July 23, 2012

Getting to Know Author Keli Gwyn (and a Giveaway!)


I could not be more excited to have with us today author Keli Gwyn—whose book, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, just released on July 1.
 
I haven’t even met Keli in person yet (although that will change in about two months, yay!), but I have been profoundly impacted by her. She’s touched my heart in more ways than I can count; she’s encouraged me when I was down, reminded me that God has a plan for my life, and in general just brightened my entire week whenever I get an email from her.

And I know anyone who knows her feels the same way.

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Award-winning novelist Keli Gwyn writes inspirational historical romance. A California native, she lives in the Gold Rush-era town of Placerville in the Sierra Foothills with her husband and two skittish kitties.

You can connect with her on her website, Twitter, and Facebook.
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Being the gracious person she is, Keli agreed to answer some of my questions and host a giveaway (see details below):

Tell me about the first story you ever wrote, no matter how old you were! How old were you, what was it about, and what was your inspiration for it?

Although I wrote stories for my teachers, the first story I remember writing on my own was an entry in my high school’s Creative Writing Club contest. If you’re into school bus crashes at Christmastime, you might have enjoyed it. The idea came from third-grade memories of our school bus being forced to wait for a couple of hours on a narrow mountain road while a bad accident in front of us was cleared.

I didn’t win the contest, and hindsight has shown me why. I had lots to learn about crafting a compelling story. And, no, I haven’t any plans of resurrecting that sorry tale, so you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Aw, I’d kind of like to read it! Music plays a fun role in A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, so it makes me wonder: Do you play any instruments? If not, what instrument would you love to learn and why?

I played a bright red recorder in fourth grade and a sleek black clarinet in sixth. That’s the limit of my instrumental experience.

Wait! Memories are resurfacing. We bought a house with an old, out-of-tune piano in the garage when I was in the fifth grade. Some neighborhood kids taught me to play “Chopsticks.” When I was in high school, I babysat for a family with a gleaming upright piano. I used to pick out tunes the best I could after the boys were in bed. One night I managed a recognizable rendition of “Alouette,” albeit in slow mo, and I rejoiced. Quietly, of course. I did not want to wake those rowdy youngsters.

I used to dream of being able to play the piano. I never learned how. Instead I endowed the heroine of my first story with tremendous skill in that area. When I wrote A Bride Opens Shop, I fell in love with violin. There have been a few moments when I wished I could play, but I haven’t the time to learn and write stories, too. I content myself by listening to violin music by the hour.

What a fun story! I love how parts of your book were inspired by real life. I’m always interested to know: what was the first part of your story that was solid in your mind? Was it something in the plot or a certain character you couldn’t get out of your mind that led to A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California?

I’m a character-driven writer, so it’s usually characters that grab me first, as was the case with A Bride Opens Shop. I came upon a huge basket full of historic photographs at a local antique store. After doing a happy dance, I spent a couple of hours going through the pictures one by one, studying each intently, and pulling out any featuring people who captured my attention and set my creative cogs spinning.

The four people who became Miles Rutledge; his mother, Maude; Elenora Watkins; and her daughter, Tildy, jumped out at me. I imagined a widow with a daughter, and a widower whose mother lived with him. I knew I wanted the story to be set in El Dorado, where a successful mercantile owner had lived. Miles became that man, and the story ideas took off from there.

Speaking of Miles…I’ve often heard it said that, as writers, we add pieces of ourselves or people we know into our stories. So I’m curious: In what ways, if any, does Miles resemble your husband?

There are some similarities. Gwynly is 6’2”, and so is Miles. Gwynly is musical, as is Miles, and he plays a number of instruments, although violin is not one of them. Like Miles, Gwynly is well liked and amiable. My guy has the same liking for practicality. Gwynly is definitely a no-frills kinda guy.

Unlike Miles, Gwynly is by no means a dandy. He does not have a thing about his hair, doesn’t give the condition of his collar much thought, and is not obsessed with having shiny shoes.  Those traits are all Miles’s.

Aw, I love that you used some pieces but merged them with other characteristics to form your MC. Switching gears a bit, what’s the best piece of writing advice anyone has ever given you?

Study craft and produce a polished story before submitting if you want to improve your chances of success.

I was privileged to talk with Deeanne Gist for a full fifteen minutes when attending the Romance Writers of America® conference back in 2008. Despite being a double finalist in the Golden Heart®, my pitch sessions were pitiful. I told Dee I knew my stories weren’t ready and that I wasn’t going to query any more until I felt they were. She told me she didn’t like rejection either, and gave me the advice above.

I took Dee’s wise counsel to heart, spent a year studying craft, pulled out the best of my five completed stories, and rewrote that story for the second time. Not until I felt it was ready did I send it out. I learned that taking time to learn was the best thing I could have done. The story took first place in a number of contests, garnered me several requests for fulls, and led to my offer of representation.

Lest you think everything was peaches and roses after that, here’s the rest of the story. Rachelle told me I’d let the tension out a quarter of the way into my story and that I needed to delete the final three-quarters and start over. She was right! I rewrote the story, sent it to my critique partners, revised it, and sent it to Rachelle, who said it was ready to go out on submission. That story is now called A Bride Opens Shop, and I’m a firm believer in the value of taking time to study craft before sending our work out.

Your story of perseverance is an inspiration to me, for sure! Okay, time to get to know you on a more personal level. And what’s more personal than food? *grin* It’s no secret to any who know you that you absolutely adore Taco Bell. When you go, do you stick with the same order every time or switch it up? What is currently your favorite item on the menu?

I pretty much stick to six items. My top three are the Seven-layer Burrito, the tostada, and the crunchy taco. When I’m feeling the need for veggies, I’ll have a Fiesta Taco Salad. When I’m nostalgic, I’ll order an Enchirito, an item no longer listed on the menu. And when I could care less about counting calories and just wanna have fun, I add an order of nachos with a side of jalepeños.

My current favorite is a tostada with extra cheese and Fiesta salsa. It’s yummy and doesn't make me feel too guilty after I’ve completed a Curves workout. :-)

And we’ll end with a fun question: You’re locked in a room for a week and only allowed three items (no people allowed!). What are they?

I’m going to assume I have the basics: food—preferably some from Taco Bell—and clothing, along with TP, tissues, toothbrush, and toothpaste.  (Can you tell I’m a detail person? :-) )

OK, now that we have that out of the way, I can have some fun.

I’d take my laptop with power cord attached. That way I could work and keep in touch with my friends. (I’m assuming you wouldn’t take away my Internet connection, since you’re such a nice person. :-) )

I’d take plenty of sweet tea so I wouldn’t go into withdrawal.

And I’d take my down pillows. I’ve had a thing for my pillow since I was a teeny tiny girl. My mom tells me I used to squeeze mine in the middle and call it my dolly.

I almost said I’d take my Bible, since I read it every day, but I’m sure I could find a version online.


Thanks so much for hosting me, Lindsay. Spending time with you and your blog’s visitors is a treat. I’d like to end with a question for all of you.

Do you play—or have you ever played—an instrument? If so, which one(s)?

If time, space, and money were not issues, is there an instrument you’d like to learn how to play?


Keli has generously agreed to give away EITHER a copy of her book or a CD of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons plus a bag of lemon drops to a random commenter! Only U.S. residents are eligible. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments to be entered.

Widow Elenora Watkins looks forward to meeting her new business partner, Miles Rutledge, who owns a shop in 1870s El Dorado. But Miles is shocked to see a woman step off the stagecoach. His rude behavior forces Elenora to reconsider—so she becomes his competition across the street. Can Miles win her heart while destroying her business?


43 comments:

  1. So much fun, you two! I loved the reference "dandy" in the book and I've used it twice on two young adults at church. They made the most puzzled faces and I got to giggle at the joke! :)

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    1. Jess, I love playing with dated words. Some of them are so rich and others just plain fun.

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    2. Hehe, I called my husband a dandy the other day. He made a face and it was funny. :P

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  2. Fun interview!! I've read interviews with Keli all over the web in the past month or so and I love how I get to see a different side of her in each one.

    I play the piano. Love it. Used to play the flute--through high school--but just didn't love the thing enough to keep playing after that. :)

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    1. Melissa, how neat that you play the piano. Do you have a favorite style of music that you play?

      Our daughter played the flute from fifth grade through her junior year in high school. Like you, she hasn't kept up on it. I think the flute has a lovely sound and used to enjoy hearing her practice.

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    2. The flute sounds so pretty but looks difficult to play! And I sooooo wish I could play piano.

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  3. Would have had fun sifting through those old photographs with you, Keli. We would have had a blast making up stories.
    ~ Wendy

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    1. Wendy, anytime you want to meet to peruse old photos, I'm in. :-)

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    2. If I could be a fly on the wall and watch you two...that would be awesome!

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  4. Great interview! So happy for you, Keli, and I wish you the BEST of success!!

    I have played the clarinet, but am teaching myself piano now...when I have time, that is!

    I'd love to take piano lessons if I could. Someday!

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    1. Ruth, how neat that you are teaching yourself the piano? That's impressive! Are you making use of YouTube videos or other online resources?

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    2. Did you know Mike plays clarinet? And what time? You don't have any time!!

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    3. Keli- since I can read music I can play the old hymns and some Christmas songs...when I have time! My fingering could use some work but that will come. I have used videos in the past. They do help but mostly I wing it.

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    4. Linds- I had no idea Mike played the clarinet! Too cool! I wish I had kept up with it. I know if I ever have time I will take piano lessons!! Ha ha!! :)

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  5. Thanks for this great interview, Lindsay! Keli, I played a recorder in 5th grade - fun! That turned into flute, which I've played every since. Your debut novel delighted me and it was a privilege to leave great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Congratulations and well done!

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    1. Donna, I love that you play flute. Do you perform at church? Gwynly sometimes performs clarinet-flute duets for the offertory with a flutist from our congregation.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the story and appreciate the reviews greatly.

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    2. I played recorder in third grade. Well, everyone in music class did. It was required. I still remember the song "Hot Cross Buns." One a penny, two a penny...

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  6. Keli, you're so cute! I don't play an instrument, although I took flute lessons for a year and wish I would have continued. I also wish I played piano. My husband has an amazing voice and I wish I could sing with him, but, I'm not talented in that area, either. I love to sing, but only in church when other voices drown me out! :)

    Lindsay, I just won a copy of Keli's book on Friday on her blog (yay!), so I don't need to be in the drawing. Thanks for the fabulous interview. I loved your questions.

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    1. Gabrielle, it sounds like your experience with flute was much like mine with the clarinet. We moved to a ranger station the year after I learned how to play, and I went to a one-room school. It's not surprising that we didn't have a band. By the time we moved two years later, I was so far behind the other students my age that I chose not to continue.

      How nice that your husband sings so well. I'm sure you enjoy listening to him. Does he sing songs just for you at times? That would be so romantic.

      Lindsay asked great questions, didn't she? I had such fun answering them.

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    2. Aw, Gabe, I'm sure you sound great when you sing! Make a joyful noise, right? ;)

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  7. Such a fun interview! I loved this book so I'm glad I've seen reviews and interviews everywhere.

    Let's see...I've played the violin since I was nine, though I don't play much anymore, and I recently taught myself the guitar. I love music!

    Thanks for the interview and there's no need to sign me up for the giveaways! Have a great day!

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    1. Cindy, I'm so in love with the violin these days. It has such a beautiful sound. I can listen to violin pieces for hours on end--and often do.

      How cool that you're teaching yourself guitar. That's such a versatile instrument. Do you have a certain style of music you favor?

      And yes, I know I've been "everywhere." I didn't set out to have so many appearances, but my inbox has been flooded with blog guest invitations from dear friends. Talk about a blessing beyond measure! I'm so grateful to my hosts and am trying hard not to be repetitious and boring. :-)

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    2. Wow, I took a guitar class for a semester and don't know how you're managing to teach it to yourself. It's complicated! I know it's all about patterns and remembering those, but still...

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  8. What a fun interview, Lindsay and Keli! I loved hearing Keli's writing journey. Very inspiring to see her perseverance. Thanks so much!

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    1. Heidi, thanks for stopping by. I glad you enjoyed the interview. Lindsay is a great blog host and asked such fun questions.

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    2. It inspires me too, sooooo much!

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  9. Fun interview, ladies! I learn more and more about Keli on each interview. What a wonderful lady and writer.

    Don't enter me in the giveaway...I have the book and loved it!

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    1. Loree, how fun to see you here at Lindsay's. She's such a dear friend of mine--as are YOU!

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    2. She IS wonderful. And doing an interview is an awesome way to get to know her!

      I loved her book too. Such great characters and descriptions!

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  10. Lindsay, thanks so much for hosting me. Your questions were such fun to answer. I appreciate your support and encouragement more than you'll ever know. Love you!

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    1. Thanks so much for being here, Keli!! I loved the opportunity to interview you. Brings back my journalism days. ;)

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  11. This was a great interview, Lindsay. Lots of unique questions (love the one about the first part of the story that was solid in her mind; I find those little author tidbits fascinating). I've seen Keli on many of the blogs I visit, and I lurk on hers from time to time—although she keeps moving sites so I have to track her down—but I've not yet personally interacted with her (Hi, Keli!). I saw a touching video of her reaction to seeing her book in print the first time and it had me in tears right along with her, as I'm sure any writer can anticipate those same emotions when the publishing dream finally comes true. Congratulations on your first release, Keli! I'd love to be entered in the giveaway. :)

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    1. Great to see you, Barb! I've missed you. :)

      Keli is such an amazing person...so sweet and encouraging. I'm glad you found the interview interesting.

      Consider yourself entered!

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  12. Barb, thanks for following me. I've been blogging four and a half years. I had my Romance Writers on the Journey blog for three of those. I was blessed to interview 200+ not-yet-published and debut authors before I brought RWotJ to a chose when I received my contract and had to deal with deadlines.

    I began my personal blog on Blogger years ago but chose to move to WordPress, where RWotJ was, because I found WP to have more features I wanted. I recently had my website professionally redesigned. My designer combined my website and blog on WordPress.org. I'd been with WordPress.com, so that necessitated another move. I like to think I will be with WP.org for a very long time, but I've learned that things in cyberspace can change more rapidly than gas prices. :-)

    I'm glad you enjoy my First Look video. I'd love to see every writer experience that thrill.

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  13. What fun! Thanks, Lindsay and Keli! I played violin as a kid, and a little guitar now. :)

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    1. How neat! I have a few friends that play violin. It's such a beautiful instrument.

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    2. Amanda, I didn't know you played violin. How cool. Had I known that, you could've played at my launch party. =)

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  14. Thanks for sharing in the interview. I am very slow at learning the piano. I love the music that flows from it when anyone is playing except me. Maybe some day I'll learn to play it well. If not it looks beautiful in my livin room and my kids play it well! Would live to read your new book as well. Thanks for the opportunity!
    Lcenlow at sit-co dot net

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    1. I love the sound of the piano but only ever took lessons when I was young. I'd love to learn to play it someday too! And you're right...they look beautiful and oh so classy. :)

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    2. Lcenlow, I think it's neat that you're learning to play the piano. So what if it takes time. You're doing it, which is very impressive! I'm sure you'll become more proficient with practice. The important thing is that you're having fun pursuing one of your dreams.

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  15. I have always "hankered" (there's an old word) to play the piano. I have started lessons many times, and one day I will buy a piano and continue until I have mastered it.

    The interview was so much fun. And now I must read your book because your interview was so enjoyable that the book must as charming as well.

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    1. Yeah, I remembered you started lessons and then hurt your wrist! :(

      Keli's book is awesome! I sent Grandma a copy because I thought she'd love it.

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    2. Kristin, I hope that one day your hankering will lead you to buy that piano, take lessons, and practice until you're a polished player. Dreams are worth pursuing, right?

      Thanks for your kind words about the interview. Lindsay asked such great questions, didn't she?

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