Today I am thrilled to have Gina Holmes as a guest to talk about her debut novel Crossing Oceans. In 1998, Gina began her career penning articles and short stories. In 2005 she founded the influential literary blog, Novel Journey. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her husband and children in Southern Virginia. Her debut novel, Crossing Oceans released April/May 2010 with Tyndale House Publishers. To learn more about her, visit: www.ginaholmes.com or www.noveljourney.blogspot.com
Your blog, www.noveljourney.blogspot.com, grew out of your own journey to become a published author How many books had you written before Crossing Oceans? How long has your "novel journey" taken?
Thanks for mentioning Novel Journey. It has been a labor of love, not just for me, but for the whole Novel Journey team. It's a great place for readers to discover new authors and for writers to connect and learn. And unlike most things in life, it's a completely free resource. It really is the Novel Journey team's desire to spread the word about the tremendous choices and talent available today in the realm of Christian fiction, so forgive us if we unashamedly plug it. We'd love the whole world to discover the great Christian novelists there are to choose from -- Francine Rivers, Charles Martin, Lisa Samson, Claudia Mair Burney, Frank Peretti, and on and on.
But to answer the question you actually asked, I've written four books that haven't been published before this one, Crossing Oceans, was contracted.
I've been writing toward the goal of publication for something like ten years. I've had lots of rejections and near misses along the way, but I'm so grateful for all of it. Crossing Oceans is my best piece of writing to date and a story I'm so very proud to debut with.
How much of the character Jenny did you draw from yourself?
Friends could probably be more objective in answering this question than I am. The honest answer would be maybe a little, maybe a lot. Each of the characters is drawn from parts of me, the good guys and the bad. I've got enough attributes and flaws to go around! Mostly the characters are their own creation though. They borrow a little from me, a little from others, and each takes on their own persona as well. It's a combination.
Probably the character most based on myself is Bella. She's the glue that brings the two families together. I've always been a mediator type of person. I think most middle children probably are. However, I was more like Eeyore as a child than Isabella's sunshiny self.
As you reviewed novels and talked to a lot of novelists who have had varying degrees of commercial success, was there ever a "dark night of the soul" where you decided this just wasn't worth pursuing?
Not worth pursuing? No way! There are so many worthy stories to tell, and it's my burning desire to do that. Not to say that I didn't have fleeting moments of despair along the way, particularly when I came close to getting a contract, only to see it fall through at the last minute. But those moments really were fleeting, and I knew God's timing would be perfect … and it was.
You have written several as-yet-unpublished novels, all of them in a completely different genre: thriller/suspense. Crossing Oceans is quite a departure. Do you prefer or find your voice more easily in one or the other?
I grew up reading suspense, so naturally that's what I thought I should write. I did okay with it and got some recognition in a contest and came close to getting contracted, but ultimately none of those suspense novels ever sold. Then I started reading some really amazing novels outside the suspense genre, and it was like another world opened up to me. It was no longer a thriller I longed to write, but a story that would change lives the way the books I read had changed mine. When I started Crossing Oceans, I presented it along with a suspense novel I was working on to my agent, Chip MacGregor. I asked which one he thought suited me better. He told me both were good, but that Crossing Oceans seemed more like my true voice, or something to that effect. It turned out to be a turning point and absolutely the right advice. I'm now writing what comes naturally and absolutely loving it. Chip's a genius.
How did the idea for Crossing Oceans come to you?
I'm not exactly sure where the idea came from, but when I write, I'm usually working out something in my personal life, past or present. Often it's not until the story is done that I figure out exactly what. I think with Crossing Oceans it probably was my relationship with my parents. They divorced when I was a baby. For the first years of my life, I was with my mother, and then when I was in second grade, I went to live with my father. I know what it's like to be torn, like Isabella, between two families who don't always like each other but who all love the child they share. Then again, maybe I wasn’t working out anything! Maybe I just fell asleep watching something about a dying mother, and woke up thinking I had a brilliant idea.
King Solomon wrote, "My child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out" (Ecclesiastes 12:12). What's your perspective on the flood of new books you see each season?
Honestly, I'd rather see two books released that are fantastic than a hundred that are just okay. There are great books that often don't get the attention they deserve because they're buried in an avalanche of new releases. Of course, tastes in literature are as different as in clothing, food, and anything else. One of my dearest friends has raved about books I thought were just okay and vice versa. So, who's to say which two books are the "great" ones?
Finish this sentence: "I will know that I have totally arrived as a novelist when..."
I don't think any of us ever "totally arrive" at anything. I'm a good mom, but have I arrived as a mother? No, I'm still learning and growing and trying to do better. It's the same with being a novelist. If I win a Pulitzer, that would be great -- okay, really, really, really great! -- but that still won't mean I've arrived. I'd still need to be learning and trying my best to improve with each book. I think once people start telling themselves they've "arrived," they start getting lazy and proud. Ultimately they become less than what they could have been had they remained hungry to improve.