Friday, June 29, 2012


Welcome, Keli. I'm thrilled to feature you with your debut novel, which I loved. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
I like to think my characters are much better people than I am, but my heroines do seem to end up with a few traits they got from me. Elenora, the heroine of A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado California, is a lousy cook. I don’t like to cook, although I’m not quite as bad at it as Ellie.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I create voices for our cats. Sometimes our only child felt the need to talk to someone other than her dad or me when she was young, so her cat brother became her confidant. Now, I know I’m not the only one to voice a pet, but I took my feline vocalization to extremes when we were on a vacation in Europe. Our daughter, eight at the time, was feeling particularly homesick one day and missing our furry fellow something fierce. She wanted desperately wanted to talk to Snuggles, so I invented the tailular phone. Yes, a phone that uses a cat’s tail as an antenna. If our daughter wanted to communicate with Snuggs, she could. All he had to do was raise his tail, and voilĂ . The connection was made. What we mothers will do for our children. :-)

When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I dreamed of being a writer since I was seven. My earliest efforts were letters to my grandparents. As I got older, I added friends to my list of correspondents. It wasn’t long before they started saying I should be a writer. I didn’t tell them my dream, but I did treasure their words of encouragement. Some of the very people who encouraged me are now sharing in my excitement, as my first book is about to hit the shelves.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I read some contemporary romance and a rare women’s fiction work, but inspirational historical romance has long been my favorite genre. There are many talented historical authors out there, such as you, Lena.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Great question. Getting out of the house each day for my Curves workout or a walk helps me clear my head and gives me a much-needed break and a relief from stress. I return home ready to get back to the tasks at hand.

How do you choose your characters’ names?
Finding a photo, one of the small carte de visite with the image mounted on cardboard, is my first step. Once I have that, I study the person in the picture until a character begins to take shape in my mind. Often the name is one of the first aspects I choose. I check to make sure it’s period appropriate. If it is, I let the name sit for a few days and see if it matches the character I’ve envisioned. Most of the time the name sticks, but I have changed a few as I got into a story.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

After raising our daughter, getting a book published with a traditional publisher would be next on the list. I’m also proud of putting myself through college. It took me eleven years to get my bachelor’s degree, but I did it.

I also worked my way through college, but it took me only five years. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
My dad used to say I was like a banty hen because I’m small and I go after what I want no matter how big the obstacles in my path appear to be. This particular trait served me well as I pursued publication. :-)

What is your favorite food?
I’m a Taco Bell addict, but I enjoy Mexican food and Tex-Mex, too.

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Poor plotting was my biggest problem. I overcame it by admitting that my pantser method wasn’t working for me. These days, I don’t start a story until I have an outline with the major turning points, black moment, conclusion, character arcs, and faith elements figured out. Knowing what’s going to happen when helps me keep the story moving in the right direction and avoid the dreaded sagging middle.

Tell us about the featured book.
Love Is Gold in El Dorado, California
Widow Elenora Watkins heads to California with her nine-year-old daughter, Tildy, eager to become a partner in a mercantile. When the mulish owner withdraws his offer because she’s a woman, she opens her own shop. She’s determined to prove herself capable of running a successful business without the help of anyone—including her controlling father, her seemingly distant heavenly Father, and one Miles Rutledge.

Widower Miles Rutledge is not about to get involved with another willful woman like his late wife, especially when she’s his competition. But the beautiful Elenora may be too hard to resist. When another man appears out to claim Elenora’s heart, Miles searches for a way to win her back. . .while putting her out of business.

Meanwhile, Maude Rutledge, Miles’s meddling mother, longs to see her son make a good match. And Tildy is just as bent on gaining a loving papa.

The battle of wills begins, but can anyone win when the competition is more than they bargained for?

Please give us the first page of the book.

April 1870
The Sierra Foothills of California
The stagecoach lurched to a stop, throwing Elenora and Matilda Watkins against a damask-covered sidewall.

Elenora clutched her nine-year-old daughter to her side. “Are you all right, Tildy?”

“Oh Mama. You don’t have to be so skittery.” Tildy shrugged out of the protective embrace, scooted across the bench seat, and shoved the leather window shade aside. “I want to see what’s going on.” She peeked out, whirled around with wide eyes and an enormous grin, and let the dust shield fall with a thwap. “It’s an outlaw, and he’s pointing a gun at the driver.”

Where did her daughter get those wild notions of hers? Elenora shot Tildy a reassuring smile and leaned over the center jump seat to have a look. “Lord, help us.”

A shudder ripped through her. The horrid man atop the big black horse was, in fact, aiming a gun at the coachman, but he was aiming a look of sheer evil at her. One of his eyes bored into her while the other seemed to roam. His sneer made her skin crawl.

How could this be happening? They’d ridden all the way from Omaha on that snorting beast of a train and made the line changes in Ogden and Sacramento City without incident. Why did something have to go wrong on the final five miles between Shingle Springs and
El Dorado?

The outlaw’s deep voice boomed. “Hand it over.”

How can readers find you on the Internet?
I invite readers to visit me at my cyber home,, with its parlor, library, study, carriage house, and more. My blog and social media links are there as well.

Thanks for having me as a guest on your great site, Lena. What fun to spend time with you and your visitors. I have a question for y’all. (My mom was raised in Texas, so I figure I can use that word even though I’m a California gal. :-)) Have any of your pets ever talked?

Thank you, Keli, for visiting my blog, but also for allowing me to read the book for endorsement. As you know, I loved it.

Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.
A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California - paperback
A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California - Kindle

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Feedblitz, Facebook, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link.


Amy Campbell said...

Hi Keli! As you probably know now I'm excited about reading your new book!
Amy Campbell
southwest VA

Sylvia said...

I'm from NC and look forward to reading this book. I've heard alot of good things about Keli through some of my favorite authors and would love to see how she writes!


scottsgal said...

this sounds like a great book. I'm a huge Mexican food lover too!
cheryl in IL
msboatgal at

Keli Gwyn said...


Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog. What a honor! And I can't thank you enough for your wonderful endorsement and all your support. I'm beyond grateful.

Keli Gwyn said...


Thanks for stopping by and for sharing in my excitement. I hope you enjoy Miles and Elenora's story.

Keli Gwyn said...


I've never been to North Carolina, but my critique partner and her family vacation in the Outer Banks every summer and love it. What's your favorite part of the state?

Thanks for your kind words. I had such fun writing A Bride Opens Shop and hope readers enjoy the story as well.

Keli Gwyn said...


My beloved mother-in-law was raised in Illinois. I've actually been there once--if you count walking through an airport. It was a memorable visit, though, Our daughter was born in Germany, and we first brought her to the U.S. when she six months old. When we got off the plane in Chicago, I stood her one the ground so I could say she'd set foot on U.S. soil. And that took place in your state!

Isn't Mexican food yummy? I'm a fan of tostadas and burritos, with an occasional enchilada thrown in. What are your favorite Mexican dishes?

Diana Gardner said...

Looks great. Please enter me in the drawing. Portsmouth, VA

karenk said...

thanks for the chance to read this wonderful story :)

karenk...from PA
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Ladette Kerr said...

Sounds great!! I would love to win this book. Another Mexican food lover here!! :)

Ladette in GA


Rita Garcia said...

Love the idea of finding pictures for your characters. A great way to make them come alive as you write. Fantastic interview and I looooved reading the first page--can't wait to read the rest!

flchen1 said...

Congrats on this debut, Keli--may it be the first of many releases!

f dot chen at comcast dot net
northern CA

Pam K. said...

I loved the first page; I think Tildy will add a lot of fun to the book. Thanks for giving away a copy of A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California. I am a bit confused about the title though, since Elenora is a widow when she opens the shop. I'm assuming she'll be a bride at the end of the story but perhaps I'm missing something? It sounds like a great story though.


Keli Gwyn said...


I see that you live in Virginia. I've never been there but would love to visit. I'd bounce from one historical site to the next. Do you live near any of them?

Keli Gwyn said...


Pennsylvania is another state I'd love to visit. I'd start in Philadelphia and go from there. What other sites would you recommend?

Keli Gwyn said...


I was in Georgia once for a brief layover in Atlanta. Unfortunately I'd flown a red-eye from California, so it was still dark when we landed. I didn't get to see any of your lovely state, but I'd like to. And I'd have to try one of your peaches. I've heard they're even better than ours out here in the Golden State. ;-)

Keli Gwyn said...

F. Chen,

What fun to see one of my Northern California friends here. Thanks for all you're doing to support me as my book releases. I really appreciate it.

Keli Gwyn said...


Thanks for the kind words. Lena asked some great questions. I had such fun answering them.

I'm glad you enjoyed the sneak peek at the story.

Keli Gwyn said...


I'm glad you enjoyed the teaser and am thrilled you like Tildy. She was such fun to write. If she read your comment, she'd tell you that you made her so happy she just might pop. :-)

Most titles are chosen by the publisher, which was the case with A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California. The book is part of Barbour Publishing's new Destination Romances line. There are historical Bride books and contemporary Wedding books. Each month a new title comes out. In the odd months of 2012, it's a historical romance, and in the even months it's a contemporary romance. Each title in the line has a similar formula: A Bride/Wedding [insert something specific to the story] in [insert location.] For example, the Bride book that came out in May, written by my friend Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, is called, A Bride's Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee.

Most romances are about a couple meeting, feeling attraction, encountering obstacles that keep them apart while their attraction deepens to love, and overcoming those obstacles so they can end up with their "happily ever after." While some stories begin with a bride, as is the case in mail-order bride or marriage of convenience stories, many romances feature two people who meet in the beginning of the story and end up together by the end.

In the case of my story, Miles is a widower and Elenora a widow at the beginning of the story. Without spoiling things for you, I'll just say that Elenora gets a happy ending, one that involves a certain mulish mercantile owner who initially rejected her as his partner in the business. ;-)

I hope this helps to explain why my book has the title it does.

Wendy Newcomb said...

I would love to win this book it sounds like it will be great.

Wendy from FL.


Keli Gwyn said...


I was in Florida once. In 2010 I spent a few days at the Dolphin and Swan at Disney World where I attended the Romance Writers of America conference.

I'd heard about the humidity. Being from dry California, it was quite different, but I found that it was very good for my skin.

The thing I didn't realize was how flat it is there. Since I live in the foothills of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains, that was a real change for me. I had no clue which way was north, south, east, or west and had to ask someone. =)

Carol J. Garvin said...

Another interesting interview. Thanks to both of you for this peek behind the scenes. I'm sure looking forward to the book's release.

I use photos for my characters, too. In fact, I make up collages -- like movie photo boards -- for each of my novels. They include pictures of settings, articles of significance, people, etc. I keep the boards in the binder allotted to the novel so they're always handy when I'm working on that story.

Keli Gwyn said...


Your collages sound great. I saw a local writer friend's once and thought what a great idea that was. It would be a wonderful tool for a visual person.

marybelle said...

I enjoyed the first page for "A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California" thank you. I'm looking forward to reading more.

Mary P


Joanna Richmond said...

sounds interesting. would love to read it. enter me
Joanna Richmond
Blanch NC

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

Carol and Keli, Janet Lee Barton makes story boards like that. When she taught about it to our writing group, I wished I could somehow do that on the computer.

Then Pinterest arrived online. I love it. I use it to make story boards for my books. And I can get to it with one click of my mouse.

Merry said...

I loved the story of your cat and the amazing tail, you are a creative mom!
I'm excited about your new book, I love all kinds of brides. :)
Merry in TX

Marianne said...

This sounds great. i love Mexican food, but you just can't get it here like you can in Arizona! Taco Time is a good substitute, though! i would love to win A Bride Opens Shop. Thanks for the chance to win! The interview was great, Lena and Keli

Marianne from Northern Alberta

mitzi underscore wanham at yahoo dot com

apple blossom said...

sound like a good book thanks for chance to win
live in ND
ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Keli Gwyn said...


We have friends who live in Queensland. It would be great if we could visit them someday. I'd love to see some of your beautiful country.

Keli Gwyn said...


Yay! Another visitor from North Carolina. Sylvia stopped by yesterday. As I told her, my critique partner will be there on vacation later this summer. Wish I could join her and see your lovely state for myself.

Keli Gwyn said...


I know many who love Pinterest. I've yet to explore that site. Sounds like it could come in handy for storing story-related items.

Keli Gwyn said...


I'm glad you enjoy my cat tail, er, tale. =)

My mom was raised in Midland, Texas. When I met my husband and learned that his father was raised there as well, I couldn't believe it. They didn't know each other, but I still think it's cool that our families have that connection and both ended up in California.

Keli Gwyn said...


I'm glad you enjoyed the sneak peek and the interview. Lena asked some great questions, didn't she?

I hear you about being in a place where Mexican food is hard to come by. My husband and I lived in Germany four and a half years early in our marriage, and Mexican restaurants were a rarity. The one I did find didn't fix food anything like what I was used to in California, where every town of any size has at least one Mexican food restaurant. If it hadn't been for the Army's commissary where I could get the ingredients to make my own, I'd have suffered serious withdrawal. =)

Keli Gwyn said...

Apple Blossom,

I wish you well in the drawing. Here's a hint. If you don't win here, you have other chances. If you visit my website and go the The Press Room, you'll find a list of the other places my book is being given away.

Kristie said...

I love romances! I also love strong independent heroines and this book definitely seems to fit the bill. I could not imagine being a single mom in that time period especially. What courage! I love the voices for the cat. I had to make a voice to a fake caterpillar at camp one year. My throat really hurt after that. Take care! I'm from Ohio. kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you.

Jillian Kent said...

I'm so excited for you! And I love the voices for your cats. How fun! Next time I see you I want to hear them. :) That should draw a crowd.
Jill in Ohio

Sharon Richmond said...

Enter me!!
Sharon Richmond
Blanch, NC.

Nancee said...

Wonderful interview, Lena! Keli, I have to tell you that I love that you make kitty voices! I'm a cat person myself, and I talk to them just like I do my children. We've done the cat voices on occasion also, but not to the extent that you have. So cute!
Nancee in Michigan

Patty said...

Sounds like quite an adventure Elenora Takes! I would love to continue reading her and Tildys story...

Patty in SC

EJ said...

Congratulations Keli on your debut novel - looking forward to reading it & more to come! Born & raised in AZ, then transplanted to Iowa 5 yrs. ago. Married into a large Mexican family & I so miss my mother-in-laws Mexican cooking (she is still in AZ). Not to many good Mexican restaurants in IA!

- Elaine

Judy Cooper said...

Just the kind of novel I like. Best Wishes Keli for a long, successful career. Please include me in the drawing. Judy C. in Louisiana.

Cindy W. said...

Oh my, I love debut novels and would love to win a copy of Keli's debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California. Thank you for the chance!

I live in Indiana.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.


Cindy W. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ingrid Stukey said...

Thank you for the great Interview, so nice to meet you Keli, your Book sounds good and can't wait to read it.
Please add me to your Contest.

I live in S. Illinois


Riki's Grandma said...

This sounds like a wonderful book Keli.I know what a Banty Hen is :) my grandmother used to raise them,,,,and I love TACO BELL too....would love to win this book....thanks , Riki's Grandma/OH

Keli Gwyn said...


The heroine of my story is definitely a strong, independent woman. Being a single mother is a challenge, one she wrestles with at times. She's a loving mother who will do whatever it takes to provide for her nine-year-old daughter, Tildy. You should see Elenora when a certain gentleman fluffs her feathers during a talk about her parenting skills. =)

Keli Gwyn said...


It's a good thing we only have two cats because I only have two voices. The larger, mellow one of the brothers got my low voice, and he's OK with that. The smaller, feisty brother got a somewhat squeaky, rather feminine voice that has--for some unknown reason--a bit of a Bostonian accent to it. The poor guys detests it and says it makes him sound girly. He's right, but I'm afraid he's stuck with it.

A few very close friends have heard our cats "talk," but it's rare that anyone outside our family hears them "speak."

Keli Gwyn said...

Thanks for entering the drawing, Sharon.

Keli Gwyn said...


Nice to hear from another cat person who understands that sometimes a cat just has to "talk." =)

Keli Gwyn said...


Elenora and Tildy do embark on quite an adventure when they leave Omaha, Nebraska for California. Elenora's not fond of adventure, but Tildy thrives on it. =)

Keli Gwyn said...


How wonderful to have a mother-in-law who fixes real Mexican food. I can see why you miss it. I'm sure you look forward to it when you visit her.

Keli Gwyn said...

Thanks for the good wishes, Judy. I have oodles more story ideas in various stages. =)

Keli Gwyn said...


I got to visit Indianapolis a couple of years ago when the American Christian Fiction Writers conference was held there. I took an extra day to walk around the city and visit the Speedway. What a lovely state Indiana is.

Keli Gwyn said...


My beloved mother-in-law spent her childhood in Illinois. One thing that always came out in her tales was the snow. I gather you get plenty of it.

Keli Gwyn said...

Riki's Grandma,

Yes! Another Taco Bell fan. I've been hooked on their food since I was a teen. Considering we still had rotary telephones and party lines at that time, you know it's been a while. =)

Sarah said...

Looks interesting!
Enter me!
God Bless!

Angela C. said...

Would love to win this book, it sounds great. Thanks, Angela C.OHio

Keli Gwyn said...


Wow! Looks like a lot of people in NC enjoy reading inspirational historical romance. That's great.

Keli Gwyn said...


I've never been to Ohio and don't know much about it. How would you describe it? And are you one of the states dealing with the heat wave?

rubynreba said...

Thanks for the chance to win this book. Enjoyed the first page. I'm sure the rest is just as good!
Beth from Iowa

pol said...

Hi Lena thanks for the info on Keli's book "A Bride opens hop in El Dorado, Ca" I like the sound of this story and would love to read so am rendering my wish to be in your drawing hoping to win.
thanks for sharing
Paula O(
A Ga fan

Abigail Richmond said...

This book looks so interesting! Please enter me. Thanks!
Blanch, N.C.

Keli Gwyn said...


I'm glad you enjoyed the sneak peek. I hope you enjoy the rest of the story as well.

Keli Gwyn said...


Thanks for stopping by, reading the post, and taking time to leave a comment. I wish you well in the drawing.

Keli Gwyn said...


Wow! Another from North Carolina. Your state must be filled with avid readers. That's cool.

Jillian Kent said...

"A few very close friends have heard our cats "talk," but it's rare that anyone outside our family hears them "speak."" Love it! We have 4 kitties and now I'm going around and testing voices on all of them. It's really quite fun! :) Best of blessings on your first novel.

donnasquaw said...

Your books sounds really great! Can't wait to read it. I love Mexican food, my favorite is tacos. I can eat them everyday of the week. This is my first time here, but you got me hooked. Keep up the good work. Donna from Coal Valley, Illinois.

Liz R said...

I've been hearing good things about this book. Can't wait to get my hands on a copy!

Liz R in AL

Keli Gwyn said...


Have fun choosing the voices for your cats. I hope they like the ones you come up with. Our boys know when I'm using my cat voices. Each of them looks up when I use his.

Keli Gwyn said...


Your comment makes me crave tacos. :-)

What fun that this is your first time to visit Lena's blog. Now that you've seen what a great place it is, I'm sure you'll be back.

Keli Gwyn said...


Thanks for the kind words. I hope readers enjoy the story.