Monday, June 4, 2012

In the Spotlight Judy G Gill

Today’s In the Spotlight interview is with Judy Griffith Gill

Judy Griffith Gill is the author of over fifty published novels. She’s a novel- writing teacher, Editor/Acquisitions Editor, and proof reader. I personally am published because Judy as Acquisitions Editor with Champagne Books liked my book, After the Mist and gave me a chance. I’ve since read a couple of her books and have found them well written and extremely captivating.

Please join me in welcoming Judy. Good morning Judy sit back in your favorite chair, or your hammock and let us begin.

Tell us something about Judy Griffith Gill, we have only wondered about.

People often ask “Where do you get your ideas?” If I’m overtired, stressed out, or just plain feeling skittish, I’ve been known to reply: “I subscribe to a secret Idea Generating Service. It’s terribly expensive and very exclusive. No, I can’t put you in touch with them.” In reality, however, my ideas come from news items, snippets of overheard conversations, dreams—a lot of them come from dreams—my subconscious talking to me; and just plain lolling in that hammock and asking myself “What if…’”

When I read your book Perfect Partners (I loved it!) there was a delightful part which took place on a boat in a cove. At the end of this book you said while writing Perfect Partners you were on a boat in a cove, is this a norm for you?

Between the beginning of April and the end of September, yes. Neither my husband nor I like marinas, so we do a lot of anchoring-out where it’s calm and quiet and often secluded. I’m an unrepentant skinny-dipper but don’t like to offend others.

I love your answer so I'm keeping it, but what I meant to ask was, is it the norm for you to incorporate a place or situation you are in into the story you are writing?

Actually, no. I seldom write about a place I'm currently in or have lived in until I'm away from it and can see it from more distant perspective. Somehow, that allows me to pick out details without being overwhelmed by minutiae. For instance, though we spent a total of eight years in Germany, I didn't set a book (Golden Warrior) there until much later.

You have a long line of credentials, from author, to editor, to writing teacher, which do you find to be the most rewarding, and why?

Aw, Cathy, cruel! I love all aspects of the writing life, so it’s really hard to choose a favorite. To my mind editing and teaching are often the same thing (as many of my long-suffering authors would tell you). When I make a change or suggest one in author’s book, it’s because I’ve slipped happily into teaching mode and have to control myself so as not to write pages and pages of lecture material. I guess, on reflection, the most rewarding is to read my own finished manuscript for the ninety-ninth time, sit back with a sigh and hear that little voice inside say, “Damn, that was fun!” But helping an author through the process of getting a book into shape is nearly as rewarding in a slightly different way. When the author appears happy with our combined effort and tells me I’ve helped, that she’s learned from what I told her (or him) I hear that same little voice say the same thing. For me, that is the entire basis of this career. When it quits being fun, I’ll stop doing it. I understand you have two homes, one in BC and one in Costa Rica which place most holds your heart?

My heart, corny as this will sound, is wherever my husband of nearly fifty years is. Since he does the yard work and grocery-shopping in Costa Rica to give me time to work, and drive me to Cahuita Park to swim in the Caribbean (which is only 500 yards from our house, but the swimming’s better and safer in the park) and captains the boat when we’re in BC, that means I want to be where he is because I need him. (Um, don’t tell him, but wherever my computer is also holds a warm place in my heart.)

You sound like a very busy lady, how do you find time to also write?

I just do it. I lead a pretty sedentary life on the whole, my main activity in CR rocking my hammock with my foot against a table, and in BC, playing deckhand to the captain and paddling my kayak. This lack of outside activity gives me plenty of time to all the writing, reading and editing I choose to do. I have cut back on my private editing jobs, but still take on the odd project I feel is worthwhile. My novel writing is slowing down these past few years. I find myself doing more short articles for writing magazines and trying the odd novella here and there.

When did you first realize you were destined to be a writer? What inspired you?

I’ve been a book-nut since I learned to read at the age of four, but think I was about ten, maybe twelve, when I read a continuing story in a weekly magazine my parents subscribed to. That novel, The Golden Amazons (don’t bother Googling it to figure out how old I am--I just turned seventy) captivated me and I could hardly wait for the next installment. The author, whose name I don’t remember, showed, not told, to the point where I could see what was happening to that family, feel their anxieties, take part in their adventures, and began creating adventures for myself and the two cousins nearest my age, both boys. A teacher, Miss McAulley, wrote on my sixth-grade report card, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee,” but it wasn’t until high school I began to notice that not everyone had that “gift,” because other kids would ask me to look over their essays. I think I knew I was a writer even then, but it took a posting to Germany and a dearth of English language books for me to put that “gift” to work. I wrote a romance novel because someone dared me to, sent it away to a publisher in the UK and they bought it. I was twenty-nine and too naïve to know it wasn’t supposed to be that easy. Apart from an eight-year hiatus after we left military life and returned to BC, while I worked as a book-seller and landscaped our wilderness property, I’ve never looked back.

What brought you to Champagne Books as Editor/Acquisitions Editor?

Initially, an ad for an editor I saw on the EPIC loop. I’d just finished judging in EPIC’s contest and, appalled by the quality of work I’d seen, figured maybe editorial services would help improve e-books. Ms. Smith hired me. About a year later, after I annoyed her enough by complaining about the stuff assigned to me for editing, she asked if I’d be interested in acquiring for Champagne. I was. I made lots of mistakes, accepted things considered unacceptable by other editors, and learned to strengthen my “mean-gene”. Problem was I wanted to take on works other editors felt required too much editing, because I thought—and still think—that’s what editors do: they edit. I had to learn I wasn’t supposed to be a teacher and a writing coach to the degree I wanted to be, nor should I expect that of other editors. It’s been a tough lesson. It still hurts me to have to tell someone “no”, except for those who obviously haven’t done their homework about what we publish, who present badly spelled, poorly constructed queries, and show a total ignorance of our submission guidelines which are clear and concise. If you want to submit to me at the CBG, please pay careful attention to the guidelines and follow them religiously. It’s my nature to want to love you all, but there are submissions that have ended up in my “bad/funny submissions file” which will someday be the basis of an article I plan to publish widely. Believe me, though names will be changed to protect the guilty, you don’t want yours be in that group.

You have written over fifty books, a huge accomplishment, which book would you personally call your favorite?

Ah, no hesitation on that one: BAD BILLY CULVER. Carolyn Nichols, then publisher of Bantam Loveswept books, wanted me to do a longer story, and I’d wanted to do a “bad-boy” book, so it all came together.

What inspired you to write that book?

After my discussion with Ms. Nichols, and my then editor, the incomparable Elizabeth Barrett, who taught me a great deal in the near-decade we worked together, Billy perched himself on the deer-fence around my vegetable garden one morning and told me his story. I went into the house and started writing it. I still love that guy—like my husband, a “somewhat reformed juvenile delinquent.”

Billy Culver, church-mouse poor, handsome as the devil & twice as bad, driven away for something he didn't do, returns, just as handsome, now rich & powerful & out for revenge--against the town, against the girl he loved--then he sees her again. Arlene Lambert still loves him but the dark secrets she must maintain, for Billy's sake, keep them apart. Or would, if she could just say no.

Anything else you’d like to add?

If you go to Smashwords or Kindle to look for the few works I have up there, make it soon, because I’ll be taking them down in a month or two. I’ve recently signed with Open Road Media, a company interested in aggressively marketing e-book editions of a number of authors. I think it’ll be an interesting venture, and I’ll be working with Nita Taublib, whom I first met when she was assistant to Carolyn Nichols, the publisher at Bantam Loveswept. Ms. Taublib then went on to become Executive Publisher for Bantam, Doubleday, Dell. I’m thrilled to be working with her again because I trust her judgment and because it was largely due to her I became the first, and for a long time only, Canadian published by Bantam Loveswept. It nearly killed me to break with them, but editorial/author differences forced that. Then, a year or so later, BDD inexplicably folded the line and I was glad I’d established myself elsewhere. Note to authors: If possible, don’t limit yourself—break out into subgenres if you can to give yourself more options.

Cathy, thank you for this opportunity to talk to readers and potential editing clients. I should have warned you—I tend to be long-winded. But when you ask a writer to discuss writing, you run the risk of being unable to turn off her tap. And by the way, I’m pretty sure After the Mist would have been published no matter who was doing the acquiring. It’s a wonderfully well-crafted, spooky, scary book and I enjoyed it immensely.

Thank you Judy, it was such fun to have a small glimpse into your life.
Find out more about Judy:


Jude Johnson said...

Wow, Judy, I want to be you when I grow up! What a fascinating life--and I loved how Bad Billy came and told you his story. It's so much fun when a character does that.

Thanks for sharing some of your life story.


TKToppin said...

Great interview!!! Thanks for sharing!!

Cathy Coburn said...

I'm with you Jude, after hearing a little about Judy's life, Wow what a woman. TK thanks for joining Judy here.

Linda LaRoque said...

It was great to learn more about you, Judy! You wear many interesting faces!

Michelle Anderson Picarella said...

Wow! I think I love Judy even more. I love the teacher side of her editing. I hope she edits every book I create. An author should evolve with every published title. That is an easy thing to do with Judy.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Wonderful interview, Cathy and Judy. I really admire your hard work, dedication, and verve for life, Judy! Love the skinny-dipping, and thanks for that advice about branching out.