My name is G.G. Vandagriff. I realize that I am one of those rare people in the world who gets to live a life full of passion, suspense, angst, fulfillment, humor, and mystery. I am a writer. Everyday when I sit down to my computer, I enter into world of my own making. I am in the head of a panoply of characters ranging from a nineteen year-old Austrian debutante (The Last Waltz) to a raging psychopath (The Arthurian Omen).
How did this come about? I think I was wired to be a writer when I was born. Even though my formal career was in finance, writing was all I really wanted to do. I started at the age of nine by winning a contest for “The Ballerina Who Couldn’t Dance,” my first short story. There were a lot of things about my life and surroundings that I couldn’t control during my growing up years, so I retreated to whatever alternate existence I was creating.
I studied writing in an advanced workshop when I was at Stanford, but was discouraged because everyone but me wanted to be J.D. Salinger. I hadn’t yet found my writing voice. But with my study abroad in Austria, I finally found the story I wanted to tell—the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its collapse into fascism. (I never for a moment thought that this might be a bit ambitious.) I eventually began this project while commuting to and from my job in Los Angeles as an International Banker. I had an outline. My studies abroad had given me the historical background. Using that, I created characters as prototypes of the ideas that existed in Austria in 1913. Then, while teaching economics and waiting for my first child to be born, I read all of Churchill’s books on World War One, and everything I could get my hands on that would give me the zeitgeist (literally “time spirit”) of the age.
By the time my three children were born, I had a draft, but I knew it wasn’t going anywhere. It was too superficial. I didn’t understand the European mind. I couldn’t convey the degree of suffering they had endured, nor the trauma the Austrians experienced at the collapse of their empire.
I turned to writing a more modern story that was semi-autobiographical at that point. I was living in the Ozarks, full of conflicted feelings that I didn’t realize were Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I worked out many of those problems over the course of five years in the novel that has now become Pieces of Paris. However, I knew also that that project had not yet lived up to its potential.
Discouraged, I turned to writing what I read—light mysteries. For color I imparted to my heroines another passion of mine—genealogy. I created two wacky widows who usually managed to get on the wrong side of the law but always were able to use their fine-honed genealogical skills to solve the murder case. Little did I realize that these mysteries were built upon the theme of the heroine, Alex Campbell, working through and recovering from PTSD. These mysteries have proven somewhat legendary among genealogists and other mystery fans.
However, for fifteen years, I had been the victim of bi-polar disorder (a common ailment among writers) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and after publishing three books, I became too ill to write. During that long struggle to survive, I learned enough about overcoming pain and about the true nature of love to be able to complete my Austrian project. That became The Last Waltz, which won the prestigious Whitney Award as the Best Historical Novel of 2009. After completing my mystery series, I was able to concentrate on digging deeper into Pieces of Paris and finally complete the delicately crafted story of a marriage where PTSD plays a disruptive role.
Though I was “born to write,” my apprenticeship has been long. However, any suffering or learning process that enables us to further understand ourselves, our world, and our loved ones is never wasted.
More “practical facts” about me
Education: Stanford University (BA), George Washington University (MA)
Career Experience: Assistant Editor at Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Assistant Treasurer, Harvard University; Bond Analyst, Fidelity Investments; College Instructor of the following subjects: Money and Banking, Economics, American Government; Assistant Director of International Programs, University of Dayton; Author of eleven published books (see Books).
Family: Married 38 years to David P. Vandagriff, lawyer and entrepreneur. Three children. Two Grandchildren.
Interests: Writing, Travel, Reading, Teaching Writing, Motivational Speaking on Writing and Depression/PTSD. Most of all: Playing with my grandchildren ( 4 and 4 months)
Personal Beliefs: I believe that Jesus Christ is my Redeemer. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Personal Goal: To use my time and talents to help heal and bring peace to sufferers of Depression and PTSD through my writing and through speaking at workshops, college venues, church venues, and any other opportunity that presents itself. (To contact me about this go to contacts page).