Writers on Editing: Gina Holmes

GinaholmesGina Holmes is the founder of Novel Rocket and a PR professional. Her bestselling novels Crossing Oceans and Dry as Rain were both Christy finalists and won various literary awards. Her latest novel, Wings of Glass, released February 2013 and has earned a starred review from Library Journal, a Romantic Times Top Pick, and a Southern Indie Bookseller’s Okra Pick. Holmes holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her family in southern Virginia. She works too hard, laughs too loud, and longs to see others heal from the past and discover their God-given purpose. To learn more about her, visit http://www.ginaholmes.com.

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Your third novel, Wings of Glass, has just released. Tell us a little about it.

I think this is my favorite book so far. Wings of Glass tells the story of Penny Taylor, a young wife who feels trapped and alone in a physically and emotionally abusive marriage. Besides her low self-esteem, she feels her Christian faith doesn’t allow for divorce. It’s not until she meets two women—one a southern socialite and the other a Sudanese cleaning woman—that her eyes are opened to the truth of her situation and she begins her journey to healing and redemption.

What made you take on the tough subject of domestic abuse?

wingsofglassAs a little girl, I watched my mother being physically abused by her husband and then later, two of my sisters enter abusive relationship after abusive relationship and I thought that would never be me—until the day my boyfriend hit me for the first time and I began to make excuses for him. I know the mindset of someone who gets into and stays in an abusive relationship, because I’ve been there myself. It’s taken me years, and a lot of reading, praying, and talking to get to the heart of what brought me and kept me in toxic relationships and I want to pass on some of what I learned that helped me find boundaries and recovery from a co-dependent mindset and most of all healing.

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

It’s my hope and prayer that those who are in abusive relationships will begin to see that the problem lies with them as much as with the abuser. That’s something I railed against when friends suggested it. I wasn’t the one with the problem! I was no doormat who enabled abuse or addiction—or was I?

I also hope that those who have never understood the mindset of victims would better comprehend the intricacies of co-dependency and be better able to minister to these women and men. And of course I’d love it if young women would read this before they ever enter their first romantic relationship to have their eyes open to how abuse almost always progresses and be able to see the red flags early.

Since this is a blog about editing, I have to ask: What are your favorite and least favorite parts about being edited?

Favorite: My favorite part is that the book is always better for it. My editor, Kathy Olson, is fantastic. She sees the forest for the trees. I’m also edited by Karen Watson who is more on the macro side of things. The two challenge me immensely. They call out every lazy section, every plot hole, problem and if the big picture isn’t showing what I had envisioned, they’re not shy about telling me. I love the end result of all that work!

Least favorite: I don’t always write the way editors would like me to. I’m a seat-of-the-pantser and I know it can be frustrating for them to get an outline that says I’m taking the story one way when the finished product hardly resembles that early vision. It’s tough sometimes for creatives and editorial types to not frustrate the other but the whole iron sharpening iron deal is definitely true of the author-editor dance.

Also, since you’ve done a lot of editing yourself: What has editing the work of other writers taught you about seeing your writing through the eyes of an editor?

It’s amazing how not being close to a project (as in I wasn’t the one who wrote it), makes everything so much clearer. What stands out the most is the cardboard-ness of rule worship.

It’s important to follow writing rules when you’re new but equally important to know when to break them purposefully when it serves the story better. I see so many manuscripts that are cookie cutter. The writing is perfect in a way. There are no mistakes or few, but it’s so dry and unappealing. If something bothers you as a writer, if it bores the writer to tears, it’s going to do the same to the editor and later the reader. Trust your gut.

Which of the characters in Wings of Glass is most like you and why?

Each of the characters has a little of me in them or vice versa. I think years ago I was more like Penny, though tougher in many regards, at least I thought so. I’d like to think now I’m a little more Callie Mae. Because I’ve lived through what I have and have found healing, I can see in others the path that will lead to healing and the one that will lead to destruction. The difficult part once you’ve found healing is remembering that you can’t do it for others. You can offer advice, but you can’t make anyone take it. Each person has to learn in their own time, in their own way.

Who is your favorite character?

I absolutely love Fatimah. She had such a great sense of humor and didn’t care what anyone thought except those who really mattered. She was really quite self-actualized. She was so much fun to write and I actually
find myself missing her presence.

You had written four novels before your debut, Crossing Oceans was published. Do you think those books will ever get dusted off and reworked?

crossingoceansNever say never, but I doubt it. I had considered reworking some but having gone back and re-read them, I realized they weren’t published for good reason. They just didn’t work. Now, there is one story I’m resurrecting characters from for a story I should be writing next, but the plotline is completely different. I started out writing suspense, but as my reading tastes changed, so did my writing tastes. I don’t see myself doing suspense again any time soon.

DryAsRainHonestly, I’m a pretty quirky person. The older I get, the more I embrace those quirks. I think everyone is quirky really. As a student of human nature, I pick up on those and like to exaggerate them in my fiction. I also like to surround myself with quirky people. My husband is quirky, my kids are quirky, and so are my friends. Often in life, especially when we’re young, we hate about ourselves what makes us different, when really those are the things we should be embracing. Different is interesting. Different is beautiful.

If you could write anything–regardless of genre, marketing, and reader expectations–what would you write?

Speaking of quirky. I read a book a few years back that was so different that it made me want to try something like that. The book was a big-time bestseller, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. What turned me on about that book were the characters. They were quirky to an extreme. In contemporary women’s fiction, I can get away with a certain amount of quirk, but I’m always having to play it down because it’s so over the top. In a fantasy, you can be as over the top as you dare. I’d love to play around with something like that one day and just let my freak flag fly!

Will I? Probably not, unless I use a pen name. I realize readers have certain expectations and I wouldn’t want anyone to feel mislead. We’ll see. There’s a lot in life I want to do but since I only get a hundred or so years (if I’m lucky), time won’t allow for every rabbit hole.

What advice would you have for writers hoping to follow in your footsteps?

My advice would be not to follow too closely in anyone’s footsteps. Yes, there is a certain path all writers find themselves on. There are certain things that we must all do like learning to write well, figuring out platform, going to writers conferences to meet the gatekeepers and figure out the way things have to be formatted and submitted and all that sort of thing. But it’s okay to veer off the path too and forge your own. There are those who have self-published who have found great success.

There are those who have written about subjects that they were told no one wanted to read about and found success. It’s smart to figure out what others have done before you to make them successful, but alter the formula to suit your needs and passions. It’s okay to be different, in fact, I think great success, and maybe even happiness, depends upon it. And by all means, read Novel Rocket.com and leave comments. It helps not only encourage those authors who have taken the time out of their day to teach us, but it also connects you to the writing community. Community is important.

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ginaumbrella1From the best-selling author of Crossing Oceans comes a heartrending yet uplifting story of friendship and redemption. On the cusp of adulthood, 18-year-old Penny Carson is swept off her feet by a handsome farm hand with a confident swagger. Though Trent Taylor seems like Prince Charming and offers an escape from her one-stop-sign town, Penny’s happily-ever-after lasts no longer than their breakneck courtship. Before the ink even dries on their marriage certificate, he hits her for the first time. It isn’t the last, yet the bruises that can’t be seen are the most painful of all.

When Trent is injured in a welding accident and his paycheck stops, he has no choice but to finally allow Penny to take a job cleaning houses. Here she meets two women from very different worlds who will teach her to live and laugh again, and lend her their backbones just long enough for her to find her own.

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

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5 comments on “Writers on Editing: Gina Holmes

  1. Gina Holmes says:

    Thanks for having me, Mike!

  2. Gina Holmes says:

    What a great looking site btw!

  3. heatherdaygilbert says:

    I LOVED this post. Excellent advice and I am SO with you on the cookie-cutter writing, Gina. I just can’t take it! I love it when MCs have quirks and weaknesses and depth of character that makes their actions/dialogue ring true. And totally agree on the need for Christian writing community. It’s crucial, and there’s no excuse for NOT being involved with it, since modern writers are online all the time anyway, trying to platform-build!

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