Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! I’m always excited when I have a friend as my guest, and this week I am thrilled to have Janet Morris Grimes as my guest. We have worked together for several years on the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, and I have spent the last year celebrating the release of her novel and it’s nomination for some pretty outstanding awards! I love Janet (even though I don’t know how she could have claimed Donny Osmond since he was with me!) I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did. Read on to see how you can enter to win her fabulous novel.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I may not have realized I was a writer at the time, but my earliest childhood memories were spent creating fairy-tale stories of the father I never knew. That desire to connect with the mysterious man in a treasured photograph gave me a deep love for the endless possibilities of a healing and everlasting story.
A wife of one, mother of three, and Tootsie to four, I currently write from my quiet two-acre corner of the world near Elizabethtown, KY. In the last year, I’ve released my debut novel, Solomon’s Porch, and my first children’s book, Do Your Best, Tess!
Tell us about your current release: Solomon is an elderly gentleman struggling with dementia and not getting the care he needs. His beloved town of Ginger Ridge fell apart once the nearby military base closed. He wanders too far from home, and is severely injured in an accident. Referring to him as Grandpa Doe, his caseworker at the hospital begins an extensive search to find his true identity and locate his family, uncovering many secrets along the way.
I was both shocked and honored when Solomon’s Porch was named a finalist for the 2022 American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards in the debut novel category. Each connection with a new reader is a gift; a reward of its own, and not one I’ll ever take for granted.
Who was your first Screen/Musical Crush? Donny Osmond. I’m sure he’ll remember me. I used to pretend to be married to him, while also playing the schoolteacher in Little House on the Prairie. We had a busy and wonderful life back then, but his musical career made it difficult for us to continue past the 4th grade. That, and I think he got married for real. Life just hurts sometimes, and then came middle school.
What is your preferred method of writing? (computer, pen & paper, etc.) Definitely, the computer. Sometimes, I’ll jot down an idea for a story and let it simmer for a while, but I like to give it a full page and name it. Each story deserves that chance to simmer and grow, even if it begins as one sentence describing a simple idea or plot twist. Stories come to me in layers, and this is typically the first step.
If I’m not near my computer, I make a note in my phone or send myself an email. I guess this proves all authors talk to themselves, using many different methods.
How did you make the initial step into writing your first novel. What were some of your major roadblocks and how did you overcome them? My first published novel is Solomon’s Porch, and I’ll always be thankful this is the first one to make it into print. Of course, it’s not the first novel I’ve written. I often describe it as the one to get a strong enough reaction to push the others aside. Technically, it’s my fifth novel, so the first four just served as training wheels.
I presented this idea and first three chapters to a few agents, but during 2020, there weren’t many willing to take a shot on new writers. All I ever wanted was a great product and a chance, so I landed with a small, traditional publisher. Elk Lake Publishing gave me a team and a family, and helped me polish my novel until it was ready to meet the public. I’m honored to have found a place on their shelves.
And I have to say that if not for 2020, this book still may not be finished. That year forced me to stay home, without guilt. Lesson learned. I’m a writer now. I must stay home to write; so it’s okay to say no sometimes.
What is your inspiration for writing? I’d have to say I do my best writing when I feel the most helpless.
When I was little, most stories centered on my father. He was already in Heaven, so I often wondered how he spent his time and what he’d teach me if he could be here. In my fairy-tale version of him, some days, he was a secret King in another land. Other days, he might be a soldier, a pilot, or an exceptionally nice pirate; all of which kept him from coming home.
I couldn’t change our story, but through writing, I could pretend he was with me and prove he was a hero.
In a shocking plot twist, shy little Janet grew up to work as a 9-1-1 Operator and Police Dispatcher. What a rude awakening for a sheltered girl from the Bible Belt in Nashville, TN. So many voices. So many unfinished, heartbreaking stories. As a 9-1-1 Operator, you join people during the worst day of their lives and quickly move from call to call, never knowing the outcome.
As a writer, I get to determine the outcome. And somehow prove my Daddy is still my hero.
See? I do my best writing when I feel powerless.
Do you keep a story journal with lots of ideas for future books? Oh, this happens often and I’ve sure learned to document those ideas when they hit me. I usually make a recording or note on my phone, because I always have that with me. Sometimes, I do the same with my current work in progress. I’ll send myself an email with a scene idea that solves a plot hole or adds an extra layer of intrigue, or remind myself to move a scene to an earlier chapter.
I go through seasons with few ideas, and that’s usually a sign to finish the ones I’ve already started. This not only applies to writing, but also to life in general. I think life is like driving in the dark using headlights. I can only see the road directly in front of me, and God won’t show me where to go until I need to know. Until I do that last thing he asked of me.
How difficult is it for you to make sure those who are asked to review actually do review? Does this limit your thoughts on ARCs? I can honestly say one of the best choices I ever made was to send a ton of ARC copies a month before my book was scheduled for release. I asked readers to find any mistake, make sure the medical scenes seemed realistic, told me when or if they got bored. The feedback I received was so valuable, I didn’t worry much about a typo sneaking through or if the story wasn’t clear.
I’ve got such sharp friends; this process expanded my thoughts on Advanced Reader Copies. Next time, I’ll send it to even more people. I need those opinions and last chances to make it right.
I knew going into my first book release that only half of those advanced readers actually post a review. Reviews are such a gift to an author, so even if it’s disappointing when someone doesn’t follow through, it’s an honor that they chose to read my book. Even more of a blessing when they share it with others, however and whenever they find the time. It may not be in a posted review. It may be word of mouth, a quick post on social media, giving the book as a gift to others, or a text saying they enjoyed the story. Each one of these acts brings connection, and that’s the whole point of releasing a book. If I only chase reviews, I’m missing hidden rewards along this journey.
Do you have a particular character that you fell in love with and keep them alive in your mind? The beauty of writing fiction is that I have the power to allow someone to live. To keep that person alive. To experience that miraculous recovery. To take advantage of that second chance. To profess his or her love in time to follow through.
Real life doesn’t always work like that. Some of my greatest story ideas come from true tragedies I’ve lived through or witnessed from a distance. Or heard for myself through a 9-1-1 call. I can’t help but wonder “what if he lived?”
And then I spend the next 80,000 words answering that question. So, in that respect, every story is filled with characters I keep alive in my mind. I love them, and my greatest desire is to find a way for them to be okay. To thrive. To lived happily ever after.
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Janet is giving away an autographed paperback of Solomon’s Porch! (U.S. only). Here’s how you can enter to win: