Read the entire interview here.
At a signing a couple of weeks ago, I saw a new book titled, The Last Waltz. I read on the back of the book that it takes place during World War I. As many of you know I wrote a nonfiction childrens activity book about that great war, so I was more than a little intrigued. The author, GG Vandagriff, is on one of my internet loops so we’ve exchanged emails a couple of times. She’s an amazing person and I wanted to do an interview with her so you could get to know her, too.
Thanks, GG for the wonderful interview!
What inspires you and motivates you to write the very most?
I feel compelled to write about the redeeming power of love and how it can change the world. In LDS books I write about family and the atonement. In my non-LDS books I show love as a redemptive force. My favorite fictional heroine is Margaret Hale from Elizabeth Gaskill’s North and South, who changes her whole town with her love and adherence to righteous principles. When my daughter was reading my Last Waltz, she paid me the ultimate compliment of telling me that my main character, Amalia, was like Margaret Hale.
What compelled you to write your first book?
My first and last book is The Last Waltz. I started writing it when I was 27 and knew it was way beyond my writing ability at the time. However, Austria was such a part of me after living and studying there, and her story is so compelling and untold in fiction, that I knew it had the makings of a great epic. I just had to go through my own fire before I could write about characters who went through one of the greatest challenges in history.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Since I was nine years old I have been scribbling stories about alternate realities.
Tell us a little bit about your current release.
In December 1913, the city of Vienna glitters with promises of the future for nineteen-year-old Amalia Faulhaber. Daughter of a prominent merchant, she is schooled in the fine art of flirtation by her aristocratic grandmother and in issues of conscience by her socialist uncle. Then, almost without warning, life takes a dramatic turn as simmering political unrest escalates into World War I, the most deadly war the world has yet known.
Amalia is devastated when the Prussian baron Eberhard von Waldburg breaks off their engagement to return to Germany and a commission in the army. But while Europe descends into darkness, Amalia is forced to confront even greater challenges. Disillusioned and heartbroken, she discovers a budding passion for democracy that sets her life on a new and unpredictable course.
Her family torn apart and impoverished by war, Amalia struggles to find her way in a changing world. Should she marry an idealistic young doctor who shares her political views or the wealthy Baron von Schoenenburg, who promises to provide safety and security in a violent, tumultuous time? Her growing political conscience sets her apart in the social circles of Vienna, but is it worth the personal cost to her and her family? And what can she do when her beloved Austria rushes headlong to embrace Hitler, threatening to destroy everything she loves?
In this gripping tale of love and war, a dazzling young socialite of the old world contends with deeply contradictory notions and personal crises to become a woman who would be extraordinary in any age.
What about your family? Do you have children, married, siblings, parents? Has your family been supportive of your writing.
I am married to a wonderful man who actually edits everything I write, as well as helping me out of tough spots, and co-creating my plots. He co-wrote the book on depression. In Arthurian Omen, he wrote all the poetry. He actually cleans, does laundry, and grocery shopping, so I can work, even though he has his own work. My oldest son is 31 and has his own company. He tells everyone about my books. My daughter was my main editor for The Last Waltz. She is twenty-eight and married to a wonderful man with one child—the joy of my heart—Jack, who is three years old. My father recently passed away but he encouraged my writing all my life. The Last Waltz is dedicated to his memory because he pushed me to publish it for 33 years. He loved the story and thought it was my best work. My mother is also deceased. My brother lives in Hawaii and is a writer and professor at BYU Hawaii. My sister and I are extremely close and she is one of my pre-submission readers. She has dubbed me the Drama Queen and loves to shop with me and choose dramatic clothes for me. (She is a Talbot’s woman through and through, so she loves to dress me).
The main characters of your stories – do you find that you put a little of yourself into each of them or do you create them to be completely different from you?
I put some of myself in all of my characters. The men as well as the women. Alex, from my genealogy mysteries, is most like me, although I don’t know karate. I am quirky like Briggie, though I don’t fish or hunt. I would like to think that some day when I grow up I could be as brave as Amalia in The Last Waltz.
Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your own writing? Do you have a writing mentor?
I had a wonderful writing mentor before I was published. She really taught me to write through her edits. She had a way of making me dig down inside and write very close to the bone. Nowdays my favorite writer is Marisa de los Santos, author of Love Walked In. She is a real inspiration to me because she is a literary writer who writes about the power of love to effect change.
When growing up, did you have a favorite author, book series, or book?
I loved romantic suspense when I was young—Daphne du Maurier, Victoria Holt, Anya Seton. When I was in High School I discovered the Russians—Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. I admire them tremendously. Tolstoy is my favorite all-time writer, and Anna Karenina my favorite book. When I was older I became captivated by the great 19th century writers: Austen, Bronte, Gaskill, Trollope, and Dickens. I feel much more at home in the 19th century literary world.
What about now: who is your favorite author and what is your favorite genre to read?
My favorite mystery writer is Earlene Fowler. She writes beautifully, her books are clean, and she has fabulous characters. You want to live in her world. I find myself returning again and again to EM Forster—Room With a View and Howard’s End. As I mentioned above, I just discovered Marisa de los Santos. Right now, I am going through a literary phase and reading mostly classics and good modern lit, like Possession by A.S. Byatt.
When they write your obituary, what do you hope they will say about your book/s and writing? What do you hope they will say about you.
I hope I will be known as a woman who loved. I hope my writing will have brought people into a world where love changed things. I hope I will have brought comfort and solace to as many people as possible.
Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now – city? Suburb? Country? Farm? If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be?
I grew up in Pasadena, California, attended Stanford in Palo Alto, California. I lived and studied in Austria near Vienna. I worked in Boston for two years, got my master’s in Washington, D.C., met my husband in Chicago and lived there for a year. Then, six years in California, 16 years in a tiny farm community in Missouri (where there was nothing to do but raise children and write), four years in Oakwood, Ohio, and finally 10 years in Provo. This is the favorite place I’ve ever lived. If I could have my choice of anywhere to live, other than Provo, I would choose Oxford, England.
Bring us into your home and set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like?
I am very fortunate to have my own office which I have recently painted cranberry. It looks out over the entire Utah Valley. It is lined with faux antique glass fronted book cases. On the walls are antique prints of Oxford, a plaque given me by my cousin—”Life is God’s Novel. Let Him Write It.” My husband recently framed all my book covers that hang above my cluttered computer desk. My desk is crowded with framed photos of my family, including a picture of my husband and me when we were dating, and my third great grandparents who were extraordinary people whom I try to live up to.
Do you watch television? If so, what are your favorite shows? Does television influence of inspire your writing?
I have recently started watching television to unwind. My favorite programs are NCIS, The Mentalist, Law and Order, and The Closer. But my favorite things to watch are movies made by the BBC of the classics. My favorite movie of all time is “North and South”—a BBC production with my favorite actor Richard Armitage. If I could have my wish, I would love for him to be in a production of The Last Waltz as Baron von Shoenenburg.
Is there anyone you’d like to specifically acknowledge who has inspired, motivated, encouraged or supported your writing?
My husband, my father, my friends—Kathy Petty, Sandra Whitaker, Rachel Nunnes, Rondi Peterson, Anna Stone, Dixie Barlow, to name a few, my sister, my daughter, and now the Storymakers. Oh, and of course my editor, Suzanne Brady, and my product manager, Jana Erickson.
How did you select the names of some of your lead characters in your books?
Some of them are named after ancestors. In the Last Waltz, the main character is a many times great grandmother. I wrote a friend in Austria who supplied me with the names for all the different classes of people I wrote about in the book. Briggie is named after my great grandmother “Johanna Brighamina Poulson, who hunted and fished.
Do you have book signings scheduled? If so, when and where? Also tell about your blog and website.
Blog is ggvandagriffblog.com. Websites are: ggvandagriff.com, deliverance-depression.com, and arthurianomen.com. I am doing three signings at the Orem Barnes and Noble—the first on 23 Apr, then mid July, then Mid-August. I am doing a signing tour, probably in June where I will visit Barnes and Nobles in Southern California, the Central Valley, Northern California, Seattle, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. I always sign at DB on Ladies’ Night and at Seagull whenever I’m asked.