Friday, November 30, 2007

Author Interview: Jennifer Stewart Griffith

My interview today is with Jennifer Stewart Griffith. She is the author of three novels, the latest of which is the newly released Delicious Conversation, from Spring Creek Book Company.

Welcome to my blog, Jennifer. What made you start writing?
When I had my first baby, my husband was working full time and in law school. He has always been a schemer, and he encouraged me to start writing some fiction. While he was at work and class, I took a few essays I had written for a class in college at USU and began working with them. Before I knew it, Gary’s scheming had rubbed off on me and I was trying to develop a plot to tie my short stories together. I think I would never have dared begin without his encouragement. I’m not much of a risk taker.

How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
I have kept a journal since I was 12, when I wrote daily for about 6 years. Now I’m more of a weekly-entry person. My journals provide a lot of the details for my novel writing. They’re basically the jump drive for my brain’s memory (since it appears to not have any power of recall on its own.) It took me 6 years of polishing before I finally submitted my first book, Choosing Mr. Right, to Spring Creek, who published it in the spring of 2004.

What type of writer are you? Do you plan ahead/plot or do you simply fly by the seat of your pants?
That’s a good question. I have tried both ways. My second novel, A Little Sisterly Advice, simply seemingly appeared at the tips of my fingers when I sat down to type. I had very little idea where it was going when I began. All I had in mind was a title and a general conflict. The characters grew when they hit the page. It was a weird sensation.

On the other hand, my most recent book, Delicious Conversation, developed after I had an entire plot and all the characters (and their names and quirks and conflicts) outlined completely. It made the writing quite a bit easier.

That said, I threw together another novel last winter with the whole story outlined ahead of time, and it seemed to collapse under the weight of its own plot. So I don’t know which style works better for me.

How do you choose your characters' names?
There are a lot of names for babies that I like but my husband doesn’t. When I don’t get my way in baby-naming, I feel obligated to create a fictional character for the name I like. That, or else I have scoured the telephone book for eye-catching names.

What type of writing schedule do you have?
I wish I were like other, more disciplined writers who require themselves to crank out a certain number of pages or words per day, but I’m not. Instead, I find myself flitting from hobby to hobby. Sometimes I’m on a writing kick and I write like a crazy woman every night for a month or two. Then it seems I’ll get interested in genealogy and work on that for a while and then cooking or shopping online for shoes. My writing bug hits and misses.

How do you handle life interruptions?
Well, with 5 kids under age 10, life is one long string of interruptions. Have you ever found yourself wanting to say, “My name isn’t mommy right now”? Mostly I try to find a time to write when I’m less likely to be interrupted, like after the kids are in bed or when I have them safely sedated in the TV coma for an hour or two in the afternoon. The only interruptions I find myself resenting are when the telephone rings, so sometimes when I’m on a roll I take it off the hook.

Do you get blocked? Any hints on how to stave it off?
Everybody gets blocked. Sometimes I’m in a bad or gloomy mood and the part of the story I’m writing requires buoyancy of spirit, or vice versa. When that happens, I try to skip ahead in the story to a part that fits the mood I’m in, like a break-up scene. That’s when outlining the whole plot from the outset really comes in handy.

I don’t know if this would work for someone else, but when I’m blocked I try to sit down and make myself write anyway. If my fingers are on the keys eventually something will get typed. I may have to delete it all (or cut and paste it into my rejection document), but at least I have conquered the scary blocked feeling. Allowing myself to think I don’t have to have this part perfect helps me through it and takes the pressure off.

What have you always dreamed of writing, but haven't yet?
I suspect most people have a secret wish to write the Great American Novel. Not me. I mostly want to continue to write fluffy, happy, uplifting cotton candy for the LDS woman’s soul. Someday I might like to write something for another market, but for now I’m pretty content. I think I know what I am and what I’m not.

What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?
I love the creative rush I get when I’m coming up with a new story and characters and seeing the plot unfold. I think it must be how people feel when they are on drugs. Only better because it isn’t drugs. The hardest part is editing. I don’t like to have to cut away at things I’ve written, even when I know it’s for the good of the piece.

What is your next project?
Oh, I always have a lot more ideas than will ever come to fruition, but the one that’s playing around in my mind right now has to do with a girl who finds herself in a Congressional office full of dysfunctional employees and has to use her charm and brilliance to heal them all.

What is your advice for other writers?
This may not work for everyone, but my advice might be to write, write, write from start to finish, the piece you are working on. Don’t let yourself get bogged down by editing as you go. Just power through and get that first draft done. Then let yourself revisit what you’ve written. A lot of times what you have will be better than you thought and more useful. If you edit it away in the process of drafting you may lose some valuable pieces. Plus, by pushing through to the end you get the immense satisfaction of knowing you’ve finished something.

Tell us about your new book.
Delicious Conversation is light-hearted fun set in Salt Lake City. The plot is this: When Susannah Hapsburg was 20 she met John, the love of her life, but didn’t accept his marriage proposal because she thought she was too young. Now she is 31 and still single. The company where she worked for the past 8 years has just gone belly-up, so Susannah puts all her finances on the line and opens the Chocolate Bar near Temple Square.

Out of nowhere, Salt Lake’s most eligible bachelor Brigham Talmage starts pursuing Susannah with vigor. Meanwhile, her social life gets even trickier when John Wentworth comes back to town with intentions of marrying anyone but her.

Delicious Conversation is my favorite thing I’ve written so far. Maybe that’s because it centers on my two favorite topics: food and love.

Thank you for being my guest today, Jennifer.
Thanks, Marsha, for the interview. I really appreciate it!

Photo of Jennifer Stewart Griffith © Andrea Stanley


  1. Jennifer, I enjoyed reading about you and your books. They sound like a lot of fun. Good luck.

  2. Jennifer, I enjoyed reading about you and your books. They sound like a lot of fun. Good luck.

  3. Oops, now I know what happens when you push the comment button twice.

  4. Love your cotton candy for the LDS woman comment. I also love the, "I know what I am and what I'm not." Wish I knew that!

  5. It was fun to hear about your success story. Your new book sounds fun! Spring Creek is a great company. I've done freelance editing for them in the past. You're lucky to be a part of that.

  6. Thanks, Marsha and Jennifer, for a delightful interview. Happy writing to both of you. I love happy stories, success, and vibrancy.


I welcome your comments.

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