Today I’d like to introduce Denise Grover Swank, whose debut mystery novel – Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes – was just released. She’s stopping here on her giant blog tour – grab a cuppa and pull up a chair – let’s chat!
1. When did you decide to pursue writing seriously?
I had a family blog I started when I was in the process of adopting my second daughter, Emma, from Vietnam. Lots of adoptive families had blogs and I’d read Dawn Meehan’s blog, Because I Said So, and thought “Oh my word, that is perfect for me, my sarcasm and my overactive imagination.” And it was perfect for me. My six kids provided plenty of fodder and I could be goofy and creative. I would post something kind of “out there” then fret that I’d gone too far. But I developed some very loyal readers and consequently, some awesome friends.
It was two years later that I heard about NaNoWriMo. I’d always wanted to write a book (had tried several unsuccessful times) and decide it was now or never. I wrote my first completed novel for NaNoWriMo 2009– 96,000 words started on November 1 and finished December 10. I wrote The End and realized I’d found the profession I’d been searching for my entire life. One and half years later, I’ve written six books.
2. How did you choose what genre to write – or did it choose you?
Um, no actually I didn’t chose. I just write the story that comes to me.(thus the hybrid Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes) But I read mostly thriller, suspense and paranormal books so obviously, my stories lean that direction. So far, I’ve written Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes a mystery (with shades of romance, chick-lit, and paranormal.), the first two books of a paranormal thriller trilogy (Chosen will be out in September, book two– Hunted, will be out in November), a young adult science fiction (alternate universe) and a middle grade urban fantasy. And of course, that first NaNo book, a romantic suspense, which will live forever on my external hard drive. Amen. The common tie is there’s always a hidden mystery and thriller aspect. And there’s always some type of fantastical element. They need to make a genre for that combination.
3. Tell us a little about your writing process. How do you get from idea to completed draft?
Butt in chair. People think there’s some magical component to writing a book– a muse, inspiration, whatever you want to call it. And while it’s true, you have to be inspired by your story, you have to write it. You have to sit your butt in a chair and write the story. I usually set a daily word goal while I’m writing first draft and a final completion date. I record my word count every day.
Also, you better love your story when you start ’cause you’re going to need that love when you hit the middle and think “Oh my word, this is the stupidest story ever written,” And maybe it is (probably not) but you keep going. You keep putting those words down until your story is done, and by done, I mean your first draft is done, because it is FAR from done. It’s usually when I’m making my fifth to seventh editing pass when I’m trying to clean out wases or stripping out echoes at two in the morning I ask myself why I ever thought writing a book was a good idea. Then I read the story and fall in love all over again.
4. What are some of your favorite authors to read?
I’m kind of eclectic in my reading. And my music. And my writing. (I’m noticing a trend here…) I read everything (except non-fiction. snooze…) but here’s a few:
Paranormal romance: Shannon K. Butcher. She’s brilliant. Her plots for her Sentinel War series are intricately woven and her characters are always well developed.
Magical Realism: Sarah Addison Allen. Her characters are always sweet, southern (part of the inspiration for my book Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes) and a touch of paranormal. Total win.
YA: Stephanie Perkins. (although, honestly, it’s hard to pick one.) Her contemporary romance Anna and the French Kiss was one of best books I’d read in ages.
Middle Grade: Rick Riordan. I loved the Percy Jackson series.
Mystery: Bill Cameron. The man is brilliant and his characters are flawed but sympathetic.
Paranormal thriller: Dean Koontz. He’s the master. ‘Nuf said.
5. What do you like do when you’re not writing?
I garden, watch a few television shows, mostly hang out with my kids. Four of my kids are ages 4-14, so they keep me busy.
6. How do you balance writing with the other aspects of your life?
Honestly, it’s hard and sometimes I don’t do a very good job at it. I’m a single parent with workaholic tendencies. And while working from home is a good thing, it can also be bad in that I have no real work hours so I tend to work all the time. (Thus six books in a year and a half.) I can pretty much guarantee you that if you drop by my house, it will be an utter disaster.
7. Who is your favorite literary character or couple?
Wow. This is really, really hard. In my own writing, for a couple it’s Will and Emma, the main characters in Chosen, my paranormal thriller series. They are both complex characters who are so utterly flawed yet striving for something better, whether they realize it or not. But I love Rose in Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. She’s spent her entire life suppressed and once she decides she’s going to live it, she does so with such enthusiasm but also sweetness and innocence. Sometimes I wish I could be more like her.
In other authors, I love Stephanie Plum from Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. Hilarious. (another inspiration for Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes) If I have to pick a couple, probably Anna and Etienne in Anna and the French Kiss. (My 14 year old daughter will be so happy. LOL)
8. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Writing is magical, which I realize directly contradicts my answer to # 3 so let me rephrase that. The writing itself is hard, hard work, but the resulting story and how it blooms and grows and the characters become living people inside your head is nothing short of magic. Or insanity. I’m still trying to figure out the difference.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Denise! It’s good to know you better, and what a great inspiration you are, following your dreams and working hard to make them reality, even when it’s overwhelming. My house is a mess too, and I don’t even have kids to take the blame.
I have Denise’s book on my Kindle just waiting for me to dig in. Stop back on Saturday for a free excerpt!
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