Lots of people inspire me and when Debby e-mailed me and told me her story, I knew I had to share it with you. She’s overcome a visual impairment, plus lots of set backs with publishers, to become an author. I hope this interview I did with her acts as your inspiration too.
This Writer’s Life (TWL)-Could you tell us how long you’ve been writing.
Debby Grahl(DG)-I’ve been writing about ten years now. The first few years, like most beginner authors, were filled with one rejection after another. I entered my books in contests and was lucky enough to win some, but my break came in 2013 with my first contract and the release of The Silver Crescent.
TWL-I’m guessing like all authors, you were an avid reader first. Since childhood, you’ve been visually impaired by Retinitis Pigmentosa which probably changed the way you read. First of all, could you tell us what that is and how you adjusted to losing your sight?
DG-Retinitis Pigmentosa is a disease which gradually deteriorates your sight. I lost the ability to read in my early twenties, but even when I had sight, seeing the printed word was always difficult for me. Reading a book would take me twice as long as a person with normal sight. Although now my vision is to the point it’s like looking through a fog, I’m so thankful I had sight long enough to know rainbow colors, the beauty of the mountains, moonlight on the ocean, and the faces of my loved ones.
TWL-When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
DG-It was as a young teenager that I became frustrated with how long it took me to read and I began to make up my own stories. I recall entertaining my girlfriends as we walked to school with my stories, and they were kind enough to listen. Today, they’re some of my biggest fans.
TWL-I know for some people a life changing experience can be the thing that pushes you to work toward living a dream. Was this the case with you and your writing?
DG-Definitely. My family on my dad’s side are all artistic. They either paint, draw, or teach art. I believe with my vision loss, my ability came out in words. I can’t express the emotion I felt the first time I held my own printed book .
TWL-You use screen reading software to write your books. Can you tell us how that works?
DG-Everything I type is read back to me aloud. This enables me to do most of my research online. This incredible advancement in technology has truly opened a new window of opportunity for me. It does have its downfalls though. It’s a visual world, and people love graphics. This software is designed for print, so if an internet site has too many graphics, I run into trouble. This is where my seeing eye husband comes to my rescue. He also helps me make sure things aren’t upside down when I post on social media.
TWL-How do you think being visually impaired impacts your writing?
DG-It’s definitely a challenge. I have trouble with PDF files and reading my MS with track changes. Excel sheets are a nightmare, and not actually being able to see what I’m typing, I can change the font without knowing. Also, some blog sites want you to prove you’re not a robot, well, I’m not, but I can’t see the pictures to prove it.
TWL-What was the first book you got published? Maybe you can share that experience with us.
DG-Oh, my, it’s quite the story. I sent a few pages off to a publisher who was offering a free critique. The editor sent it back telling me she marked all my mistakes in red. Well, most of the sheets were red. She also told me I had a good story if I could write it. Ouch! She suggested I take some online writing classes and I did.
Later I attended a conference in New Orleans where I pitched the book to an editor of a small press. A few weeks afterward, I received an email offering me a contract. I screamed so loud I scared my husband. We began the editing process and after a month or so I received an email informing me due to financial difficulty the publisher was closing their doors. Needless to say, I was devastated. I cried for a few days, then recalled I’d met another editor at the conference who had given me their card. I contacted them, and they also offered me a contract. The editing process began again. This time we were going to print when they informed me they also were closing their doors, and they had to cancel my contract. They were nice enough to give me the name of another publisher who published The Silver Crescent and Rue Toulouse before closing as well. Now, I’m happy to say I’m with The Wild Rose Press and just had His Magic Touch released.
TWL-Do you have any writing tips to share?
DG-My advice for new writers is take online writing classes. A number of writing groups provide these, and they’re usually not expensive. My first mistake in writing was thinking you just wrote the book, sent it to a publisher or agent, and away you go. Not! There’re a lot of writing mistakes beginners make that they’re unaware of. Such as the use of tag lines, POV changes, information dump, and grammar and punctuation. A critique group is also a good idea. It’s amazing how different your story sounds when you hear someone else read it. My last bit of advice is stick with it. If you want to write, don’t give up. Remember even the well-known authors received rejection letters.
TWL-You’ve also stepped into the role of indie author. What are some of your upcoming projects?
DG-Actually I only have one book that I self-published. It’s a mystery cozy titled Decorated To Death. I think going through the editing process with publishers helped me know how to put the book together. In such a competitive business as writing, those who self-publish need to make sure their MS is perfect when they go to print. Someone could have a great story, but if it’s full of grammar mistakes or poor punctuation, the reader might disregard the book and move on.