The Gina Holmes File:
by C.J. Darlington
Gina Holmes Interview
"I’ve always seen God most clearly among the blackest background, if that makes sense. I write about tough subjects because that’s what I know about." -- Gina Holmes
Gina Holmes is the President and founder of Inspire a Fire and Novel Rocket and award-winning author of Crossing Oceans and Dry as Rain. In 1998, Gina began her career penning articles and short stories in Ten years, and a stack of rejection letters later, she held her first published novel. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her husband and children in southern Virginia. She works too hard, laughs too loud, and longs to see others heal from their past and discover their God-given purpose.
I understand you’ve always loved to read, and writing came easier for you than some kids, but when did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I have always been a big reader, which was tough since I grew up in a household full of sports fantatics. When everyone else was in the living room cheering on the Phillies, I was in my room alone with a good book. My parents were always telling me, “Put down the book and join the living.”
I guess it’s clear now looking back that I was probably destined to be a writer, but I didn’t always know that’s what I was supposed to do. I got a degree in nursing and while I was taking time off from that career to raise my son, I thought I’d give writing a try. I threw out everything from greeting cards to poetry and nothing felt quite right. When a girl in my church mentioned she was working on her first novel, I thought she’s only 17, if she can do it why can’t I? And so I did. My first four novels or partials didn’t earn me a contract. It wasn’t until number 5, and me switching genres from suspense to women’s fiction, that that happened.
Having such a successful debut with Crossings Oceans, did you find it difficult diving into your second novel? How did you approach it?
It was such a difficult novel to write for so many reasons. It definitely was in the back of my mind that my debut was a sleeper success and people would be watching my second to see if I was just a flash in the pan. The novel didn’t come easy and looking back, I’m not sure it was the right story for me to tell. It felt less like mine than anything I’d written and there were so many revisions that I lost sight at some point of what I was even writing about. That’s why having a good editor is so important. I hope that no other book I write is ever that difficult. I don’t think I could survive that process again.
Dry as Rain went through a couple tough revisions. What kept you going on the days when the writing got hard?
I was under contract, which is a pretty good motivation. And the deadlines kept me up writing into the wee hours of the night. I also kept a finished copy of Crossing Oceans nearby to remind me that what I was working on was truly going to be going out into the world. It forced me to give it all I had despite the many obstacles.
Could you share with us where the germ of an idea for the story came from and how it developed?
The title to this book came before the actual story. Usually, I think of characters I want to write about and a basic premise. Originally I think I was writing about a woman who woke up in an insane assylum, having lost her memory. The story wasn’t happening though and it evolved into what it is today. It’s no secret I went through a tough divorce some years ago, so I know my fair share about what a failing marriage full of misunderstandings and mistakes looks like. Infidelity is something I thought I could never forgive so it was really interesting to learn that given the right set of circumstances, I was capable of forgiving it. At the beginning of Dry as Rain I hated the main character, by the end of the book if I had been in my heroine’s shoes, I would have had to forgive him as she does.
The novel is told through the male point of view. Was it easier or harder than you thought to get into a guy’s head for this story? Why?
I would never have tried on my own at this point to tell an entire novel through the male’s pov. I just didn’t think I was good enough to do that. But, originally the story was told third person, half from the wife’s pov, half from the husband’s. Everyone agreed I nailed the man’s point of view but interestingly, not the woman’s. So, I guess it was easier than I thought it would be. Honestly, I’d rather write a woman any day. I understand us, I really have to stretch myself to try and think like a man. And this man in particular. He struggles with the flesh in a way I find really uncomfortable and more than most men, I hope. Some say I got it right, others didn’t think so.
Your books often deal with tough, real life issues like death in Crossing Oceans and now infidelity through Dry as Rain. Is that something you have consciously set out to do, or do these themes just naturally come out of the writing process?
You know, I was born to a teenage mother with a string of different fathers in and out of my life, each seemed to be more abusive then the last. At the age of six I was sent to live with a father I really didn’t know that well and a new mother and new siblings. Just like that I was pulled out of my home and was supposed to adjust. In my life I’ve known abuse, abandonment, feeling unloved and a whole lot of other things I shouldn’t have known as a child, but God did not leave me, not once. Looking back, I see His hand in the rebuilding of my life. I’ve always seen God most clearly among the blackest background, if that makes sense. I write about tough subjects because that’s what I know about, I guess. I’ve always had this annoying ability to play devil’s advocate, to see things, even horrible things, from the perspective of others. God gave me an extra helping of empathy and that helps me do certain stories and characters justice, I hope.
What would you say was the hardest part about writing Dry as Rain?
Infidelity is a tough
subject for me. I’m so sensitive to rejection
that the betrayal of my spouse cheating on me feels like it would kill
me. What I found writing the book is that I am capable of forgiving the
unforgivable. I forgave the main character and that shocked me. I hated
digging inside this particular man’s mind and seeing things as he
sees them with struggles of the flesh that I find ookie, for lack of a
better word. It stretched me spiritually, and that’s always uncomfortable.
Of all your characters, who’s your favorite, and why?
If we’re talking about Dry
as Rain, then definitely Larry. He was
so easy to write because I genuinely liked him. He was a man, not perfect
but good and Godly. I’d like to think there are lots of Larrys out
there to counteract the Erics. Out of both books, I love Mama Peg from
Crossing Oceans. She was based on my late grandmother who I absolutely
adored. Writing her was spending time again with my grandma. She was a
Writing is often a sedentary profession. Is there anything you do to beat stress and keep in shape?
I have my bffs who I call. They know the business. They know the struggles, so that’s helpful. Sanity saving, really. I take a lot of walks and have just started getting back on the treadmill since the weather has gotten cold. I do light weights while I’m walking. Really I need to figure out more to do to keep part of community which is tough when you’re on a deadline and knee deep in a novel. Getting to a couple of writers conferences a year really helps me to reconnect to the world.
What would you love to write someday but haven’t yet?
Great question. I read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell some time ago and the quirkiness of the book fascinated me. I’m a very quirky person by nature and would love to write something off the wall letting my bizarre sense of humor really come out. The thing is though that’s such a small part of my personality compared to the brooding side that comes out in my women’s fiction. I might attempt a YA book at some point though. I’d love to do that.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I write on my bed with a bunch of pillows stacked behind my head, on the couch, the same way, at the kitchen table, and right now I’m sitting at an 1800s secretary I picked up at an estate sale and writing in front of the window. I find if I sit too long writing at a desk I get this horrible shoulder pain so I try to do the laying/sitting position as much as possible. Someday, I’d love to be writing looking out at the Pungo River which is where we hope to retire when the kids are grown. We’ll see what God has for us.
As someone who’s interviewed dozens of authors, Christian and secular, I would imagine you often are asked for advice on writing. But where do you yourself turn when you need advice and inspiration?
I try to read every interview we do on Novel Rocket (www.novelrocket.com) and am always gleaning something. Mostly when I want to be inspired, I turn to the Bible and then read a section of really great writing. Geraldine Brooks always gets me in the mood to write, as does Charles Martin and Francine Rivers.
We’d love to hear what you’re working on now! Care to give a sneak peek? :)
I’m about 7/8th the way done with book three right now. It has a tenative title that I don’t know we’ll end up using so I hesitate in giving it. This book tells the story of Penny Taylor an abused wife who is rock solid in her Christian faith but finds shades of gray in her abusive marriage that the Bible hasn’t addressed. She has to decide if leaving the man who might end up killing her and their son is letting God down. She has two friends who will lend her a backbone and a different way of looking at things. It’s a beautiful story very close to my heart. Early readers are saying what I hoped they would—that it’s as good as Crossing Oceans. I can’t wait for this one to hit the stores. I think it will speak to a lot of women in the same struggle.
What would you love to see more of in Christian fiction?
Years ago this was an easy question to answer, now not so much. I was an outspoken advocate of getting CBA authors to ask the tough questions, address the ugly subjects and now we’re doing it. I’m pleased with the balance Christian fiction has finally found. It’s a great time to be writing in the genre.
Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Snuggled up to my husband on the couch, watching a movie with our children.
What was your first job?
I was a cashier at Nick’s B-B-Q in Yardville NJ. Talk about a quirky bunch of characters. I worked with a Spindle, Riverboat, Searg. They called me dizziness. Somethings haven’t changed.
Favorite food of all time:
Favorite Twilight Zone episode:
The one where the Nazi concentration camp dude goes back to visit the camp, and faces the ghosts of the Jews he killed and abused. It’s funny because all the writing on the camp is in English. That cracks me up.
Your most memorable vacation was:
Definitely Oahu Hawaii with my husband. We got married on a beach and it was incredibly romantic. I still can’t believe we were blessed with that experience.
Thanks so much for having me, CJ. I would like to mention that a group of Christian writers have launched a new website called Inspire a Fire (www.inspireafire.com) This site is such a beautiful testimony to the things God is doing in hearts and around the world. I’d love for more people to know about it.
Watch the trailer for Dry as Rain:
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.