Interview with Marcia Gruver [note from Christa]: I met Marcia a little over a year ago through our mutual friend and one of her crit partners, Jessica Ferguson.
We were on our way to my first ACFW conference and, little did I know, a multi-published author would be riding in the backseat! Well, honestly, she didn’t know either until the stupendous moment when the Barbour contract was presented! She is an encourager, a self-effacing woman of God with a contagious sense of humor and a passion for writing. To see the cover of the novel we’d talked about on that ride and to now host her on her blog tour–well–God truly is a dream-maker.
Tell us about Diamond Duo.
Bertha Maye Biddie’s in love. Trouble is, she’s not sure the object of her affection feels the same. He seems to be interested, but something’s holding him back. So when opportunity rides into Jefferson on the northbound train out of Marshall, young Bertha leaps at the chance to learn a few tricks. A charming, charismatic stranger offers to take Bertha under her wing and teach her the art of wooing a man. But when the woman is unable to keep her promise, Bertha realizes their chance meeting held far more eternal significance.
Where did the idea for Diamond Duo come from?
On a trip to Jefferson, Texas, I heard the true story of the unsolved murder of the infamous Diamond Bessie, aka Annie Monroe. In 1877, a flashy, well-dressed couple rode a train into town for a short visit. They checked into a hotel as A. Monroe and wife. The woman seemed to go by more than one name, one of them Bessie Moore. Because she wore several large diamond rings, supposedly gifts offered in exchange for immoral favors, the locals soon dubbed her “Diamond Bessie.”
On the last day of Bessie’s life, she and her companion, Abraham Rothschild, took a picnic basket into the woods. He came out alone, wandering the streets of Jefferson by himself for several days. When asked about Bessie, he said she was staying with nearby friends, and would return in time for their departure. However, he left by himself two days later, carrying Bessie’s luggage along with his own.
A local woman discovered poor Bessie’s body in the woods several days later. Jefferson officials went after Abraham Rothschild and tried him for her murder, but due to his money and considerable influence, he was acquitted.
While standing over Diamond Bessie’s grave, assuming her eternal fate, I found myself wondering: “What if?” Maybe history had been unkind to Bessie. What if she wasn’t as bad as some claimed? Suppose God had arranged a surprise finish for her-a loving, merciful end that no one would’ve expected?
How did you become interested in the real life murder of Annie Monroe?
It’s hard to visit historic Jefferson, Texas without tripping over Annie’s story. Diamond Bessie has become a tourist attraction, and the locals seem more than eager to tell the account. The shops abound with books on the topic, one penned by Jefferson historian, Fred McKenzie. Every year, during Jefferson’s annual Pilgrimage Festival, the residents perform in a play entitled “The Diamond Bessie Murder Trial.” The play is derived from court transcripts, and it’s really quite an event!
You have several themes woven into Diamond Duo. Could share them with us?
Young Bertha Biddie schemes to win the affections of Thaddeus Bloom, a man bound by honor to his father’s dream. She gets a lesson on honor herself when God asks her to risk her future with Thad to help a stranger.
Thad learns the importance of listening to his mama the hard way, but wonders if it’s fair to expect him to sacrifice his happiness in obedience to his father’s plans for his life.
Sarah King is used to better treatment from her fellow man regardless of race, but forgets her husband deserves the same regard. Her unbridled temper and acrid tongue threaten to drive him away, until the pure heart of a tragic stranger teaches Sarah a lesson in colorblind acceptance.
In Diamond Duo, Bertha feels solely responsible for leading Annie Monroe out of her lifestyle and into a believer’s world. Have you ever had a similar experience in your life?
I think every Christian feels a strong compulsion to share God’s grace once they’ve had a taste. If you think about it, given the Great Commission, we’re all solely responsible for leading those in our paths to God.
Can you tell us about your next book?
Chasing Charity, book two in the Texas Fortunes series, picks up in Humble, Texas, several years after Diamond Duo ends. Charity Bloom, Bertha’s daughter, stands at the altar watching her best friend flee the church on the heels of her departing fiancé. This is the final straw for Charity, who is distressed by the many changes taking place in her life and in her hometown, most notably the devastation wrought after oil is discovered near Humble. Imagine Charity’s surprise when one of the men responsible comes to her rescue, and she finds her heart torn between two suitors-the handsome roughneck and the deceitful rogue who broke her heart.
Each year, at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, Barbour Publishing awards first contracts to lucky recipients. In 2007, they thrilled me out of my skin by awarding me the first three-book contact ever awarded at the ACFW conference. I’m trying very hard to live up to the confidence Barbour has placed in me.
Do you plot your novels out or are you a so-called seat-of-the-pants writer?
I used to fly by my seat from start to finish. My first experience with working a plan came after discovering Randy Ingermanson’s snowflake method for plotting a novel. After working through Karen S. Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days, I’m a born-again plotter. These days, I don’t think I’d do it any other way. I sort of like knowing where I’m going when I sit down to write.
Has being a writer brought you closer to God and if so, how?
Not really closer. More in tune, maybe? I just know there’s no step in the writing/marketing process that I could pull off without His guiding hand. That teaches you to report on a regular basis for your marching orders.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
The first draft. Once you’ve developed characters, tweaked the plot, and come up with a satisfying ending, that’s when the fun starts. You can let your fingers fly while you flesh out the story. At this stage is when the surprises come. One of your characters gets a mind of their own and takes off in a direction you didn’t have the vision or the foresight to predict. Or your heroine gets sassy and insists on having her way on some minor detail that winds up the most important scene in the book. I love this part. The first draft is when the magic happens.
How have your life experiences helped you as a writer?
I believe all of life’s experiences are fertile fodder for fiction. Try saying that three times really fast.
I’ve traveled some bumpy roads in my time. I was a hippie in the 60’s, a yippie in the 70’s, a groupie in the 80’s, and a yuppie in the 90’s. Who else but a bona fide baby boomer can say that? At the dawn of this new century, I’m just a droopy—with a passel of kids and grandkids. I long to impart to them the nuggets of wisdom old granny picked up along the way, but since none of them will listen, I’m wrapping fictional stories around the lessons I’ve learned and slipping them to the rascals. Like hiding spinach in applesauce. Not to compare God’s grace to a slimy green vegetable, but the truth is both of them are good for you.