I’m delighted to have Keli Gwyn visiting today. Her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California has become one of mine and Precious Redhead’s favorites. There’s nothing better than finding a book you can share with your daughters, but I’ll expound on that another time. You can find my review of Keli’s book HERE.
Marji – So a little about you before we dig into your book. I know you had a Victorian dress made to celebrate its sale. (Purple is definitely your color!) What is the best or funniest reaction you’ve witnessed to you in costume?
Keli – When I wear the dress, I get a lot of admiring looks, some raised eyebrows, and plenty of smiles…except when I’m at book signings. It’s kinda fun watching bookstore customers do the I-want-to-look-but-I-do-not-want-to-be-forced-to-buy-something dance.
I’ve considered putting a sign on the table that says, “It’s OK. I’m a mild-mannered author. I will gladly tell you why I’m wearing my dress and promise I won’t bully you into buying my book.” 🙂
Marji – That’s hysterical, and I know you’re right about what they’re thinking because I’ve felt the same way. Speaking of other folks and how they affect you, if you could have dinner with one person, living or dead (besides our Lord with Whom we will all feast!) who would it be and why?
Keli – I’d love to be able to have dinner with my beloved mother-in-law. She lost her battle with cancer years ago, but she knew how much I wanted to be a writer and encouraged me to follow my dream. I took a writing course while Mother was still alive, but she wasn’t here when I embarked on my writing journey. I’d love to sit down to dinner, tell her about my journey to publication, and thank her for believing in me.
Marji – I know she’s so proud of you! So I’ve seen that Taco Bell is one of your favorite places to eat. Since Elenora is a lousy cook, what would Elenora’s favorite place be, and how would she feel about tacos?
Keli – Elenora loves eating at Miles’s place. His mother, Maude, is an excellent cook. Elenora looks forward to heading to his house at noon each day for one of Maude’s delicious dinners.
Since Elenora isn’t as adventurous as her daughter, Tildy, I have a hunch she’d be hesitant to try a taco. However, since she is a Victorian lady, I’m sure she’d put her fears aside and taste a taco if that’s what her hostess served.
Marji – Always the proper lady, but she and Miles spark a pretty dynamic pair. You and your hubby, have a special relationship. What is the most romantic thing that Gwynly has done for you?
Keli – One thing? Goodness. That’s a toughie because Gwynly has become quite romantic in recent years, doing romantic things on a regular basis. But because I’m an obedient oldest child, I’m forcing myself to answer. Lemme think…
All right. I did it. I came up with an answer. This past spring, our college daughter paid us a visit several days before Easter, since she was going to be working that weekend. Gwynly had gotten me something special and couldn’t wait to give it to me. I returned home from Curves just after he got home from school on the Friday before his spring break. He met me at the door with a gift bag in hand and a grin on his face.
I pulled out the first item, a mug with the cover of my debut novel on the front, and burst into tears. He told me there was more. I reached in, found a matching tote bag, and shed more tears of joy.
Gwynly knows how I’d dreamed of being a writer since I was seven. He encouraged me to pursue that dream and has been my staunchest supporter ever since I embarked on my writing journey six and a half years ago. His thoughtfulness means the world to me. I have a hard time thinking of anything more romantic than this generous gesture.
Marji – Oh my gosh, that’s so sweet! You plainly love the Victorian era, but where did the inspiration for the story itself in A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California come from?
Keli – I live in the heart of California’s Gold Country and love setting my stories here. There are so many historic towns that date back to the Gold Rush, El Dorado being one of them. As I performed my research, I learned about the town’s most successful merchant, James B. Wetherwax, who had the most impressive building in El Dorado. He was on a number of committees and was well respected. I attempted to find out more about him but was unable to.
Being a writer, I could imagine such a man—and I did. I created my hero, Miles Rutledge, who just so happens to be El Dorado’s most successful merchant in El Dorado’s most impressive building. He’s well liked, too, just as Mr. Wetherwax was. That’s where the similarities stop, though. The rest was my imagination at work.
One thing Miles didn’t have was a woman in his life. Enter Elenora Watkins and her shop across the street. Because women in California could own businesses from the earliest days, I knew this was possible and used that knowledge to create a couple in competition with one another.
Marji – Were there scenes or details you had to cut from the final version of A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California that you can share?
Keli – I didn’t have to cut anything from the final version but one line and a handful of repetitions. Considering I’d rewritten the story three times, revised it once, and edited it more times than I care to remember, that could be why.
I did have to add a few lines here and there to “connect the dots,” as my wonderful copyeditor put it. Since I tend to be a wordy writer, I liked learning that I’d actually succeeded at writing tight.
Marji – Tight writing is certainly a challenge! Is there a part of A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California that has moved you to tears? (I know I got misty 3 times, starting on page 98!)
Keli – Was I moved to tears? Yup. Many times. Bearing in mind that I’m a charter member of the Weepy Women’s Club and that I love my characters, that’s not surprising.
Sometimes I cried because I was putting my characters through the wringer and ached for them. Other times I cried because I was laughing so hard at what they were saying or doing. And then there were the times I shed tears of joy because I was having so much fun writing the story.
Marji – Without spoilers, what is your favorite part of A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California?
Keli – All right, you’ve really done it now, Marji. Talk about a tough question, one impossible to answer. Obedient oldest child me is going to break a rule and tell you some of my favorite parts, since I can’t pick just one.
Marji – Break away! 🙂
Keli – I like the scene in the backroom of Miles’s mercantile when Ellie finds out he was expecting a man as his partner. There’s a scene in a flower garden where Miles and Ellie’s banter cracks me up. I love the scene when Ellie learns to shoot. The scene when Ellie and Miles talk in the church after he faces his past makes me sigh. As you might expect, the ending of the story warms my heart.
And those are just a few of my favorite scenes. I love hearing which ones readers enjoy. Was there a certain one you liked, Marji?
Marji – Oh, I wept when the big crash came about mid-story. Ellie stood so strong, yet I knew inside she must be crumbling, and I cried in her stead. I’m tearing up just thinking about it. What a powerful scene! Speaking of powerful, what is a memorable quote to take away from the book?
Keli – At the beginning of the story, Ellie doesn’t feel the Lord’s presence. As the story progresses, she grows in her faith. I like this line, taken from a moving scene when she’s afraid of losing what matters most to her: “She didn’t know what the future would bring, but she could trust the future to the One who held her in His arms.” I like knowing that the Lord is there for me, even when I feel like things are out of control. It helps to remember that He is in control.
Marji – I’m so glad you shared your thoughts today, Keli! A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California is such a delightful read for those who enjoy Christian Romance of any type.
Keli – Thanks so much for hosting me, Marji. Spending time with you and your blog’s visitors is a pleasure. I’d like to end with a question for all of you. What is one of the most meaningful gifts you’ve been given?
Keli’s book is available at Christianbook, Mardel’s, Barnes and Nobel, and Amazon. From her website:
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 writes stories that transport readers to the 1800s, where she brings historic towns to life, peoples them with colorful characters, and adds a hint of humor. A California native, she lives in the Gold Rush-era town of Placerville at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, set in the heart of the Gold Country where she lives is currently available.
When Keli’s fingers aren’t hovering over the keyboard of her newfangled laptop, she enjoys strolling past stately Victorian houses in her historic town, burying her nose in reference books as she unearths interesting facts to include in her stories, and interacting with other romance readers. Her favorite places to visit are her fictional worlds, the Coach factory outlet store, and Taco Bell.