Archive for August, 2009

29
Aug

Interview with H.B. Moore

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Authors

My next book: AlmaOne of the most compelling and yet spiritual authors in the LDS market today is Heather Moore.  Last year she was awarded the Whitney for Historical Fiction as well as “Best In State” for fiction in 2008.   In the next few days, her sixth historical novel adapted from the Book of Mormon, ALMA, will be published.  You can visit her blog at http://mywriterslair.blogspot.com to see a short video clip about the book.  I will be doing a review as soon as I have finished reading it, but I can tell you that it’s got me staying up at night.  It is full of suspense and brings a definite sense of reality to the story of Alma the Elder that we all love so much.  Curious about how she went about such a seemingly difficult task with such skill and grace, I asked Heather for an interview which she graciously granted.

GG: You have such an amazing gift for the art the novel, Heather. That is not something that comes easily to most of us, and you are still so young! How did you learn your craft?

Heather: Thanks, GG. That’s a high compliment coming from someone who is a great writer herself. I was always an avid reader, and I really think I was subconsciously learning novel-writing concepts as I read book after book. But when I decided to write a novel, I had to go back to square one, which took a lot of writers’ conferences, workshops, and grueling editing with my critique group.

GG: How much did growing up in your home influence your LDS writing direction?

Heather: I don’t know if it influenced me writing for the LDS market per se, but it definitely influenced me to write clean fiction. After all, my grandma, my parents, my in-laws, my children would all be reading what I’d written. Plus, there are so many talented authors out there who write in many different genres, there’s no reason for me to regurgitate what’s already been done over and over. I needed to find my niche, and so far it’s been in the LDS market, and I’ve been happy with reader reactions to my work. As far as the specific genre I’m currently published in (Book of Mormon fiction), my upbringing certainly had an impact. My father is a retired religion professor from BYU. I’ve met the likes of Hugh Nibley, etc., and have been around great scholars all of my life. Even my mother has been published on a Book of Mormon topic!

GG: You are a very dedicated mother. I think you go to every single solitary game or performance of your children, which always something (I remember those days). How do you prioritize your days?

Heather: I absolutely love to watch my children in their different activities, especially when they are enjoying the experience. When my first book came out, I had a newborn, and that was very tricky. I had a deadline to turn in book #2. So, I’d literally get up at 4:00 a.m. and write from 4-7:00 a.m. each day. The next year, with nap time and the older children in preschool/school, I was able to get in snatches, an hour here, an hour there. Or some days it was 10 minutes. The toughest thing is to stay motivated. When I do have some “quiet” time, I also have a dozen other things I could or should be doing. I’ve had to set up a writing schedule, so that I can meet deadlines, yet learn how to start early enough and stay consistent so that I can get enough sleep!

GG: How do you go about crafting your books?

Heather: I write in layers. When I first draft a chapter, I’m writing mostly action and dialog. The second time through, I’m adding in description and characterization. The third time through, I’m fine tuning and correcting. I usually have an idea of where the story will go (especially if I’m following a Book of Mormon story), but surprises always occur. When I wrote Abinadi, I knew that Helam had to be an important character in the book. After all, he was one of the first baptized at the Waters of Mormon and later on, a city was named after him. So who was he? I had no idea. I was about 200 pages into the book when I decided to make Helam Abinadi’s brother. I had to go back through the whole book and add in his character.

GG: I know you have said you are “as neurotic as the average person,” but compared to me, you are a rock of normalcy. I have drawn my talent from the things I have learned from the adversary. Is it the same for you? Or do you have the gift of empathy that enables you to feel “real” emotions with your characters? They are so real. How did they get that way?

Heather: I think most writers have to have some sort of neurotic tendencies, why else would we put ourselves through this torture? It’s like holding up your child and letting a thousand people criticize his/her personality. And then you can’t take it personally. Many people say to me: Oh, I could write a short story, but not a novel. I’m the opposite. I couldn’t write a short story, but writing a full-length book is not intimidating. Non-fiction writers are putting their personal experience directly onto paper, whereas fiction writers will use their personal experience as springboards into character and plot. For instance, in my newest book, Alma, one of the women, Maia, goes through many trials. Yet she manages to keep her faith intact. I put a little of my own convictions into her motivations. What trials have I faced that have shaken me up and made me question? Of course I haven’t been imprisoned like Maia was, but have I been wrongly accused or wrongly judged by those who don’t know my true self? And did I feel trapped and helpless? I’m not being chased by Lamanites like Maia was, but have I ever feared for my life, my safety, or for those around me? Any parent would know the feeling of that fear. I’m not a slave in a foreign land, but have I gone through the drudgery of working when I’ve not wanted to? . . . So I use my same emotional journey, and in a sense “liken” the character to myself or to those around me who are going through challenges. The challenges might not be the same in description, but they are the same in the heart. None of us are exempt from severe trials, some are physical in which others can see, others are internal and stay quiet for the most part. I believe that human nature and human emotion has not changed over the centuries. A mother who loses a son to the adversary in 128 B.C. will grieve just as much as a mother in 2009.

GG: What are your plans after you finish the current trilogy (Abinadi, Alma, Alma the Younger)? I know you have written a spectacular book on Women of the Book of Mormon. Do you plan on doing more non-fiction?

Heather: I might turn the trilogy into four volumes. I love Ammon’s story as well, and he is becoming a strong character in my current work in progress (Alma the Younger). The non-fiction book, Women of the Book of Mormon, will be out in 2010. It’s hard to look too far into the future, or I probably would be too overwhelmed and give up writing. I’ll finish Alma the Younger this winter, and then time will tell if I decide to write a book on Ammon, or something else jumps out.

GG: How long have you known you were a writer? At what age were you first published?

Heather: When I was 29, I wrote my grandmother’s biography. She was nearing 90 years old and finally decided she’d let someone work on it for her. I had just moved back to Utah from California and I’d spend time with her each week working on her life stories. She’d always complimented me in my writing (in letters, etc.). She always told me that I should write a children’s book. During the time I was writing about her life, I had an idea for a story of a young woman who lived in the 1930’s. I thought it might be neat to write the story and be able to make the things happen that I wanted to, not some other author. After all, there were thousands and thousands of books out there, why couldn’t I write one of them?

The next year I took a creative writing & publishing workshop at a college extension class. One of the first things the instructors said was that he was tired of stay-at-home moms thinking they could make money by writing novels. Well, that was me. And the rest is history. It seems when someone puts me down, it challenges me, and I rise to that challenge. I wrote two manuscripts, received plenty of rejections, then wrote a third, which took 10 months to finally get accepted by Covenant Communications. The process from start to completion was 27 months, and I was 33 years old when my first book hit the shelves.

GG: How does your testimony of the gospel impact your writing? How does it impact what you choose to write?

Heather: My testimony of the gospel has a definite influence on my Book of Mormon series. I couldn’t write it, or write it convincingly, if I didn’t know that those prophets were true prophets of God. It also comes with a bit of a weight and responsibility of living my life in a such a way that I can be open to what I need to be writing. Writing about the Book of Mormon kills two birds with one stone. I get my scripture study done, and my writing for the day. It’s great.

GG: How does your critique group work? In what ways is it helpful to you? (I hate critique groups—you must be very brave)

Heather: The members of my critique group are not dabblers in writing. They look at writing as more than a hobby, as their serious careers. Yes, we all have other obligations and some of us full-time jobs elsewhere, but we are planners. Strategizers. We are much more than correcting a comma, or making dialog consistent with characterization, but good friends and each others’ champions. I don’t know how I got so lucky to be in the critique group with such great writers. We grow and change, we challenge each other, we look out for each other and pool our resources. We meet on a weekly basis, and my journey to publishing has been much shorter because of their valuable and steady feedback.

GG: What is your very favorite part of the Book of Mormon? Why?

Heather: Great question! I really enjoy Nephi’s story. I think it’s probably my favorite. Although Alma is a close second. I admire their strength, their convictions, and their fortitude in the face of life-threatening challenges. It’s amazing to me that Nephi knew that what he was teaching his brothers would never be accepted. Yet he continued because it was the right thing to do. He had seen the future in a vision and knew that the Lamanites and Nephites would ultimately destroy each other. He moved forward in righteousness, patience, and learning. He wrote on the plates because he knew that thousands of years later, his testimony would change our hearts. You can’t ever discredit a man like that.

GG: I perceive that in your writing, you have obviously followed your passion as far as subject matter goes. What other passions do you have that may lead to future books?

Heather: I’m very interested in human nature—why people do the things they do. What are their motivations? History and religion play a major role in the grand cycle of wars, conflicts, life, and love. So by bringing my two interests together—history and religion—and combining it with one of my greatest loves—reading—I’ve found my passion in life.

GG: The inevitable question: What is the most important piece of advice you have for a beginning or struggling writer?

Heather: The longer I write and publish, the more valuable networking becomes. A new writer, or any writer for that matter, can’t hole up in an office to only write, then expect to be published successfully. Networking with other writers, publishers, agents, and editors at writers conferences, book signings, and other events will plant seeds that can move you into a successful career. It can take years to get a manuscript polished, and then more time to find a publisher. But the journey has only begun. The editing process is very time-consuming, and then comes the marketing. An author has to become educated on all aspects of the publishing business. Because it is, after all, a business, and not just a creative muse that we tap into when we are in the mood. Or when we have the time. Writing can be therapeutic on many levels, but if you want to be a successfully published author, you need to think of it as an education first, and then put together your strategy to get there.

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26
Aug

Interview with Michele Ashman Bell

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Authors

When I started reading LDS fiction about four years ago, Michele’s books really appealed to me.  Her characters were so well developed.  Coming from the world’s idea of a romance novel to Michele’s, I was unexpectedly charmed.  Then I sat next to her at a signing.  She radiated kindness and warmth.  Every person who came up to her to talk received her full attention.  She asked them all about their lives, their hopes, their dreams.  She radiated the Spirit.  I am truly honored to call her a friend.  This interview reveals a little bit about how she became the woman and the writer that she is.

GG:  Michele, you are such a light and a beacon to so many people.  From
whence springs that inner joy that you radiate in your person and your
writing?

Michele:  Good heavens, GG, you’re even poetic in the way you ask
questions!  Since I don’t perceive myself as a person who radiates
anything (except heat when I’m having a hot flash) I am not really
sure what the answer is.  The only thing I really know is that I
believe we choose each moment of every day whether or not we are going
to let our circumstances dictate our happiness.  I always try and find
the positive in people and in life situations.  I think that once you
internalize this attitude it really does project outwardly.  Plus, I
live in a fantasy world, that might have something to do with it.

GG:  If it isn’t too personal, how do you prioritize your life?
 

Michele:  I learned this lesson the hard way.  Whoever is reading
this, please learn from my mistakes.  When I first started writing I
put my writing in front of a lot of important things namely callings
and even time with my family.  For ten years I worked at getting my
work published and became so frustrated because it just didn’t happen.
Then, I got called to be Young Women President and I was forced to
put my calling and family first, and basically put my writing on hold.
Once I learned to balance the important stuff and ALWAYS put my
family and church obligations first, I began to see success and was
finally published.  Proving once again that the Lord can make more of
our lives than we can.

GG:  Why do you write?
 

Michele:  I write because I can’t not write.  My mind is constantly
whirling and spinning stories and scenes and book ideas.  It has since
I was a little girl, as far back as I can remember.  I’ve always been
a daydreamer and had a big imagination.  It’s gotten me into trouble
plenty of times, but it is the source of creativity and every chance I
get I encourage children and adults to embrace their imagination and
let their creativity soar, even if it means sometimes you have to
crash and burn.  Even though it took me ten years of rejections before
I got published, I don’t regret anything I learned during that time.

GG:  What do you picture your life to be like in ten years?

Michele:  I’m finally realizing that having children grow up doesn’t
mean life gets easier.  I think it gets more complicated, so I’m
thinking I’m going to still be very involved with my children and my
grandchildren, enjoying time traveling with my husband (and good
friends) and I know that I will be doing my best writing then.  I
still have so much to learn and so many ideas inside of me.  I get
excited when I think about what the future holds.

GG:  How do you nurture the writer within?

Michele:  I’m not the best person to ask this because I’m not doing
very well at this.  I think that ideally the best way to nurture the
writer within is to feed our creativity by experiencing new and
wonderful things; places, people and cultures.  Reading, researching,
taking time away from the craziness of life so you can really let your
thoughts gel and ideas take shape and form, then spending time to
write and let it flow, would be like a dream come true.  Going to
workshops and conferences, writers retreats and research trips, all
would feed the muse.  With my busy life and family I’m lucky to get an
hour or two a day to write.  BUT, as long as I keep my priorities
straight I do believe strongly that the Lord is making up the
difference.

GG:  What is your writing process?

Michele:  Once I get an idea for a story, usually as a result of
discovering a great setting, becoming interested in finding out more
about a certain social issue, or creating a character that really
fascinates me, I start brainstorming.  I will research and find out
all I can about a place or an issue or a person.  From that research
I’ll get more and more ideas.  I will work up an outline and revise it
constantly until I feel like all the components of the story are the
way I want them.  Then I begin writing.  I always begin with prayer (I
need all the help I can get).  I never write on Sundays either.  I
will usually revise my outline throughout the writing process because
the characters sometimes have minds of their own and mess it up.

GG:  How do you manage to be the mother of such creative children and to
keep your own creativity alive?
 

Michele:  Not very well.  I’m tired.  I get such fulfillment and joy
seeing my children make their dreams come true that I forget to take
care of myself.  I think this is a mother’s curse and blessing.  I do
everything I can to help them but I try not to push them.  When the
desire comes from their heart then I become passionate to help them.
Their success means more to me than my own success.  But, bottom line,
if I could get more sleep at night I would be a lot more creative and
productive.  Seriously.

GG:  I know you are an aerobics instructor.  What do you feel this pursuit
adds to your life?

Michele:  Teaching aerobics does wonders to help me feel strong and
healthy, not just physically but mentally also.  I hate getting up at
6 am to workout but when I’m done I feel like I can conquer the world,
until about 2:00 in the afternoon when I almost fall asleep at
stoplights or at the computer.  I also love the ladies I teach.  They
are a source of strength, support and therapy for me.  Exercise is
crucial for our bodies and minds.  The quality of my life is better
because I exercise regularly.

GG:  What advice do you have for those of us who are creative, but struggle
with balancing our lives?

Michele:  Good luck!  Just kidding.  Like I said earlier, it is all
about priorities.  If you do the things that matter and are most
important, then you can ask for heavenly help to make up the
difference.  That’s the only way I can explain the success I’ve had.
Once you understand and believe this principle, and have enough faith
to do it, things become much more simple and good things start to
happen.

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24
Aug

Briggie is in trouble with the law!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Future Plans

Everyone’s favorite grandmother, Brighamina Poulson, has high hopes of buying a wet suit and learning to surf when her and Alex’s newest case takes them to Huntington Beach, California.  However, before she can do so, she and her would-be swain, the punctilious Richard Grinnell fall afoul of the law in Orange County!  The consequences are mind-boggling to Alex and everyone who knows them.

If you’ve never read the Alex and Briggie mysteries, The Hidden Branch, is a fine one to start with!  As one of my readers said, "Everyone needs a Briggie in their life." 

And, if you buy this on line (it’s available for pre-order at Deseretbook.com) or in the stores on or prior to September 17th you will get a gift package of Alex and Briggie memorabilia from me!  Not only that–you will be entered in the drawing for the entire series of A & B mysteries–Cankered Roots, Of Deadly Descent, Tangled Roots, and Poisoned Pedigree–plus a Kansas City Royal’s t-shirt (Briggie’s favorite choice of day and night wear)Even if you already possess these, think what a splendid Christmas gift they would make for your mother-in-law!  (She would be especially charmed by the t-shirt)

For details, waste no time, but to to http://ggvandagriff.com!

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22
Aug

Final Winner in the Alex and Briggie Trivia Contest!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in contest

Our final winner in the trivia contest giveaway is Lisa Hawkins! Her correct answer was:

The three things Alex, Briggie, and Charles found in the Trotter’s Bridge cemetery were (1) The grave of Claire Prescott (found by Alex) with quote from Alma 36 engraved on it, suggesting that Elder Call had baptized her a Mormon; (2) The carving on the tree (found by Charles) saying that Jake McHenry had lynched Elder Samuels on that tree in 1857; and (3) Briggie’s discovery of Jake McHenry’s grave and its engraving that Jake McHenry was “scalped by savages and murdered.”

Congratulations, Lisa!

The rest of you, don’t despair! You still have an opportunity to win signed copies of the whole series, as well a package of Alex and Briggie memorabilia. Anyone who participates in the Internet Launch of The Hidden Branch by purchasing the book in the store or on line (Deseretbook.com—you can even pre-order) on or before September 17th and sends me their name and snail mail address through my website http://ggvandagriff.com will receive the gift package and will then be eligible for the drawing for the entire set of books.

Watch this blog for a pre-launch review by award-winning author Tristi Pinkston, the author of the delightfully zany suspense novel, Agent in Old Lace.

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19
Aug

Will I Ever Write Fiction Again?

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Writing

Seriously, I need to be two people.  One who is left-brained, and one who is right-brained.  My right brain is currently starving.  I don’t remember a time in the last month when I have written fiction.  I hope I can remember how.  Instead, I have been:

1.) recovering from hip replacement surgery

2.) writing a new non-fiction gift book: Embracing Abundance

3.) planning, doing, promoting, and organizing myself for book tours (see Appearances page on my website http://ggvandagriff.com.) for The Last Waltz.

4.) submitting expenses

5.) planning, promoting, and organizing my upcoming Internet launch of my latest Alex and Briggie mystery, The Hidden Branch (see previous post).

6.) learning to Twitter

7.) traveling on book tours

8.) doing local signings

9.) helping launch my niece Emily into wedded bliss (she is now in Thailand rock climbing)

10.) entertaining my beloved grandson, Jack with (“You wanna pway wight sabers with me?”) no regard for my hip.

11.) doing a spa day and Booksellers with my daughter, Buffy.

12.) feeding my sons

13.) letting my husband do the laundry, grocery shopping, and run the roomba around the house like a crazy man.

14.) lunching with all my beloved friends and family.

15.) gaining weight.

I don’t foresee fiction in my future until after we return from Florence in mid-October.  Then it will be a wild ride as I entangle the lives of four women and somehow get them out better than before in Crazy Ladies of Oakwood: Vol. One–The Escapade.  I figure it might take a year.

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17
Aug

Last Week of Contest to Win the Newest Alex and Briggie!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in contest

In order to win a signed copy of The Hidden Branch, the account of Alex and Briggie’s comical and peril-fraught California adventure, answer the following question from Poisoned Pedigree: 

What three things did Alex, Briggie, and Charles find in the Trotter’s Bridge cemetery?

Answer by going to my website: http://ggvandagriff.com and responding through the "Contact Me" page.

Last week’s Winner:

Margene from Arizona!  See my website for the correct answer.

NEW GIVE AWAY CONTEST!

I am told that Hidden Branch will be in the stores for sure by Friday, Sept 16.  It may be available earlier on line.  If you purchase Hidden Branch on or before Saturday, September 17, inform me on line (through contact page on website) and you will receive a gift package of Alex and Briggie memorabilia from all five books.  You will also be entered in a drawing to receive a free set of the previous four books, all autographed and personalized.  Be sure to include your snail mail address in your response.  I would also really appreciate it if you could tell me where you purchased your book! 

Hidden Branch has all the best of the Alex and Briggie you have come to love: humor, romance, peril, quirky characters, and a genealogical puzzle.  If you’ve never read the series, this is an excellent introduction to the "best of Alex and Briggie."

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14
Aug

You can tweet me now!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Uncategorized

My twitter identity is ggvandagriff.  I’m really getting into this technology thing, thanks to my fabulous Idaho hostess, Cindy Bezas.  I think her IQ is about 190.  I’m like a twelve year old trying to run a marathon to keep up with her.  She has outlined a very technosaavy launch for The Hidden Branch.  Now let’s see if I can do it.  I seriously believe that technology is the future of marketing.  Especially after traveling so many miles to do book signings.  However, the up side of book signings is that you meet wonderful people.

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10
Aug

Week Five Alex and Briggie Trivia Contest!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in contest

For a chance to win a signed copy of The Hidden Branch, the fifth and final mystery in the Alex and Briggie contest, answer the following question from Poisoned Pedigree: Why did Alex fall into the hands of Joe McHenry?

To answer go to the contest page of my website: http://ggvandagriff.com.

Congratulations to Britt Chapman, who won last week’s contest! The correct answer was: Alex saw the resemblance between the murderer and William Williams after discovering the Williams Family Bible on the murderer’s desk.

Be prepared for an exciting On-Line Launch party where you will have a chance to win prizes as well as the complete set of Alex and Briggie novels.

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3
Aug

Fourth Week of Alex and Briggie Contest!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in contest

It’s Briggie and Alex trivia contest time again! You have three more chances to win a signed copy of Hidden Branch, the final Alex and Briggie, mystery which will come out at the end of August! Just go to my website at http://ggvandagriff.com and click on the contest button to answer the following question: What was the final clue that tipped Alex off to the identity of the murderer of Gladys Harrison? (Tangled Roots). Good luck!

Our winner for last week was April!  Congratulations!

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