Virginia Smith is the author of more than a dozen Christian novels and over fifty articles and short stories. An avid reader with eclectic tastes in fiction, Ginny writes fiction in a variety of styles, from lighthearted relationship stories to breath-snatching suspense. She and her husband divide their time between Kentucky and Utah, and escape as often as they can for “research trips” (or so she says) to scuba dive in the warm waters of the Caribbean. Learn more about Ginny and her books at www.VirginiaSmith.org and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ginny.p.smith.
When did you decide to be a writer?
Not until my mid-twenties. Fiction has been a part of my life since before I could read. I devoured stories all through my childhood and teens, so it seemed like a natural step to write it. Reading fiction is like the difference between wading in the shallow end of the pool, and writing is like submerging yourself in the deep end. I love it!
At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?
I love critiques, so that was a hard step for me. I think I wore out my critique partners, though. When I started publishing several books a year, I felt like a leech to ask for critiques three times a year. So with my sixth published novel, I took the plunge and turned it in without having anyone else read it first. I do still run my first chapters through my critique group, though.
Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?
I have to be disciplined, or I won’t get anything done. When I have a book contract, I write every day, beginning after breakfast and ending when it’s time to cook dinner. Of course I take breaks for lunch and to go to the gym and check email in the afternoon.
What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?
My husband and I love to scuba dive, so we try to take a few trips every year. For shorter escapes, we ride motorcycles in good weather. (I’m strictly a passenger.)
What is your favorite novel and what made it special?
I have a different “favorite novel” every month! But one that stands out in my mind as an all-time favorite is a sci-fi/fantasy novel called The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. The setting was so vivid I felt like I was living on another planet. The characters were incredibly realistic, and their struggles relatable. They became real people in my mind. And the story itself was compelling from the beginning to the end. There’s a time travel twist in there that I absolutely loved. I’ve read the book about a dozen times, but not in several years. To be honest, I’m afraid to read it now that I’ve learned so much about the mechanics of writing. What if it isn’t as good as I remember? I’d rather keep the memory intact!
How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?
Reading a great novel challenges me. It makes me want to stir the same emotions in my readers that the author stirred in me. I do try to analyze the techniques the author used to create the story, and then apply them to my story. For example, when I read Crimson Eve by Brandilyn Collins, I realized that she deepened the villain’s character and added suspense tremendously by giving the reader a peek into his personal life. Of course I’ve learned in workshops to avoid ‘cookie cutter bad guys,’ but Crimson Eve was a perfect example of one way to do it. Now I approach my characterization of my bad guys differently.
Tell us a little about your latest release:
Kelli Jackson can’t imagine anything worse than becoming a zookeeper. Unless it’s working for Jason Andover, the handsome man who might -- or might not -- have wormed his way into her estranged mother’s affections in order to steal Kelli’s inheritance. But her mother is still trying to ruin Kelli’s life, even from the grave. She has to hold the job for six months, or walk away from her inheritance and, more importantly, the chance to finally understand the mother who never loved her.
Jason wants to comply with his former boss’s dying wish and help Kelli face the fears that haunt her from the past. But how can he, when she won’t tell him why she’s so terrified of lions? Besides, if she gives up, his beloved animals will benefit from the inheritance Kelli forfeits. Seems like an easy choice. He just never expected to fall in love with her.
Where did you get your inspiration for A DAUGHTER’S LEGACY?
I’ve always loved zoos, ever since my first visit with my grandfather when I was a child. In fact, I’ve harbored a secret desire to work in a zoo, but never had the opportunity. So this book was a way to realize that dream in a way. And I did get to work as a zookeeper for a day at the Utah Hogle Zoo while I researched the book. It was a blast!
Which character is most like you?
Kelli is probably the most like me, because she’s more than a little stubborn and she’s carrying around a lot of pain from an incident in her childhood. She has to ‘face her lion,’ so to speak, and I’ve had to do that.
Who is your favorite character and why?
Aw, you know I can’t play favorites! I can’t choose between Jason and Kelli, so I’ll tell you my favorite secondary character is Raul, the surly zookeeper who teaches Kelli how to care for the animals. He’s abrasive to people, but he shows a tender, caring side to the animals he loves. I liked developing his relationship with Kelli.
Did you know how A DAUGHTER’S LEGACY would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?
I knew the ending would turn out happy, of course. It’s a romance novel, so of course the guy and the girl are going to end up together. What I didn’t realize is how Jason’s relationship with his daughter would mirror Kelli’s relationship with her mother. That developed during the writing process, and it was so utterly perfect I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it all along.
What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?
We all have ‘lions’ we have to face. Avoiding them doesn’t work; that just stops us from moving forward. But we have an all-powerful God who specializes in conquering the lions in our lives.
What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?
Most of my marketing is focused online these days. I’ve sent review copies to some faithful reviewers. I’m doing interviews (like this one!) to get the word out. I’m doing tons of giveaways on my website so people can win a free copy of the book.
I do book signings, too. Last month, before A Daughter’s Legacy was released, I participated in a book festival, and I put a big photo of the cover on my table with a note saying, “Watch for my new release in May!” Lots of people asked about it. Since the book is available in Walmart and grocery stores (wherever Harlequin romances are sold), it’s going to be easily accessible. I hope show them the book cover so they’ll recognize it when they’re shopping!
Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
In October, I have an exciting book coming out. Into the Deep is a romantic suspense novel with a scuba diving theme. It’s set partly in Key West and partly in Cozumel, Mexico. I’ve always said I wanted to do a book that lets me write about my passion for diving, and this is it.
Also, I just finished the manuscript for a new romantic suspense that will be out in early 2011 called A Deadly Game. It’s a fun but suspenseful book about a deadly scavenger hunt.
My next project is a book I’ll be co-authoring with bestselling author Lori Copeland. I’m so excited about this book! The details are being worked out now, so I don’t want to say too much, but it’s going to be great.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Join a critique group and start getting feedback on your work. I really do think my critique partners taught me how to write a piece of publishable fiction. Plus, you will start to build a network of support and fellowship, something we all need in this crazy industry.
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Want more? Stop by The Borrowed Book on Thursday for an excerpt from A Daughter's Legacy by Virginia Smith.