It is my pleasure to interview Virginia Ripple here for Melodic Monday as well as share a fab book giveaway. Virginia’s path to writing is a testament on staying true to self. As long as she can remember, her desire to write has been alternately eclipsed and balanced by her need to serve God. She–like many of us–has alternated from moments fully immersed in writing and others out of balance and pulled away.
As she worked past the restless moments, Virginia rediscovered her passion for writing and tailored the new focus for her life. She has a Bible study entitled Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives and a book about simple methods of prayer called Simply Prayer. She is also now writing several Christian fantasies as well as teaching various workshops and Bible studies.
Thanks for hosting me, Barbara. This is quite fun.
How did you become a writer? What is your background?
I think I was born a writer. When I was little, I remember coloring in coloring books and making up stories to go along with the pictures. From there it was just a matter of soaking up everything I could in English courses through school.
In high school, my freshman English teacher really took notice of my skills and natural talent and encouraged me to enter the world of journalism. While I can’t say I enjoyed the interviewing and such as a reporter, I did learn a lot about writing clean prose.
In college, I majored in English and minored in journalism. Sadly, a creative writing teacher made me believe I had no talent as a writer and my attentions turned toward my other calling – ministry.
Although I went to seminary and became an Associate Minister for a short time, I soon discovered this path was not meant to be. Of course, as it’s often said, when God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window. Long story short, I rediscovered my passion for writing while trying to make ends meet as a seminary student.
It didn’t take long after that to see that the two could be melded and my writing career began.
Tell us about Simply Prayer.
The idea of Simply Prayer came about one evening when I told my husband that I was struggling to finish the book I’m currently working on because I felt God was calling me to write a book about prayer. We were at a local drive-thru and I was watching the pizza place across the street.
DH put his hand on my knee and asked one simple question, “Which one is more important?”
If it had been a movie, I’m sure the skies would have parted and heavenly music would have been playing. As it was the only interesting thing I saw was a man putting two boxes of pizza in his trunk. I think that just proves that God has a sense of humor. Here I was having an epiphany and the only “sign” was just someone doing something a bit odd.
So I put what I was working on away and Simply Prayer was born. Just like my epiphany, I think God wants us to know that prayer can be mysterious, but it’s also as common place as talking to your best friend.
Excerpt from Simply Prayer:
As I wrote this book, I was also struggling to allow God to lead me toward my heart’s desire. I wanted to become a work at home mom for my daughter, making a living by writing. It was a very stressful time because I saw “opportunities” at every turn, people who strongly encourage anyone in my situation to grab hold of every possible marketing tool available and use it right now. They were even willing to help – for a price. It has been difficult not to leap ahead, to wait on God to show the next step, yet that’s exactly what we’re asked to do.
As we pray, God answers. As we trust, God brings us closer to Himself. The communion we share with God grows deeper with each passing moment. I love what St. Irenaeus says we are to do:
It is not you that shapes God,
it is God that shapes you.
If then, you are the work of God,
await the hand of the artist
who does all things in due season.
Offer God your heart, soft, tractable,
and keep the form in which the artist has fashioned you.
Let your clay be moist, lest you grow hard
and lose the imprint of his fingers.
It’s a beautiful reminder of Ecclesiastes 3:1, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven,” and Ecclesiastes 3:11a, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
God’s schedule is not our own. As we see our prayers answered we realize that the close relationship we have with God isn’t a matter of “grocery lists” and keeping God as our personal genie. If we consistently try to discover God’s plan for our lives, we find our relationship with God has grown into something beautiful.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
It forced me to really consider what prayer means both to us and to God. I had some questions from others to start with and I wanted to answer them to the best of my abilities. The rest I’ve had to leave up to God.
I know that you are now working on some fiction pieces. Do you have any tips for others wanting to move from non-fiction to fiction?
While non-fiction is different from fiction, you don’t have to chuck everything you’ve learned from writing non-fiction out the window. In fact, I suggest letting that heavily color your subject matter.
For instance, I’m a former minister. I know more than most people ever want to know about how Protestant denominations work. I’ve been around people who are hurting, who’ve lost all hope and, at times, I’ve been blessed to give them something to hold onto during the tough times. I also know what it’s like to be on the “other side,” to be hurting and lost and have someone else show an unexpected kindness that lifts you up.
Simply Prayer uses that knowledge to help others discover the simplicity of prayer. My work of fiction uses that knowledge to build a world and populate it with characters who deal with love and betrayal and what it means to be a part of something bigger.
As my father often said, “No knowledge is ever wasted.”
What are some of your inspirations for book ideas? Does the full idea or story come to you first or do characters come first?
Sometimes it’s a bit of conversation overheard. Sometimes a scene in a movie or TV show catches my attention and I’m left mulling over how I could make changes to it. Ideas come from a myriad of places.
Stories come to me in bits and pieces. Usually I start out with a scene that pops into my head. I rarely begin with a character in need of a story. It’s kind of like walking into the living room while someone’s watching a particularly gripping scene in a movie. I don’t always know who those people are or why they’re doing what they’re doing, but I have to stop to find out more.
Do you consider yourself to be a pantser or plotter? How in-depth do you outline?
I’m somewhere in between. I began as a pantser, but found plotting gives me more control over when the end product will be ready.
I plot out a rough path from A to Z of scenes with just a basic idea of what will happen in them. Then, as I write each scene, I allow the characters to figure out how those things I planned will happen. Sometimes they surprise me and add in great new information that makes me have to go back into my outline and do some revising, but that just adds to the fun.
What tips do you have for writing through any life or blocked moments?
Make allowances for yourself. While you can’t just give up and say “I’ll do it when the time’s right/better/whatever” you can cut yourself some slack. As Brenda Ueland points out in If You Want to Write, even sitting around noodling about what you want to write counts as writing.
Maybe it’s not writer’s block. Maybe it’s your subconscious telling you that you need to wait for it to finish brewing up something brilliant.
On the other hand, sometimes you just have to sit down and write something – anything – to get the juices flowing, especially if you’ve been away for a while.
What is your writing process? Words done every day? Working on more than one project at a time?
I work one scene at a time, one project at a time. I have a general idea of how many words a scene needs to be, but if it needs to be longer or shorter I don’t sweat it. It all comes out fine in the end.
You’ve taken the indie route for your books? Why is that?
I’m a control freak. LOL. Actually, I think it has more to do with having the DIY-gene. I have the skills to do the work, so I figure I should put those skills in action. I don’t think a publishing house would appreciate me hovering over their people’s shoulders as they do the techie stuff and I wouldn’t feel comfortable about just handing it all over knowing I could be doing this myself.
Of course, if there came a time when a publishing house wants me to sign a contract with them, I will certainly give it serious thought. At the present time, though, most publishers want a sure thing and I am not in a position to give them that.
Walk us through the process of your book production from writing time to edits to cover design to launch.
I generally give myself a year from start to finish. I spend about a month in the planning stages. Then the lion’s share goes to writing the first draft. After that, I let the draft set for at least two weeks, longer if I can. From there, the draft goes into editing and re-writing (about two months at least because I want it to be at its best).
When I’m satisfied with the outcome, then I send it to my first readers. I take their suggestions, comments, etc. and make the changes I think are necessary to telling a great story. I then seek out beta readers and repeat the process.
While it’s out being read I get started on designing the covers and guts, which is actually my favorite part, though it’s also the one that gives me the most headaches. Once all edits are done, I finalize the guts and finish creating the covers. I usually design at least two covers, then ask my blog readers to help me choose which one is best. (I’m doing that right now with Simply Prayer’s eBook cover because it needs a new one.)
After the cover is chosen it’s just a matter of uploading the print version to CreateSpace and an ebook version to Barnes & Noble’s PubIt and KDP.
What advice do you have for new authors?
Persevere. No matter how hard it seems, there’s always something good that will come of it.
Now for some fun rapid fire questions:
What is your favorite hymn? Gospel song?
His Eye Is On The Sparrow
Shirley Rouseau-Murphy, author of the Joe Grey mysteries
Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti
Do you write to a soundtrack? If so, what’s on it right now?
Nope. I prefer silence.
Eyes Like Yours by Shakira
Favorite vacation destination?
Anything within one day’s driving distance from home.
Transformers 1-3 (there’s just something about robots)
Book Giveaway Details
- One, special edition signed e-book of Simply Prayer (open internationally).
- Grand prize is a signed copy of Simply Prayer (open to US)
How Do You Win?
- The book giveaway is open all week; March 19-24, 2012 (until 11:59 pm EST).
- You will earn one entry into the draw each time you comment on one of my blog posts this week.
- Tweet about this post and earn an additional entry (be sure to put my twitter handle @BMcDowellOH in your tweet so I know).
- On March 25, 2012, I will put all the names in a hat and draw the names of the winners.
- Check back March 26, 2012 where I will announce the winners. Then Virginia will get you your prize. Good luck!
Musical Selection: Sandi Patty singing “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.”
Now for your feedback. What are your questions for Virginia?