March 2016 is Women’s Appreciation Month! Most of you know I am editing my own novel, so I was excited when one of my favorite novelists, Michelle Griep, author of Brentwood’s Ward and Gallimore, agreed to participate in an email questionnaire with me. You can check out her official website at michellegriep.com and her blog Writer Off The Leash.
Check out our interview. Mrs. Griep’s questions are in bold.
Where do you call your hometown?
I suppose we can’t count that den in the woods where I was raised by wolves, so let’s go with Minneapolis.
Do snippets of people and places in your hometown make it into your novels?
Yeah, especially people that tick me off. Love to use those traits in a villain. And though most of my stories are set in England, surprisingly, some of the small towns around here are like little English hamlets—minus the centuries old buildings, that is.
Is your hometown where you started writing?
Not just my hometown, but my home. It all started with a box of Crayolas and a blank wall. My mother was not happy.
Many say that writers were readers first. Do you remember a book or two that motivated you to write?
Jane Eyre. That book still haunts me. I use Bronte’s deep characterization to inspire my creations. Jane Eyre’s sense of personal conviction affected my own choices in life. I want to write characters that do the same for other readers, leaving them better people than before they picked up one of my stories.
Another book is Go Do, Go! by Dr. Seuss, because if dogs can party in trees, then so can I. Life doesn’t have to be all pantyhose and solemnity, eh?
What was an encouraging word someone gave you when you began writing?
Writing is art and art is subjective. Create the best art you’re capable of and never look back.
Was there a mentor in your life that helped cultivate the writing talent in you?
He probably doesn’t even know it, but Jeff Gerke, then acquisitions editor at Nav Press. He’s encouraged me over the years by patiently extending a hand when I’ve fallen off the writerly trail, explaining in easy-to-understand terminology what and where I’ve gone wrong.
Did you ever get flack for wanting to become a novelist?
Heck yeah. The parents wanted me to be a lawyer. Being a writer just doesn’t carry the same prestige, even when I speak in monosyllabic words and dress nice.
What motivates you to get up and write?
Coffee. Nectar of the gods, I say. But besides that, writing is how I make sense of my world. If I don’t get up and write, lots of nonsense comes out of my mouth. Wait a minute . . .I guess that happens even when I do write. Hmm. It’s more like this . . . does one need motivation to breathe? It’s just something I do because it’s a life function.
Do you have a special nook, cafe, or library where you go to write?
So, so many. Minneapolis is full of quirky, independent coffee shops. A few faves if you’re in the area: Bull Run, Sovereign Grounds, Riverside Café.
When you need inspiration, where do you go to find it?
Music, first and foremost. Music has a way of crawling under your skin and taking up residence in your heart, and that’s where the best stories come from.
Other than that, taking a hike outside has a way of getting the creative juices flowing. Pinterest boards with images of ethereal settings work also, as well as history books with strange but true tales.
You are a proud Christian. When and why did you come into that faith?
Kind of a creepy story, but true . . . I was five-years-old and playing in my front yard in the ‘hood (which would be why my parents wanted me to be a lawyer—so we could afford to move). Anyway, this old school bus pulls up to the curb, slaps open the doors, and the driver yells out, “Hey little girl, wanna go to Sunday school?” Nowadays he’d probably be arrested for attempted molestation, but back then, this was a trusted method of hauling warm bodies to church.
I didn’t have a clue what Sunday school was, but it sounded like an adventure. I went—and I’ve never been the same since.
Does being a Christian affect your writing?
It affects everything. My faith colors how I view the world and that comes out in my characters. I don’t think there’s a way to separate that, and if there is, it would either be too painful or exhausting to minimize—which would make for some stilted writing. Newsflash: stilted writing doesn’t sell.
You’ve started a blog and newsletter for writers encouraging them in the craft. Why did you start doing that?
I’m all about donning a cyber mini-skirt and cheering on writer wannabes. The writing road is full of potholes and skinned knees. Every writer needs someone to hand them a BandAid or hear a round of applause to keep them going.
Your book, Writer Off The Leash, is a “fun” craft book for writers. Why the emphasis on fun?
Because the naysayers and tight-lipped grammarians out there seek to destroy and kill writers. Sure, there are certain rules to craft your work so that it’s easily readable, but following too many rules will suck the joy marrow right out of your bones. If you’re not having fun writing, then why do it?
You have published several novels including Brentwood’s Ward, Gallimore, and Undercurrent. How did it feel to see your name on the cover of a published book?
You know that tingling at the nape of your neck as the rollercoaster inches upward, your heartbeat matching the ratcheting click-clack, the hesitation at the crest when the world is laid bare before you, and the big whoosh of breath-stealing excitement as you plummet toward the earth? Yeah. That.
Tell us a little about the inspiration behind your newest book Brentwood’s Ward. Where did it come from?
I came across an old English newspaper advertisement put out by Henry Fielding, the founder of the Bow Street Runners. It encouraged the public to send a note to Bow Street as soon as any serious crime occurred so that “a set of brave fellows could immediately be dispatched in pursuit of the villains.” I wondered about those “brave fellows” and what kind of villains they might come up against, and thus was born Nicholas Brentwood. He’s a little rough around the edges, but inside his heart is fiercely soft. What kind of heroine wouldn’t fall for a man like that?
You’re an author, blogger, and a homeschool tutor. Keeping up with these things must be difficult sometimes. Share some of your wisdom on dealing with each of these things when it is difficult.
You know those hamsters, their little paws a blur as they run inside a metal wheel, giving it all they’ve got? That’s life, folks. You are the hamster. So am I. And every now and then we need to jump off that wheel and take the time to nibble on a big ol’ chunk of carrot. That’s the secret . . . work hard, BUT make sure you also make time to play hard and rest hard.
When you face harsh criticism, what is the best way to deal with it?
Yank out my hot-mama-goes-to-town scarlet lipstick, slap some on, and kiss that criticism goodbye. No one needs that kind of negativity in her life.
Do you have any advice for women who are seeking to become writers and novelists?
Write for the sheer joy of creation, not for the market. Seek validation in a beautiful turn of phrase, the shape of words on paper, the harnessing and riding of an idea, not in royalty checks or reviews.
Is there a particular woman whose life inspires you?
Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Ann is a woman acquainted with grief, leading a mundane life of mother to five and wife of a farmer, yet she sees wonder and possibility in everything. No, really, everything. I checked. That’s the kind of person I want to be, deeply grateful for every little thing.
Any final thoughts you would like to share to women who are stepping into their future?
Buy a healthy supply of big girl panties. You’ll need them. The truth is that life sucks sometimes. People are mean. Dark chocolate isn’t always cheap. Cut your losses and move on. Living in bitterness, offense, and anger is no way to live.
That concludes our interview. Mrs. Griep was a joy to get to know. I look forward to reading more of her books. You can pick up Brentwood’s Ward and her other books at her website, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Next week, I interview Alicia Hesse, a producer for One America News Network. Be sure to click subscribe for more articles and interviews.