Denise is the author of two young reader fantasy novels: Eye of Fortune and Curse of the Lost Grove (Mirrorstone, 2004 and 2005). Her stories have appeared in such publications as A Cup of Comfort for Writers, a number of Magic the Gathering® anthologies, and Woman’s World. She lurks in her supervillain secret lair deep in the heart of darkest mid-America with her co-supervillain, the inimitable Ron Morris, and their henchkittens, Kafka and The Morrigan. Her passions range from reading to 80s alternative music to all things Caribbean and beyond. She’s a grateful Scribes Tribe groupie. Her current projects include a YA novel rewrite, a screenplay rewrite, and more flash fiction.
WOW: Congratulations, Denise, on your first place win. How exciting! What was it like to get the news that you had won first place with your story, "Better Late"?
Denise: Thank you! I rarely enter contests, and I thought my lack of experience might work against me. So finding out my story took first place was a fantastic surprise.
WOW: Where did you get the idea for the story?
Denise: I read about an appeal of a murder conviction. I wondered about the victim's family and friends. How they might feel, what they might do, how the emotional scars might change them. The story grew from that.
WOW: It's always so interesting to discover where writers get their ideas for stories. Is it difficult for you to write an entire story in 750 words or less? Do you tend to write more than enough--and have to CUT, CUT, CUT? Or do you have the opposite problem--never enough detail or enough words? In other words, what are your strategies for a flash fiction piece?
Denise: I generally don't try to fit a story into any specific size or format. I just write, and then I see how the work can be improved, whether that means expanding or cutting. Cutting is definitely easier for me, though. I’ve learned to trust readers to connect the dots. My main strategy with flash is to make every element of the story serve as many functions as possible. Deceptively simple dialogue can convey backstory, foreshadow, reinforce atmosphere, reveal character, establish setting, and so on. Likewise with descriptions—both the selection of things described and the words used to describe them.
WOW: Your answer above is a like a mini-writing class! I love that you said you've learned to trust readers. That is so hard for us as writers to do, I think. Tell us about your published young reader fantasy novels. Where are they available today?
Denise: Both young reader novels, Eye of Fortune and Curse of the Lost Grove (Mirrorstone, 2004 and 2005), are part of the Knights of the Silver Dragon series, a shared world series by multiple authors. Learning to write novels using someone else's characters and allowing room for growth for the authors of the upcoming novels were interesting challenges, and I learned a lot in the process. The publisher discontinued the series, so the best place to find the books now is on Amazon or eBay.
WOW: As I mentioned in the intro, you go to a writing critique group (the same one I used to attend!). How valuable is this group to your writing?
Denise: For me, a critique group is absolutely essential. I've moved around over the years, so I've worked with different types of groups, and each has been an enormous help. In fact, it was a facilitator of the group I’m with now (Scribes Tribe) who encouraged me to enter this contest! The group members are very honest about what works in my writing and what doesn't, and their feedback helps me make my work the best I can. Besides that, no one understands the highs and lows of the writing life like other writers, and having someone who really "gets" it makes the challenges more manageable and the successes much sweeter.
WOW: There's no doubt that writers get each other and the rest of the world, including our significant others, are supportive but. . .(smiles) What are the current projects you are working on?
Denise: Blip, a novel I intended for young readers, turned out darker and edgier than I anticipated, so I'm revising it for the YA crowd, which will be a better fit. Like most of my work, it takes place in our contemporary world but with a speculative element to it. I'm also in the process of rewriting a humorous screenplay I co-wrote with my husband. And of course, the flash fiction keeps flowing.
WOW: Best of luck to you, Denise! I'm sure we'll be seeing more of your name soon. Thank you for the interview!
interview conducted by Margo L. Dill