Hi, Denise! I’m so glad to have you with us today because you embarked on something I’m not only eager to learn more about, but also because you’ve jumped off the ledge of the new world of publishing. You chose to self publish your book, and I admire that very much. Now, after it’s been out for a few weeks, you’ve received some phenomenal remarks and reviews. Which really speaks to the fact that publishing is changing and the Independent Author is completely capable of standing alongside the “old school” minds of traditional print.

With all that said, let’s tell everyone about your awesome book, Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes.

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For Rose Gardner, working at the DMV on a Friday afternoon is bad even before she sees a vision of herself dead. She’s had plenty of visions, usually boring ones like someone’s toilet’s overflowed, but she’s never seen one of herself before. When her overbearing momma winds up murdered on her sofa instead, two things are certain: There isn't enough hydrogen peroxide in the state of Arkansas to get that stain out, and Rose is the prime suspect.

Rose realizes she’s wasted twenty-four years of living and makes a list on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt: twenty-eight things she wants to accomplish before her vision comes true. She’s well on her way with the help of her next door neighbor Joe, who has no trouble teaching Rose the rules of drinking, but won’t help with number fifteen-- do more with a man. Joe’s new to town, but it doesn’t take a vision for Rose to realize he’s got plenty secrets of his own.

Somebody thinks Rose has something they want and they’ll do anything to get it. Her house is broken into, someone else she knows is murdered, and suddenly, dying a virgin in the Fenton County jail isn’t her biggest worry after all.

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Mmm. Sounds awesome! Now it's time for some fun stuff about you!

Briefly take us on the journey with you – when did you start writing, did you start in the genre you’re published in now, what hurdles did you have to overcome, etc.

DGS: I've been writing since I started my first novel in fourth grade, a still unfinished novel currently at 70 wide ruled spiral notebook pages. I wrote in high school, took a creative writing class in college, tried to write a few novels in my twenties but never even made it to 20K.

I didn't start seriously writing until I started my blog There's Always Room for One More . I learned the art of plotting, and pacing, and writing a story so the readers felt like they were there. Two years later, I heard about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I decided if I was going to do this it was now or never. I started--and completed-- NaNoWriMo 2009. On November 30, I had 69K and I finished So Much to Lose on December 10 at 95K. That book will never see the light of day but that's okay. I learned so much from that novel. Since then, I've completed four more books, and I'm half-way through the first draft of another. I've threatened to haunt my children if they ever published that first book after I die.

Laugh! I have a couple like that too. And I'd definitely haunt my sons if they did something like that.

You write in the mystery genre. Is that your favorite genre to read? Do you write in any other genres, or under any other pen names you’d like to share?

DGS: I read everything, with the exception of non-fiction--if I can help it. I read Kill bin Laden by Dalton Fury to help me understand a character in my paranormal series, and I skimmed The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, a physics book on alternate universe theories for my YA, but those are exceptions. I love Dean Koontz and early Stephen King. I love paranormal romances. I read a lot of YA. I love Sarah Addison Allens' magical realism. I love a light hearted mystery with a romance like Jamet Evanovich or Jennifer Crusie. I also love middle grade adventures like Percy Jackson.

So far I've written this mystery, two books in my paranormal thriller series, a young adult science fiction (alternate universe), and I'm in the middle of a middle grade urban fantasy. The common threads in all are: a mystery with varying degrees of thriller type moments and some sort of fantastical element. I write them all under Denise Grover Swank, although whenever I publish my middle grade, I will probably do so under a pen name.

Of the books you have written, do you have a favorite? If so, which one and why?

DGS: It's weird. I kind of think of my books like children. It's hard to pick a favorite but each has aspects I love more than the others. What I love about Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes is the main character Rose and her enthusiasm to live her life once she realizes she's been "frittering" it away. She's a fun, sweet character whose innocence is refreshing.

Let's talk a little more in detail about Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. Tell us about your plot development? How did the idea spur, did you have to do much research, any interesting tidbits that we should know?

DGS: I had finished Chosen and was in the process of querying it and had received a devastating rejection. The agent said she loved it but didn't think she could sell it. I was in the middle of writing Hunted and stopped, deciding I needed to write something different. That was on a Saturday. A few days before I had mentioned to my son that it would be fun to have a character who worked in a DMV.

So I took that idea and played with it on Sunday, coming up with a short blurb. I started the book on Monday and finished 30 days later with an ending word count of 103K.(It's since been revised and edited down to 93K) The book wrote itself. It was pure magic. From the beginning, I knew Rose had visions. I knew the book started with her having a vision of herself dead and her mother getting murdered instead. A few days in I came up with her Wish List, the twenty-eight things she wants to do before she's murdered or arrested. I knew from the beginning that Joe, her next door neighbor, would be full of secrets. A lot of the story and plot came to me as I wrote. Toward the middle I started doing research to help me fill out the back end of the story.

It's so nice when books write themselves. I think those books have an especially magical way about them. What about your hero, Joe -- what’s one thing about your hero that we wouldn’t necessarily learn in the book? A secret dream, an embarrassing habit, an episode from childhood.

DGS: That Joe's family is old southern oil money and he hated growing up in that environment. (This isn't in the book at all.) We'll explore more of his past and how he tried to break free from it in future books.

All heroes are unforgettable in one way or another. What’s one thing about your hero that makes your heart go pitter-pat?

DGS: I love that Joe is a strong man who can be light-hearted with a good sense of humor. After writing Will, the hero in Chosen who is a very strong alpha male, it was nice to write a more laid back character. And while I LOVE Will, I think Joe would be a better fit for me, personally, as a partner.

If your hero doesn’t have a pet in your novel, what kind of pet would best suit his personality?

DGS: Joe doesn't have a pet, but I can totally see him with a Labrador or Golden Retriever.

Golden Retrievers -- another reason for everyone to love Joe. A man with a Golden is a wonderful thing.

But no hero is the same without a heroine. Tell us a little about Rose. a. Everybody has flaws. Sometimes they are endearing, other times they are annoying. What is your heroine’s greatest fault?

DGS: Rose's biggest flaw is she worries about what everyone else thinks about her and she begins the book with no confidence in herself. At the same time, she doesn't wallow in it. She just accepted it for what it was until she decides to change it.

Without giving away details that might spoil the story for those who have not read it, could you tell us the one strength your heroine provides to your hero?

DGS: Joe is fascinated by Rose and her lack of life experiences and her zest in trying to check off her wishes. Joe was fairly jaded and Rose helps Joe see the good in people again.

If your heroine was your daughter – what advice would you give her upon meeting your hero?

DGS: Wow. This is hard. ;) I think I'd tell Rose to trust her heart.

Sound advice. And particularly brave advice for a mom too!

If we peek in on your hero and heroine’s lives ten years from now, can you give us a glimpse of what we’d see?

DGS: Married with three kids and two dogs-- Rose has a dog Muffy in Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes and Joe would get his big dog. To Joe's surprise, I think they'd be living in Henryetta, Arkansas down the street from Violet, Rose's sister. And of course, they'd be deliriously happy.

Of course -- they can't end up any other way, right? Seriously, it sounds like they compliment each other very well, and the opposing experiences with life make for some wonderful encounters together.

Let's go back to you, as an author, for a bit, since we do have writers as well as readers here.
Many writers describe themselves as "character" or "plot" writers. Which are you?

DGS: I'm plot driven but the characters drive the plot. How's that for a jumbled answer? LOL First and foremost, the characters have to shine through. But they don't lay around either. The story has to keep moving. The readers of my books tell me they love the story, but it's the characters that stick with them after they finish the book.

You write in multiple genres --do you find it challenging to shift? Or is it a natural process?

DGS: Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes is lighter and humorous (although it has its darker moments) while Chosen and Hunted, are very dark and heavy. Will and Emma in Chosen have devastating back stories and their characters are much more flawed and hardened. I love that I can write dark books like Chosen and then write a lighter one like Twenty-Eight. I love the balance it gives my soul. I can't imagine only writing one or the other.

What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?

DGS: If you love to write-- WRITE. When I faced rejection after rejection, I had to ask myself: If I never sold a book could I be content with that? Would I write anyway? The answer was yes. The stories are in my head and I love the challenge of taking those thoughts and putting them on paper. Is it easy? Not at all. By the time I've got a book ready to be read by the public, I've been through that puppy at least twenty times. Or more. Sometimes MUCH more. But I love the story. I love the characters. I want them to live.

Craft can be learned. Your love of writing is born in you. That's the most important thing.

I agree 100%! Craft is learnable, everything else is in the author's blood.

Of the books you have written, do you have a favorite? If so, which one and why?

DGS: It's weird. I kind of think of my books like children. It's hard to pick a favorite but each has aspects I love more than the others. What I love about Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes is the main character Rose and her enthusiasm to live her life once she realizes she's been "frittering" it away. She's a fun, sweet character whose innocence is refreshing.

Okay with all that awesomeness about Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes, and for everyone whose dying to read more of you, please tell us about anything coming down the pipe next!

DGS: Chosen, the first book in my paranormal series will released on September 20, and Hunted, the second book in the series,in November.

Did you hear that everyone? September 20 -- mark your calendars!! Don't miss Chosen. I've had the privelige of hearing about Chosen before it was finished and it is one great story!

Thanks for being here today, Denise. Before we leave everyone with an excerpt from the book, where can we find you?

DGS: http://www.denisegroverswank.com/
Twitter: @DeniseMSwank
Facebook: Denise Grover Swank
Formspring: Denise Grover Swank

Is there anything else you'd like us to know?

DGS: Check out the book trailer for Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes! You can view it here:

And last but not least, if you haven't read Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes, run right over here and BUY IT TODAY!

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There was another knock. My front door had seen more action in one evening than it had in the last two months. I took another deep breath and opened it, half expecting to see Joe again. Instead, I saw the Pillsbury Doughboy, or as close to what I’d ever see in real life. He was missing the chef’s hat and the kerchief, but his face was a pasty white and chubby, with big wide eyes like the Doughboy. His button-down shirt barely contained his wide, round gut, and the buttons threatened to pop. I resisted the urge to poke his belly with my finger to hear him giggle.

“Rose?” he asked, his voice shaking from fear. At least I think it was fear, from the look of pure terror on his face.

Nope, no giggling.

“Steve?” I asked, but I already knew it was him from the tie he wore and the Walmart flowers he held in his hand. Either that or he was a really generous Jehovah’s Witness. “It’s very nice to meet you.” I said, trying to sound cheerful.

He stood in silence, staring at me with his big round eyes.

“Do you want to come in?” I raised my eyebrows in a happy, questioning look.

He remained rooted to the porch. It occurred to me perhaps Joe or Mildred had applied Super Glue on the wood slats.

“I’ll just grab my purse.” I said and he thrust the flowers toward me. “Oh, are those for me? Why, thank you!” I took the flowers, leaving the door open and Steve on the porch.

“Here!” I shoved the flowers at Violet in the kitchen. “Take care of these.”

Violet’s face lit up like a kid getting cotton candy at the carnival. “He brought you flowers?”

I glared at her.

“Who brought y’all flowers? The devil next door?”

“No, Miss Mildred.” Violet said, patting Mildred’s arm. “It’s Rose’s date.”

“Date?” Mildred crowed. “After she carried on with that Yankee?”

“Don’t worry, Miss Mildred. Steve’s a good boy, good Henryetta stock. He’s Stan Morris’ grandson.”

I already regretted agreeing to this date and I hadn’t even left yet. I grabbed my purse and headed out the front door before Mildred and Violet decided to start checking Steve’s teeth. He stood exactly where I left him, wearing the same terrified expression, except he leaned to the side. I worried he would fall over trying to see something in the living room.

“Looking for something?” I asked, glancing over my shoulder.

If possible, his eyes got even bigger as he violently shook his head.

I shut the door as I realized what he was looking for—evidence of Momma’s murder. We started walking across the porch to the steps and I caught the glance he shot my direction, a look of fear. He thinks I killed Momma. There was no way I could go out with him. What I couldn't figure out is why he agreed to go out with me in the first place.

I stood next to the passenger door of Steve’s car. “Steve, I…” My words stopped on my tongue. Joe sat on his front porch, drinking a beer and watching my every move with a suspicious glint in his eye.

Crappy doodles.

Steve waited for me to finish.

I smiled up at him with my sweetest smile, which I hoped would convince him I was incapable of murdering anyone, least of all my own Momma. “I just wanted to tell you how delighted I am that you’re takin’ me out to dinner.” I said loud enough for Joe to hear. To finish it off, I raised up on my toes and kissed Steve on his pasty cheek, surprised it didn’t taste like biscuit dough. I hoped Joe didn't see Steve cringe at the contact.

I sat in the front seat, waiting for Steve to get in, smiling my fake happy smile. I was almost surprised to see him get in, half expecting him to run screaming down the street. I had to admit he had a nice car, one he probably didn't want to leave behind with a murderer. If I could murder my own Momma, I bet he could only imagine what I would do to his poor Buick.

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You've just read an excerpt from Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes, by Denise Grover Swank. If you'd like to read more, it's available in print and digital through Amazon, and other distributors. Please visit Denise's website for more details.



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