An ever-resourceful widow, Elenora Watkins arrives in El Dorado ready to go into partnership with Miles Rutledge. When he refuses, Elenora becomes the competition across the street. Is this town big enough for the two of them? Miles can’t help but stick his well-polished boot in his mouth whenever he comes face-to-face with Elenora. Can he find a way to win her heart while destroying her business? Miles’s mother, Maude, is bent on Elenora becoming her new daughter-in-law while Elenora’s daughter, Tildy, thinks Miles would make a perfect papa. How far will these meddlers go to unite this enterprising pair?
Keli Gwyn: I’m a California native and live in the Gold Rush-era town of Placerville at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. When my fingers aren’t hovering over the keyboard of my laptop, I enjoy strolling past stately Victorian houses in my historic town, burying my nose in reference books as I unearth interesting facts to include in my stories, and interacting with other romance readers. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, the Coach factory outlet store, and Taco Bell.
ib4b: What was the inspiration behind A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California?
KG: I’m a California native and love the historic Gold Country where I live. I wanted to bring the area to life in my stories. While El Dorado is a sleepy suburb now, it was a thriving town in its heyday. When I read about the town’s leading merchant, a mercantile owner named James B. Wetherwax, I was intrigued and wanted to know more about him. However, I couldn’t find much information, but being a writer, I could imagine such a man—and I created the hero of my story.
Widower Miles Rutledge has the most successful business in town, the most impressive building, and is well liked, but he doesn’t have a woman in his life. Along comes Elenora Watkins—and her shop across the street. Since women could own businesses in California from the early days, I knew I had a viable set-up for the story.
ib4b: Wow! That's a really great "story behind the story." :) What message or lesson do you hope readers will take away from reading it?
KG: I hope they learn that we are valued not so much for what we do as for who we are. Ellie is out to prove herself on several fronts, but she doesn’t need to. People like her the way she is.
I’d also like readers to understand that the Lord is there for us—even when we don’t sense His presence. When the story begins, Ellie doesn’t believe the Lord hears her prayers or cares about her concerns, but as things progress, she experiences growth in this area.
ib4b: How do you see yourself in the book?
KG: I identify with the heroine, Elenora. Like me, she’s the mother of a bright, talkative daughter. Ellie tends to be a bit overprotective at times, and I was, too, when our college daughter was younger. I can’t cook very well, and neither can Ellie. She’s a hardworking, determined woman, and I am, too. Like Ellie, when I set a goal, I put my all into achieving it.
ib4b: The more I read, the more I appreciate the research that authors do to deliver a realistic story. Tell us about your research process for this book.
KG: I have a pretty good picture of the Victorian Era, but I’m forever checking to be sure new facts I want to use are accurate. When I want to use a certain historical detail in a story, I run for my personal reference library or fire up Google.
A Bride Opens Shop includes violin playing and shooting. Since I’m neither a violinist nor a marksman, I had to do a good deal of research. As part of my musical research, I was able to see two world-renown violinists in concert at my daughter’s university: Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell. That’s my kind of research. =)
My dad helped educate me about the basics of shooting a revolver. A local friend came over with a revolver much like Miles uses, so I could see what it felt like in my hand. Our friend helped my husband and me act out a few poses that involved the gun, so I could describe them accurately. I had more fun than I expected, and I think that comes out in the shooting scenes.
KG: I worked as a bookkeeper to put myself through college, a process that took me eleven l-o-n-g years and helped developed the perseverance that has served me well in the publishing world. I spent a year as a copyeditor at small publishing company, a position I thoroughly enjoyed. When our daughter arrived, my husband and I made the decision that we’d live on his salary so I could be a stay-at-home mom. I embarked on my writing journey once she was in high school.
ib4b: Where do you like to write?
KG: I write in the privacy of my own home. Since I often speak lines of dialogue out loud, make faces to be sure I’m getting my gestures right, and act out scenes while I work, I would be afraid to write in public. People think I’m goofy enough as it is when my characters and I chat while I’m on my walks. :-)
ib4b: What were some of your favorite books growing up?
KG: The Little House books and Little Women were some of my favorites. I loved the history in those books along with reading about Laura’s real-life romance with Almanzo Wilder and Jo March’s dream of being a writer.
ib4b: What was the last "must read" Christian fiction book that you read?
KG: I’m a big Karen Witemeyer fan, so her recent release, Short-Straw Bride, was a “must read” book for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and highly recommend it to fans of inspirational historical fiction.
ib4b: Now for the totally random . . . what is your biggest pet peeve?
KG: I’d have to say tailgaters. My husband, my daughter, and I were all rear-ended in three separate incidents this past year by people who were following us too closely. Not fun.
ib4b: What was the last thing you bought online?
KG: A pretty white corset. Since I write stories set in the Victorian Era, I’m going to wear the corset for a full day, so I can better relate to the women in my stories. I’ll be blogging about the experience on one of my Friday Fun Victorian Style posts in August.
ib4b: Okay. That was definitely not what I was expecting you to say! I can't wait to read the blog about wearing a corset. If you could only drink one beverage for the rest of your life, what would it be?
KG: Sweet tea
ib4b: Do you have a "life verse" or favorite Scripture?
KG: I’m encouraged by Isaiah 41:10a, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” There are times the writing journey requires courage and forging ahead in the face of disappointments, and it’s comforting to know the Lord is there for me on the dark days as well as the days of rejoicing.
ib4b: Write your memoir in six words or less.
KG: Confessions of a Hopeless Romantic
ib4b: Great memoir! Can you tell us a bit about what you're working on now? When can we expect to see it in stores?
KG: More inspirational historical romances set in during the Victorian era. I’ve run several ideas by my agent, and she liked them all, so I’ll be busy writing for years to come. I look forward to having another book in stores soon.
ib4b: Sounds like you'll be a busy lady, and I for one am looking forward to reading your next book. Thanks for stopping by for a chat today, Keli!
KG: Thanks so much for having me as your guest, Brooke. Spending time with you and your blog's visitors is a real treat. I loved the questions you asked and would like to end by asking all of you to answer one of them: What was the last thing you purchased online? I'm guessing it wasn't a corset. =)
Keli Gwyn Online
Keli has offered to give away a signed copy of A Bride Opens Shop to one lucky reader! Thank you, Keli! Open to US residents. Ends 8/14/2012. Enter via the Rafflecopter below.
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