Keli Gwyn earned her bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication/Print Journalism from California State University East Bay and worked as a copyeditor for a small textbook publisher. She’s an award-winning novelist, including a double finalist in the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart contest, and enjoys transporting readers to the 1800’s far western U.S. Keli’s stories are inhabited by colorful characters with a touch of humor.
In real life, she, her husband, Carl, and their daughter, Audrey, live in the Heart of the California Gold Country at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
What sparked your writing journey in 2006?
I’d dreamed of being a writer since I was seven, but I didn’t embark on my writing journey until forty years later. Our daughter was in high school at the time. Realizing that she’d be leaving for college in a few short years, I knew it was time to figure out what I was going to do with myself once I became an empty nester. I contacted a friend who is a life coach. She helped me see that it was time to resurrect my dream of being a published author. I began writing my first story a few weeks later.
How does your faith play into your writing?
My faith is an integral part of who I am, so I want to include it in my stories. Because I want my books to appeal to Christians as well as to those who might not have professed the Lord as Savior, I work to make the faith element a natural part of the story. I tell my non-Christian friends that the spiritual aspects of the story are there but that I’m not gonna bash them over the head with a Bible, so to speak. I like to think the Lord can use the spiritual themes in my stories to draw readers who don’t have a personal relationship to Him.
Let’s talk about your debut book, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California (Barbour Publishing, July 2012). Please tell us about it!
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?
What inspired it?
I live in the heart of California’s Gold Country and wanted to bring one of the area’s historic towns to life. El Dorado is located just a few miles away from my town of Placerville. In researching El Dorado I learned about a successful mercantile owner with the largest business in town. He was active in the community and well regarded. He became the model for my hero, Miles Rutledge.
One of Placerville’s historic sites is the Emigrant Jane building. Built in 1861, it’s still standing today. The building bears a plaque telling about Jane, an industrious woman who drove a wagon across the country, had her store built, and went into business. I did my research and learned that women were able to own businesses in California from the early days of the Golden State. That knowledge led to the idea of having Elenora open her own shop when Miles refuses to accept her as partner in his.
Detours in life can be frustrating—kind of like plot twists in the stories we write—but the outcome is often more intriguing than our original plan. Can you tell us about a recent “detour” in your life—or in one of your character’s lives—that taught you something?
I might be stretching the word “recent,” but the last real detour I encountered took place soon after my agent offered me representation back in December 2009. When Rachelle called to finalize her offer, she mentioned that my story had some problems, but she didn’t say what they were. Rather than stew about what those changes might be, my critique partner suggested I write a Worst Case Scenario List with anything and everything I thought might need work, which I did.
Six weeks later Rachelle called, and I learned that my list hadn’t been big or bold enough. She said I’d released the tension in my story at the one-quarter mark and needed to delete the final 75,000 words of the story and start over. I was shocked, but a light bulb went on, and I knew she was right.
I embarked on the rewrite and ended up with a far better story than I’d had before. That detour was unexpected but proved beneficial. I learned the value of heeding wise counsel and how important it is to be flexible in this business. The good news is that Rachelle sold that story, which is now called A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
I’m a Taco Bell addict. A seven-layer burrito or tostada can serve as creativity fuel or a celebratory feast.
This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
I have a real appreciation for musicians, but I’m not one myself. My husband and daughter have all the musical talent in our family. I enjoy listening to my guy play his guitar, banjo, or clarinet. Our daughter loves to sing, and I delight in hearing her belting out tunes. Her joy is contagious.
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
I would be a peppy praise song, one with a nice beat that lifts peoples’ spirits and gets them moving to the beat.
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
I like to think I’m strong. My husband and parents tell me I am. However, there are days this newbie author feels like a little girl doing a wobbly walk in high heels.
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
I had a doxie when I was growing up and loved that guy so much. My husband is a cat person, though, and I’ll admit to being a cat person convert. We have two longhaired orange and white cat brothers who keep us entertained. I tend to wear their fur everywhere, though. My motto is: Have lint roller; will travel.
Thanks, Keli! It’s great to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
Thanks so much for having me, Kathy. Spending time with you and your blog’s visitors is a treat. I’d like to end by asking you one of the great questions Kathy asked me: If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
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For more information about Keli, visit her website at http://keligwyn.com/.
To purchase A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California logon to:
Yrs ago I use to tell friends my song was “Short People” but I think my song is really “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. I have always been a dreamer and still have dreams I hope to make come true.
I am still following you Kari, and would love to win your book. I really enjoyed your interview.
Oooh! The “Short People” song could be my theme song, too. I’m 5’2″ tall and married to a guy a full foot taller. He has a great sense of humor and asked me to stand on a footstool for the kiss at our wedding all those years ago. Our guests loved that.
I love that you’re a dreamer. I encourage you to go after them. Doing so can require us to step outside our comfort zones, but the rewards of doing so are many. I’d love to hear what some of your dreams are.
I’m not entering because I already have the book. Just wanted to say Keli’s book is fun, and will keep you entertained for several hours, so if you don’t win, go buy it!
If I was a song, I would (maybe shamefully) be Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock n’ Roll 🙂 I grew up with much older siblings through the sixties & early seventies, and good rock n’ roll is ingrained in my soul. I have passed the love onto my children and we rock out to Seger and Creedence Clearwater Revival in the car 🙂 Of course, I love a lot of the new Christian Rock; Skillet, TFK, and Kutlass.
I so enjoyed hearing more of Keli’s story today. She is one of the kindest people I’ve met along the writing road — and I love her debut novel. It is such a well-written historical novel! And the mark of a real writer? Being willing to do the rewrites!
Enjoyed the interview with Keli. Looking forward to reading her book. So proud of her, especially for not giving up and doing the rewrite. Congrats, Keli
I’m loving the song choices, especially “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for those of us who like to dream. And Anne’s rock and roll mentions bring back a lot of memories! Fun! Kathy
Fantastic interview, Keli and Kathy! It’s such a blessing to get a peek at the author behind the story! And what a story it is! No need to include me in the draw–A Bride Opens Shop is on my keeper shelf!
Anne, Gwynly grew up in the 60s, and I’m a child of the 70s. I enjoy his folk music and my soft rock–along with the livelier rock and roll of the 50s. Fun stuff!
Beth, as you know, I thrive on revisions and edits. I like to say I’m not a writer; I’m a rewriter. =)
Heather, how wonderful to see you here. When I was asked in one of my interviews about the matchmaking theme in my story and if I’d ever served as a matchmaker, I talked about you and your guy and how Gwynly and I played a role in getting you two together all those years ago when we lived in Germany. Ah, the memories.=)
Fedora, thanks for being such a supportive friend. You make a wonderful cheerleader!
Sounds like a great book. all the best in your new writing career adventure!
Your book sounds great.
If I were a song, I would be a Sousa march and I love chocolate for my comfort food.
Enjoyed reading the comments.
Thanks for stopping by, Tracy!
All right, Joye. That sounds upbeat!
Keli, so very excited for you. And it was great to learn more about you! Enjoy the journey!
Congratulations to Heather Reigel… you’ve won the copy of Keli’s book!