Author Interview: Denise Weeks

The author interview features Denise Weeks. Denise Weeks is the author of the award winning Bliss Sisters adventure series by her alter-ego Shalanna Collins and various other novels including Love is the Bridge.bridge-cover-final (2) You can read a synopsis of the book by the author here. I selected this title from Cheap Kindle Books.

When did you decide to become a writer?
At age six, when I had chicken pox and missed the second week of first grade. My dad had brought home several books for me to keep me occupied, including Howard Pyle’s Robin Hood and the original Peter Pan. (I don’t remember when I learned to read, but it was around age four, WAY before school; I got into trouble at school because I already knew how to read. But anyway, this was 1965.) He was talking to me about books and I discovered these tomes had not fallen from the sky like the Bible and the CRC Math Tables, but were written by mortal men and women. At that moment I determined I would figure out how to tell my stories, the ones my stuffed animals and dolls and I acted out during the lonely-only-child days before the Internet and cable teevee. It didn’t hurt that writers at the time were considered public intellectuals and got lots of respect . . . unlike now. LOL!

Books are important. My father believed that, my teachers (throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and most of the 1980s) believed that. They are worthy of your time and most of them have something to teach you. Whether a story is “slow-moving” or “gets right to the shooting,” it’s usually something that will feed your soul. That’s why I am spending my life writing them.

How long does it take you to write a book?
I can get through a first draft in a few months, or it might take a year or more. Then I’ll go through several more drafts and refinements. Some of my books have come faster. However, it always depends on what else is going on in real life to take up my time.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
As Denise Weeks (my mundane identity), I have two traditional mystery series. NICE WORK is the first in the Jacquidon Carroll Snoop Sisters series and won the Oak Tree Press contest to be published. MURDER BY THE MARFA LIGHTS kicks off the Ariadne French mysteries with a somewhat paranormal take on things. LITTLE RITUALS is a screwball literary chick lit story of a grown woman’s coming of age through exploring ritual and luck. LOVE IS THE BRIDGE is a techie ghost story romantic suspense that investigates the nature of reality and asks whether anyone is truly safe on the Internet (and being so dependent on technology.)

As Shalanna Collins, I write YA fantasy/adventure. APRIL, MAYBE JUNE is a Golden Rose Grand Prize Winner about two genius-girl preteen sisters who undertake a journey to rescue their rebel cousin . . . but things are not at all what they seem. It investigates the question of what family is, and what is an appropriate sacrifice to keep family safe. CAMILLE’S TRAVELS is the story of an abused runaway who finds even more trouble on the road in the form of a magician who is pursuing her. She and her companions hide in a Renaissance Faire, on a freight, and at the National Hobo Convention (yes, there really is one.) But they’re actually just searching for the safety of a home.

LOVE IS THE BRIDGE is a book of my heart, but so is LITTLE RITUALS, and I am partial to the Bliss Sisters who star in APRIL, MAYBE JUNE.17790446 However, as every writer will tell you, my favorite book is the one I’m currently working on.

What are you working on at the minute? What’s it about?
THE DARKNESS AT THE CENTER is a YA/middle grade that is NOT fantasy . . . unfortunately, because it’s about the secrets of sexual abuse. Elise Francis witnesses the death of her beloved piano teacher, but hooray, a Great Man agrees to take her on. But he turns out to be a toucher and neck-patter and caresser. Her mother, focused on the scholarship she wants Elise to get to a music conservatory, says it’s all minor and she’s only with him for the summer, and that she must be encouraging him anyway, and that he has no prior accusations . . . in other words, she can’t get anyone to take her seriously. And, anyway, maybe it’s normal and she’s just overreacting. But when she starts dreading any sort of touch at all and becomes a mess in school and at piano, something has to give. She must decide whether to make the piano her life, or choose another path (and get away from the situation at the same time.)

I’m also working on the second Ari French mystery and have another Denise book in outline form. I always have more than one project going so that I can flip among them.

What is the hardest thing about writing?
Knowing that many people just aren’t going to like the work. Not everyone is going to like every book. So many people love current best-sellers, but I don’t share the love every time. It’s hard to know that your best work will appeal to some readers, but will be so-so to others. You would like everyone to love your stories, but it just isn’t possible. As Ricky Nelson sang, “You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.” Write the book you want to read, and you’ll always have at least one fan!

What was the easiest thing about writing?
It comes easy, once I apply bottom to chair and get off the Internet. Of course, then there’s all the editing and polishing to do.erato_the_muse_of_love_poetry-400 But the characters generally come to me first, and they show me their situation and dilemma, and from there the Muse sings and it flows. Whether it’s any good or of interest to anyone but me–well, that’s another question.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
pianoI play the piano. I talk to my online friends. I walk and play with our Pomeranian. I love to travel and take photographs of what we visit. I also garden and cook (but not very well!) I play chess, but only recreationally. I love to do book signings and go to conventions and book fairs to meet fans and readers. There’s always more promo to do, and that’s not nearly as much fun.

What book/s are you reading at present?
C. S. Lewis’ REFLECTIONS ON THE PSALMS.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (re-read)
The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick. (You have to take that one in very small doses, so it should keep me busy for a while.)

What is your favorite book and why?
It’s a tie between THE GREAT GATSBY; TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD; THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE; and THE EGYPT GAME. Wait–what’s that last one? Well, I came upon Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s book as a fifth-grader when my best friend and I were reading through the Newbury awards shelf, and I was very taken by the story of the children who decided to re-create ancient Egypt in the back yard. That’s not nearly all there is to the story, but I named my character April Bliss after the heroine, so you know it stayed with me. Readers today often think it is too slow-paced, but I feel they are the ones who’re missing out.

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