Grace Ombry, author of Smokin' & Cryin'

Grace Ombry, author

Hi. I’m Grace Ombry and I write mainly pop-culture fiction with realistic characters in real-world situations. A few of my favorite writers are Barbara Kingsolver, Kurt Vonnegut, Nick Hornby, Nick Sheff, Maria Semple, John Krakauer, and Lauren Groff. For more about my reading habits and opinions, check out my Goodreads link on the right.

My published novels are Smokin’ & Cryin’ (2018) and State of Love & Trust (2016). They’re both available in print and digital.

My Work in Progress

As of this writing, I’m revising a Young Adult paranormal novel. The story takes place in Michigan following a high school senior prank gone disastrously wrong. It’s dark, with hundreds of dead teenagers (zero zombies, but several ghosts and the Nain Rouge) and plenty of gallows humor.  The tentative title is The Remainders.

I realized I needed to write this book after I became obsessed with news stories regarding MV Sewol, a South Korean ferry which sank on April 16, 2014.  There were 325 members of the Danwon High School junior class aboard the MV Sewol at the time of the sinking, and just 75 of them survived.  The stories of these kids going back to class just 18 days later and dealing with the magnitude of their loss—250 classmates, siblings, and friends—hit me hard.  But their true story I feel is theirs alone to tell, and my fictional ferry and its passengers are another matter entirely.

How I Write

Everybody’s creative process is a little different, and I’m not so enamored with my own to think that it will be especially interesting to anyone else. So if you stop reading here I won’t be offended.

Oh, are you still with me? Cool.

My characters grow organically from my writing, and my plots (mostly) grow from my characters. In other words, I’m a pantser, which means I write the story first then figure out how it all fits together, refining until the plot works.  I adore character-driven fiction and letting stories develop out of the characters’ desires and foibles. This is the opposite of plot-driven fiction with characters who exist to serve the plot (and, if done poorly, can seem like paper dolls being moved from scene to scene).  However, I couldn’t succeed as a pantser if I didn’t understand storytelling, so I make it my job to be a student of the craft. Because in the end, a bunch of interesting characters bumbling around with no plot might be even worse than paper dolls moving from plot point A to plot point B.

I have to get to know my characters deeply and understand them as humans. Characterization is by far my favorite part of writing fiction. There is nothing more satisfying to me than creating a character who walks off the page and takes on a life of his own. I love all of my characters, good, bad, and in between. Especially those who are in between.

My second-favorite part of writing fiction is dialogue. Writing good dialogue is a blast. Subtlety and innuendo in dialogue are what I live for. I can’t stand reading on-the-nose dialogue or redundant dialogue tags. Poor dialogue in fiction is a lost opportunity.

My go-to writing exercise, especially if I get stuck, is an open-ended character interview. Some of my favorite scenes have developed while using this productive writing technique.

I enjoy exploring the dynamics between the characters in my fiction, digging into the subtleties of jealousies, grudges, crushes, love,  and nuanced, imperfect relationships. Sibling relationships come up a lot in my work, perhaps because I’m fascinated with how different people can be even when raised in the same environment and circumstances.

Once I’ve written a novel, I rewrite it several times, developing the characters and refining the plot as I go. This means I do great quantities of writing, revising and editing. I don’t mind. Writing, for me, is like breathing.

Random Facts About Grace Ombry

Long ago I graduated from Central Michigan University with a journalism major and marketing minor.  My day job (which I happen to love) is marketing for the greatest glue factory on earth, and editing Epoxyworks magazine, which has been in continuous print since 1992.

In my free time, I help manage an online grief support group and website.   I play guitar and ukelele. (Since you ask, I have two Taylor acoustics, a Fender Mustang, an Electra Les Paul and a Lanikai concert uke). Every year I treat myself to several rock concerts. Pearl Jam and My Morning Jacket are longtime favorites, but I love taking in newer bands, and I have an enormous love for prog rock and a weakness for psychedelic rock. I also enjoy rustic camping with my family. My strangest hobby is probably keeping bees in my urban backyard. But writing is and always has been my number one love, and the majority of my free time is spent working on my current novel.

Home for me is Bay City, Michigan, but I’m at home anywhere as long as my husband (since 1995) Michael and our son and daughter are there. We have two cats and a pug dog. Oh, and thousands of Italian honey bees who work their striped butts off every day. (Except for the drones. Drones are lazy). Really, you should think about beekeeping. It’s fascinating and good for the environment, too.

What Grace Ombry is Bad at, But Does Anyway

  • Gardening
  • Singing
  • Housekeeping, especially folding laundry
  • Social Media
  • Self-promotion