But right now, please welcome Christine Goff, who has graciously joined us to answer (with her own unique twist) the same questions we have put to other authors.
We appreciate your time, Christine...
First off, tell us a little about yourself and when/how/why you started writing.
I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was in third grade and wrote this great book called “The Haunted Mansion.” It was about these kids who snuck into a haunted house at night when the witch that lived there was out flying around. They got caught messing around with the bat wings and stuff. It was a great book. It never sold. It was published, however, in my mother’s scrapbook, and I never gave up. I went to school and studied Journalism, then switched to Creative Writing. I left school and moved to the mountains and became a ski bum. I took a job with the local newspaper and started writing again. I got married and took a correspondence course with the Institute of Children’s Book Writing (or something like that) and wrote this great book called “The Mystery of Phantom Ranch.” It was about these kids who rode the mules down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. After being told about the ghost of Bert Loper, an octogenarian who died rowing on the Colorado River at night, they set out to find it. Only, it wasn’t a ghost, it was an Indian artifact smuggling ring. It was a great book. It never sold. Then, finally, a real writer moved into our ski town and I took a workshop in romance writing and wrote this book called “Frozen Assets.” It was about this counterfeiting ring in Breckenridge and had a great romance, great ski scenes—and it never sold. It got close though, so I started on a serial killer novel. Hey, if Thomas Harris can do it…. So I wrote this great book called “Stalked.” It was about this killer who stalked mothers at the school bus turnaround. Funny, it was like the school bus turnaround where I dropped my kids off every morning. It never sold. But, I was scaring myself, and I scared an agent. He agreed to represent my work, and the rest—as they say—is history.
And your books, what do you have published and what are you working on right now?
I published five novels in a Birdwatcher’s Mystery Series for Berkley Prime Crime. They are all out-of-print now in the U.S., though I will bring some copies to the workshop. They are, however, selling well in Japan. Maybe I’ll do a karaoke book tour in Tokyo someday. I am currently working on an international thriller set in Israel. My agent is really anxious for me to get it finished, and I’m excited at the prospects. It’s a new genre for me, but it’s what I’ve always wanted to write, so…
Rejection letters: How many did you receive before you were published?
Man, do I have to say? Counting editors, agents, family members and fans (yes, they send you mail when they don’t like something), maybe 30 or 40 or… I will say this, it doesn’t always happen like you think it will. I was rejected and rejected, then I sold my series on a partial (30 pages and a 4 page synopsis) without ever having published a thing in fiction.
You are participating in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers June Education Event, meeting with attendees and maybe critiquing the first 2 pages of their wip. In your experience and opinion, what is the biggest mistake or misconception new writers have? Did you as well, when you were new to the industry?
I think new writers make two mistakes – they don’t listen to advice when they should, and they listen to advice. You have to be open to suggestions, weigh them carefully, see if it makes sense, if it resonates. You have to be willing to change things, hear what isn’t working and be open to the idea that going at it a different way might make your story commercial. If you’re only writing for yourself, then by all means, don’t change a thing. Otherwise, know that almost anyone who’s taking the time to critique your work only wants to help you succeed. What success is for you is another matter. That said, don’t make every change anyone suggests. People have differing opinions, and you’ll never please everyone. You’ll end up making changes and making changes until it’s not the story you want to tell. Make sure that you only change those things that you see can help.
Did I make these same mistakes? YES. When my romance workshop instructor gave me a three page, single-spaced critique on my full manuscript, once it was done, I cried, threw the pages on the ground and stomped on them. A week later, I picked them up and read them. I made a few changes, not many. When my manuscript was considered for publication by the senior editor at Harlequin Intrigue, she rejected it with a very nice letter sighting some of the same problems my romance workshop instructor had pointed out. If I only had listened, I might be a romance writer today. I’ve also gone the other route and tried to make every change my critique group suggested, until I was writing a book for the critique group and not telling the story I wanted. When I submitted that book, I was told it had no heart.
How often do you write? Do you stick to a schedule or work it in around life?
I try and write every day, for at least an hour, preferably four, Monday through Friday. Sometimes I write on the weekend, but that time is usually reserved for family. And I do put my writing aside when I have things come up. I have six kids (now all graduated from or in college), so my time is more my own these days; but, when I was writing my Birdwatcher’s Mystery series, I had three at home. You can’t always ignore life. That said, if you plan on hitting the NYT list and being a famous author someday, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. All the really famous writers I know gave up time with friends and family to get where they are. Most of them have come back around to find a balance, but you’ll find the publishers will want you to turn in a book every nine months to a year, and they may want you to tour (at least put in appearances at the big writers conventions in your genre). You will have to answer your fan mail, keep up a blog or website presence. It all take time. More time than you think. So, pace yourself. Make a schedule. Stick to it. And build in time for life. It’s what fills your stories with heart.
When not writing, what do you do?
I’m a mom and a wife. I take bridge lessons on Wednesday nights. I knit. I make stuff (I’m crafty). I tile my bathroom, play with my dogs, read.
What did I not ask that you want to talk about?