April 21, 2008 at 7:04 am 7 comments

Today we have multi-published author Bettye Griffin. I go to her blog for jokes, insightful posts, and just because she’s an author I admire. Without further ado…

When did you start writing?

I’m one of those rather typical folks who started writing as a kid. I wrote my first “novel” at age 10, maybe 11, after having taught myself to type with an old textbook I found in the bookcase. My father, bless him, sent it off to Morrow Junior Books. They passed, but I knew I’d try again eventually.

What was the defining moment that made you sit down and start writing a book?

I don’t remember; it was quite a long time ago, like 20+ years.

What made you take yourself seriously?

I decided it was time to stop fooling around and get some work done, even if at the time there seemed to be little hope of getting published (the African-American fiction boom had not yet begun.)

What have you learned about writing that shocked you the most?

That one of my former agents thought she was pulling the wool over my eyes in her continued attempts to rip me off. Nobody likes to be thought of as someone who just fell off the proverbial turnip truck.

What sub-genre(s) did you gravitate to when you first started? Is it the same as now and why do you think it’s changed or stayed the same?

I’ve made no secret that women’s fiction has always been my first love, but I actually started with romance because it was easier to get into. I’m now beginning to incorporate more romance in my women’s fiction.

What advice have you gotten that you live by?

I can’t say I’ve been given any words to live by from anyone, but my personal rule is: Family comes first. It’s an edict I believe I share with many other writers.

What advice would you give a newbie (if it’s not the same as above)?

Learn your craft. Learn your craft. Learn your craft. And learn your craft. There’s more to being a writer than sitting down and pouring out a story from your brain to the paper. Do everything to ensure your work is ready for prime time before submitting.

What’s you’re writing process? Has it changed since writing your first book?

I can’t say I have a process, but I do things a lot differently from my first book. I usually synopsize the story first and after getting an okay from my editor, start writing. I produce more than I did in those early days. I don’t do drafts; I proofread and self-edit as I go. My finished manuscripts have always required very little editing, but copyediting is a different matter! And I’ve never written in sequence. If I’m stuck on one scene, I’ll move on to another one. The important thing is to get the words down.

What keeps you writing?

I love to do it!

Do you have a support system? Do you have a writing community? What valuable lessons have you learned from them?

I had an excellent critique group in Jacksonville, Florida, but now I live in the sticks and the nearest writing group is probably 50 miles away, which makes it too far. I learned immeasurable writing tips from my group on the craft of writing: to use all five senses, to avoid clichés, to keep a careful eye on dialogue tags, etc.

Define success for yourself?

Having an audience who enjoys my work! I did not expect to become wealthy or to become a household name from my writing; there’s simply too many books for readers to choose from for me to think mine will stand out. All in all, I haven’t done too badly.

What are your comfort reads?
I don’t have any. I rarely read. I’ve read exactly 102 pages since January 1st.

Who are you reading right now?

I’d rather not say, because it’s taking so long. People are so quick to interpret. I wouldn’t want any rumors to get started that I’m struggling to read So-and-So’s book, when the problem is not the book but the fact that I only allow myself a minimal amount of time for reading, and when something has to go because I’ve got too much to do, reading time is the first thing to get chucked. I often fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day, without reading at all.

What book(s) that makes you want to write better (or stop writing because you’ll never be that good)?

First of all, nothing has ever (nor, I suspect, *will* ever) make me want to stop writing because I’ll never be “that good.” I am what I am, and I happen to believe I have strong skills. I was very impressed by BeBe Moore Campbell’s Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine. The lyrical writing in that novel taught me a lot about metaphors. I also liked last year’s Casanegra by Underwood/Due/Barnes.Incidentally, my married name is Underwood). I’m usually suspicious of celebrity-penned books, but this one deserves all the praise it’s received; it’s exceptionally well-written.

Thanks, Mel!

You can find Bettye Griffin at: http://www.bettyegriffin.com/
Or just check out my blog roll.


Entry filed under: Bettye Griffin, Write Questions.


7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sarita Leone  |  April 21, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Great interview!

    Tag! You’re it, Melissa! 🙂


  • 2. shelia  |  April 21, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Great interview ladies. Bettye, I have Casenegra but haven’t read it yet. I’ll read it after I read your Once Upon a Project.

  • 3. Patricia W.  |  April 21, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Nice interview, Mel and Bettye. I just ordered my copy of Once Upon a Project on Friday. (Amazon is offering a 20% pre-release discount for those who haven’t ordered their copy yet!)

    And Mel, hang in there with the agent hunt. A blog you might want to check out is Guide to Literary Agents.

  • 4. Mel  |  April 21, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Sariata, you are on my list. A me-me? Gosh.

  • 5. Mel  |  April 21, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Sheila and Patricia. It was great reading the interview back. I think she sent me her answers in Feb.(can’t remember). I plan to buy the book once I get my final tax rebate, because I have no excuse not too. I love her blog i.e. her voice and would like to see how she writes.

    Glad you guys both enjoyed it.

    Sidenote: Patricia, I’ll check out the blog.

  • 6. bettye griffin  |  April 22, 2008 at 1:01 am

    Hi, I just wanted to thank Mel again for interviewing me, and I’m glad y’all enjoyed it. BTW, regarding my reading and the time this interview was done, I jsut wanted everybody to know that I completed the book I was reading and have started another one!

  • 7. Mel  |  April 22, 2008 at 2:01 am

    Congrats on finishing the book. So that brings your page count up to 400 since January?

    Lol. And you are welcome. It was truly my pleasure.

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