Confessions of a Writer Tag

 

Confessions of a Writer Tag

I was delighted to be tagged by one of my favorite authors, Kevin Ansbro, to do this Confessions of a Writer. I have had so much fun reading the Confessions and I was thrilled to be asked to continue it. The Confessions tag was started by Nicolette at A Little Bookish, A Little Writerly  nicoletteellzie.com/2015/10/02/the-confessions-of-a-writertag/

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When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?

When I was young, I wrote fanciful books with my own artwork for my younger sister, Elizabeth. They were tales of animals and dolls coming to life and having adventures with Elizabeth. Later, I wrote short stories that were published in my school’s literary journals.

My parents were voracious readers and early on, my father introduced me to Faulkner, whom he knew, and I was entranced! Writers held a mystique for me, but I never thought of being one.

What genre do you write?

I have written two books, Smitten, a WWII romance based on a true story; and a contemporary legal suspense novel, inspired by my career as a corporate attorney. I have also started a suspense novel, with a TV journalist as its main protagonist. I was a legal liaison with a Boston news station and my daughter, an Annenburg Fellow at USC, was a TV anchor and reporter. She is my editor for all my writing.

 Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress. When did you start working on this project?

I am editing both Smitten and the legal suspense novel. I started both 10 to 12 years ago but dropped them, then picked them up again 2 years ago.

I wrote Smitten based on over a thousand love letters from the Forties as well as four years of the man’s wartime diaries, and my extensive research into the era. It is a love story between two strong-willed and passionate people, a story of a woman’s empowerment in an age of restricted opportunity, of her rise to fame, and ultimately her decision that sealed their fate: would she choose love or fame?

When I started writing it twelve years ago, I was working a 60-hour week as a lawyer. I sent out a batch of queries, like flinging mud against a wall to see what would stick, never expecting an 85% positive response from NY agents. Even Vogue wanted me to write an article about it. I wasn’t ready. I had only written a few chapters. I worked with a freelance editor and learned so much with the intense one-on-one; however, by the time I was ready to send in the requested chapters, the agents and editors had left, usually to go write their own novels!

Then I was waylaid by a number of tragedies including my lymphoma. I turned to art to restore my soul. It was a creative outlet in which I could lose myself for hours. I loved it and I still do.

Eventually, writing called to my heart again. I found Nancy Aronie’s workshops on Martha’s Vineyard where I lived part-time. Nancy is fantastic. I have seen her change people in four days. Their writing goes from staid and conventional to something that is unique and soars. I can’t praise her enough.

What was your first piece that you remember writing? What was it about?

Other than the books for my sister mentioned above, my first serious stab at it was when I was a young mother.

I wrote a legal romance novel in Memphis on a Navy base where my husband was stationed. It was a fun, combined effort—a group of friends read my book in chapters giving me more encouragement than anyone could expect. Silhouette loved it, but before I could send them the completed manuscript, my husband died in a horrific car accident involving a U-Haul. I lost everything including the manuscript with no backup. The male protagonist was based on my husband so I had no desire to return to that book—ever.

Fast-forward ten years. I pitched a legal suspense romance to a Harlequin editor at a conference. She requested five chapters, which she loved, but asked if I could put in more mayhem and murder. I tried, but honestly, it didn’t interest me. It started to feel contrived—kiss of death for me—so I dropped it. But it was nice to know that an editor liked my writing enough to ask for a complete submission.

What’s the best part about writing?

Creating. Seeing characters and scenes come to life purely from my imagination.

What’s the worst part about writing?

Juggling writing and life. Family and friends come first. That is because I had a series of tragedies, losing my young husband, my sisters, parents, almost losing my current husband and at one time losing everything I owned. Being active is crucial for my health and keeps the creative juices running. It is easy for me to work 10 or 12 hours straight, but it is not healthy so I have to force the breaks.

 What’s the name of your favorite character and why? (This can be from a book by another author or from your own work.)

Carmel, from my unpublished novel, Smitten. Carmel was my mother’s name. It is a melodious but strong name that is forever linked in my mind to a beautiful woman with smiling blue eyes, thick auburn hair streaked with amber, a softly lilting southern accent, slender, curvy body, and a strong will tempered with a graciousness that drew people to her.

How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?

When I’m on, I can write 5 to 8 hours every day, usually between 1 and 5 pm when I get a burst of creative energy. I wrote my first book at night. I worked during the day doing TV commercials and modeling, so I wrote at night, with about 4 hours sleep. I was young and I could do it!

 Did you go to college for writing?

No, I majored in French Literature, which meant tons of reading in French. I have a Juris Doctor degree. Law is all about reading and writing, which is why so many English majors end up in law school. During the last fifteen years I have taken a number of creative writing courses and worked one on one with an editor.

What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors, or grammar errors?

Grammar errors distract me from the flow of a story. It is too bad because a lot of writers haven’t had the luxury of a great education, which simply means they need a good copyeditor but often can’t afford it. I’ve tried to help some find free or inexpensive resources via universities or writing groups.

What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?

From my daughter, Kyla: “Cut, cut, cut!” She is right. Forcing me to pare down always makes my writing stronger.

From author Nancy Aronie: Don’t let anyone tear you or your writing down. Nancy is the best writing teacher I’ve ever known. Her workshop, “Writing from the Heart,” is all about the positive and it works. It is amazing to see how people flourish with this, opening up to honor their voice. It is a wonderful experience.

 What advice would you give to another writer?

I am fascinated by what works for authors, often contradictory things. For example, the advice to write a first draft without interruption and edit later. That works for many, but I have a friend who edits so completely as she writes, she doesn’t do much revision. She is a successful author with several published books. Choices are scary, but the idea of possibilities is affirming.

Run away from anyone or any class that makes you feel bad or inferior. It is either nurturing and helpful or it’s not!

Art and writing are similar. Knowing when to stop editing takes practice. I have wrecked many paintings by over-doing. With time I gained confidence and knew when to stop, when the work was complete. Now to apply that to writing!

What are your favorite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips, or encouragement?

I love blogs and articles from social media, like Confessions of a Writer, which I’ve enjoyed thoroughly. I like Julie Haiselden’s blogs, informative, honest and filled with humor.

Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?

I am a high-energy person and workout daily. My husband and I take long walks, bike, and kayak. We bareboat sail in the Caribbean. I love snorkeling, which is so beautiful and other worldly. I am an artist, usually with oils though the turpentine may have caused my lymphoma. So I sketch in pencil, pen, and charcoal. Examples of my art are on my website. My husband and I travel a good deal and visit our children in Texas and California. I also do a lot of volunteer work, often using my law and mediator background. I still do the legal work for my husband’s business.

What is the best book you’ve read this year?

I love both of Kevin Ansbro’s books, Kinnara and The Angel in my Well (5 star reviews on my website). Kevin’s books are enchanting, thoroughly entertaining, yet also have serious themes and a poignancy that tugs at your heartstrings. Others authors I loved this year and have given 5 stars: Julie Haiselden, Linda Abbott, Tracie Banister, and Michael McCormick (Across the Pond, a novella that is the best book I’ve ever read about Vietnam).

What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?

I’ve only seen the new James Bond movie, and that was disappointing (see Kevin Ansbro’s critique of it; I couldn’t agree more!) I like TV series like Ray Donovan, spectacular acting, especially Liev Schreiber. Also House of Cards.

What is your favorite book or series of all time?

Sorry, I can’t limit to one! From the past, Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea and Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. From living authors, The Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz and Beloved by Toni Morrison.

I have to add To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee because that book and Atticus Finch are why I became a lawyer. I also love Catcher in the Rye. I reread it recently, a torn copy with my older sister’s comments, which brought forth tears and laughter. I know why she loved the book and I do too.

 Who is your favorite author?

From the past: Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Faulkner. For those living: Toni Morrison and Dean Koontz. I love Morrison for her eloquent, poetic expression and epic themes.

I fell in love with Dean Koontz when I read A Big Little Life about his retriever, Trixie, who changed his life. This was a memoir, a beautiful love song to his wife whom he met in high school, and a peek into the life of a successful author (snippets about the publishing process which made me laugh and cringe). Koontz came across with sincerity, humor and warmth. I love his Odd Thomas series, about a young fry cook doing battle against evil while on a quest to achieve perfect humility. Koontz’ publisher disliked the book so much, he refused to talk to Koontz about it, but it was a smash hit, touched a nerve with readers, and never received a bad review. His books often have an element of horror, but they are not noir or nihilistic. Quite the opposite, they are about hope and redemption, and that is what I, too, write about.

What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?

To complete the editing of both novels.

 Where else can we find you online?

My website: juliagrantham.com

For more about my author themes please see my blog: Optimism and Hope: My Author Themes

Facebook: facebook.com/juliaellengrantham

Instagram: instagram.com/juliagrantham2

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22 comments to Confessions of a Writer Tag

  • Such an interesting read! It looks like you’ve had several publishers like your work already, only as yet unpublished because of life!
    Also, seems like life is not only the catalyst for writing, but also what prevents you publishing each time – this time, I hope you’re going for gold- get your books out there! I look forward To reading Smitten!
    I love how you’ve turned to so many things, and your strength – rock on, Julia! <3

    • Julia Grantham

      Thank you so much, Annelisa, for your insightful and kind comments. With friends like you, and your goodwill, I am sure I will succeed!

  • I responded briefly on Twitter to this Julia but wanted to reinforce how much I enjoyed your responses to some very interesting questions. You are disarmingly candid and have shared some very personal experiences, which I admire.

    I’m envious of your writing style as I often replace honesty with humour and I shall be mindful of that when preparing my blog. Thank you for tagging me!

    • Julia Grantham

      Thank you, Julie, for your kind comments! I love your blogs, as I mentioned in my Confessions. Not many people can write with wit and humour, as you do. It is lovely to have the support and appreciation from a published author!

  • Julia, it has taken me a while to respond to your Confessons for several reasons, foremost among them is that I admire you so much for your transparency, the heart that you openly shared with us here and I envy you for it, am inspired by you for it and ultimately love you for it. You are the writer I aspire to be and you as a person shine though every word in this confession. I don’t have the words to express how deeply moved I was by your story and how much I look forward to watch as you reach your goals, which inevitably you will. It is a true honor to meet you and I cannot thank you enough for being a part of this tag. You are the reason I started it. It has taken me this long to realize it but it is true. You and all the other writers out there whose stories reach out and demand to be heard, who are gifts in my life, this is why Confessions began and you are its lifeblood. A million thank you’s to the sun and back.

    • Julia Grantham

      Nicolette, thank you for your kind words! I am truly moved by your generous spirit. I have had a wonderful experience with the Confessions of a Writer Tag that you originated. I have met terrific people and you are number 1 on that list! You have graciously given so many of us writers the opportunity to have others learn about us. I had read your Confessions before I wrote mine and was charmed by your story and candor! Your warmheartedness came through loud and clear. Dreamweaver sounds wonderful. I can’t wait to read it. Your tenaciousness in following your dream of being a writer is so inspiring! All the good that you put out there, encouraging and supporting others will come back to you tenfold. You said you wanted to “enrapture an audience,” and you have done that with your Confessions. Thank you for the opportunity to take part in your wonderful blog and for your kindness. I feel honored to know you and be part of your journey to publication.

  • I really enjoyed reading your answers and like how it gives insight in to who you are and how you have become such an amazing writer.

    • Julia Grantham

      Thank you, Jenna, for taking the time to read my blog and comment. I appreciate your kind words. The feeling is mutual. I was so moved by your story, and amazed at your honesty and eloquence in writing about it. You have a lot to share with the world and brave to do so.

  • What a fascinating life and writing journey you’ve had, Julia! I learned so many new and interesting things about you from this post. You have so many great stories waiting to be told. I can’t wait to see your first book published!

    Thanks so much for the shout-out to my work! I value your opinion so much and am very grateful for your continued support.

    Write on, my friend! 🙂

    • Julia Grantham

      Tracie, thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. Your comments are wonderful–thank you! You have been a great friend to me right form the start. Remember me texting you from Florida last March in a panic-what does this edit mean? What comparative titles? You jumped right in and helped me. I love being part of your group of Twitter and Facebook friends! You have been a true friend. Thank you for your support!

  • Dear Julia

    Your Confession and your life story is inspirational. Overcoming so many personal tragedies and staying as strong as you do, shows what a SPECIAL soul and exceptional personality you are. God bless you. I can’t wait to read your books. Remmeber don’t waste more time on spelling, punctuation and grammar! 🙂 Write from your heart and share your story with the world asap.

    I like to use this opportunity and thank you for tagging me and giving me the chance to write my Confession too. It was fun and I enjoyed it very much. Best of luck Sweetheart xxx

    • Julia Grantham

      Lily, thank you for your kind words! I love your life story.That you could overcome so much and still be full of love and respect for all people is wonderful. Only Light overcomes Darkness! Your powerful message of love and tolerance is a beautiful theme throughout your books and blogs. I am delighted that you did the Confessions of a Writer blog because yours is magnificent! Wishing you much success with all your endeavors! xxx

  • Michael

    Thank you for sharing your life story. You have overcome so much and are to be commended for doing so,many lesser folks would have folded up the tent.
    I am sure you have inspired many to keep one foot moving in front of the other. It isn’t always so easy…

    • Julia Grantham

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful and kind comments, Michael! I appreciate your taking the time to read my blog and then comment. My inspiration came from having a young daughter who was so loving and needed her Mom to be strong!

  • I am finding this page very interesting. I am enthused about how you got into writing after working as a lawyer. I am really intrigued at the fact that your daughter happens to be the person who gives you instructions on editing your work. I haven’t come across anyone before in the field of writing who gets their work edited by a family member other than just someone from a publisher that they don’t necessarily personally know or have connections with them.

    • Julia Grantham

      Hello James, thank you for taking the time to read my blog and comment on it! My daughter reads my work and gives me her insightful comments. She has extensive experience as a writer. She was awarded a prestigious Annenberg Fellowship at USC and has her Masters in journalism. She was a TV anchor and produced, wrote and edited her own hour newscast. Many writers, past and current, rely entirely on editorial input from a spouse. Right now I am working with an excellent New York editor who has edited for New York Times bestselling authors. I am thrilled! Thank you again for your interest.

  • As a fellow lawyer trying to write his way out of lawyering, I’m thrilled to have encountered your Blog.

    • Julia Grantham

      Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! Lawyers make great writers! I am sure with your determination, you will make it as a writer. Keep in touch and let me know when you have a book or any writing that I can promote! Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  • vaysse

    Julia GRANTHAM je vous prie de me pardonner de vous écrire en FRANCAIS ,mais mon ANGLAIS est beaucoup trop mauvais .J’ai vue par hasard votre interview et vos photo et vous ressemblé c’est très étrange à mon épouse qui est décédés du cancer le neuf janvier deux mille seize ( 09/01/2016 ) . En outre elle avait l’habitude de s’habiller comme vous et la même coupe de cheveux et façon de se coiffer et nous aimions aussi les animaux (ce dont je continu aujourd’hui, et +++++)mais ce ne sont pas des (dogs ) mais des chats .J’espère par ma prose ne pas avoir été trop incorrect ;et je vous prie de croire à mes très respectueuses salutations . VAYSSE H FRANCE

    • Julia Grantham

      Je suis désolé que je n’a pas vous répondu! Je peux vous comprendre mais je n’ecrit pas bien le français. Merci pour m’écrire et pour votre mots gentil. Je suis désolé que ton epouse est décèdes-c’est très triste. Merci, j’apprécie votre comments.

  • As a musician I’m not much of a reader that being typed I am so very interested in your style, poise and overall attitude, striking beauty and your uncanny ability to strike my heart I am so very smitten
    James Edgar Boring

    • Julia Grantham

      Dear, James
      Thank you for taking the time to to write and leave such nice comments. I am sorry it has taken me so long to respond. I was in the process of moving to a new home all summer. I appreciate your kind comments. Thank you!

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