Inside the Literary Mind of Denise Weeks

Books are worthy of your time and most of them have something to teach you.

Denise Weeks writes mystery/suspense and chick lit, and as Shalanna Collins writes fantasy and YA contemporary fantasy appreciated by discerning readers of all ages, even adults.

She and her longsuffering husband are lifelong Texans who live happily in a northern suburb of Dallas, Texas, with their yappy Pomeranian

Denise Weeks

Question: Tell me about your newest book and what was the inspiration behind your writing it?

Denise: LOVE IS THE BRIDGE is a literary ghost story and a tale of romantic suspense with strong techie elements. Have you ever considered how vulnerable you are to cyber-attack through your cell phone, Facebook page, e-mail accounts, and even any files that might be accessed by a remote system while you are connected to the Internet?

Paige Campbell had never considered that she had anything to worry about until she got the first crank call. By the time her Facebook page is hacked and one of her files changed so that she is suspended from college and accused of plagiarism, she’s beginning to believe that someone–or something–is out to get her.

But who could be doing it but a stalker, a hacker, or–as it claims it is, a “Casper”? Can there actually be a “ghost in the machine”? Is code the only thing executing out there on the Web? Exactly how safe are we in cyberspace?

Not to get too Phildickian, but the question arises as to what can be real, and just how fragile your reality may be. Paige draws readers into her synaesthetic world and her boss and co-conspirator Alan illuminates the techie viewpoint as they attempt to figure out who or what is turning her life upside down–all while they try to resist their strong romantic attraction.

I was inspired to write this by a strange occurrence in the life of my cousin, and while they concluded that her misadventures were due to “hacking” (they never specified more than that), I could see the possibilities of asking “What If?”

We’re so dependent on things done by computer today that it can really trash your life when your connection breaks down. Themes include TRUTH. (Everyone has a personal truth that may not be the same as the universally accepted truth.) And ILLUSION: All is not what it seems. Music is the song of the universe and everyone/everything vibrates to some sort of frequency. Joe Bob says check it out!

As Denise Weeks, I author the Jacquidon Carroll “snoop sisters” edgy mystery series and the Ariadne French paranormal mystery series for Oak Tree Press. The first Jacquidon Carroll mystery, NICE WORK, won the 2011 Dark Oak Mystery Novel contest for publication.

Writing as Shalanna Collins, I publish YA fantasy/urban fantasy and adventure, including APRIL, MAYBE JUNE (which won the 2010 Golden Rose mystery/fantasy grand prize) and DULCINEA (the first runner-up in the 1996 Warner Aspect First Fantasy Novel Contest).

LOVE IS THE BRIDGE is her latest adult paranormal release, a techie ghost story about a woman pursued by someone from the past–or is it just a hacker that they can’t track down inside the cuckoo’s egg?

 

Question: Why and when did you decide to become a writer?

Denise: At age six, I discovered that my favorite books had not fallen from the sky whole like the Bible and the CRC Math Tables, but were written by mortal men and women. At that moment I determined I would tell the stories that I acted out with my stuffed animals during the lonely-only-child days before the Internet. Because books are important. 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 spend my life writing them.

 

Question: What book has been the greatest influence on you and your writing and why?

Denise: Hmm. How about THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE, Professor Strunk’s little book? Before I read it in junior year of high school and took to heart its recommendations, my style could be florid and I had fallen into the trap of sounding like a business letter all the time.

I have also been influenced by Robert Benchley and James Thurber; Thurber’s MY LIFE AND HARD TIMES is a classic that I read in fifth grade, and through searching for more like that one I found Benchley’s humorous essays. I am sure all of that reading influenced my style and made it more whimsical and less stilted than it was. (My mother and teachers were from the generation of more formal and more stilted writing, pre-Jazz Age.)

I should probably mention my early exposure to the King James Bible and Shakespeare. The eloquence and cadenced prose found therein must have done things to me, because where else would I have gotten all these uppity fancy ideas?
Question: Where do you find ideas for your books?

Denise: Inspiration is everywhere. Sometimes it comes from an incident experienced by a friend or a group that I’m in, and sometimes it’s ripped from the front pages of the news websites. Typically, whatever it is percolates through and becomes a different enough story (tinged with my own thoughts, memories, and perceptions) that people don’t even guess what could’ve inspired it. Just watch and listen, and you’ll find more story ideas than you could ever have time to write.

 

Question: Where do you find ideas for your characters?

Denise: Similarly, my characters “come” to me rather than being sought out. When I’m thinking about a story idea, or maybe just sitting staring out the window, I will “see” a character in my mind’s eye. The character will start to do something in my inner movie (the “vivid, continuous dream” spoken of by teacher John Gardner), and I’ll discover what her goal is, what the situation is, and the problem she’s about to try to solve.

I don’t do character sheets nor do I steal people from real life (except in the most superficial of instances, such as making a waiter or cabdriver like a person I know who’d like to be “in one of my books.”) Maybe there’s another universe where these events are really happening to Chantal and Ariadne–like Aristotle’s cave shadows deal.

I believe that much of my ability to create characters comes from having been an actress from a very young age–even before I decided to write. (As a really little kid, I used to think actors made up the lines and the plot as they went along!)
Question: How would you describe your writing style?

Denise: I’m just about ALL voice. I do have a plot in there somewhere, but much of the appeal of my work is in the unique voice of each character. Witty, whimsical, inventive, literary, thought-provoking . . . with charming turns of phrase.
Question: What do you consider the most difficult part of writing a book?

Denise: Revisions. I always have to rearrange scenes and add/subtract scenes, and it’s always a trial-and-error thing. I sometimes wish I were the sort who sat down and wrote the whole book beginning to end, but I’m not. Alas! I’m a pantser who does minimal planning and likes to be as surprised as readers should be as we proceed along the “dark ride” of the book’s storyline.
Question: What are your current projects?

Denise: THE DARKNESS AT THE CENTER is a YA/middle grade that is NOT fantasy . . . unfortunately, because it’s about the secrets of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse. Elise Francis witnesses the death of her beloved piano teacher, but then–hooray!–a Great Man agrees to take her on. But he turns out to be a toucher and neck-patter and caresser. He pinches and slaps her (but leaves no marks), and his cutting remarks disturb Elise to her core.

Elise’s 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 simply cope and endure whatever in order to reach their goal. She suspects Elise is encouraging him anyway (although she isn’t), and since he has no prior accusations . . . in other words, Elise can’t get anyone to take her seriously.

And, anyway, maybe 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.)

MIRANDA’S RIGHTS, a “witchy” contemporary adult fantasy with a bit of romance, explores the world of women versus the world of “mixed doubles,” and the differences in the way people interact. Also there’s a love spell that goes terribly wrong and a family of witches who sees nothing unusual in being different from other people. Humor, like “Bewitched” and “Sabrina.”

The second book in the Ariadne French paranormal mystery series that started with MURDER BY THE MARFA LIGHTS. It’ll be another woo-woo adventure for sisters Ari and Zoë French as they travel to another small Texas town and find all the haunted places as they solve a mystery.

Please click HERE to purchase Love Is A Bridge.

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