I’m delighted to introduce you to my author friend, Kathleen Denly! I’m interviewing her today on my blog to find out more about her as well as her upcoming debut, Waltz in the Wilderness. It releases on Feb 4th!
What is your favorite childhood book?
That is a tough one, there were so many great books! I think if I can only pick one, though, I’ll have to pick one called, Lily of the Forest. Although as a parent I disapprove of the main character’s rebellious nature, as a child the idea of having the freedom to wander the forest combined with being able to design my dream house—complete with a slide that ran from my bedroom to a pool—was immensely appealing. I must have read that story more than thirty times and I still own my original copy.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Well, they aren’t exactly secrets, but they are little winks to those familiar with San Diego’s history. I’ll let you in on my favorite if you promise to keep it between us. There is a scene toward the beginning of the book when two characters briefly discuss an actual figure from history—a humorist whose articles appear in numerous California papers. In that conversation, my characters call him Squibob. Well, Squibob is the pen name for Lieutenant George Horatio Derby. The fun part is that Lt. Derby is the person my heroine, Eliza, needs to find in San Diego because her Pa had written that he hoped the lieutenant would employ him for a local construction project. Nowhere in the story do I point out that Squibob and Lt. Derby are one-in-the-same, but I do share this tidbit in the author’s notes at the back of the book, along with several other things I think the readers will find interesting.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Sometimes I pick them from a baby name website because I want their meaning to fit my character’s personality. Other times I skim census records from the nineteenth century until I find a combination of names that I like. (I never intentionally pick a real person’s name, but will choose the first name of one person and then the last name of someone else.) Recently, I asked the members of my Kathleen’s Readers’ Club to help me come up with some names and they did a fabulous job! The KRC-Member-chosen names are the hero and heroines of my third Chaparral Hearts novel. However, there is one special name in Waltz in the Wilderness. It’s a minor character only mentioned briefly in the second half of the book. His name is Johnathon and I chose his name in honor of my maternal grandfather who passed away when I was in high school. We were very close and I still miss him.
What is your research process like?
I spend a lot of time in libraries, especially the archives. I also know where all my local historical societies are located and which ones have their own archives. I’ve spent hours upon hours speaking with docents and niche history experts (such as wheelwrights and gunsmiths) in person and via the internet. But by far, my favorite research method is actually visiting the places where my stories are set and actually attempting to practice those skills which my characters might need. For example, as part of my research for Waltz in the Wilderness, I hiked portions of the San Diego River, visited Old Town San Diego, spent a week in San Francisco, and visited local Native Peoples cultural museums.
What other authors are you are friends with and how did they help you become a better
After attending several writers’ conferences, I am blessed to call many writers my friends, but there are a few that come to mind as having had a particular impact on my writing journey. Kathryn Hughes is a wonderful author who has given generously of her time to host and lead a critique group in her home for far more years than I care to count. She is also one of my beta readers and that friend I call when I’m 80,000 words into a manuscript and suddenly realize it’s all wrong. I cannot express how much I appreciate her support. Another author who has helped me along the way is Pepper Basham. Though I’ve only met her once in person, she has generously shared her been-there advice via email at times when I’ve most needed it. Kara Swanson and Savannah Kaiser have both been last-minute critique readers for me. And last, but certainly not least, I have to mention Karen Ball. She has been an inspiration to me personally and as a writer. She helped me find those areas in my writing that needed polishing to bring out the very best in this story.
What do you want readers to expect when they read your novel?
I hope they expect to be entertained and taken on an emotional journey that will both help them escape their lives and help them to see their lives through new eyes. I hope that God will use my words to bless them in whatever way they need most. Whether it’s a respite from thinking about the stressful situation they’re facing (with a dose of reminder that God is there for them), or it’s God using my character’s journey to point out something they need to work on in their hearts. As a reader, I’ve experienced both and been blessed for it. My greatest wish would be to pass that blessing on. And if they learn a little about history on the way, even better. 😉
What is the most amount of time you’ve spent working on one book?
Hmm. That depends on how you measure it, I suppose. I started my first attempt at a novel in my freshman year of high school and tossed it in the trash my sophomore year in college. Then I worked on what I call my practice novel off and on for almost a decade in between having babies. Waltz in the Wilderness began as a Camp NanoWrimo project which I wrote in … I think it was 2012 and it has gone through several versions as I learned and honed my craft. My most recently completed novel manuscript (a story set during the lesser-known Southern California gold rush of 1870) took me about three months to write after a year and a half of research and plot development. My current project is Sing in the Sunlight, the second book of my Chaparral Hearts series, and I first thought of the premise almost two years ago but didn’t start seriously researching and plotting it until just short of a year ago. Then there’s the novella I wrote in about one month last summer, but that one was easy because two of the three main characters were already my imaginary friends having been part of the Waltz in the Wilderness story.
If you weren’t writing this genre, which genre would you write?
Okay, so I have this secret fantasy that someday, when my kids are all grown and my historical romance line is well established, I’ll dabble in the dystopian young adult genre. I know, I know. That genre is supposedly dead in the industry after so much has come out in recent years. BUT I have this idea that’s been nibbling at the back of my mind for about 8 years now and every now and then I let myself take a break to play with it. Maybe nothing will ever come of it but a few random scenes scratched out on my hard drive, but it’s fun to think about.
Do you have a day job? If so, how do you balance that with writing?
Oh yes. My other job title is Homeschooling Mama. I have four kids ages 14, 11, 9, and 3 whom I homeschool full-time. Finding time to write can be tricky, but I’ve arranged their daily schedule so that most of what they need my help with gets done before lunch. In the afternoon they work on subjects or assignments they can usually complete independently, but I’m always available for questions. Thankfully, my husband also works from home and is great at helping out when I’m on a tight deadline.
Tell me something about you that might surprise your readers.
I have never been stung by a bee, but I have been stung by a jellyfish. When I was very young…maybe six or seven…I was enjoying a family day trip to the beach when another child pointed out something brown floating in the water and told me it was a dead jellyfish. The consensus among us wise children was that as long as we stayed away from it, it couldn’t hurt us. So we warily watched it floating in and out of the waves for several minutes until it seemed to move on down the beach. Then we went back to playing. At some point, I remember standing in the water up to my hips while looking back at the beach (a classic beachgoer’s mistake). A wave rolled in and I felt nothing unusual. Then the wave left and my legs lit on fire like a million and one fire ants had mistaken me for their afternoon snack. I spun around and spotted the dead jellyfish being dragged away by the waves. I ran crying to my mom who got a lifeguard to pour something on my legs that made the stinging stop. Turns out they can sting even after they’re dead.
Thanks for being with us today, Kathleen.
Kathleen is giving away an ebook copy of her novella, Ribbons and Beaus. In order to be entered, please join Kathleen’s Readers’ Club and you will be put in the draw. Click here. Contest closes Sunday, Feb 2nd at midnight EST.
Pre-order Waltz in the Wilderness today!
Kathleen Denly lives in sunny Southern California with her loving husband, four young children, and two cats. As a member of the adoption and foster community, children in need are a cause dear to her heart and she finds they make frequent appearances in her stories. When she isn’t writing, researching, or caring for children, Kathleen spends her time reading, visiting historical sites, hiking, and crafting. Visit her at kathleendenly.com.