Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Grace Greene, whose new release, Kincaid's Hope, was just released. In 2009, it was a 2nd place Golden Pen award winner. I asked Grace to tell us a bit about how she came to write the book.
"I was intrigued by the idea of family dysfunction and how someone might respond by going too far in the other direction - for instance, building a life free from emotionalism and chaos," she said. "An artificial life is bound to fail. What happens when it does? The primary theme is - You can't move forward until you forgive the past."
When Grace was young, she made up stories for her younger brother and sister, as well as stories she and her friends would act out in her backyard. She would watch TV and think, "What if this had happened instead of that?" She is still inspired by stories and characters in her head. Every newspaper headline or snippet of news online makes her wonder and imagine what lies behind the story?
"The story that gets reported is only the tip of the iceberg," she explained, "only a brief glimpse into a bigger, gnarlier story and my curiosity stirs."
She's written on and off her entire life, even though the earlier books were mostly crayon drawings. Until recent years, however, she didn't try very hard to find publication—just writing mostly for her own enjoyment. The few times she did submit, she was too easily discouraged.
"The writing community and educational resources online have made a tremendous difference," she said. "Exchanging information and learning from the experience of others has given me great encouragement."
I asked her if she ever suffered from writer's block and, if so, how she handled it.
"From time to time, forward progress seems blocked. Sometimes it’s an issue in the plot or character action that requires me to back up and try again – for instance, the story may be taking off in a direction that isn’t working or I may be trying to force a plot point that should be changed or discarded. When that happens, I back up past the point where it went wrong. When the writing flows again, I know I've backed up far enough. Sometimes, the best way to break writer’s block is to remove yourself, the writer, from the equation. Writer's block is often us, our brains, trying to protect us from our fears and failures by preventing us from stepping into risky territory."
Grace enjoys many of Karen White's books, like The House on Tradd Street and The Girl from Legare Street, because she loves the flavor of "Southern." When it comes to her favorite all-time author, however, she said it was hard to pare it down. For historical fiction, she decided on Roberta Gellis (The Roselynde Chronicles). For mainstream fiction, it was Larry McMurty (Lonesome Dove).
"For general fun and comfort reading – all of the gothic romance and romantic suspense authors from the 1960s – 1980s," she said. "My total favorite is Victoria Holt’s The Devil on Horseback. Lastly, I’m a huge Dean Koontz and Stephen King fan."
Grace's books are usually character-driven, so it's natural that her characters develop first, before the plot.
"A funny habit I've adopted is to give my characters generic names," she told me. "After I get to know them better - perhaps as late as the end of the first draft - I'll learn their names. I'm very much a pantser - or maybe more accurately, an organic writer - and the characters slowly reveal who they are as the story goes along."
When she's developing her story, a concept, a theme, or maybe an event will capture her imagination. The next question is what could lead to such an event occurring or what might happen within a concept or theme? After that, if the setting wasn't determined as a result of answering the other questions, that's the next to be determined.
Grace's primary writing space is her morning room which looks out on her backyard and garden, but she moves around. She's found when she gets stuck, she'll change scenery, moving from the morning room to another room of the house.
"Because I work a fulltime day job, I have to maximize my evenings and weekends for the second full-time job – writing," she said. "I write every evening and weekend. If we take a trip, I write on the plane or in the car—when I'm not driving, of course."
Grace has written several books ("the earlier ones are not ready for primetime," she assured me). Beach Rental was her debut novel, with Kincaid's Hope being the second to be published. She started hearing from readers after Beach Rental was published, and she loves hearing from her readers.
"One reader actually owns a rental house in Emerald Isle and loved the book so much that she's stocking it in the small library she keeps in the rental unit," she said. "I heard from another reader who was reading it sitting in a rocker on a porch at her beach rental. How wonderful is that?"
"What is the hardest part about writing for you?" I wondered.
"Sometimes the hardest part of writing is facing the empty screen, but more often the hardest part hits near the end of the first third of the book - after the initial inspiration cools - and then, again, about two-thirds through when all that has gone before gets murky and timelines get confused. That's when I pull out the whiteboard and markers and draw timelines and rough outlines so I can get back on track."
When it comes to choosing between e-books and print for her own work, Grace says she doesn't see why she can't do both.
"I love print. I love to hold that book in my hand - the feel of it, the smell of it - and to save the books I particularly enjoy all in a row in my bookcases. I also enjoy being able to carry my Kindle in my purse. When I have an unexpected wait, my reading material is always at hand," she explained. "What will the future bring for ebooks and print? I don't know, but I believe there must be both. For me, personally, when my first book, Beach Rental, was published in 2011, it was important to me that the print version be available. When I accepted the contract from Turquoise Morning Press, I did so because they offered print in addition to e-format. Small press print doesn't get the bookstore distribution that the large publishers do, but it was satisfying to be able to hold that book, to be able to autograph it for readers, and so on."
"If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?"
"I would've stuck with it when I first tried to find publication so long ago. I was too easily discouraged. This time, I was determined to keep at it until it happened."
Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"
"I advise getting connected with other writers and industry professionals (editors, bloggers, aspiring and published authors) – there’s a wealth of talent and knowledge out there. But beware losing your focus on the Internet – that same vehicle of knowledge and community can offer tempting opportunities for distraction. When staring at the blank page, or whirling in self-doubt – the temptations to do other things can be compelling."
You can keep up with Grace online at www.gracegreeneauthor.com, http://www.facebook.com/GraceGreeneBooks, or contact her via her website www.GraceGreeneAuthor.com.