskatchewan.
Hello, Bonnie. Welcome to Novel Journey. Can you tell us a little about your latest release?
Here is the blurb from Talking to the Dead:
Twenty-something Kate Davis can’t seem to get this grieving widow thing right. She’s supposed to put on a brave face and get on with her life, right? Instead she’s camped out on her living room floor, unwashed, unkempt, and unable to sleep—because her husband Kevin keeps talking to her.
Is she losing her mind?
Kate’s attempts to find the source of the voice she hears are both humorous and humiliating, as she turns first to an “eclectically spiritual” counselor, then a shrink with a bad toupee, an exorcist, and finally group therapy. There she meets Jack, the warmhearted, unconventional pastor of a ramshackle church, and at last the voice subsides. But when she stumbles upon a secret Kevin was keeping, Kate’s fragile hold on the present threatens to implode under the weight of the past…and Kevin begins to shout.
Will the voice ever stop? Kate must confront her grief to find the grace to go on, in this tender, quirky first novel about embracing life.
How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific ‘what if’ moment?
The novel came in bits and pieces – I’d love to say I was so smart and savvy I had it all planned out and knew what I was doing, but I cannot tell a lie. The “what if” for me was, when I was working with at risk families and it began to dawn on me that many of the things these families were doing (the behaviors we saw) were often an attempt to do something else – in other words, the behavior didn’t match up with intentions. It caused me to truly see why Jesus commanded us not to judge others. We simply don’t know what’s going on under the surface. When I started Talking to the Dead, I began in first person point of view in order to tell the story in such a way that the reader would never need to judge the behavior –rather would have the opportunity to understand Kate’s behavior and care about her.
Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed him/her:
Kate Davis is having the ultimate bad day. But she has moments of strength, and flashes of humor, so I wrote her that way. She’s living out some intensely strange circumstances, so sometimes the circumstances win, and sometimes she wins. My goal for her was to create a character who reflects real women – stronger than she knows, a fighter in her soul, and smart enough to know when it’s time to surrender to the God of love.
That’s not to say she has it all figured out – but like most of us, she has her own, unique way of finding her way in the world. It may not be the “easy way” – but it gets her where she needs to go.
Lastly, she is a heroic figure in my mind. She bears the brunt of tremendous loss and heartache – and maybe even mental illness (or maybe not), and her strength is the kind I’ve seen in so many women, awesome, inspiring.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?
I flat out loved writing this book. It was a journey of discovery for me in every way. There are scenes in the book I read over and over again (like the group therapy scenes, and all the scenes that take place in the bank). They’re fun. They make me laugh, they get my blood pumping, they make me throw the book in the air and say, “Weeeeee!”
Least? There was no least.
What made you start writing?
I love stories. Want my full attention? Tell me a story. I’ll sit there, wrapped up in the world you create until you tell me “The end.” I suppose it’s a natural progression from story lover to storyteller, to writer. But my ‘ah-hah’ moment came all at once in a meeting at work. Someone asked me what I was going to do when my contract finished. Immediately I said, “I’m going to write books.” I was never so surprised! But in my “knower” I knew it was right. I was going to write books. And: Ta da!
What does your writing space look like?
Oh dear. Okay, I started out at a little desk at the bottom of our basement stairs. That’s where I wrote my first two books. It was noisy and drafty. My teeth chattered and my fingers were often blue. My husband renovated a room in our basement for my office (it doubled as a guest room), but there are no windows down there and I would have to take frequent breaks to run upstairs and press myself up against a window in order to soak up some sunshine. I’ve graduated to the upstairs – my desk is in the living room, pressed between the sofa and the front door. Ideal? Perhaps not, but I have a wonderful picture window to gaze out of.
What would you do with your free time if you weren’t writing?
We have two young children (6 and 8), so “free time” is a bit of a misnomer. I’m privileged to be married to a man who fully supports my efforts as a writer and so I’m able to work at it full time. (Oh, he’s cute, too!) Hurray for supportive families! So I figure I’d be doing pretty much what I am doing, raising kiddos, enjoying my family and reading great books.
What’s the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?
Putting my work out there and waiting. Ick to waiting! It’s like you have this gorgeous thing – this book you’ve nurtured and coaxed along until it’s finally ready to leave the nest. Then you have to put it in the hands of busy people who see your book as, well, just another book. How will your baby do?? Will it capture their imaginations? Give them grand moments of pause and reflection? Will it contribute to their joy? Could take weeks, months to find out! I’m terrible at waiting.
Do you put yourself into your books/characters?
I believe that every work of fiction is, ultimately, a work of judgment. In other words, no one writes a story without a moral, without a pronouncement. For example “Love conquers all”, or “Crime never pays”, or “Existence is subjective”, or “God is in control”. One great drawing card to fiction is the ability to superimpose one’s ideals on a made up world. Every writer does it and it is one of the reasons fiction is so personal to us as readers. I love certain authors because they speak from their souls into my own. But I understand part of my “job” as a writer is to communicate from my soul – it’s the only way I can hope to touch others. So in that very real sense , I put myself, my ideals, my personality into the books I write.
What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?
Life is messy; God is love. I haven’t lived through what my character Kate lived through, but I’ve had a messy life of my own, and I lean heavily on God’s grace every day. I hope readers gain a friend when they read Talking to the Dead – someone they care about, think about, someone they can relate to. I hope they gain a sense of God’s peace for their own lives – the experience of God being immediately present in their lives no matter what it going on.
I also hope they have a great deal of fun reading the book!
Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.
I don’t think I’ve written enough novels to be able to answer this question well. I’ve started a new novel and I’m finding the process remarkably different from how I wrote Talking to the Dead. Perhaps, in time, I’ll find a process. Or, perhaps not. Maybe each book will be its own unique journey. Which would suit me fine.
What are a few of your favorite books (not written by you) and why are they favorites?
In January I began blogging with five other authors on a blog called Novel Matters. We all write Upmarket fiction (a wonderful blending of genre writing and literary writing) and as part of the process of getting to know each other, we exchanged books. I’m blessed to have read the works of Patti Hill, Sharon K. Souza, Kathleen Popa, Debbie Fuller Thomas, and Latayne C. Scott (who I recently appeared on this very blog!). These are gifted writers who have taught me so much about writing. I highly recommend all of their books.
Other standout books have been Francine Rivers’ The Mark of the Lion Series (love, love LOVE her books), Susan Messiner’s The Shape of Mercy, Joy Jordon Lake’s Blue Hole Back Home.
I read a great deal of non-fiction as well and have fallen for writers like Brennan Manning, Francis Chan, and Donald Miller (largely for the way he writes).
What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?
The biggest adjustment for me was understanding myself as a small business. It’s fun to be a creative person spinning ideas into books, but I needed to temper that with being a business person as well. Happily, I’m a strength’s based person, so I’ve found ways to apply my strength of creativity to every aspect of the writing life, making the business part (bankers scare me!) more palatable. Because I tend to be a ‘jump in with both feet’ sort of gal, I’ve had to backtrack a bit to ensure the technical end of things has been taken care of. If I’d started out with that understanding, I would have saved myself some time and effort.
How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?
I do lots. My publisher is exceptional with marketing and we make a great team. I’m in touch with both the US and Canadian arms of their marketing departments and am constantly amazed by the creative opportunities they bring up. But, it’s a partnership and I’m responsible for my work too. So I work hard to keep the book in front of readers.
I blog, I twitter, I’m on facebook and a number of other social networking sites. I have a website I think it truly reflective of me (bonniegrove.com). I’m a member of different organizations that help authors get their work into the hands of readers. And, as Talking to the Dead launches, I’m even more in touch with readers through blogs like this.
I know marketing is about selling books, but to be perfectly honest, what I love the most is meeting people and having them share their stories with me. I love the dialogue that comes from a shared reading experience.
Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?
My second novel will also be published by David C. Cook. I have to say, as much as I enjoyed writing Talking to the Dead
, this new project is even more enjoyable! I have a protagonist I love spending time with – she’s funny and smart and she’s in a heap of trouble! I’ve struggled with a title so far, and have been affectionately referring to the project as Gabby Wells: The Musical! It’s just like a musical. Except there’s no singing or dancing. And no music.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Be creative. Loosen the tethers of what you think agents and editors want to see, what publishers want to see, what you think the market is demanding – just let it go and allow your creativity to flow free. Excellence only comes where there is freedom of thought.