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Interview with Ginny Yttrup

Ginny prays that her words would reflect the character of Jesus Christ. She writes full-time from her home in Northern California. Her first novel, Words, was a Christy award winner. Her latest release, Invisible, is sure to be another reader favorite.

Ginny, thanks so much for sharing with us. As a writer, speaker, and life coach, I'm sure you meet many interesting women. Your fiction is issue-driven and addresses many of the issues women deal with. Can you share with readers how the ideas for your novels evolve? Characters first then theme? Or the other way around?
Sometimes I begin with a theme, other times with a character. However, with Invisible, I began with a topic: women and self-image. Then came the characters. Oddly, at least for me, the spiritual theme was late in coming to me for this book—possibly because I was so immersed in the issue myself, having struggled with weight and my self-image for as long as I can remember.

Your latest novel touches on the issue of weight control. A problem many women deal with. Please share with us what prompted you to write this story and how you researched/prepared to tell the story of Ellyn, Sabina, Twila.
I believe weight issues—either too much or too little—plague women in our culture. We’re bombarded with “model-perfect” images and it’s impossible for many of us to attain that standard. Because of that I wanted to write a story with a protagonist who struggled with her weight and all the self-image issues that come with that struggle, including the desire to hide or be invisible.

The other characters developed as I wrote. In the end—each character was hiding for the same reason—but because of very different circumstances in their lives.

Much of the research just came from my own life experiences—except for the character, Twila, who battles anorexia nervosa. I didn’t have experience with that disorder and wanted to honor those who struggle with it by presenting a realistic picture of someone in the midst of that battle. Not knowing anyone personally, I put a plea out on the ACFW loop and asked if there was anyone willing to share their experience with me. Two incredible writers, both of whom wished to remain anonymous, responded. My conversations with them helped me shape the character and her struggle and healing.

Imagine Invisible as a movie and you as the casting director, whom would you choose to play the lead characters in your book?
Great question and one my best friend and I actually mulled over at one point just for fun. Ellyn was difficult to “cast” – we both thought of Barbara Streisand and Bette Midler in their younger years. Both actresses struggled with their own weight issues and both were/are beautiful and funny women. I see Viola Davis for Sabina—she plays strong roles and there’s an inner strength to Sabina that she’s lost along the way. And Avril Lavigne for Twila—definitely.

The characters in Invisible all have unique issues that deal with the same theme. What message do you hope readers gain from this story?
My hope is two-fold: first that readers will come away from Invisible recognizing themselves as ones created in the image of God. Second, I hope women will realize we’re all more similar than different. Our circumstances differ but our hearts are so similar.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I’m not sure. I write a lot from my own experiences and pain—maybe because that’s a way I’ve found to assign purpose to the pain. Also, I write in first person, present tense. I’m not the only author who does that, certainly, but it isn’t used as often as third person. I like first person, present tense as a reader because I feel as though I become the character—like I’m inside their head and heart—thinking and feeling what they are. So that’s what I write.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Perseverance! My journey to publication was 17 years in the making, but because I believed God gifted me to write and called me to use that gift, I didn’t give up. However, I did step back from the pursuit of publication for a time and dedicated myself to writing as an act of worship. Not everyone who is gifted to write is called to publish. After a time, I felt like God led me back to seeking publication for my work.

What is your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Self-discipline. That’s humbling to admit but it’s the truth. I fight getting myself in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard. In terms of other responsibilities, I work from home and sometimes also have trouble prioritizing writing, other work, chores, relationships, etc.

What advice can you give other writers on ways to keep their writing fresh?
Read extensively and watch movies. Observe what other writers are doing—either for novels or screenplays. Most importantly, walk away from writing for a time—a few hours, days, or months—in order to simply live life as a child of God. If we’re not fully engaged in life, as writers, our writing will suffer—the depth of love and struggle and victory through Christ won’t appear authentic on the page if they aren’t real in our own lives. At least in my opinion… 

What future projects do we have to look forward to?
My fourth book is complete but because I was one of the B&H Publishing Group authors who were impacted by B&H’s decision to make significant changes in their fiction line, I don’t have a publishing home for my next book yet. I’m waiting on God and trusting Him for the next step of my publishing career.

In the meantime, I am still speaking at women’s retreats, and events and beginning research on another novel.

Ginny, thanks for sharing with readers!

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