Southern Scribe
    our culture of storytelling

 

 Featured Inspirational Author   

  Writing on the Wings of Grace

An Interview with Vanessa Davis Griggs

by Pam Kingsbury

Photo credit: Jim Bradshaw

 
 

 

In many ways, Vanessa Davis Griggsí life is much like that of her characters. She understands what it means to have a good work ethic, to get knocked down and get back up, and to trust her instincts. Her innate spirituality and passionate nature form both her personal and writing life. 

 

What have you been doing since Southern Scribe's last interview with you?

Oh wow, a lot has transpired since our last interview. BET Books/New Spirit (their inspirational imprint) acquired the rights to my originally self-published novel, Promises Beyond Jordan. I signed a two-book deal with them and they re-released Promises Beyond Jordan with a new cover February 2004. My second release, Wings of Grace, hit the stands February 2005. Iím still writing, speaking, and enjoying what I do with great passion.

Tell readers about the connection between PROMISES BEYOND JORDAN and WINGS OF GRACE. Do you anticipate writing a third novel in the series? 

Wings of Grace begins where Promises Beyond Jordan left off. Because Iím not fond of reruns, any follow-up of a book I do has to be fresh with some new faces and new things happening just to keep me engaged and excited as I pen it. You will recognize some characters from Promises Beyond Jordan in Wings of Grace, but many of the new players are ďcharactersĒ indeed! I have learned from early feedback of Wings of Grace that you can actually read it without having read Promises Beyond Jordan. But if you read (or have read) Promises Beyond Jordan first, youíre going to be in for a treat, witnessing a few charactersí evolutions. I do anticipate a third and even fourth novel in what has now taken off to become an inspiring series.

Has the act of writing become any easier with practice? with publication? with acclaim?

Practice does make one better, no matter the task at hand. Iím a strange type of writer when it comes to my personal writing process. I donít write every day in the sense of sitting down at the keyboard, but my method of formulating situations and scenarios in my head, observing, and jotting down thoughts and scenes when they flood my soul, all are part of writing for me. Publication can add some pressure when youíre writing the next book if more people have a hand and a stake in it. In my case, I donít care to write a book just to write one. If I canít create a story that I believe will be my best work to date, Iím not going to just cookie-cut a story to make money or meet someone elseís assigned deadline. The passion in and for the book, begins with me. If Iím not feeling it, I donít do it. With acclaim? Iím still Vanessa who has big dreams, and I am honored when people read my work. People donít have to pick it up or read it, you know. My desire is always to give my best in whatsoever things I do. 

How did you get "hooked-up" with BET? Talk about the experience. Your reaction.

I published Promises Beyond Jordan under my own press (self-published). It was selling okay when the senior editor at BET Books read it and called my publishing companyís number in January 2003 to get my personal number so she could get in touch with me. When she discovered I was one in the same, she told me how much she enjoyed Promises Beyond Jordan and she wanted to talk with me about possibly acquiring it. She offered me a two-book deal, which made way for Wings of Grace to hit the scene through them.

Do you see yourself as writing for any one particular market?

Since Iíve acquired a reputation for writing in multiple genres simultaneously, I donít see my style changing. Itís just part of my DNA. I like to write the way we as people live life. There are multiple aspects to our lives; I think in order for fiction to ring true, it should mirror real life. There will always be some aspects of Christian, mystery/suspense, possibly sprigs of history, romance, and multicultural in my work. All of this works for me. It keeps me from being bored.

What's been the most pleasant/least pleasant experience in promoting your work?

Most pleasant has got to be meeting some great people whether itís in person, through email, snail mail, or chatting on the phone. I do lots of interviews and Iíve met some people who remain in my life, even to this day. Least pleasant would be the people I meet who feel itís there God-ordained calling to tear me down or put me in my place. I donít run into those kinds often, but they are lurking out there. Itís also a bit frustrating sometimes trying to get into a few places if youíre not a big name, but that just causes me to press harder or figure out other ways to do what needs to be done. Perseverance, thatís all it develops in me. 

How difficult is it to convincingly write about faith?

Itís not difficult for me to write about faith because itís part of my make-up. You have to be careful when using the word faith though, because I think all people have faith. There are some who have faith that they can do, and they do. There are some who have faith that they canít do, and they donít. Both are faith; both are working. People must be alert when using faith. Now faith in God is what I love, and thatís easy for me to write about because I know how we are as people. We all face challenges at one time or another and things may not always work out the way we would like. Then there are other times when we know that we know that we know! Now thatís a faith to ďwrite homeĒ about. 

Did you start WINGS OF GRACE with an image, a character, or a plot device in mind? Which comes first for you?

I generally begin a book with a question that gnaws at me. I find myself churning it around in my head. Itís like asking a question thatís out there and waiting for the answer to reveal itself to me. Then images come and my characters appear, letting me know who they are and what (in their opinion) is going on. I hear them speak in their own voices, telling their part of the tale. Itís quite fascinating for me. The plot usually is a skeleton with the meat being added on as the story begins to move forward (Wings of Grace is a bit big-boned). Thatís why I actually hate writing out a full outline (some publishers want it) where I have to tell everything that happens. There are some things I donít know and donít want to know until it bleeds out on the paper. I get my joy out of writing it and finding out things that even I, as the author, didnít know. Thatís why Iíll let the publisher know if they want an outline that things are subject (and most likely) to change. 

Who are your influences?

My influences are those who live life with passion and with a spirit of excellence. I like people who are honest with life. My influences are those who have vision and go after their dreams, demonstrating that itís indeed possible. I believe if they can do it, then so can I. My influences have been my mother and my father; some of the elderly with their fascinating quirks, fantastic mannerisms, and wisdom; and children with their pureness of innocence. People you might never have heard of before, but great people whoíve had a finger in who I am now. From a literary standpoint, it would probably be Ernest J. Gaines, Toni Morrison, Og Mandino, and Barbara Taylor Bradford (with A Woman of Substance) because I see their efforts in the telling of the tale. I learned early in life to encourage and influence myself. Thatís important: Learn to encourage, influence, and believe in yourself.  

What would you still like to be asked about your work? Yourself? 

What motivates you? That would be the question. What makes me keep going when I have so many reasons (justifiably so) to quit? What motivates me is my knowing that others believe in me; that they are cheering me on. My relationship with God who lets me know He is faithful. I love when I know He has told me something, and I watch Him do whatóto the worldóseems most likely impossible. I figure if God believed in me so much that He chose me, the least I can do is listen to what He says and follow His every lead. My other motivation is knowing others are watching me, and I want them to see me continuing on in genuine faith. I want someone who desires to embark on a thing (or if they already have), and they feel like quitting because itís tough, to look at me and say: If she did it, so can I. I want to make a positive difference in someone elseís life, other than just my own. Trust me: When I do what I do, itís not always about me.


Vanessa Davis Griggs Web Site

Vanessa Griggs Interview with Southern Scribe in 2003

Vanessa Griggs' Interview with Bill Thompson of Eye on Books
 http://www.eyeonbooks.com/ibp.php?ISBN=1583144684
 

 
Wings of Grace
Vanessa Davis Griggs
BET Publications -- New Spirit, 2005
Trade paper, $15.00 (336 pages)
ISBN: 1-58314-468-4

      Southern Scribe Review

 

 

 

 

 

© 2005, Pam Kingsbury, All Rights Reserved