For multi-published author Debby Giusti, writing is an essential part of life. So are meeting readers, encouraging new writers, and supporting military families whenever she can. It makes sense. After all, she’s written as long as she can remember, and the Army has been a part of her life for three generations. When she brought the two together, she truly found her niche.
“I was very much an Army brat,” says Debby. “We moved based on my father’s assignments and, even as a child, I understood the support Army wives offered each other.”
But the moving didn’t stop when she grew up. She met her husband, then an Army Captain, at Fort Knox, Kentucky, married him, and eventually raised three Army brats of her own. One son carried on the tradition and currently serves at Fort Bragg. It was while stationed in Kirksville, Missouri that the writing bug first bit Debby.
“We had two babies and one car and I didn’t know anyone,” she explains. “I’d always liked to write and I decided to give it a try. I’d just sit at the counter and type—on a typewriter. And if I made a mistake or wanted to change a word, I had to retype the whole thing. The first thing I sold was an article on being an Army wife. I made 25 dollars, and I was so happy!”
Soon after, she wrote another piece about the life of an Army wife, entitled “Sisterhood”. The piece, which describes the pain of separation, the difficulties of frequent moves, and the endurance of Army wives everywhere, includes the following haunting line:
“Women of peace, we pray for a world in harmony, for the flag that leads our men into battle will also blanket them in death.”
The powerful prose writing sold to an Army magazine called Family, and several other military magazines subsequently reprinted it. When Debby and her family returned to the States after a three-year stint in Germany, she received an email from a calligrapher who wanted to partner to sell wall-hangings of the piece; they were wildly successful. A few years later, “Sisterhood” was put to music and played at a White House reception.
“One of my favorite things,” Debby says, “is introducing myself to an Army wife and having her say, ‘Oh, my gosh! You’re on my wall!’”
The next assignment took the family to Fort Polk in the Mohave Desert, where Debby was so busy with volunteer work that she had no time for writing.
“Military wives volunteer much more than people realize,” Debby explains. “It can be a 40-hour job in and of itself. But we do it because we care and because we want to give back.”
However, the next post, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, offered few opportunities for volunteer work, and Debby once more turned to her writing. She would eventually go on to publish pieces in Southern Lady, Woman’s World, and Our Sunday Visitor.
Upon moving to Fayette County in 1990, Debby put her medical technology degree back to use and began working part-time for a facility in Newnan. She soon began working on the company newsletter and, before long, she received an offer to write for the industry magazine, ADVANCE for Administrators of the Laboratory. She wrote numerous articles for the publication, including a piece on flex time, and served on its editorial advisory board for more than 12 years. In 1996, with the world focused on the Atlanta Olympics—and the viruses overseas visitors might bring with them—she attended a Centers for Disease Control conference and wrote an important article on emerging and infectious diseases.
But Debby had always had an interest in creative writing, so when she saw an ad for an adult education class on the topic at McIntosh High School, she signed up immediately.
“Years before,” she recalls, “we were stationed at a post and someone told me there was a children’s writer living a street over. I used to walk up and down that street, hoping she’d come out, wondering if she’d talk to me if I went and knocked on her door.”
The class hooked her on writing fiction. She started with a few short pieces, but soon realized she wouldn’t be satisfied until she’d completed a full-length novel.
Then she attended a Ladies’ Luncheon at Fort MacPherson, and the speaker just happened to be a member of Georgia Romance Writers (GRW). She invited Debby to a meeting; upon attending, Debby was astounded to discover how helpful and welcoming the people there were—including the published authors. She went to work, learning everything she could about the craft and the industry and typing her first-ever novel on an electric typewriter. But as with most authors, that first book didn’t sell. Neither did the next. In fact, she wrote six novels before penning Nowhere to Hide, the suspense that would become her first published book in 2007. From there, her fiction career took off. She sold two additional novels in the next year: Scared to Death, which won the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for Inspirational Romantic Suspense, and MIA: Missing in Atlanta.
“The turning point came when [publisher] Harlequin’s Love Inspired editor came to a GWR meeting,” says Debby. “My faith has always been very important to me, and when I discovered I could add in a faith element, everything just clicked. I won three contests in a row and then went to the Romance Writers of America national convention for the first time. Four days later, I got ‘the call’ from Love Inspired, and I’ve been there ever since.”
After MIA, she penned the three-book Magnolia Medical series, drawing on her healthcare experience to bring reality and depth to the plots.
Her seventh book came out in 2010, and then she got another very exciting offer. Love Inspired wanted to start a military series—and they wanted Debby to be the author. Just one year later, The Officer’s Secret hit bookshelves around the country and reader praise poured in. The sixth book in the series, The Agent’s Secret Past, is scheduled for release in March of 2014.
In just seven years, Debby has sold a dozen books and won a slew of awards from a broad array of well-respected organizations. In addition to winning “the Daphne,” she’s snagged a National Readers’ Choice award, a Golden Quill, a Beacon Award for Excellence, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, a Write Touch, a CATA Romance Reviews’ Choice Award, and the Philosophy of Romance Book of the Year.
“Debby has had a large fan base from the very beginning, and it just keeps growing,” says Karen Duncan, owner of Omega Books in Peachtree City. “It has been fun to watch.”
Friend and fellow writer Darlene Buchholz feels that part of Debby’s success lies in the way her heroes interact with the heroines in her tales. “I don’t know a woman in the world who doesn’t want to be treated with the type of gentlemanly behavior characteristic of her heroes,” she notes. “They are manly men, but they treat the women in her stories with such gentleness and caring. People identify with that.”
Yet despite the sales and accolades, one of her proudest accomplishments is the multi-author blog she co-founded, Seekerville.
“It stared years ago,” explains Debby. “Thirteen contest-winning Christian writers got together—virtually, I mean—and decided we were going to start a blog and keep going until each and every one of us got published. Several of us met at RWA Nationals in Reno in 2005 to plan it out, and the blog got off its feet shortly thereafter.”
In 2005, when they formulated the plan, none of the 13 were published, though Debby and one other member had actually gotten “the call” by the time the blog site went live. As of 2011, all of them were published. The blog, which has more than 1,000 followers and nets more than 30,000 hits per month, even earned a place on the Writer’s Digest 2013 list of 101 Best Websites for Writers.
Tina Radcliffe, fellow founder of the Seekerville blog and the group’s webmistress, has nothing but praise for her friend and colleague.
“Debby is our anchor, our Switzerland,” she says. “She’s never quick to speak, but when she does, she’s always the voice of wisdom. She’s an absolute blessing to everyone around her.”
Now that all of the Seekers have all made their way off “unpubbed island,” the blog serves as a wonderful way to connect with readers. The group offers regular giveaways, throws a massive, month-long anniversary bash each October, and hosts a virtual all-night party every New Year’s Eve.
They also bring editors and agents to the blog, and more than one aspiring author has gotten her start through Seekerville.
But as much as she enjoys her online contacts, Debby thrives on meeting readers and writers in person.
“I’m an extrovert,” she says. “So after I’ve been working on a book for days at a stretch, I just have to get out and be with people. I love speaking at book clubs and luncheons, and I would just meet readers all the time if I could. I am so grateful for the people who support me. Omega hosts a signing for every book and people are invariably kind. It’s become one of my major launch signings and the proceeds always go to a charity close to my heart.”
Protecting Her Child, for example, was based on the experience of a friend who had Von Hippel-Lindau Disease, or VHL, a genetic disorder that predisposes sufferers to develop clusters of tumors—some benign, some malignant. Debby donated the proceeds of that signing to VHL research.
“People love her,” explains Karen, “not only as an author, but as a person. She is one of the truly good souls on this earth.”
Perhaps that’s why she’s able to touch so many lives. One reader, who crochets dish towels, turned up at a group signing with hand-crafted gifts for each of her favorite authors. Another, a firefighter injured in the line of duty, wrote to tell Debby that he’d read her book while he was flat on his back and it had helped him get through the tough times.
“It’s such fun to get mail from readers,” Debby says. “Some of my older readers aren’t on the net, so they’ll send me long, handwritten notes and I get to learn all about their lives and their families. It’s incredibly interesting sometimes.”
Debby also adores mentoring and has since her military days.
“When I was an Army wife, we had what we called ‘coffee groups,’ ” she says. “It was so important for those of us who had been in the Army life for a while to help out those who were new to it and sometimes struggling.”
Now she hosts a writing group at her church every other month, offering support and exercises for aspiring writers. A few years back, she penned the author’s prayer and provides copies at author’s events and conferences.
“I love being an encourager,” she says. “So many people have a story in them, and they can learn the craft. It’s so exciting to see a new author sell for the first time!”
“There just aren’t enough superlatives to describe Debby,” says Darlene. “She treats everyone she meets as a friend, and that includes readers—and aspiring writers, too.”
So what does she most want readers to know?
“Well, I think people are afraid to try inspirational romance,” she says of her preferred genre. “They think it will be preachy, but it’s not. It’s just a light thread that runs through a romance or a suspense—or in my case, a romantic suspense.”
And for those who’d like to try their hands at writing, she offers this advice:
“Write. Write every single day. Don’t worry about the rules, just focus on the story and push through until you type ‘The End.’ Typing those words brings a satisfaction like no other. Every aspiring writer should give themselves that gift.”