“God’s Cheerleader,” Vanessa Davis Griggs is an author and motivational speaker who adores the power of words both written and spoken. At the end of 1996, this former Bell South employee left 18 years of service stepping out on faith and decided to pursue her purpose and passion–writing. Proving out Proverbs18:16, A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men, she began her own company (Free To Soar)emphasizing the taking off of limits as she travels inspiring and encouraging others–both young and old–to take flight like an eagle and do the same.

Vanessa is the recipient of numerous recognitions including: 2010 Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition presented by Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr.;1st Quarter 2009, Practicing What You Preach was name done of EDC’s “On the Shoulders of Giants” Faith-based Books Best Book Award; June 2007 recipient of the Arts and Letters Award from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Birmingham Alumnae Chapter; the March 2006 recipient of The Greater Birmingham Millennium Section National Council of Negro Women Inspiration Award, 2004-2005 Jasper Outstanding Achievement Award.

Vanessa resides in Irondale (home of the Whistle Stop Café and Fried Green Tomatoes),a community just outside of Birmingham, Alabama.

1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me!  When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?

I appreciate you for this opportunity. I’ve loved words since I was a child. When I was in middle school, I used to write plays. In fact, in the fifth grade, I was with a group that integrated a white school in Alabama. In the sixth grade, I wrote a Christmas play where my fellow classmates performed and I produced and directed. I’ve loved reading since before the first grade, but in middle school we had to read a book entitled The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. The way that book was written caused me, as a middle schooler, to say, “I would love to write something like this one day.” What I love about writing is being able to take the power of words and making people see the gift of the words. Touching people in a positive way, with my words, gives me great joy.

What frustrates me the most is trying to get the word out to people that I have something I believe they should, at least, know is available.

2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?

I have 18 published novels and one book of devotional/inspirational writings. Even though nine of the books are part of The Blessed Trinity Series, I write my books to be able to stand alone if a person only wants to read that one book. People label my work as Christian fiction, but I just look at my work as fiction written by a Christian. My works reflect real life situations, but with Christians in the mix. My Web site has a host of information: http://www.VanessaDavisGriggs.com 

3) Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories that you manage to weave together and the characters that you create?

Most of my stories come from me being open to what God would have me to write. Sometimes I hear my characters speaking or letting me know about their stories. I’ve never run out of ideas for stories. I do wait until I see the story in my mind and feel it in my heart before I begin the full writing. If I don’t feel there’s a story worthy to be told that will hold my attention and ultimately the reader’s attention, I don’t write it. My characters must have an interesting story before they get to grace my books. 

4) Do you have a schedule for when you write?  Do you outline your novels?  How long does it generally take you to finish a novel?  What projects are you currently working on?

When I was writing full-time, I’d get up at 6 a.m. and write until about 2 p.m., take a break to take care of other things in my home and life, then go back and write until about 2 a.m. the next morning only to start it all over again. I love being able to write without interruption because my stories are clamoring to get on paper. As far as an outline, when I have signed a contract with a traditional publisher, I’m often required to give them an outline of what I plan to write. I’m not one who loves having an outline before I write because I know my characters may not adhere to what I said would happen. I can generally have a book done from start to finish within two months, but as you can see, with my writing schedule, that is doable for me. Currently, I have several stories I’m working on, but I’ve pulled back on doing anything with them (publishing-wise) during this time.

5) What’s the first book you ever read that really moved you emotionally?  Who is your favorite author to read?  What book are you currently reading?

As I stated earlier, the first book that truly moved me was The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. There was another book I’d read earlier, but I can’t remember the title which I guess says a lot about which book impacted me the most in my early days. My favorite author for years was Og Mandino although these days, I love reading a lot of authors (those who write well) including books by Toni Morrison and more current authors. I love both nonfiction and fiction. I just finished reading Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump.

6) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?

My most significant achievement has been going from self-published in the beginning to presently having 14 books published by traditional publishers such as BET Books/New Spirit and Kensington/Dafina. I was also a contributor of 10 devotionals to a King James Version Bible called Sisters in Faith published by Thomas Nelson. I see myself having books published as well as many of my works being on screen as movies or even a TV series.

7) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career? What is your advice for other writers to better be able to cope or navigate their way through the publishing process, be it traditional or self-publishing?

Oh, my goodness, yes I know about rejection! I started out getting rejected by agents and publishers. Even after getting book deals, you’re subject to rejections whether by people who review your books or readers who don’t like what you wrote. Rejection is part of what you sign up for when you’re an author. In fact, rejection is a part of life. What we should learn from it is to see what we might need to improve upon (if that’s the case) or possibly the lesson to keep pushing and don’t let others keep you from your destiny or your dreams. My advice to any writer is if you have a thin skin, this may not be the career for you. If you believe in what you’re doing, don’t let anything or anyone stop you or cause you to quit. Keep pushing! Keep learning! Keep learning the trade. Keep on keeping on! And if the traditional publishers aren’t interested (and even sometimes when they are), you may come out better by starting your own publishing company (that’s what I call it instead of self-publishing). That’s how I began when they didn’t want what I had. Even now, many traditionally published authors are opting to self-publish even when they’ve been offered a traditional contract. Weigh your options, but learn what you need to succeed.

8) Do you find it hard to juggle the creative side of being a writer against the business side of being a writer, in terms of marketing and promotion and things of that nature? How hard has it been (or easy) for you to build up your author platform?

Ironically, I can do handle both sides well. I love getting out there (when we were allowed to do book signings, speaking, and conferences). Marketing actually begins when you’re writing as the question you need to address is: Who is your audience and how do you reach them? As for building my platform, I’m a speaker as well so that helps in getting me into places where I can also let folks know about my books. You can’t merely write without helping to promote it.

9) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work. Do you ever enjoy reading your own work back to yourself after it’s out there for the rest of the world?

I do love reading my work when I’m out there. I will say I’m not that great when it comes to listening to my audiobooks, but that’s because I love reading. When you’re writing, you have to (or you should) read over your work many times to make it as clean as possible before sending it to your editor. One may be tired of reading it from having read it so many times before and during the publishing phase.

10) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry?  Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?

Oooh, I hope not! Even when you’re out there, you still want to get better and become even more successful. I don’t believe a late start will hinder one’s chances, but not starting at all will definitely ensure you’ll never succeed. 

11) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally.  I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity?  How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?

Love this question! I write because I can not NOT write! It’s part of who I am. I believe I was MADE for this. My unique quality is being able to make people see the pictures with my words. My unique quality is taking what might be hard and making it easy. My unique quality is using scriptures for my chapter headings and making them work with the chapter you’re reading. Being an author has given me a place where I have been able to meet some of the most amazing people and hopefully I have and I am inspiring them to know that each of them is a gift and have a gift to share. I want people to live life to the fullest and to leave their treasures inside of them here on earth. I want people to know they matter.

Couple with hands touching