Keli's debut A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California released this month. It has been a joy getting to know Keli and watching her succeed in her writing journey. She is one of the sweetest people I've met and I am thrilled to have her with us today.
You can see a video of Keli opening her first shipment of books below. Be sure and grab some tissues!
Let's get to know Keli!
Tell us about
What inspired you to chose that location?
I live in the heart of California’s Gold Country. I love this historic area and wanted to bring it to life on the page. El Dorado is a small town a few miles from where I live. It’s a sleepy suburb now, but it was a thriving community in 1870, the year my story takes place.
When I read about the town’s leading businessman, a well-respected mercantile owner named James B. Wetherwax, I wanted to learn more about him, but I found little information. Being a writer, I could imagine such a man, and I did.
My hero, Miles Rutledge, is that man. Of course he needs a woman in his life, so along comes enterprising Elenora Watkins, who opens a shop across the street from his. Women in California have been able to own businesses since the early days, a fact I learned from the plaque on Emigrant Jane’s storefront, a building still standing in my hometown of Placerville.
I know you have a love for all things Victorian, which makes me think about English parlors and tea. How does that translate into writing about the "Old West"?
|Don't you love her outfit?|
Many of the men and women who first came to California hailed from the East, where they were used to the Victorian ways. They brought their culture with them.
While things were wild in the early days of the Gold Rush, progress was rapid. By 1870 my town of Placerville had a philharmonic society, a brass band, and a roller skating rink. One could visit places like San Francisco or Sacramento City and attend performances by some of the top-name entertainers of the day. The many stately Victorian homes seen throughout the Gold Country boast parlors that would have served tea and treats on par with anything served back east.
Your book has been described as "a laugh-out-loud, witty,romantic comedy." Not words you usually hear associated with historical fiction. How do you think humor fits into this particular genre?
What a great question, Dawn. I believe people like to laugh, and there are many inspirational historical romance authors who ensure readers will do just that. Mary Connealy, Margaret Brownley, and Karen Witemeyer have sent me into spasms of laughter at times, as they have many.
I’ll let you in on a secret. I didn’t set out to write a funny story. I’m not all that funny in real life. If I can manage to tell a joke without cracking up, I often forget the punch line, which makes me laugh even more. While others who know me well weren’t surprised to find a humorous element in my voice, it came as a pleasant surprise to me. I hope readers enjoy my stories, and if they get a chuckle out of them, that’s a nice bonus.
In your guest post last year, you discussed some of the challenges of writing inspirational romances versus mainstream. What challenges did you face writing this story? How did you manage those?
My biggest challenge in writing A Bride Opens Shop was rewriting it, which I did three times. The last time was after my agent, Rachelle Gardner, had offered representation. Turns out I’d been a bit too nice to my characters and needed to ramp up the conflict. I had fun making things more difficult for Miles and Elenora. Not to worry. I told them to trust me and assured them everything would work out well in the end.
As a result of my rewrites, I’ve become a huge advocate of outlining a story before starting one. If I have the beginning, major turning points, black moment, conclusion, character arcs, and internal and external conflicts figured out ahead of time, I’m much more likely to end up with a story that flows well and will keep a reader turning pages. There are still surprises as I write, though, which keeps things fun.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
I must be atypical, because no two days look alike. Right now I’m spending the majority of my time on promotion, since my book has just released. When I’m in the planning stages of a new story, I’ll spend countless hours devouring reference books. During the actual writing phase, I lose track of time as I immerse myself in the 1800s. I can get so into the period that hearing the phone ring or the dryer buzz startles me, since such sounds have no place in my story world.
If you could travel back to the Victorian days and live there for one week, what you be your top three must-do experiences?
Ooh! What fun! Lemme see. Since I live in the Gold Country, I’d like to see a mining operation in full swing. While I don’t like the way the land was ravaged, I’m curious about all the steps in the process. I’d like to watch the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, especially the boring of the tunnels through the Sierras. I marvel at what our forefathers accomplished without computers or the heavy machinery we have today. And I would take a few of my days to pop in and out of shops in towns across the country, seeing all the things for sale, so I could add that detail to my stories. Of course, I’d take note of the clothing, conveyances, and cuisine everywhere I went.
Your book is dedicated to your husband. In what way has he supported your writing? What would he tell us living with a writer is like?
Gwynly has supported me in every way imaginable. Just the other day he was stuffing copies of my book in padded mailers. Last night he and a friend were practicing the folk tunes they’ll be playing at my launch party. And my dear guy has even agreed to wear a full Victorian outfit at my author events, complete with frock coat, silk puff tie, and top hat.
If you were to ask Gwynly what living with a writer is like, he would probably grin. And then he’d tell you life with this particular writer is never dull. He’s tactful that way. If he were honest, he’d tell you how many times he’s had to wait for dinner, for me to do a load of whites, or for me to drag myself away from the computer to take a walk or join him on a ride in his classic MGB.
What would you tell someone (like, oh, I don't know...me!) who is still trying to find their place as an author?
Have fun! The pressure to follow every “rule,” final in contests, send out queries, get an agent or a contract, etc. can rob us of the joy of writing. When that happens, writing can cease to be fun and our work can suffer. I know, because I’ve been there. When the Lord led me to let go of my expectations, I started having fun again, my writing took a real leap forward, and things began happening for me.
To learn more about Keli, you can visit her new Victorian-style cyber home at www.keligwyn.com, where you'll find her parlor, study, carriage house, and more, along with her blog and her social media links.
Thank you so much for hosting me again, Dawn. It’s great to have another opportunity to spend time with you and your blog’s visitors.
I have a question for them:
Who’s been the most supportive person in your life as you’ve pursued your dreams?
Keli will send a copy of her new book to a lucky reader who leaves a comment.
Keli will send a copy of her new book to a lucky reader who leaves a comment.
I have to say my mom has been the most supportive person. No matter what I would pursue she has always been there to encourage me.
Campbellamyd at gmail dot com
Aren't moms the best? Mine has listened to me ramble on about my writing for hours on end. I often wonder if she rolls her eyes or stifles a sigh when she picks up the phone and hears me on the other end of the line. =)
Well I cried with Keli!! What a wonderful moment to have on tape! I am so happy for her!
I've been so slow in "coming out" as a writer to my loved ones that I've been completely amazed at how supportive almost EVERYONE has been. And my husband, who asks, every now and then, how soon he can retire, but has stopped asking "what's it about?" because that makes me a basket case!
Thanks for sharing in my excitement. I look forward to the day I'm watching a video of you holding your first book. =)
Kudos on embarking on your writing journey. I wish you all the best. And how wonderful to have such a supportive husband. I have one like that, too.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by to get to know Keli.
I would have to say my biggest supporter is my husband. He is amazing and I wouldn't be doing anything I do now if it wasn't for him.
He also rarely reads my blog so I can gush about him without worrying he'll come home with a big head!
Thanks so much for hosting me. I loved answering your great questions and spending time with you and your blog's visitors.
Sounds like your husband and mine both deserve membership in the Super Supportive Spouse Club. I'm glad your guy is your number one fan.
Without hesitation - definitely my husband who, lucky me, happens to be my bestest friend in the whole world!!
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