Meet Novelist Zenith Santee

Zenith Santee spent many years teaching social studies and writing curricula. Now retired after a long and satisfying career in the classroom, she brings history to life in her short stories and inspirational romances. She earned a Masters in World Area Studies, World History, and American History.

Zenith, a widow, lives on lakeside property in Minnesota, where she enjoys watching the waterfowl that nests on the lake. Her cat, Mitzie, keeps her company, and she welcomes visits from her stepson. She works part-time scoring essays for high school students, which combines her love of teaching and her love of writing.

When she’s not writing, grading papers, or catering to Mitzie’s every wish, Zenith enjoys reading, collecting recipes and trying them out in her kitchen, and browsing in antique shops. She loves to watch TV, walk around inside the Mall of America, and have lunch and travel with friends. Zenith’s greatest joy is reading a thriller by Vince Flynn with Mitzie by her side.

Zenith is participating in one of my 3×5 interviews.

I presented her with nine questions about her writing and asked to answer 3 of them with 3×5 words (15—more or less), 3 with up to 5 bullet points each, and 3 with a maximum of 5 short paragraphs. After that, I asked her three questions with three answers each.

At the end, she’s asked you one question, and you’ll be able to ask any you have for her. All for fun, and fun for all. 🙂


Zenith and Her Writing Journey  

1) What led you to put fingers to keyboard and begin your first story?

A visit to Deadwood, South Dakota, inspired my story. While walking around the area, my heart broke at the site of the Custer massacre. I gasped at the re-enactment of the killing of Wild Bill Hickok, and shivered when picking my way through the tunnels under Chinatown. It was there that I leaned of the famous and mysterious “Yellow Doll” and decided that all of this could be incorporated into an interesting story. And so–my tale began!

2) How long have you been writing, and how many stories have you completed?

I have written two short stories and am working on a historical romance.

• “Jackpot” is about a young school teacher who strikes it “rich” in Las Vegas.

• “An Addition to the Family” about a stray kitten who charms its way into the arms of a family.

• Savage Gold is a historical romance set in Deadwood, Dakota Territory at the height of the gold rush in that turbulent summer of 1876.

3) What kinds of stories do you write?

I write romance novels infused with actual historical events to add richness and substance to the story.

4) What have been the high points of your writing journey so far?

I took fiction writing courses at North Hennepin Community College from Louise Wyly. In 2007 she hosted a writers’ cruise to Alaska and I was one of twenty-two aspiring novelists selected to take that trip. It was in Juneau I learned how to pan for gold—a grueling, difficult task which I have my heroine do in my novel

Also, I belong to a writers’ critique group. There are six of us who meet once a month and critique each other’s current work.

5) What moment stands out as a major turning point on your journey?

When I retired from my teaching career of 41 years, I decided to use some of the history I taught in a novel. I “reinvented” myself you might say.

6) What aspects of writing do you find most challenging? Most rewarding?

I love research. I want to be sure that all of the facts in my story are accurate. For example: if there is a rattle snake in one of my scenes, it better be indigenous to the area. The prairie rattler is common to the Black Hills, but the more “attractive” Diamond Back rattler is not. I had to be very careful not to make a serious error when I wrote that scene.

7) What items do you have within arm’s reach when you’re writing?

• A cup of coffee or tea

• A dictionary

• A bank of pens and paper

• Mitzie, my pet cat.

8) Where do you do most of your writing?

I write at my kitchen table or if the weather is nice, out on my deck overlooking Twin Lake where I live.

9) Who have been the biggest supporters on your writing journey?

• My husband (now deceased)

• The ladies in my critique group

• My friends

3 Fun Questions for Zenith

1) If you were given $1,000, taken to your nearest mall, and told you had to spend all of the money on yourself in only 3 stores, which would they be?

1. Barnes and Noble – for a special book

2. Nordstorms – for a summer outfit

3. Benuchi’s restaurant – for a delicious Italian spaghetti dinner.

2) Of all the places you have been, which are your three favorites?

1. The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

2. Juneau, Alaska (panning gold)

3. Boston, where my friend Susan and I were just three weeks ago. Seeing Paul Revere’s grave and the Boston Tea Party site was awesome!

3) What are 3 of the most adventurous things you’ve ever done?

1. As a young woman I was selected as Miss Minneapolis.

2. My teaching career! It was a joy everyday to come to class and work with my students.

3. Married to a tall, handsome man who was the love of my life. (Passed away in 2002)

Zenith’s Question for You

If you could pick a perfect place for a romantic evening, where would it be?

Learn More About Zenith

Send her an email message at zvsantee (at) msn (dot) com.


About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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6 Responses to Meet Novelist Zenith Santee

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Zenith! It’s great to have you here at Romance Writers on the Journey.

    I’m glad Mitzie is such a great writing buddy. I have two long-haired orange and white fellows who deign to pay me a visit from time to time. They make purr-fect companions.

  2. Jillian Kent says:

    Hi Zenith,
    I love your name. Can you tell us about how your parents picked that name for you? And I guess you and Keli and I are all kitty lovers. My family has 4! So fun to watch their antics. So sorry you lost your life mate. That would be terribly heart-breaking. Did your writing change or help get you through those initial years of loss?

    Let’s see, you asked about romantic evenings. For me it would be dinner by candle light on the deck of a beach house on a calm summer evening. And I’ve never done that yet. 🙂
    Smiles and Blessings,

  3. Great post, Zenith. I like the way you’re inspired to write. I can identify. Good luck!

  4. Stacy says:

    Hi Zenith!

    How fun to hear about what inspires you to write. One of these days I will definitely have to visit Deadwood – I’ve learned so much reading Savage Gold! And I’ve learned a lot about research from how you do it.

    A romantic evening for Mike and me would be tucked in a cozy cabin near Lake Tahoe, a fire in the fireplace and some lovely instrumental music in the background.

    Can’t wait to find out how Savage Gold ends!


  5. Welcome Zenith! Loved reading about your writing journey, and your stories sound appealing. ~ Yes, Mitzie sounds like a PURR-fect companion ( I’m also a cat lady). 🙂 ~ To answer your question, I’d have to say at a restaurant on Jekyll Island (on the Georgia coast). There’s one restaurant in particular that overlooks the ocean, and would be great for a romantic evening! ~ Thank you for sharing with us. 🙂
    Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

  6. Diane says:

    Panning gold is definitely up there on the things I want to do someday list. Awesome!!! :O)

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