Welcome to Wednesday Writers!
Today’s Wednesday Writer’s guest is Denise Weimer. She’ll be answering a few interview questions and providing us with an excerpt of her book The Witness Tree. Welcome, Denise!
Please tell the readers about the release that is being showcased today.
The Witness Tree released just this past Monday with Smitten Historical Romance. It’s about a dangerous assignment in 1805 Cherokee Territory that calls for a Moravian marriage of convenience.
How did you come up with the concept for this book?
Before I came to work for Smitten Historical Romance as a managing editor, I wanted to write a book for them. I’d been watching the growth of the imprint, and their quality and values impressed me.
So far, all of my published novels have been set in my home state of Georgia. I love exploring its hidden history and lore. I needed a new location and focus for my Smitten novel. A bit of internet research turned up the intriguing fact that the Moravians came down from Salem, North Carolina (a town much like Williamsburg), to build a mission school on the plantation of Cherokee Chief James Vann, a historic site I’d visited as a child. I already found the Moravians, as a little-known sect of the plain people, fascinating. There was also the little-known fact that up until the early 1800s, many Cherokees were violently opposed to their language being recorded.
Wala, I had a story idea! However, I’d assigned myself a huge challenge in combining two very different people groups with diverse customs and languages into a story—and in a time period in which I’d never written.
What are you working on now? Do you have a release date for this book?
Earlier this year, I finished a novel that is slated to be part of The Native Patriots Series, stories about Native Americans who fought for our nation in different wars. To my delight, I could link this novel, working title Bent Tree Bride, to The Witness Tree. Sam Hicks is one of the children at the mission school in The Witness Tree, and he becomes the hero of Bent Tree Bride, a captain in the Cherokee Regiment that helped turn the battle against the Red Stick Creeks in 1814, part of The War of 1812. Sam falls in love with his colonel’s daughter, but they both have a surprise in store. She thinks he is white. He thinks she is Cherokee. They were both wrong.
My agent is currently shopping this series. I have another collection proposal set in Gilded Age Florida with a publisher, but until I hear back on that, I’m deeply invested in marketing The Witness Tree and my contemporary renovation romance, Fall Flip, which also released this month. I have two more contemporaries coming with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas imprints in March—athletic romance Spring Splash and romantic techno-suspense Traces.
I tend to write in stages: dialogue first, then go back and put in the different layers—sensory, visceral, emotional, settings. What is does your writing process look like?
As a former living historian and a visual learner, I always start with research. Computer research serves as my springboard, but then I order books from Amazon and my library to make sure I’m using accurate information. I begin to compile a historical timeline that includes everything from military history or local events to weather and fashion. Among that, I weave my fictional story. Often, the real historical events serve as plot shapers. I also always use maps, whether a simple city map for a contemporary novel, or period maps that show forts, rivers, and towns for a historical.
Then I schedule trips to historical sites, living histories, and the locations where my stories are set. I comb through museums and microfilm of old newspapers. I make notes about the flora and fauna, the sights and smells of the setting.
Once I start writing, I write entire scenes with all the details included, in order. My editing training has taught me to semi-self-edit as I go. At the end of each chapter, I stop and go back for a general edit. When the story is finished, I go over it again, then read it aloud to my husband to help catch errors. After that, it’s on to beta readers and then my agent.
What’s the first book, in the genre you write in, that you remember reading?
I’m not sure which came first, Gone With the Wind or the Eugenia Price novels. Note: learning to write in active voice, deep point of view was quite a challenge when you were raised on very verbose, Southern literary fiction. My Georgia Gold Series (my first published novels) is more Eugenia Price-style.
Do you have an all-time favorite movie that has stuck in your mind or that you’d watch over and over?
Last of the Mohicans
We like to travel. What is the most historic place you’ve visited?
Name three interesting things most people don’t know about you.
How about one? I mentioned it above, but I spent many years involved in living history events. My husband and I directed a mid-1800s dance group that performed locally. The takeaway from that is, I can accurately describe for my novels not only ballroom dancing but what it feels like when your corset pinches you while you are waltzing. LOL
It’s been a pleasure having you here today. As you say goodbye, can you leave the readers with an encapsulation of your life’s philosophy? (a quote, a Bible verse, a precept you live by or have tried to instill in your children?)
Scripture teaches us that we each have value and purpose as God’s child (Ephesians 2:10, Jeremiah 29:11). God’s plan for our lives is the best one available and uses our gifts and talents for His glory and His kingdom. Why wouldn’t we want to seek that with all our hearts? You will know by the peace given by the Holy Spirit when you’re walking in that will.
And now for a peek at Denise’s book The Witness Tree available at Amazon
Past betrayal has turned John Kliest’s passion to his work as a builder and surveyor in the Moravian town of Salem, North Carolina. Now, to satisfy the elders’ edict and fulfill his mission in Cherokee Territory, he needs a bride. But the one woman qualified to record the Cherokee language longs for a future with his younger brother.
Clarissa Vogler’s dream of a life with Daniel Kliest is shattered when she is chosen by lot to marry his older brother and venture into the uncharted frontier. Can she learn to love this stoic man who is now her husband? Her survival hinges on being able to trust him—but they both harbor secrets.
Excerpt from The Witness Tree
At the top of the hill, a line of evergreens separated travelers from God’s Acre, where the departed Moravian faithful of Salem lay under flat stone slabs. Above the cemetery, Church Street intersected the east-west road that ran north of town. The witness tree stood at the juncture of this road and another lane that looped south. Some forty years earlier, Frederick Kliest’s axe had marked it as such with three slashes on its trunk. That and the knot on the back had made it a perfect place for Daniel to leave Clarissa messages.
Even more shocking than John’s proposal had been the news that followed it. Susanna had also revealed that Daniel had left town. The burning ache in Clarissa’s chest told her Susanna must have been mistaken. She hurried forward, sped by the sure knowledge that Daniel would not have abandoned her. Not now. At least not permanently. Not without communicating his plan.
As the tree came into view, so did a figure. Clarissa froze, palm returning to her chest. Daniel?
No. The man walking toward her was taller, more solid, his closely-trimmed, dark beard speckled with gray that somehow did not make him look older. John Kliest. He might be a good ten years ahead of Daniel, having passed thirty, she guessed, but his unlined face and intense blue eyes indicated an untamed energy that Daniel, even while painting, had not possessed.
He recognized her a second later, for he, too, stopped and stared. “Sister Vogler.”
His first words spoken to her. He bowed. None of the heat that seemed to be affecting Clarissa colored his face.
“Br-brother Kliest.” Now she was stammering too?
Laugh lines danced around his mouth. He took a step toward her, watching her as one watches a doe in the woods. In fact, he clutched the tiger-striped maple stock of the Rowan long rifle he’d commissioned her father to make some years ago. He was probably the only man in their pacifist community to own such a gun—presumably as protection from wild animals when he was off surveying. But he did not carry his surveying instruments today. Had he been hunting, perchance?
“Headed to your father’s?”
John’s gaze darted to a spiral of the blonde hair she found so hard to keep under her cap. “Might I accompany you? This isn’t the best path for sisters to travel alone, being outside of town.” His narrowing eyes questioned why she did not take the usual route between the Single Sisters’ House and the gunsmith’s.
“My parents might be more alarmed if I arrived in your company.”
“I don’t think so, Miss Vogler.”
The way his tone dropped sent tingles to her toes. And he called her “miss,” not the more proper “sister.”
He studied her reaction as if gauging whether she’d yet been told of his proposal. A dozen unasked questions jockeyed in her throat. Why did you ask to marry me? Was it only because twenty years ago, Father visited the Cherokees himself and convinced the congregation to set up a mission? So now you have some thum—stupid—idea that I should go as well? What about Daniel? Where is he, and did you know of his intentions toward me? Did you push him out of your way?
But these were not things a Moravian lady asked a bachelor, marriage proposal or no. These were things Clarissa must learn from others. She would give nothing away until she knew more. And she couldn’t check that tree until John was gone.
She clasped her hands together. “Such things are not done, Brother Kliest. But I thank you and bid you a good day.”
That smile danced around his lips again. He tipped his hat. “Until next time, Sister Vogler.”
Biting her lip, Clarissa hurried past him, indignation sweeping her.
He was confident he would be accepted. Because he’d achieved status in the community? Because the nobility of his calling to be among the Pilger- und Streitersache—the church’s pilgrims and militants for Christ—would trump anything his younger brother offered?
As soon as John disappeared from sight, Clarissa crumpled on a fallen log. She loosened the strings of her bonnet in an attempt to calm her panicked breathing. She looked back at the witness tree. She already knew the knot would be empty.
The elders had agreed with John’s plans, and the lot had been consulted. It must have said yes, or the proposal would not have been made. And a proper lady never refused a positive answer from the lot, because even though she could do so, the lot represented the will of God.
About the Author:
Denise Weimer writes historical and contemporary romance and romantic suspense set in her home state of Georgia. She’s authored over nine novels (including her contemporary story, Fall Flip, new with Candlelight Romance in September 2019!) and a number of novellas. As a managing editor at Smitten Romance, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, she also helps others reach their publishing dreams. A wife and mother of two daughters, Denise always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses. Connect with Denise her Website Facebook Twitter