1. What is the “microwave” version of your journey to becoming a writer?
Actually, there is no “microwave” version. Microwaves are fast, and my journey took forever. I wrote my first short story when I was in my mid-20’s, and didn’t make my first professional fiction sale until I was 45. Definitely a case of “a watched pot never boils”!!!
2. Since food analogies work for me, what recipe would you give to newbies?
5 pounds of determination
1 large dollop of skill (may be obtained by any combination of the following: writing classes, online courses, conference workshops, years of avid reading)
1 loyal critique group (may add more to taste)
1 gripping story
2 or more sympathetic characters
Thick skin, resistant to rejection wounds
Several tons of persistence
Step 1: Combine the first three ingredients; mix for several years. Some writers take much longer on the first step than others. I mixed and mixed and mixed for about two decades.
Step 2: Gradually develop the gripping story and sympathetic characters until perfectly blended. Note that these ingredients may not be the first ones you create at the beginning of your career. Avoid trying to fine-tune the same story and characters for years at a time. Instead, expand your imagination and keep dreaming up new ones. Eventually, as the ingredients of Step 1 mature, you will hit upon the perfect blend.
Step 3: Add the final two ingredients. Actually, these two ingredients are necessary from the very beginning, but the longer you spend on Steps 1 and 2, the more of these you will need.
The key to the successful recipe is the final ingredient – persistence. Don’t give up, no matter how many times you have to start over.
3. Growing up in New Orleans, I learned everything starts with a roux. So, how do your books start? I know you said some of your characters are quite persistent about having their own stories. Are you character or plot-driven when it comes to your story beginnings?
Like a good roux, a story is a smooth blend of both elements – characters and plot. But my recipe changes each time – not one of my books have started the same way. My debut, Just As I Am, definitely began with a character, a young woman with purple hair and multiple facial piercings. Murder by Mushroom started with the plot, the idea of killing someone with poisonous mushrooms. In fact, the heroine in Murder by Mushroom started out as a secondary character in a different story idea several years before the idea of poisonous mushrooms occurred to me, but she was such a strong personality I couldn’t forget her.
4. Now that you’re a “Wild Hogette” (you may want to ‘splain that for the record!), is there a book about motorcycling waiting to happen?
My husband and I recently took a 4-day, 1200-mile motorcycle trip with another couple through Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons. We had all enjoyed the movie, “Wild Hogs,” so my friend and I started calling ourselves the “Wild Hogettes.” (Yes, I know technically a female hog is a sow, but “Wild Sows” just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?) If anyone wants to read a short description of my ride – and my close encounter with a buffalo – they can go to http://www.faithchick.com and check out the entry on July 19th. There are even a couple of Wild Hogette pictures!
I would love to use a motorcycle in an upcoming book! In fact, I’m working on another mystery right now, and there’s a perfect opportunity for the prim-and-proper heroine to climb onto the back of a motorcycle with the very manly hero. I’m laughing just thinking about it!
5. How does Ginny Smith recording artist mesh with Ginny Smith the writer?
Oh, trust me – I’m not a recording artist! A few years ago I achieved one of my longtime dreams, which was publishing a novel. So I decided I’d do something else I’d always wanted to do – record a solo CD. I sang with a contemporary group back in the late 90’s, and we did cut several albums, so I knew a little about it. I’m not a great singer, but I’m a passable one, and I really wanted to do it. The project cost several thousand dollars, so I’ll never do another one, but at least I have the satisfaction of saying I did it once. And I have a garage full of CDs to show for it! (So if anybody wants one…)
But I think all of our life experiences combine to make a writer’s books richer, fuller, and more meaningful. That experience will probably show up in a book sometime. So eventually I guess the two will mesh.
6. In your letter to the reader at the end of Murder by Mushroom, you share your fun in creating your characters, and acknowledge that Christians sometimes gossip, treat one another “carelessly, sometimes callously…hurt each other, and are hurt in return.” Do you see more Christian publishers/writers wanting to portray Christians as people who struggle , who have problems, and deal with controversy in their lives? Purple-haired, lip-pierced Mayla in Just As I Am, is an atypical Christian character. How did publishers react to Mayla?
I don’t know about Christian publishers in general, but I can tell you that I have now worked with three different ones, and all three of them were interested in characters who are real and not “whitewashed.” My editor for Murder by Mushroom told me, “One thing we love about this book is the fact that you portray Christians acting like real people.” That’s a good thing, because I don’t want to write goody-goody characters. In fact, I poke a little fun at them in my books.
Mayla, of course, is a totally unique character. Actually, I sold Just As I Am to the first publisher who requested the manuscript, so I didn’t have the opportunity to hear what other publishers thought. But I did have an agent tell me that she couldn’t represent me because the characters in that book were too risky, too edgy. And I had one author tell me that he couldn’t endorse my book because “Those characters in there? Only God could love them.” To which I responded, “Exactly.”
But He does love people like my characters. You would be surprised how often I’ve gotten e-mails from readers who thanked me for putting real people in my books.
7. If you weren’t so nice and genuinely funny, I’d be totally intimidated (okay and maybe just a teensy-weensy bit jealous) by you. I counted at least 19 short stories/articles, you’ve published three books, and have FIVE coming out between 2007 and 2010. And you’re a speaker. And you post on the Faithchick blog in addition to sending out your own newsletter. Confess. You’ve cloned yourself. What’s a “typical” day for you as far as writing? Are you a goal-setter as far as number of pages or words a day or a week or…?
HA! I wish I could clone myself, because my schedule lately is totally nuts! Add to all these things the fact that my daughter just got married last month in a huge formal wedding, and you will see that I am truly up to the eyeballs in To Do lists.
My typical writing day – when I’m not helping to plan a wedding – is to go to my office at 8:00 in the morning (after Bible study and breakfast), and work until 5:30. I take a lunch break, and I try to take a gym break at least 3 days a week. But writing is my job, and I apply myself to it every day consistently.
I don’t really have a daily goal, but I do track daily word count. If I can write 1500 words in a day, I feel like I’ve done a good job. Most of the time I average around 2000, and more toward the end of a book when I’m on a roll.
8. One of your talks is “Biblical Truths in Star-Trek.” My husband wants to know if you’ll give him a truth about the Klingons.
That’s my favorite talk. I even dress in a Star Trek uniform! I show video clips of Star Trek episodes, and then draw Biblical parallels. I don’t actually have any of Klingons, but I’ll give it a shot here.
I’m sure your husband realizes that the Klingons started out to be the villains in a typical good-versus-evil struggle. So we can assume that, at least in the first couple of seasons, the Klingons represent our enemy, the devil. Whenever the Enterprise encountered the Klingons, Captain Kirk called “red alert!” and everyone scrambled to ready themselves for the upcoming encounter. You can picture the scene: Kirk seated in the Captain’s chair, red light flashing behind him, people scrambling to their stations, and on the giant screen the menacing image of a Klingon Bird of Prey hovering in space, ready to engage them in battle.
As Christians, our Captain tells us through His Word in 1 Peter 5:8 to “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Just as Kirk ordered, “Shields at maximum!” we’re told in Ephesians 6:11 to “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
9. Family? Family and writing? How does that work?
My children are both grown and out of the house, so I don’t have young ones running around. I do have an extremely wonderful husband who supports my writing in every way – financially, emotionally, physically, and with tons of patience. He understands deadlines, and when I’ve got one looming, he picks up the slack around the house.
I have a tendency to be a workaholic, so I have to be careful to stop working in the evening and pull my head out of the book to focus on my husband. I do all the cooking, so I have a “hard stop” at 5:30 to get dinner started. I try not to write on Saturdays, unless he’s doing something else. (He’s an avid skier and motorcycle enthusiast, so many Saturdays he is off doing his thing!) And I don’t ever work on Sundays.
10. Fill-in-the-blank: If I couldn’t write, I would…..
……………… be a scuba diving instructor in the Caribbean. (That’s my other passion!)
You can find Ginny Smith here.