Minnesota author Michelle Griep has been writing since she discovered Crayolas and blank wall space. She has homeschooled four children over the past twenty years and teaches both Civics and Creative Writing for area co-ops. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.
Michelle is an Anglophile who prefers Brontë to Austin. She’s a sci-fi geek and a fan of Once-a-Month Cooking. She loves boxers. No, not Hanes or Fruit of the Loom, but the stubby-tailed, fuzzy-muzzled bundles of face-licking love.
Michelle’s debut historical romance, Gallimore, a time travel with paranormal elements, was released December 15, 2008 by Black Lyon Publishing. Her story has received excellent reviews.
Join me as we learn about Michelle’s journey to publication.
The Journey Begins
•You’ve had a lifelong love affair with the written word, but when did you decide to write with the goal of publication? Did you proudly submit your first story, or is it keeping the dust bunnies under your bed company?
Publication became a goal during a momentary full-blown attack of pride. I was lying in bed reading some ridiculous B-grade piece of fictional trash when a stunning thought raced through my mind, “Hey, I can write better than this.” So, I gave it a whirl.
Three years and a steaming pile of literary manure later, I realized the writing game is a lot harder than it looks. I now use bits and pieces of that opus for examples of what you should avoid in my high school Creative Writing classes.
•So, you wrote a good bad example the first time out. You’re not alone. But things came together on your second book, Gallimore. What made the difference? And what led you to pursue what some call “speculative fiction,” an emerging sub-genre in the inspirational market?
The major difference was that instead of writing to show-off skills I didn’t possess, I wrote to possess skills I didn’t have. To acquire those skills, I immersed myself in learning the craft. I joined a local writer’s group (Minnesota Christian Writers Guild– MCWG) and a national organization (American Christian Fiction Writers – ACFW). I also became involved in a few critique groups who gave me some serious spankings and, voilà…a polished piece of writing emerged.
Spec fiction is a tough sell and nearly impossible in the inspirational market. Good thing nobody told me that…not that it would’ve stopped me, mind you. I’ve always had a secret hankering to visit the world of knights and castles, and writing was my passport to the past.
•You met with some publishing success early in your journey, with pieces appearing in devotional anthologies. How did this come about, and what did you learn through that process?
In networking with my new writer buddies, I discovered an entire world of writing opportunities, devotionals being one of them. I’d never written one before and actually hadn’t read them either. Oops, did I say that out loud? Anyway, one of my friends—I do actually have several—suggested I try. Guess what. I gave it a whirl. This whirl, however, proved to be much more fruitful.
Writing devotionals is a whole different animal than novel writing. You’ve got anywhere from 250 to 1,000 words max. Writing tight isn’t merely admirable; it’s mandatory. I learned to wield an editing battle-axe with finesse.
•And then, in the spring of 2008, you got The Email with the offer for your first novel. How did you react? Did you stare at the computer screen in stunned silence, or were you afraid the neighbors might call the police when they heard the shouts coming from your house?
I’ve got great volume on any given day, so no, the neighbors would not bat an eyelash at screeches and howls coming from my house. The weird thing is that after I submitted, I had this creepy sixth-sense that a Black Lyon Publishing message would pop up in my inbox. When it did, I mostly felt like throwing up. As much as I desired and slaved over getting published, when I saw the reality of it in black and white, it scared me to death.
•Gallimore has received great reviews. I won’t ask which made you the proudest, since I know you don’t go there, but which of the reviews stands out and why?
I don’t remember on purpose what individual reviews say, but it was a grand moment indeed when I read the first review by someone who didn’t know me and it said nice things. Imagine that! I hadn’t paid her, she wasn’t a friend or relative, and as far as I know, no one held a gun muzzle to her temple to write a great review.
•At one point, you had to take a year away from writing due to family matters. How did you deal with the stories and characters you had to put on hold? Did they wait patiently, or was it a challenge to keep them from launching a revolt?
Even in the best of times, it’s hard to keep Vikings from raiding. Try keeping those big, beefy warriors incarcerated in your brain for a year. No picnic. Yes, I’d say it was a challenge. That being said, it also gave me the time to simmer their traits on the back burner and hopefully made for richer, more in-depth characters.
•I read one blog post where you admitted you’ve had to fend off fear, both before you were published and even now that you have a book on the shelves. What have been your greatest struggles in this area and how do you overcome them?
Fear is an ugly monster, usually creeping up on me in the dark, as any self-respecting monster is wont to do. Fear of dismal sales poor enough to make a marketer weep. Fear of reviews that expose unintentional blunders as blatant as a piece of toilet paper trailing my literary shoe. Fear of success that would likely force me to deal with pride all over again, made all the worse by knowing pride always precedes a fall. Fear that my next manuscript won’t be as good as the last. Those are the fears I deal with. Wow. Sounds like I need some medication.
Good thing fear is overcome by love. I bring all my fears to my Creator who loves me infinitely and is strong enough to slay those nasty monsters.
The Journey Continues
•Your current project has taken you away from the time travel historicals you’d been working on. What led you to collaborate on a cozy mystery? What are you finding the most challenging aspects of this project? The most rewarding?
The same writing buddy who talked me into writing devotionals suggested the cozy mystery genre and that we team up. She claims it’ll go oh-so-much-faster. Right. Neither of us have a clue what we’re doing, so the speed factor has definitely dropped by the wayside.
It is a hoot, however. Learning about the world of crime is interesting, unless you’re the one behind bars. Resources for research are abundant when writing contemporary. And now I’ve got a professional reason for endless banter with my friend.
Just for Fun
•Since you’ve already vicariously traveled to the medieval era along with the heroine of Gallimore, I won’t take you back in time. Instead, since you’re a sci-fi fan, I’ll have you venture into the future. If you could hang out with the characters of your favorite sci-fi book or movie, who would they be, and why would you choose them? Would you go on this fictitious journey as yourself, or would you assume the persona of one of the characters?
Just to mix things up a bit, I think I’d choose to be Luke Deveraux in Martian’s Go Home by Frederic Brown. He’s a struggling author holed up to produce a bestseller when a knock on the door ushers in a little green man. What better way to fight writer’s block than with a Martian?! It’s a thumbs-up fun sci-fi read I highly recommend.
I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Michelle. And now it’s your turn to ask a question of your visitors? Have at it.
Cue the background evil laughter and hand wringing sound effect… Anyone have a writing blunder they’ll fess up to in public? Come on, confession is good for the soul, people. How many first manuscripts out there would I be able to use for my writing class, and what are they about?
Learn More About Michelle
Visit her Web site: www.mmgriep.com
Leave a Comment for Your Chance to Win
I’ll choose a winner from those who leave a comment for Michelle on 3/30 or 31 (and include an email address when prompted, which I don’t share), and will post the winner’s name 4/1.
Since Michelle’s a fan of the writer’s staple of inspiration, the winner will receive a Hallmark metal bookmark that reads: Chocolate and friends—It’s the inside that counts! – Renee Duvall.
Congratulations to the winner, Leigh DeLozier.
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by your blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and March 31. Make sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.
On April 1, Keli will choose one person who will have her choice of five covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)