Your latest book is Bent Tree Bride, a story set in the early nineteenth century filled with rich historical detail. But first, please tell us something about yourself.
Thank you for hosting me, Janet! I write historical and contemporary romance and romantic suspense, mostly set in my home state of Georgia. I also serve as managing editor for the historical imprints of Iron Stream Media/Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. On a personal note, I’m a wife and mother of two college-aged daughters. I love coffee, chocolate, and old houses!
Tell us about your writing journey.
I started writing around age eleven. I was born in Atlanta but grew up in the country, an only child of parents who loved history. We traveled all over the Southeast, and the historic towns and buildings we visited made me wonder what type of people once lived there and what their lives were like. I started writing stories in spiral-bound notebooks and reading them to my mom. She encouraged me to keep writing.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?
Originally, I began as more of a pantster, but as I gained training and experience, I began to plot my stories a little more. I weave my historical tales among real historical events, using many of those as reversals or climaxes, then I add in smaller interior and exterior challenges for the characters. It’s vital to avoid the sagging middle and to keep the reader turning pages. I still allow for small changes and for the characters’ voices to take over in different scenes, though. The action should feel true to the characters’ personalities.
You write contemporary as well as historical fiction. Which is your preference and why?
I began with historicals, and I’m a historical editor, so that probably gives you a hint as to where my heart lies. However, I realized when writing my dual-time-period Restoration Trilogy that I could enjoy and thrive writing contemporary romances as well … especially when a little history is mixed in. I love to write stories where the characters uncover mysteries and learn life lessons from the past.
In general, it’s refreshing to switch back and forth between contemporary and historical. I think it keeps me sharp at both because I’m not getting tired of either. And most of my readers say they enjoy both as long as the tale is engaging.
God often teaches us something through our writing. What have you learned about life, faith, or yourself in the process of writing?
Writing has been part of my life for so long, the lessons I’ve learned are endless. Early on, when a publishing agreement fell apart in an embarrassing and difficult way, I had to be willing to put my writing on the altar … to give it up if God wanted me to. At that point, writing was so much a part of me, I wasn’t sure I’d recognize myself without it. But we have our identity in Christ, not our gifts or our career. No story is worth writing unless it has God’s blessing. Many times, when you do achieve the goal you’ve worked so hard to reach, it doesn’t feel as we expected it to. While we may enjoy many blessings if we’re walking in God’s will, nothing is fully satisfying but Christ. It’s vital to keep our priorities in order, to remain humble, and to help others.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I actually had a historical mentor, a historical print artist and historian named John Kollock, who lent me his family letters and diaries and illustrated the covers of my Georgia Gold Series. He was so well-respected in North Georgia that his endorsement opened many doors for me when I was first writing.
Another mentor I’d mention would have to be Pegg Thomas. I met her when we were both part of the Backcountry Brides Collection. At that time, Pegg was managing editor at Smitten Historical Romance. I began working as a general editor for the other historical imprint, Heritage Beacon. Before long, Pegg invited me to co-manage Smitten. Before I knew it, both managers had retired, and I was working as ME for both imprints. Pegg taught me many things about editing and the publishing world. Her faith in me allowed me to fill some big shoes. My new release is dedicated to her.
Please tell us a little about Bent Tree Bride.
Bent Tree Bride just released this past week! It’s set in 1813 Creek Territory, which was modern-day Alabama. Many people don’t know that during the War of 1812, the Cherokees allied with the Americans under Andrew Jackson, while the Creek Indians were split. The National Creeks fought with the Americans but the Red Sticks on the British side. My story follows a mixed-blood lieutenant in the Cherokee Regiment who falls in love with his colonel’s daughter. Here’s the back cover copy:
Susanna Moore can’t get him out of her mind—the learned lieutenant who delivered the commission from Andrew Jackson making her father colonel of the Cherokee Regiment. But the next time she sees Lieutenant Sam Hicks, he’s leading a string of prisoners into a frontier fort, and he’s wearing the garb of a Cherokee scout rather than the suit of a white gentleman.
As both Susanna’s father and Sam’s commanding officer, Colonel Moore couldn’t have made his directive to stay away from his daughter clearer to Sam. He wants a better match for Susanna—like the stuffy doctor who escorted her to Creek Territory. Then a suspected spy forces Moore to rely on Sam for military intelligence and Susanna’s protection, making it impossible for either to guard their heart.
Is there a message in Bent Tree Bride that you want readers to grasp?
There’s a beautiful cross-cultural romance in the story, but more importantly, the history behind the story bears out that God works to redeem any circumstance. He works through all people groups. All people need His guidance and His goodness. The most poignant spiritual moment in the book might happen in the beginning of my Author’s Note. Check it out.
Can you share anything about your current work in progress with us?
In December 2020 and January 2021, I wrote A Secondhand Betrothal, set on the Georgia frontier in 1813. So this spring, I’m working on Winter Wish, a contemporary about a female glassblower who gets a restart in life in the artsy mountain town of Blue Ridge. I love to do seasonal romances with my contemporaries. Winter Wish is in the style of Fall Flip and Spring Splash. I wonder what could be next on my horizon. Anyone want to suggest a title? LOL.
What are your social media sites?
Connect with Denise here:
Thank you so much, Denise, for being my guest. I know folks will enjoy your books.