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Interview With Winnie Griggs

Hello, Winnie. Your current release, The Heart’s Song, is a departure from your normal historicals. I read the story-behind-the-story about how your editor asked if you could write a contemporary and you whipped out your Joyful Noise manuscript and offered it. Yet, you’re known for your historicals. As writers, we’re told to create a platform using one genre. When had you planned on presenting your contemporary?
It’s actually a story that came to me a number of years ago, but at the time I was comfortable writing historicals and wasn’t ready to really push this one. I did write the proposal, just to see if I could capture the ‘contemporary’ voice and was pleased with the way it turned out. I even sent it out a few places. But once I received a contract with the Love Inspired Historical line, I relegated it to my ‘someday’ pile. I was very happy to pull it out and get to work finishing it, however, when my editor spoke to me about doing a contemporary.

Have you always written inspirationals, or did you find a need to submit to the ABA market first?
Though I have always written from a Christian world view, the idea of telling a story that had an actual faith thread woven through it seemed very daunting to me—something I just wasn’t certain I could do justice to. So my first five books were submitted to and published in the ABA market. It was only when God very firmly closed that door to me that I got the message that perhaps there was a different path He had in mind for me.

Is there a single person or event who played a significant part in your publication journey?
The most significant step I took was joining a local writers group. In my case it was the NOLA STARs chapter of Romance Writers of America. There were so many folks in that group who served as mentors and encouragers to me and I will always be grateful to them. I could never have made this journey without them.

The Heart’s Song centers around a widower who is asked to lead the local handbell choir. Where did you get the idea to use this scenario?
Though I have no musical abilities myself, I’ve always loved music—all forms. A number of years back I attended a handbell choir performance and immediately fell in love with the sound and with the beauty of the performance itself. I knew right then that someday I would put it in a book.

I read that you keep an idea file on your computer. Do you corral ideas with certain themes or add anything that strikes your fancy?
Oh, it’s a very eclectic hodge-podge. I add in anything that snags my imagination—news stories, conversation snippets, dreams, titles, character sketches, set-up ideas, etc.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Prioritizing. I tend to operate on a ‘squeaky wheel’ basis rather than having the discipline to stand back and decide what is the most important thing to work on and focus on that.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
For a writer, everything that goes into making us who we are finds its way into our stories in one form or another. This is especially true when it comes to core beliefs and values.

What is your greatest writing achievement?
I’m not certain you’d call this a writing achievement, but it happened as a direct result of my getting published. Shortly after my first book came out, my sister contacted the alumni director from the high school we’d graduated from to let them know. The director turned around and invited me to deliver the commencement address to that year’s graduating class. It was a tremendous honor, one I’ll never forget.

What makes your style of storytelling unique?
Every author has his or her own unique voice. Aside from that, however, I think I do a good job of painting small town life in such a way that, be it the nineteenth century or the twenty-first, readers feel comfortable and comforted visiting for a while.

Fill in the blanks in this sentence: If I were a handbell, I’d want to be the bass note because it can get deep inside you in such a way that you can feel the vibrations all the way down to the core of your being.

Any parting words?
First, my sincere thanks to ACFW for featuring my book.

And lastly, I'd like to leave you with a quote that hangs on the bulletin board near my computer:

“Words are the poetry of the soul. They are as unique as your fingerprints. You owe it to yourself to leave the finest imprint.” ~ Shirley Carolan (author and communications professional)

Thanks for sharing with us, Winnie.

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