Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Interview with Ginny Smith, part deux

Captain’s Log, Stardate 03.28.2006

Continuing my interview with Ginny:

What's your writing schedule like? How do you ensure time for family and church?

Since I was lucky enough to quit work last summer (Thank you, Lord!), I write during the day. I do a Bible devotional and pray first thing in the morning, then read e-mail and perform any marketing activities I’ve planned for the day, like contacts to media or sending bookplates and bookmarks to readers. Then I start writing and write pretty much all day long. My daughter and I go to the gym around 4:00 or so, and I try to stay away from my office after that. I really do give my day to the Lord each morning and ask Him to arrange my activities according to His will. Since I know He takes an active role in guiding my life, I believe He does just that.

What is your most memorable moment as a writer?

It was during the writing of Just As I Am. I had a character who was absolutely furious with Mayla for becoming a Christian. Mayla couldn’t figure out why Sylvia was so angry, and I couldn’t either. I kept asking the Lord, “What is her problem?” And then one day as I sat at the computer the reason for her anger became suddenly clear in one of those stunning moments of revelation. Sylvia was me! Sylvia’s anger at the Lord was my own, resolved, but still vividly remembered. I worked through my anger long ago, but I realized there were people who would read this book who suffered the same things and hadn’t yet worked it out with God. And in order to know what I’m talking about, you’ll just have to read the book.

That's so awesome! I really liked how you developed Sylvia's character.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?

When I wrote my first sci-fi short story, way back {mumble, mumble} years ago, and the characters came alive in my mind. The world was real, and I loved the power of creating my own rules and setting and situations for my characters to live in. When that story was rejected, I was devastated, but the fire had been lit. I could never read a book the same way again. From that moment on, I dissected every story, trying to figure out how the writer made each element work, or how he failed to make it work.

Finish this line: Writing a novel is ...

… mysterious and fulfilling and satisfying in a way nothing else is.

What's your greatest writing weakness and how do you overcome it?

I’m terrible about passive writing, and also with starting far too many sentences with and or but. I didn’t realize until my Kregel editor pointed it out. That’s the way I talk, so even when I read my work aloud, I don’t notice because it sounds natural to me. But now that I know to look for those things in my writing, I do a read-through of my completed manuscripts looking just for those weaknesses. And I have some incredibly wonderful critique partners who hone in on those things like bloodhounds. One day maybe I’ll get to the point where I don’t do them in the first draft. It’s a goal of mine. (Did you notice I started one sentence with and and one with but in this answer?)

But of course. And I wondered if you'd point it out. ;)
What's your best writing strength?

I’m surprised at this, but turns out I can do humor pretty well. All those years of trying to write sci-fi and fantasy didn’t give me many chances to be funny. But given the right character and the right situation, I can make people laugh. At least, I make myself laugh, so I hope other people laugh! (Gosh, do you think they’re laughing at me instead of with me?)

You know, I ask myself that question a lot, too. Hm...
How do you handle deadline stress? Any advice or tips?

Stress? Are you kidding? I love deadlines. Seriously. I think it comes from all those years in the corporate world, working with large system implementations where schedules are so critical and lots of money on the line. When I have a deadline, I tend to throw myself at it with an energy I can’t generate without one. For instance, Murder by Mushroom sold on a proposal. I had completed a synopsis and about half of the book, and then started working on something else. When my agent called with the awesome news that Steeple Hill wanted to give me a contract, I had to tell them when I’d have the completed manuscript turned in. I gave myself a very tight timeline of 6 weeks. My agent added 2 more weeks, and I agreed. But the impetus of having an official deadline spurred me to work on it, and I actually finished the book in 4 weeks, half the time it took me to write the first part. When the deadline loomed, I wrote like a mad woman!

There are two types of stress, bad and good. Bad stress is unhealthy, and that’s when you are forced into a situation you don’t want to be in. But good stress provides momentum to accomplish incredible feats. And it’s fun!

My advice if you find yourself in a bad stress situation is to douse it with chocolate and massage therapy.

Hey, I can hang with that.
Most writers struggle with insecurity. How do you retain your confidence as a writer?

I let my mother read everything I write. She is an astute critiquer, but she’s also my biggest fan and thinks I can accomplish anything I set my hand to. And she’s really good at soothing my ego after a painful rejection.

What's the biggest risk you've ever taken as a writer?

To me, risk is when you put something personal on the line. I recently sold an article to Today’s Christian magazine entitled “Forgiving my Abuser.” Though I’ve spoken on the subject, having my intimate thoughts and struggles over this extremely personal experience distributed to more than a hundred thousand readers is a huge emotional risk. If I was not 100% confident that the Lord intends to use my story to help others, I wouldn’t do it for any amount of money. But I know that’s His plan, and I trust Him. So maybe it’s not such a risk after all.

How do you handle writer's block? Do you ever get writer's block?

I have never experienced something I’d call writer’s block. In fact, I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe writers have times when the writing doesn’t come easily, or when the piece we’re trying to write stalls. But in those times, I write through the block. Even if what I write is total crap and I know I’m going to throw it away later, I keep writing. Eventually something good always comes out and gets me back on track. I absolutely love Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird. She says if we sit around and wait for inspiration to strike, we’ll never write a word. Inspiration comes from writing, like priming a pump to get water. Sometimes you have to pump that lever for a while before water comes gushing out from the recesses of the well.

Describe your writing space as it is now, and your fantasy writing space.

My husband and I own two homes, and we’ve converted a spare bedroom in each of them into an office. In my Utah condo, my desk sits beside a window through which I have an incredible view of the Wasatch Mountains. I can see the exact peak where The Ten Commandments was filmed, the scene where Moses is coming down off the mountain after meeting God in the burning bush. Talk about inspiration! In my Kentucky office, my desk is tucked into a corner with windows on both sides, so I have plenty of sunlight to keep my attitude up. Both desks are ergonomically correct, with keyboard trays and the monitors the right height. A bookshelf is within easy reach, so I can grab a research book quickly, though I use the Internet quite often. My favorite research book is 10,001 Names for Baby. And in both offices, I have two printers – a laser and an all-in-one color/scanner/copier. (Yeah, I’m a printer geek. I worked for Lexmark International before I quit the corporate world.)

Nothing wrong with being a geek. You're talking to one who married one. :)
Do you have a special verse specifically to inspire your writing?

“… He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 Especially when I’m stuck on a particular scene and can’t figure out what comes next, this verse reminds me that I can relax. God knows what happens next, and what happens after that, and after that. He’ll give me the grace to get to The End.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t give up. Persistence pays off in this business. If you know God has gifted you to write, stick with it. I had a bumper sticker hanging above my desk for years that said, “It Will Happen – You Only Have To Believe.” (Of course, right next to it was one that said, “I used to be a nice person, ‘till a house fell on my sister.”)

Thanks for doing the interview! Any parting words?

Life’s too short to do something you hate. Follow your dream, and read happy books!

Camy here: Thanks so much, Ginny! I had a lot of fun—I hope you did too!