Saturday, January 23, 2010

Interview with Bonnie Grove -- Book Giveaway!

Today please welcome Canadian author Bonnie Grove. She is trained in Christian counseling and secular psychology, and is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Talking to the Dead, as well as Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You. She and her pastor husband, Steve, have two children and live in Saskatchewan.

Valerie Comer here. I got to thinking about Bonnie and her writing. I've heard a lot about American publishers preferring books set in the USA, and I was curious about Bonnie's experiences in this regard. So I caught up with her and snagged a short interview.

VC: Both your fiction and your non-fiction have been published by American presses. Was this always your intention?

BG: I didn't go into writing with any intentions - I wanted to see if I could write, if my ideas could turn into books and if those books could make it to the marketplace somehow.

When I started I knew nothing. It was me in my basement clacking away. I completed my non-fiction, Your Best You, and turned to my first choice publisher - Beacon Hill Press. They are part of the Nazarene Publishing House - my denominational publisher. They said yes! So it had nothing to do with whether or not they were US based or not.

My fiction, Talking to the Dead, was different. I didn't know where to start or how the world of fiction publishing worked. I sent it in to a site called The Writer's Edge. Over time, several publishers asked for the full manuscript. I had no idea how to handle so much interest. What are the rules? How do you communicate with a publisher? I didn't know. I asked a Canadian colleague what she would do in my position, and she said I needed an agent (she was right!).

She sent a letter of introduction to an American agent who signed me the next day.

It wasn't intention that landed me with two US publishers and an American agent. It was, I believe, God's blessing and favor. You could have knocked me over with a feather when all this was happening!

VC: Where is your novel set?

BG: The novel is set in a small town called Greenfield. And in a city called.....The City.

I found when I tried to plunk the story down in any particular city, the city became too much of a character - it detracted from the story, which could take place anywhere. I chose to highlight the universality of the story by keeping the setting neutral.

VC: I have a hard time doing that. I guess I 'like' my settings to interact with my characters and influence them. Even when I try to remain neutral, I often find myself choosing between an American or Canadian custom.

This thought process didn't come up for you at any point? Maybe I should take lessons from you!

BG: No - there were some very small language differences my US editor and I noticed - and enjoyed talking about.

I'm guided by the story - and it's the story that dictates to me where it will be set.

Each novel I write will be different and I work out settings and other important points on a case by case basis. I'm not worried about the so called rules. I'm concerned with telling the story in an authentic manner.

Will I write a novel set in Canada? I may very well. Will I write one set in an American local? I may very well do that too. My focus is on telling the best story I can.

VC: What is your favorite travel destination? Does it ever beg to have a story situated there?

BG: I'm no world traveler - I've stuck close to home for the most part. I love exploring Canada. Three places come to mind:

The Canadian Rockies - especially Kananaskis country (south of Banff). There are spots tucked away in there that have soothed me and reminded me of to live the larger, well examined life.

A second place I love is Vancouver Island. Again, the tucked away places - My uncle helped design and build the park trails on the island, so he showed me and my family some wonderful out of the way spots. The ocean is healing to me, and it calms my sometime too-busy mind.

The third place is a wish - a hope to soon visit the Canadian maritime provinces - I spent time on islands off the coast of Maine many years ago, and I long to return to those cliffs and rocks and waters on the east coast. And yes, this hopeful trip figures into future projects. :)

Interested in a copy of Talking to the Dead? Bonnie will choose one winner (anywhere on the planet!) from the comments posted on this entry before Sunday, January 29. Please leave your email address so Bonnie can contact you for your snail mail address.

Disclaimer: Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/ international laws.


  1. Bonnie, I've just read all your book that will allow and I love it. You have an amazing ability to re-create emotion in your character. I'd love to read this so please will you enter me for the drawing? I don't live near you, but I'm still on the planet!
    Shirl (South Africa)

  2. I just finished Talking to the Dead last week! It was amazing. I don't need the book, but just want to recommend it! Congratulations again, Bonnie!

  3. Not every writer can do justice to both fiction and non-fiction, but Bonnie Grove does! I don't need to go into the draw either, having already read both books. I just wanted to echo Catherine's recommendation.

    Bonnie, I love it that your novel works with a generic "The City". I know what you and Valerie mean about the city/town/region functioning as a character and affecting the story, but I have trouble writing that way. It's the way "they" say to do it, but I'm glad to see one can succeed by not doing it "their" way. (Knew it could happen...)

    I do enjoy reading novels set in real locations if they're places I don't know. But any time I read a book set in my own home city I spend more focus checking accuracy and wondering what street they're really on and why they'd take that route than I do on the actual story. For me, it's a distraction.

  4. Shirley: People on the planet count! Hello to South Africa from snowy Canada!

    Cathy: Thanks so much - I so appreciate your enthusiasm for my novel. You're a blessing!!

  5. I would love to win Talking to the Dead. Haven't had a chance to read it yet.

    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

  6. Valerie, great interview! Bonnie, your book sounds like a fascinating read :-)

    narelle [at] narelleatkins [dot] com

  7. Wow, another writer I've yet to read! Your books sound very interesting, Bonnie, and I did enjoy your interview. Thank you for bringing it to us, Valerie. I was interested to hear something of a writer's contact with Writers Edge. Over the years have heard questions asked many times about whether it is worthwhile submitting there. It certainly worked for you.

  8. Thanks for the interview, Bonnie. It's interesting that the Kananaskis area of Alberta is the first place I ever went backpacking. Hope you didn't mind me adding one of my photos of a hiking trail near Ucluelet on Vancouver Island. We love camping on the Island, getting out there once or twice a year in the past few years since our kids are at university in Victoria.

  9. Good to hear from you, Bonnie. Place has always been very important in my books, but I can see advantages to generic that lets you shift locations to what works for the story instead of being bound by reality that readers might recognize.

    Enjoy the Maritimes.

  10. Hey Carmen: Good luck!

    Narelle - Good luck in the draw!

    Mary - Services like Writer's Edge are what they are. Works for some - doesn't for others. All I can say is, yes, real publishers do read the reports (sometimes). Several were kind enough to ask for my ms.

    Valerie: I liked the picture! It's been too long since I've been on the west coast. We hope to take our kids to the east this year - and the west coast another year. Great fun and a great education for the kiddos!

    LeAnne: Setting IS important to any novel - even mine which are not set in any named city. I view setting in a flexible way - it can pertain to places other than city/province/state/country. But there are many stories that require a strong sense of geographic setting. I'm reading a short story collection called Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan. These stories take place in different African countries and setting is half the stories. (Brilliant book, by the way. Not easy to read - but absolutely important and the writing is dazzling)

    Thanks for all these wonderful comments. So fun to connect with you all!

  11. Your comment about the city becoming too much of a character is very interesting. Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is really foremost about the city of Paris and the cathedral and less so about the characters. For my part, I always need a strong locale for my stories. It may be fictional or real, but always realistic. You can see what I mean in my new release, Angela 1: Starting Over, the first in a series of three set in a coastal Texas high school. If interested, just click on my name and follow the link to my website. Thanks!

  12. 'Talking to the Dead' sounds a fascinating read - I'd love to receive a copy way down here in Australia! Your non-fiction work sounds excellent too. I also find the ocean a healing place, Bonnie - I love to walk along the beaches here in Australia or look out over the ocean as I read or write. God bless you in your ministry through your writing.

  13. David: Interesting thoughts. I find "always" a word to avoid, though. You just never know when a story will come along and break all our 'always' rules. Congrats on your new release!

    Joanne: Thanks so much! Good luck in the draw! Those Australian beaches sound like a bit of heaven.

  14. I would love to be entered in your draw. Thanks.

  15. Hi Bonnie and Valerie
    Many thanks for the super interview.

    Bonnie I've been reading about Talking to the Dead on Faith Matters and Novel Matters and would love to read it, but I haven't found it for sale here (South Africa).

    Please enter me in the draw.

    Thank you
    Ruth Ann Dell

  16. And the winner is...Jo-Anne Berthelsen! Jo-Anne, I've sent you an email. Please contact Bonnie.