Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Q and A with Denise Hildreth

What's the backstory behind HURRICANES IN PARADISE?

 Right after my heartbreaking divorce after thirteen years of marriage a friends called from out of the blue and asked me if I would be able to take a quick trip to The Atlantis Hotel on Paradise Island. She added, “And you don’t have to pay a dime.” Well, there was one asset to being single, you could pick up and go at the drop of a hat! Now, not being a spur-of-the-moment kind but more of a “Plan until you drive people crazy” kind of girl, I packed up my bags and headed to The Atlantis.

On my first night there I was sitting at dinner with three other ladies. One of them was our host who was divorced with a small child. Another had never been married, and another was widowed. And while we were sitting there I knew I had the makings of a new novel and spent the remainder of the weekend taking notes and creating my characters.

The story is both a part of my pain and my healing. It was the first time I felt truly free to write after the break-up of my home, but it was also a place to get out some of my own personal pain and emotion of what I had gone through. Story is a beautiful gift. It allows us even as writers to transport ourselves into other people’s lives and say the things we wish we would have said if we had a do-over.

While I was there I had a real personal moment of healing. About thirteen years ago, during my first year of marriage, my husband and I at the time had traveled there and so I was really dreading going back to a certain extent. It was such a wonderful memory for me. But when I got there, the incredible hotel we had stayed in that had all those wonderful memories was boarded up, looked tired and worn down and I heard the sweet voice of my Father whisper, “Memory Closed. Time to make new ones.” That moment was a healing that I didn’t even know I needed. And so powerful for me.

When I first began writing I wanted to write non-fiction that changed peoples lives. But I ended up writing my first novel, Savannah from Savanna about a rigged beauty pageant. Signing my book deal was a bittersweet moment. Here I wanted to be known for these powerful life-changing teachings and I was writing fiction books where women tape their boobs and spray their butts. Not quite what I had envisioned. But six fictions books later I can say the stories have changed me.

I do have my first non-fiction book coming out in January of 2011. But it too was nothing I ever thought I would write. It is the journals from the first year after my divorce entitled, “Flying Solo: A Journey of Divorce, Healing and a Very Present God.” Proving that story finds you…not necessarily the other way around.

Who are some of your literary influences?

My literary influences are so varied- because my interests are so varied.

In fiction- Pat Conroy is the epitome. His ability to weave the emotional aspect of story along with the humor that can make you belly laugh is that thing that captures me. I'm drawn to stories that can cause you to feel at every level and he is the master at that to me.
But I am a huge non-fiction reader as well- So my inspiration there is Phillip Yancey- He is a writer who knows what he believes and writes about it passionately and honestly. And those are two things that I believe are essential to powerful non-fiction.

What's your favorite sentence from the book?

My favorite sentence from "Hurricanes in Paradise" is "I swear, that woman must carry a Bedazzler in her pocket!"

You just became a stepmom to five children. How are you finding time to write?

Well, we call it "bonus mom" around our house. I am learning to be flexible. The new word for the woman who just got kids at 40 and is a P-L-A-N-N-E-R. So, I am learning that kids need you to be present. Whether we're doing a puzzle, riding our bikes, reading books together. They want you there. So, writing happens early in the morning. We don't have them all the time, so that affords me some uninterrupted time to write. But I can hhonestly say, I've thoroughly enjoyed the interruptions.

What books are your nightstand right now?

"Staying True" by Jenny Sandford

"Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee" by Charles Shield

"Love and War" by John and Stacey Eldredge

My best piece of craft advice:

Just start writing.

Each day I'm nervous to sit down and write. I hear people say all the time they have a story. But a story is never written unless you're brave enough to sit down and write it. So just do it!

1 comment:

Peggy Webb said...

Denise, I love the way you used story as a catharsis. Through the years, I've found that story completes me. In some of my darkest moments I've written comedy, and in some of my best I've written tragedy.