Interview, Jo Grafford, author of Breaking Ties

When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

I don’t remember being hit by lightening exactly, but I’ve been writing as far back as I can remember. By the fifth grade, I was writing short stories and poems and entering writing contests.

A great way to start. What makes you passionate about writing?

It’s my gift. It defines who I am. To be happy, I have to write. Like at addict needing a fix, I get all twitchy when too many hours pass without finding time to write.

Interesting… What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

After years of drafting partial manuscripts, it was nine months of self-imposed calendar deadlines to complete the full manuscript and four rounds of revisions for Breaking Ties. Then I submitted it to a handful of agents and publishers online, received 4-5 standard email rejections, and threw my hands up in the air. I truly had no idea what I was doing at that point. My wonderful husband stepped in and suggested I attend a writing conference and pitch my book live. At the RT Booklovers Convention in 2013, I met so may amazing readers, writers, agents, librarians, and publishers – a truly awesome experience – which resulted in my first book contract with Astraea Press.

So happy for you. Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

Discouraged? Not really. I love writing too much. Overwhelmed is the better word. It’s overwhelming the first time you sit down and determine you’re going to write 100,000 words involving deep characters propelled along a well-developed plot line. There’s a lot of want-to-be writers who never get past this phase. I was there for years myself. Once you complete the first draft (a huge accomplishment), then you choke over how bad it sounds and tackle the gargantuan task of revising. Revising is a very intimidating process where, again, a lot of writers get stuck. About this point, I joined the From The Heart Romance Writers online chapter of RWA. These amazing writers mentored me, critiqued my work, and suggested tools like Scrivener and the AutoCrit Editing Wizard – products I have learned to appreciate and completely adore. A few months later, I finally polished up a manuscript worthy of submitting for publication. After my debut novel was published last October, I got to enjoy that overwhelming feeling all over again – learning the mysteries of marketing, including how to set up an author platform.

The work just started… What books have most influenced your life?

The mega classics profoundly shaped my writing tastes during my teen years – volumes like Les Miserables, A Tale of Two Cities, Jane Eyre, Gone With the Wind, David Copperfield, Tom Sawyer, etc. A few contemporary authors (too many to name them all) that I can’t get enough of include: Nora Roberts, Catherine Coulter, Robert Patterson, Harlan Coben, John Grisham, Robert Ludlum, and Stephenie Meyer.

Nice list. Please tell us about your book, Breaking Ties.


It’s based on the real people and events in 1587 leading up to one of the world’s most intriguing unsolved mysteries – the Lost Colonists of Roanoke Island. The most recent archeological findings support the premise of my book – that there were survivors. Breaking Ties is their story.

How interesting. Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?

I brainstorm heavily, write a detailed outline, follow it religiously for over half the manuscript, and then usually derail into complete inspiration by the last few chapters.

LOL. Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

A very wise man and dear friend. He helped me through a difficult time and continually pressed me to “get back to writing and finish that book.”

What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?

I write detailed Character Bio sheets. Then I close my eyes, listen to period music, and drift into their heads. When I’m writing, I need to “be” the character. I need the experience to be real enough for me to laugh, cry, and get mad when they do.

Best way ever. Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

I read (a lot), play the piano, run, ski, quilt, play cards, entertain, and serve as a literacy volunteer for elementary school students.

Very busy I see… How do you come up with your character’s names? Research. I try to use names that are true to the time period, geographical location, etc. appropriate to my story. I refer to books and websites, browse baby-naming sites, and search historical archives.

What is the best complement you could receive from a reader?

“I couldn’t put it down.” That’s the experience I strive to give my readers. Period.

Where can readers go to find your book?


Barnes and Noble:




Our best to you, Jo.

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