Denise Meinstad, a 2008 Golden Heart® inspirational finalist, would love to see the world. Although she hasn’t been able to head for anticipated European destinations, she has seen much of the United States thanks to Romance Writers of America®, having attended the past sixteen RWA® national conferences.
By day Denise works for a government agency where she’s sworn to secrecy, but by night she unlocks her creativity and writes emotionally charged romances.
Denise lives on six wooded acres in Minnesota with her husband and her cat, Mocha. This time of year she loves to sit outside gently swaying in her porch swing as she gazes upon her flower garden and plots her next scene.
I invite you to learn more about this fun, friendly woman who is perseverance personified. Denise began writing romances forty years ago and has been actively pursuing publication for nearly two decades.
Because Denise loves flowers, everyone who leaves a comment for her on August 14th will be entered in the drawing for a box of Fun ‘n Flowers note cards. See photo at the end of the post.
Your first book was a mystery written at age thirteen. What led you to start writing romances later in life? Are there elements of mystery in your stories?
I started writing romances at about sixteen, and I suppose it came about naturally because I loved watching romance on television and listening to rock music like the Beach Boys. I like mystery and romance together because it makes for a more complex plot. It gives you the opportunity to get even closer to the characters because they are emotionally involved as well as wrapped up in their situation. I used to love reading thick books because if I became attached to the characters, I didn’t want to let them go.
You began work on This Time Forever ten years ago and entered the manuscript in several contests where you placed six times. Then two years ago you did some revisions, finaled in the 2008 Golden Heart and got a request from a GH judge. What was it about this particular story that kept you going back to it? Have you heard anything from that judge?
I began working on This Time Forever again as I really loved that story and my writing has greatly improved since I first wrote it. I made some changes in the plot and started submitting it to my critique group—who, by the way, are my toughest critics, but also my greatest supporters.
To date I haven’t heard anything as a result of the judge’s request, but I plan to start submitting to agents, beginning with the two requests I received from agents I met at the RWA conference.
This Time Forever was a finalist in the inspirational category of the Golden Heart. What led you to write for the inspirational market?
I really wanted to write romances that focused more on the emotional relationship than the physical attraction between my characters. Don’t get me wrong. There is lots of sexual tension between my hero and heroine. There just aren’t any graphic descriptions. I could never write a romance where the hero and heroine fall in love without any sexual attraction. The challenge lies in getting it right without getting graphic—making the hero so irresistible that you skim the pages to find the good part where he (finally!) kisses her.
Faith has always played a part in my life, and when the inspirational market began to take off I knew that was where I belonged. My characters are (flawed, but) good people who have bad things happen to them. Their faith and determination not to fail keeps them going until they triumph.
You’ve been a member of RWA and two local chapters for many years. What role have your chapter mates played in your successes to date?
I’ve been a member of RWA and Midwest Fiction Writers since October 1990. I belong to Midwest Fiction Writers and Northern Lights Writers. I attend the Northern Lights meetings as they are held at the local library, only fifteen minutes from my house. Our chapter is tiny (twelve members,) but we love the intimacy of a small group, and we are all very supportive of each other.
The night of the Golden Heart awards ceremony, my Northern Lights chapter mates got together for a party to cheer me on and watch the results of the winners on the Internet. I couldn’t ask for a better group! However, I still have a lot of very good friends at MFW and look forward to attending their Fall Harvest Workshop (featuring Donald Maas) in Minneapolis on September 27th. I also belong to Faith, Hope and Love and The Golden Network where I have met some really great people as well.
My writing partners, both members of Northern Lights, are Lori Ness (w/a Christine Arness) and LuAnn Nies. Lori and I have been critiquing together since 1994, and Lu joined us a couple years ago. They both have different writing strengths and give me good advice when I get off track. They are a dynamite team! Lori has published two books, and LuAnn has published one. I value their advice.
Wow! You’ve had a critique partner for fourteen years. It’s clear your relationship works well. What advice would you offer those seeking a CP?
You have to trust and respect your critique partners, so I would advise anyone looking to form a critique group to look for people with whom they can develop a close relationship. I’ve been in other groups, but they didn’t last for one reason or another (lack of interest, clashing personalities, too much EGO).
I just attended my first Nationals, but you’ve been sixteen times. Amazing! Is there one conference that stands out? Did being a GH finalist this year make a difference?
Two conferences stand out—my first one in Chicago in 1992 and the one in Hawaii. My first conference was a book in itself (a comedy!) My husband and teenage daughter threw a fit when I said I wanted to go to Chicago for a weekend with my writing friends. Then I threw a fit because writing is important to me, and I never get to go anywhere by myself. You know the drill! They started to feel guilty and said I should go, so then I started to feel guilty and insisted they come with. Oh, no. They couldn’t possibly do that! It took them about one minute to reconsider, and from there the trip became a type of Griswold Family Adventure.
The Hawaii trip started out almost the same way. Steve said he had no interest in Hawaii and didn’t want to go. Hey—I was going if I had to hitchhike on a dolphin! When he realized I’d really go without him, he took about fifteen minutes to think it over. He planned the trip. We spent two weeks there on the cheap. (Yes, it is possible.) Steve is now a travel agent and talks about going back all the time.
This year I spent less time at the conference than usual as I had so many fun functions to attend, (but I did buy the CD so I could still listen to the workshops.) However, the RWA national conference is the best weekend of the year! You meet up with friends from all over the country who want to talk about nothing but writing. It’s a really great time. I usually go through my conference schedule and workshop booklet ahead of time so I have the conference pretty well planned out before I get there. I used to come home with a suitcase full of books, but I have an entire room full of books that I haven’t yet read, so for the last couple years I’ve restrained myself (somewhat 🙂 .)
By day you work for the Department of Homeland Security. By night you write. Does working for that agency generate ideas that weave themselves into your stories? What are other sources of inspiration?
The DHS is an exciting place to work, but most of what I deal with is SSI (Sensitive Security Information,) so it stays at work when I leave. I am a contractor, and my contract ends on September 30. For the first time in my life I will find myself unemployed. For some reason, it is almost as exciting as being a GH finalist. I’m taking the entire month of October to SLEEP, clean my house and start a new book. I can’t wait!!
I find that just about anything can inspire me—music, movies, magazines and newspaper articles, commercials. Mostly my stories come about through a kernel of an idea that starts to grow in my mind and soon becomes a complex novel.
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
I read, go to movies, travel and garden. I’d love to see the entire world, but for now I’d settle for Italy or the British Isles. In the summer, I love being outside in my porch swing in full view of my flower garden. I love driving trips across the Rocky Mountains and anywhere in California.
You’ve been writing for many years. How do you deal with the hills and valleys of a writer’s life?
First, I get some sleep. When I get discouraged, it’s usually because I’m tired and my life is crazy. I keep trying to slow my life down, but it is a daily battle. But then I’m preaching to the choir! Writers seem to be the busiest people I know. If I get stuck or feel down about a rejection, my critique group is the best place to find a little sympathy and a lot of support. They know what I’m going through.
In closing, what advice would you offer others on the road to publication?
Writers need other writers, whether they meet online, at a conference or in a group setting. Your best advice and encouragement comes from others in your field.
Leave a Comment for Denise
Denise will drop by throughout the day to chat, so take advantage of the opportunity to leave a question or comment for her.
On Word Press blogs, the comment link is at the top of the post by the title.
Everyone leaving a comment for Denise will be entered in a drawing. Each of the two winners will receive a set of sixteen Fun ‘n Flowers note cards.
If you don’t wish to participate, say so in your comment, and your request will be honored.
Congratulations to the winner of the first drawing, Renee Ryan.