The September 9th and 23rd posts showcased the romance/mystery novel, Out of the Frying Pan by authors Michelle Griep and Kelly Klepfer. Today we learn how the story materialized!
Kelly, welcome back! Tell us how you and Michelle came to write Out of the Frying Pan.
Michelle and I met a very long time ago. In fact we say we are sisters from another mother but didn’t meet until we began interacting on an on-line Christian fiction critique group. We knew right away that we were soul sisters. We both consider our major spiritual gifts to be sarcasm and smacking. I know that’s not Biblical, but let’s just say we employ both of these skills often so it’s good that we have each other.
While slicing-and-dicing each other’s writing, one of us suggested we write a book together. I had a story idea birthed long before. One of my former co-workers (The woman had a Bachelor’s Degree in theater. Nuff said.) used to run a non-profit alongside mine. She worked with retired adults. We enjoyed her interactions way too much. One day she ran across a name. “Kelly! This name needs to be a character in a book. A murder mystery. Zula. Isn’t that a wonderful name?” I agreed. And when I shared this tiny seed of an idea with Michelle the brainstorming blossomed into Out of the Frying Pan and the larger than life Fern and Zula Hopkins.
Of course, that was the beginning. And this novel has taken a 10 year journey to see the light of day.
The plot line was skeletonized super speedy. We knew our murderer, our red herring coulda-woulda folks, the motives and the major characters right off the bat.
We wrote Out of the Frying Pan from different states, bouncing ideas off of each other and putting each other in challenging literary hot water. I wrote two major characters, Michelle wrote the other two. We’d write a scene, tag the other person and wait for a response with the scene cliffhanger. It was really challenging and fun. Michelle would work her magic and write about her character’s world, weaving my character in and causing me to have to rethink what I thought she’d be doing next–and vice versa. It really stretched us as writers and our characters grew more three-dimensional because of it. As Michelle wrote about my characters, they grew even more loveable because someone I cared about was describing them to me.
We had two publishers early on interested in the book but the cozy mystery portion of their house shut down before anything materialized there. Then we sat on the book for a long period. Michelle wrote and published a couple of books in that time frame. I sunk into a season of insecurity in my skill set and was not writing at all. Michelle finally told me that we needed to start pushing the story again. I agreed to massive editing and finishing the final chapters. Interestingly, while I wasn’t writing, I was reading and reviewing during my dry spell. During that time, some of the areas in which I struggled became more natural and part of who I was as a writer. That season was valuable because I grew into my training and stored knowledge.
So if you happen to be a discouraged writer and aren’t able to write right now, read. Read good books and think about what makes them good and why you love them. And read not-so-good books and decide what makes them a bit on the stinky side and how you might do something different as a writer. You might just discover the rules begin to gel and become part of you, too. I’d been trying so hard not to break the rules that I was stilted and stunted in my writing, until the rules worked their way into me. And this has spiritual application. How many walk and struggle to obey God’s rules in their own weak power? Instead, Jesus offers us His indwelling. He works to make the rules a natural part of us.
Michelle had an agent at the time. We finished the book and she shopped it for us. We had a couple of bites but nothing real tempting. She ended up parting ways with her agent and a year later we landed this contract. When our Bling! Editor read it she suggested we ramp up the romance angle and sell it as a romance. So, newly challenged, we recreated deeper pasts for our former secondary characters and wove in more action. The whole process has been so challenging, involved, and exhausting, but most of all, fun.
Over all, my favorite comments and delightful moments are recent. Michelle is a genius editor and will not let a book go to a final print without her last go-through. She texted me throughout that weekend. “I am laughing out loud. How can I think this book is so funny when we stinking wrote it?” “I love our characters. I mean love them.” “Favorite paragraph: Oy. The heat from Zula’s blistering gaze began to melt Fern’s rubber-soled Keds. She didn’t even need to look in that direction to know that two baby blue beams were fixed, locked, and loaded. How was she going to get out of this situation without any open veins? A story. A good story.” This says it all. Some of Michelle’s admiration might come from the fact that people die and are injured in Out of the Frying Pan. Because she loves nitty-gritty historicals, she’s always killing off a character or two, so there’s that. Remember our “spiritual” gifts. ♦
Kelly Klepfer had ambitions to graduate from the school of life quite awhile ago, but alas… she still attends and is tested regularly. Her co-authored cozy/quirky mystery, Out of the Frying Pan, is the culmination of several of the failed/passed tests. Kelly, though she lives with her husband, two Beagles and two hedgehogs in Iowa, can be found at Novel Rocket, Novel Reviews, Scrambled Dregs, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter with flashes of brilliance (usually quotes), randomocities, and learned life lessons.
Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, where she teaches history and writing classes for a local high school co-op. Historical romance is her usual haunt. THE CAPTIVE HEART is her latest release. Follow her escapades at www.michellegriep.com or www.writerofftheleash.blogspot.com or stalk her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.