By G.G. Vandagriff
Attention Mystery lovers: The Hidden Branch by GG Vandagriff is the final installment in the Alex and Briggie mystery series—a rollercoaster ride of genealogist sleuthing at its finest.
Meet Alexandra Campbell (Alex) and her sidekick, Briggie, who are hired to solve a mystery in Southern California. Paul Mardian has been murdered, his priceless artifacts stolen, and he's left billions behind in his will to unsuspecting estranged relatives--or are they? Join Alex as she and her cohorts interview various family members, uncover deep family secrets, and find themselves on the wrong side of the law. In The Hidden Branch, Vandagriff has created a wealth of unique characters, a dangerous plot, combined with snatches of humor. Not many authors can do this, but I found the secondary characters as charming as the main characters—Vandagriff certainly has a talent for characterization.
After reading this book and having enjoyed GG Vandagriff’s other books, I thought I’d ask her some interview questions to go along with my review. GG graciously agreed to answer my questions. Thank you!
Heather: The Hidden Branch is your last in this mystery series. Tell us what readers can expect to see next from you.
G.G.: At this point all depends on the grace of Deseret Book, however the projects I am working on for 2010 are: a.) Embracing Abundance, a non-fiction gift book about gathering spiritual abundance through a personal relationship with the Savior; b.) another Shadow Mountain offering that I have been working on for about twenty-five years, The Only Bright Thing, about a couple married nearly five years who make the surprising discovery that they don't know each other at all. I call it a "romance within a romance" and hope it will offer readers the same satisfaction as Waltz. c.) We are leaving next week for Florence where I will be researching for the first book of my "Crazy Lady" series about four women in therapy together, all single for different reasons, who decide they can solve all their problems by going to Florence together (a la the movie Enchanted April).
Heather: I've had sneak peaks at these manuscripts, and I'm really excited for all three of them! Back to your newest release--The Hidden Branch. I love the name Briggie--I don't think I've ever heard it before. Tell us where you got this name.
G.G: Briggie is short for Brighamina. My great grandmother was named Johanna Brighamina Poulson, and I've always gotten a kick out of it. Brigham Young was prophet when she was born. Like my fictional Briggie she was a great fisherwoman and I have a newspaper clipping of her holding up a fish as tall as she is. She was also intrepid.
Heather: You've characterized Briggie perfectly in the book. You write in a few different genres. Is your writing process different with each genre, historical fiction vs contemporary mystery vs non-fiction?
G. G.: Yes. a.) Non-fiction comes easiest to me, because you can say what you mean. Also, it never surprises me. I just sit down and write it. I always experience inspiration during the process, and it is very satisfying. b.) Mystery or suspense fiction is the most difficult for me, because it is like getting on a bucking bronco. You have to give your life to it. You daren't let go of the reins, because you'll get thrown off and lose the story. The Arthurian Omen was particularly difficult because it was so tremendously complex. However, looking back, I'm not as satisfied with it as my Briggie and Alex books because I didn't develop the characters as well. My Briggie and Alex series has been fun to write. I have a basic mystery plot in mind, but my characters always surprise me, and things happen that I have no advance notice of. Those books are as character driven as it is possible for them to be, given the restraints of the basic plot. I never, ever intended for Alex to fall in love with Charles, however. That was a complete surprise. c.) My very favorite writing is my "literary" fiction which can be entirely character driven. It is very difficult. It takes me a long, long time. I do many drafts, adding layers and layers to my characters and their relationships. I've lost count of how many times I've rewritten Waltz and The Only Bright Thing. They change completely between drafts, as I dig deeper into personalities. I'm hoping that I can get it right a little sooner with Crazy Ladies. I'm only giving myself a year, hoping that I have developed a little more skill as a writer.
Heather: I think your skills are already developed. But I know what you mean, it seems with each manuscript a writer reaches new depths. Speaking of writing, tell us about your writing day and how you work in normal life and all the promoting with your newest book.
GG: Balancing promoting with writing is extremely difficult, as I'm sure you know. Promoting can be fun and creative, but it takes lots of time and is basically a left-brain activity. It tends to run away with your time, the more ideas you get. I am going to be hiring a "virtual" assistant to do much of the work for me in the future, because writing is more important to me, especially if I keep trying to publish two books a year. Also, I love helping promote my fellow writers and being part of a writing community, but sometimes I have to drop out for a while.
When I'm in the writing phase, I have to start first thing in the morning to get my best "creative time." I don't shower or dress, I just sit down in my p.j.s and write for as long as I can. I learned a long time ago that "first thoughts" are the freshest and most original, so that's why it's so important to write or rewrite early in the day. I sometimes go all day. Most often it's about 4 or 5 hours. By afternoon my brain is usually mush, so I do promoting or blogging or e-mail. My children are long gone, now, but when they were home, I worked during naps and when they were at school. I held that time inviolate, and hired people to clean my house, even if it was just teenagers.
Heather: I love your "first thoughts" advice. Thanks so much GG! To visit her blog, go here.