Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Denise! Tell us about your latest book.
My most recent release is Bright as Gold, fourth and final novel of The Georgia Gold Series. The series, which begins with Sautee Shadows in the time of the 1830s Georgia Gold Rush, connects the mountains and the coast as readers follow four fictional families through the mid-1800s. One of my main characters is Mahala Franklin, a half-Cherokee girl who grows up trying to find out who killed her father and stole the gold he mined from the Sautee Valley. Eventually, her white innkeeper grandmother brings her to town to raise her as a proper young lady. There she meets Carolyn Calhoun, an unwilling and shy socialite forced to choose a husband between two very different brothers, and Jack Randall, shipping entrepreneur from Savannah. When Jack buys a competing hotel and the two also fight their attraction to each other, sparks fly. The middle two novels include lots of adventure set during The Civil War, and the most recent one is Reconstruction-era. It’s a more introspective and relational look at how the characters overcome during a very difficult period of time.
When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
I start the momentum with my research, timeline and plot plans, but the characters have been known to take over at times. I think we have to be sensitive to what a certain character would or would not do. If it doesn’t feel true to their personality or development, we need to find a little flexibility.
Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
I started local, doing signings at book stores, gift shops, festivals, book clubs, etc. I crafted a basic news release that could be altered for each. I also contacted clubs and groups in the region which might have interest in an author’s visit. I supported all that with online publicity. Recently my publisher and I have worked to get the word out past the hour-and-a-half radius where I can personally appear. I’ve joined Goodreads and Twitter as well as Facebook and am doing more guest blogging, author networking, requesting reviews, and conducting giveaways. I’m also planning a book signing tour to a wider area.
How long have you been writing?
I began writing at age 11. We don’t have to talk about how long ago that was, do we? I grew up visiting historic sites with my parents. My active imagination would wonder what type of people had lived in the homes or towns and what their lives might have been like. Eventually I bought spiral-bound notebooks and would whip those out and scribble down the stories from right there in the back seat as we traveled. I went straight to writing novels, of course, although I wouldn’t want anyone to read those now!
What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?
I love this advice. It’s great to apply to selecting the setting for our books, for starters. If we create a story set near where we live, we are more apt to accurately capture the local “feel:” the ins and outs of the way people think, their ethnicity and heritage, the hole-in-the-wall places they frequent, their lingo, their history; the sounds, sights and smells of nature there; the area’s secrets and idiosyncrasies. Research is far easier; we run less risk of either error or the expense of visiting our chosen locale. Marketing is far easier; we have a strong natural geographic starting base for events with an instant niche. I believe it’s also good to write what we know in terms of what we have experienced. If we’ve lived through something, there’s a reason. There’s wisdom in finding the meaning in that experience. We can relate it with authentic emotion that will pierce the consciousness of the reader and share life lessons that may encourage others.
How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.
The Georgia Gold Series is historical fiction or Southern literature (or could be dubbed historical romance). While I will probably write more in that genre in the future, I expect there will be some out-of-genre surprises.
Besides “writer,” what else are you; what is your “day job”?
Wife, mother of two daughters, and keeper of the home. Swim/taxi mom most specifically. I spend a lot of time commuting and sitting in car rider lines. But writing is what has allowed me to be flexible and available for my family. I really feel the flip side of writer is saleswoman. I’ve created a blog article on that shocking conversion as well.
Describe your writing process once you sit down to write—or the preliminaries.
I’m an organized type of person, so I like to do my research first. I put facts in the mental hopper and allow them to percolate. As plot ideas spring forth randomly over time, I overlay those on my timelines. Then I’m free to daydream and let the actual scenes come to me – the fun part! – grab a pen or my laptop, and start composing.
Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?
In my childhood home, academics and literature were greatly appreciated. My parents encouraged me to read the classics and would read aloud to me from series like Little House on the Prairie and The Chronicles of Narnia. My parents provided great examples of how being well-read made you well-educated and able to interact on a variety of subjects.
Any teachers who influenced you…encouraged you or discouraged?
Well, I had one who scared me, and sometimes that can be motivational. She was my 8th grade English teacher. We’d do these exercises in class where we had to fill in a blank that had to do with the correct form of a verb or part of speech. But she’d do it in rapid-fire succession. We’d try our best to count ahead to which question might hit us, but she liked to mix things up. Everyone in class would be trembling like they were about to be tied to the execution pole. Because if you got the answer wrong she’d explode with something like, “NO! You ding-dong! That’s a dangling modifier!” Or some such nonsense. This was before calling children in a classroom names was politically incorrect. And she had a startling repertoire of originally insulting but not quite cursing names. We won’t even talk about how hard it was to get an ‘A’ in there. But … when I had to recite the balcony scene from “Romeo & Juliet,” she looked quite entranced. And there was a calendar she kept with literary scenes on it. The last month in her class “The Lady of Shalott” graced the wall. Of course I had a fascination with that poem then because the GPTV “Anne of Green Gables” had just come out. I would stare at the romantic depiction of the lady in the boat and wish it was me, “drifting down to Camelot,” away from English class. At the end of the school year, I asked Mrs. S for that page. Her look of surprised pleasure almost cracked into a warm smile. I walked away with a firm command of sentence structure and a print that now hangs matted and framed in my Victorian-style guest bedroom.
Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
I do have a Kindle. I hear there are some people who are e-reader-only people and others who are print-only people. I’m sure this is true, but I have found for me (and probably others, too) there’s a place for both. I love to find free and discounted books for the Kindle and take it with me on trips for ease of packing. But for books I want to keep forever because I love them that much or a friend wrote them – or a situation like with my Georgia Gold novels where the covers are one-of-a-kind prints done by a regionally collected artist – I value the physical copy on my shelf.
How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?
My characters often come to me in those “loosely constructed” or “unplugged” moments described in the question on writer’s block. But before that happens, I spend time pondering what sort of person I want to represent a certain group of people and how I want them to be shaped from beginning to end by the trials and circumstances of history or what’s going on in the story. Mostly they are their own people, but occasionally a real-life person will bear some influence. An example of this would be Maddy, the hotel cook in my Georgia Gold Series. She was my grandma who has since passed away, who cleaned immaculately and was a wonderful cook but was never satisfied with her own efforts.
Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?
I just read some fascinating research having to do with brainstorming. Basically it stated that we use different parts of our brain at different times in the creative process. And that the best thing to do when you’re stuck is to “unplug” your brain for a while … just take a walk or do another task requiring less concentration. The ideas will start to flow. That’s why we have our best inspiration at odd moments. Check out my blog at deniseweimerbooks.webs.com for an upcoming article on this!
Why do you write?
I write because when God gives you a gifting and a desire in the same area, you don’t squander it. There are so many talented writers out there, and I have no claims or delusions of fame. But I do believe if you’re a writer, you know it, and God will also give you the story or the manuscript, whether it be meant to entertain, instruct or encourage.
Thank for joining us today, Denise. For more information about Denise: