Friday, February 29, 2008

Stuck in the Middle by Virginia Smith

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Stuck in the Middle

Revell (February 1, 2008)


Virginia Smith


Virginia Smith left her job as a corporate director to become a full time writer and speaker with the release of her first novel Just As I Am.

Since then she has contracted eight novels and published numerous articles and short stories. She writes contemporary humorous novels for the Christian market, including Murder by Mushroom (Steeple Hill, August 2007) and her newest release, Stuck in the Middle(Revell, February 2008), book 1 in the Sister-to-Sister Series.

Her short fiction has been anthologized, and her articles have been published in a variety of Christian magazines. An energetic speaker, she loves to exemplify God’s truth by comparing real-life situations to well-known works of fiction, such as her popular talk, “Biblical Truths in Star Trek.”

Virginia is a speaker, and an avid Scuba diver. She and her husband Ted, divide their times between Kentucky and Utah, and escape as often as they can for diving trips to the Caribbean!


Joan Sanderson's life is stuck. Her older sister, Allie, is starting a family and her younger sister, Tori, has a budding career. Meanwhile, Joan is living at home with Mom and looking after her aging grandmother. Not exactly a recipe for excitement-or romance.

That is, until a hunky young doctor moves in next door. Suddenly Joan has a goal--to catch his eye and get a date. But it won't be easy. Pretty Tori flirts relentlessly with him and Joan is sure that she can't compete. But with a little help from God, Allie, and an enormous mutt with bad manners, maybe Joan can find her way out of this rut and into the life she's been hiding from.

Book 1 of the Sister-to-Sister series, Stuck in the Middle combines budding romance, spiritual searching, and a healthy dose of sibling rivalry that is sure to make you smile.

"A gentle story of one young woman's season of growth, deftly blending the tangle of family relationships with gifts of whimsey and revelation. A joy to read."
~SHARON HINCK, author of Renovating Becky Miller and Symphony of Secrets~

"Virginia Smith has created a charming and humerous novel that celebrates small-town life, generations of women caring for each other, and the value of finding a deeper, more active faith."
~SHARON DUNN, author of the Bargain Hunters mysteries~

Interview with Ginny:

How did you get started writing, and where has that journey taken you that you may not have expected starting out?

I started writing a long time ago—back in the mid-1980’s—when I read a short story in a magazine and I thought, “I could do better than that.” I was so na├»ve! It took me over 20 years and 143 rejection letters to produce a publishable piece of fiction. I never expected to become a full-time writer. While all those rejection letters were accumulating, I would have been happy just publishing a single short story. But the Lord had other plans—and His plans are sooo much better than mine!

How do you balance family life with writing?

Writing is my job, and that’s how I treat it. I ‘go’ to work in my office every morning after breakfast, and put in a full day just like I did when I worked in the corporate world. And I stop working every day around 5:00 to start dinner. So finding a balance between work and family life isn’t any harder for me than it is for every other career person. Honestly, what sucks my attention away from my family is e-mail! I can get lost for hours at a time in e-mail if I’m not careful.

How does your walk with the Lord affect your writing? And how do you balance time with the Lord with your writing schedule?

My relationship with the Lord is such an integral part of my life that I can’t imagine doing anything—especially writing—without Him. Writing is something we do together, a time of intense fellowship with Him. As I’m working on a story, I keep up a running dialogue with Him. I sit at my computer and mumble, “Okay, Lord, how am I going to get this character out of this predicament?” and “Ooh, that was great, Lord! I didn’t see that coming!” So my time with Him happens all day long, and it’s the thing I love most about writing.

Since my blog is geared to writers who want to improve their self-editing, could you briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision?

My process tends to differ a little with each book, especially since I write in multiple genres. But roughly:

  • Conception: When it’s time to pitch a new story, I pray for an idea. I mull it around for a week or so until I have a good idea of the direction the story will take.
  • Familiarization: With contemporary novels, I jump right into the writing, and complete the first 3 chapters. This really solidifies the story in my mind. I do typically end up having to revise these chapters pretty heavily later on as the plot develops, but the characters come alive in my mind through the process of writing.
  • Proposal: When the 3 chapters are finished, I put the proposal together. The hardest part is the synopsis, of course. This might take me a couple of weeks. I also do a thorough market comparison, which usually isn’t too hard since I keep a very close eye on new books in my genres. I send the proposal off to my agent and wait impatiently to hear back. (That’s the hard part!)
  • First Draft: When my agent calls with the good news that I have a contract J, I get busy writing the first draft. I typically have a problem about 2/3 of the way through my first drafts when I decide this is the worst book anyone has ever written, and I’m tired of the characters and the story, and if I don’t even like my heroine how in the world can I expect anyone else to like her? But I keep going, and I always come out of it.
  • Revision 1: I am a firm believer in critique partners. I ship my first draft off to a CP or two, and while they’re reading it, I read the whole thing from start to finish, revising as I go.
  • Revision 2: When my CPs return their comments, I go over every one and decide whether or not to apply it. I’ve developed a good relationship with my CPs, and I trust them, so I usually apply most of their suggestions.
  • Submission: After I’ve gone over the thing a couple of times, I send it in. Then the editorial process begins!

What kinds of things do you have to revise once the editor at a publishing house gets done with your manuscript?

My editor for the Sister-to-Sister Series is so good! She points out everything from awkward phrasing to motivation problems to structure issues. I had to trim 2000 words out of Stuck in the Middle, and she identified several scenes that could be combined with others to reduce the word count.

Would you tell us a little about your future projects?

The second book in the Sister-to-Sister Series is written, and I’m really excited about it. Age before Beauty features the oldest Sanderson sister, and she is such a fun character. Next I have to write the final book in the series, Last but Not Least. I’m eager to dive into that one, because I’ve got some terrific curves to throw at the youngest sister!

In addition to those, I’ve got a romantic suspense series coming out from Steeple Hill beginning in October. Only the first book is written, so I have 2 more to write over the next few months.

Finally, would you discuss Stuck in the Middle? The research, the idea, and the scope of the project?

The idea for Stuck in the Middle came straight from my own life—my relationship with my sisters. They are amazing women—fun and energetic and creative and lively. I wanted to write a book that relays the depth of our feelings for each other, and that lets readers get a peek of just how much fun we have together. And of course it seemed natural to expand the first book into a series, with each sister having her own starring role.

The struggles that Joan faces in Stuck have a basis in my own life, even though I am the oldest sister in my family. Joan is striving to overcome her flawed relationship with her absent father while building lasting relationships of her own. And many of my recent experiences, such as the agonizing task of finding an assisted living center for my father-in-law, found a place in the story. But it’s funny that both of my sisters say they feel a kinship with all of the Sanderson sisters. So there isn’t a solid model for any of the characters. Instead, they all contain pieces of each of us, plus a lot of their own unique personalities as well.

I did have to do quite a bit of medical research, since the hunky hero in this book is an emergency room doctor—something I knew nothing about! Thank goodness for fellow writers Ronda Wells M.D. and Crystal Laine Miller. They provided a wealth of information. And Joan’s grandmother in Stuck has a touch of OCD, so that research was fun. All kinds of people told me about their quirky compulsive habits, and I really enjoyed that.

Thank you so much, Ginny! We appreciate your time and the opportunity to spotlight your work.

You’re so welcome! I enjoyed chatting with you, and appreciate the opportunity to talk about my book!

Ginny and her publisher are having a contest: the prize is $500 shopping spree. Check it out on her Web site.

Daily Bible reading:
Saturday, March 1—Exodus 29–30; James 1
Sunday, March 2—Exodus 31–33; James 2
Monday, March 3—Exodus 34–35; James 3

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