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Photo credit: Erik Nyrtsm

Photo credit: Erik Nyrtsm

I’ve been working on pushing past my fears over the past several years. I started a blog, became a birth doula, sailed a one-man sailboat, and wrote a novel. All of these things scared me, but I knew that facing and overcoming my fears would give me joy.

But harder and scarier than writing a book is trying to sell it. Nineteen days ago I started querying literary agents. To get your manuscript into the hands of the big publishers you need to get the interest of an agent first and that requires sending out query letters. If an agent likes the sound of the book, they’ll request the manuscript.

After sending out 21 queries, I received a couple requests for my manuscript, but mostly I received very nice rejections. But even a nice rejection is disappointing.

Yesterday afternoon, after assembling my flute in readiness for band class, I checked my email and saw a response from an agent. I sighed—probably another rejection. “What happened to your optimism?” I asked myself. So I squared my shoulders and opened the email.

It was a request for my manuscript from an agent whom I respect and admire. Of course this is a good thing, but it’s just one small step on a rather terrifying journey. One of the agents reading my book needs to fall in love with it and be willing to get behind it, then they’ll need to pitch it to an editor who loves it, then the editor needs to pitch it to their sales team. That’s a lot of people to convince that I have something worth saying on printed page.

I sometimes have the desire to whisk my book away from all these seasoned eyes and keep it safe from rejection, but safe isn’t what I signed on for. It’s not really what I want in life.

What I needed to do is haul my fear out of the dark closet and have a good look at it. What am I really afraid of? What’s the worst thing that could happen? Well, after spending hundreds of hours and bucket loads of devotion on a manuscript, the agents and publisher who have already shown interest might decide that the book isn’t a good fit for them. Or my book could make it to publication and bomb—failing to find an audience.

It would be a sad moment to tuck my book into a drawer and lay it to rest, but it wouldn’t be Armageddon. So what would I do if the worst came to be? I’d put my bottom in a chair, open my laptop, and write another book—a better one.

Taking a good look at my fear and making a plan for the worst-case scenario has helped me to move on and to remember that I’m doing what I love—raising my family, attending births, and writing books. And doing what I love requires not giving into paralysis-inducing fear.

Photo credit: Manu Mohan

Photo credit: Manu Mohan

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Blackwater Crossing

I recently had the privilege of interviewing David Griffith—an author and  long-time resident of Vanderhoof. David (writing under the pen name David Griffin) has recently had the first three books of The Border Crossing Series published. Read on to find out the story behind the story and what makes this author write.

 

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the pen. Years ago, I started writing for small publications, then dabbled with cowboy poetry, and finally decided that the stories that kept bubbling to the surface had to get onto paper.

When did the idea for the Border Series come to you and what is the story behind the books?

Rodeo and ranch life is what I know best, so it was natural for me to write about horses and the land. However, several real estate ventures forced me to learn more than I ever wanted to know about drugs and the resulting degradation to property and lives. Those negative experiences created a curiosity that has engendered hundreds of hours of research and driven me to poke around some of the less touristy areas of Mexico and Central America. Ultimately, Mexican drug cartels bear much of the responsibility for the property crime and drug related deaths that plague our country. Los Zetas, La Familia, the Sinaloa cartel, all use increasingly sophisticated means to evade detection as they move their product around the world. So the protagonist in the Border Series is a cowboy, but he’s also a drug agent for an elite security firm.

What was the journey like to publication?

Early in the process, I committed to the same tortuous journey all serious writers have trod. First—get a U.S. agent. They’re the established gatekeepers of the traditional publishing industry. Publishers have one file for unsolicited manuscripts. The round file. After many months of sending out book proposals, I finally landed an agent. I had it made. It was only a matter of time before my new agent hooked me up with Thomas Nelson, or maybe even Bantam books. After all, I’d just written the best western romance since Louis L’Amour. Hadn’t I? The publishers said: Ahh . . . it’s good, but to sell in this market, you really need a female protagonist. We’ll pass. I hunkered over the keyboard for another year and wrote a novel with a female protagonist. Fired it off to my agent. Surely, this would be my ticket to the hallowed halls of traditional book publishing. Wrong. This time it was “not quite what we’re looking for.” Plan C? I had no other plan. Any other publishing option was unthinkable. Then my agent called. “We’re starting a new e-book publishing company. We think that’s the future in publishing. We want Blackwater Crossing.” It’s probably still too early to tell whether that was the right decision, but it’s been a great journey.

 I was amazed at the vivid details in your settings. You really brought me to those areas. How did you bring all those places to life? Have you visited all the cities, towns, and areas in your books?

Before I write a story, I visit every location, whether it’s out on the Blackwater River or deep in the Sierra Madre of Mexico. It’s important to me that when I write about places, the reader can know that whether it’s a creek with good water, or a restaurant with bad food, they can count on it being true. Sure, it’s fiction, but I think truth interwoven with the storyline makes for a better read.

You included Vanderhoof and the local area in your books. What was behind that decision?

There’s no place I know that has such a wealth of local authors telling real edge-of-your-seat stories from the past. For a fiction writer, there is an absolutely huge background of material to draw from. I think of writers like Jack Boudreau, R.M. Patterson, and our own Rich Hobson, June Wood, and Diana Phillips. The list is endless. They all wrote stories that are for the most part, true. Their stories, and the rich history of the area we live in are a wonderful resource for any fiction writer.

Lonnie, the main character in your books, is a prize-winning rodeo rider. Do you have personal experience in that area?

Lonnie Bowers is a bronc rider. I did that. For a lot of years. Once again, it’s what I know, and I think that for any writer, that’s important. Write from your strengths.

In Blackwater Crossing you deal with some heavy subjects like adultery, murder, and drug smuggling. You’ve also packed your book with a lot of action. Did you know that you were going to write such an intense book? Was this challenging?

Some writers can do a comprehensive outline. They know from the first sentence where they’re going with the plot. I wish I could do that—be that organized. I don’t know where the next paragraph is going—or at least until the characters tell me where it’s going. When I start a novel, I know the opening scene, and perhaps have a vague idea of the ending. Another writer said it this way, and I thought it was good advice. “Chase your protagonist up a tree, and then throw rocks at him.” I try to have a good supply of rocks.

How has your own faith affected the direction of your books? Would you call The Border Series Christian fiction?

Tough question. To write anything worth reading, you have to write from the heart, which means you’re going to leave some of your soul on the page—at least you’d better. So yes, my experiences with horses and cattle, drug dealers and Mexican cartels are part of my books. So is my worldview and faith. Does that mean they are Christian fiction? Probably not. They’re a little edgy to fit comfortably in that category. That said, does the Border Series have a message? Absolutely! But neither is it in your face. I want readers to be carried away by the story. If it challenges where you’re at in life—great.

Where can we buy the books? Are there plans for the series to be printed?

The Border Series can be bought through any e-Reader. Kindle, Nook, iPad, Kobo—pretty much any e-reader platform. Zeal Publishing, who put out the series is currently pursuing other print publishing options.

Are you currently working on another book? If so, can you give us a preview?

I’m currently editing the second book in the Winds of Passion series. The first book follows Dina Rodriguez, a Mexican girl who dreams of being a top barrel racer. But when she arrives in Miles City Montana, she soon realizes she hasn’t escaped her father’s criminal connections. And her love of barrel racing wasn’t supposed to collide with international terrorists or an enigmatic stranger who is determined to be more than her protector.

Where can we learn more about your books and get updates on your future projects?

I occasionally blog about updates and share cowboy poetry at www.davidgriffinsite.com. Writing is a contract of trust. When a reader purchases a novel, they expect it to be to a certain standard. I take that charge seriously, and I’m grateful to all those who have read and enjoyed the Border Series. I hope they will enjoy the Winds of Passion books as well. Some have asked whether there is going to be another book in the Border Series. Absolutely!

Check out Blackwater Crossing at Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.

David Griffin Photo

 

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