Monday, April 15, 2013

Meet Denise Hildreth-Jones, author of Southern Fiction

Hello, Denise, Looks like you have been a busy lady since you invented Savannah in 2004. With both non-fiction books and novels to your credit, readers can enjoy your “down home Southern” writing as well as your spiritual wisdom with life events.

Q: I first met you when I read Flies on the Butter. Of course, I devoured it, being unable to put it down. Then when I read The First Gardener recently on my Kindle, I had an even harder time putting it down. Though it was a book describing deep grief, it held hope and promise, and a good foundation of faith in God. I’d like to ask you about some of your characters in Gardener.

A: First Juanita, thank you so much for the opportunity to talk with you. I’m delighted to answer some questions for you about this book that was a sweet gift to my own heart.

Q: Jeremiah, the old gardener who had been at the governor’s mansion for twenty-five years, was surely someone you had known. I loved his down-home wisdom and thoughts in between chapters. I looked forward to hearing his take on events in the chapters preceding each of his appearances. Was he a composite of people in your past or did he come from your imagination?

A:  Jeremiah was just a gift. I heard his voice first and he was actually why I wrote this book. He was a reflection of God to me, the heart of my Father to my heart. And I hope that is what the reader can see him as too.

Q: I enjoyed the way you characterized Eugenia, the mother-in-law, and her friends. Surely you were visiting nursing homes or retirement communities to get your take on these three. And you kept them in perfect character throughout the book. What was your purpose for these three ladies in this story? What did you want readers to feel as they read about them?

A: Wow! These are some crazy characters aren’t they! Actually the theme of the book was such a heavy topic that I knew the reader needed a place to exhale. I had written Eugenia as a character but realized that she needed a more dominant presence along with her friends so that a lightness could be added to the novel. I wanted readers to enjoy their presence and enjoy the ability to breathe for a minute before they went back into the heaviness of the rest of the story.

Q: I almost shot up out of my chair at the end of the book when you told about Jeremiah’s background.  This surprise ending was more dramatic than in any other book I have read. What caused you to come up with this ending?

A: Thank you. I was hoping it would be. I just knew I needed Jeremiah’s story to have maximum impact. And so the thought came to me to write the ending the way that I did. I got the idea for the ending in the middle of writing the novel and I felt it made the whole book make sense.
Q: And it certainly did! I reviewed this book on my blog and one comment from a reader was that it was too sad for her to think about, since she was the mother of a young child. I think the sadness was for a purpose. What was that purpose?

A: I didn’t write it for the sake of simply being sad. But pain is never easy to experience or to watch. What I wanted people to see was the value of their hearts in the middle of their pain. Many people focus on trying to hide from their pain. Whether that is in shopping, eating, television, porn
addictions, medication, or something else, there are any number of ways in this day and age to hide from our pain. But I wanted to show what people go through in their pain. That is the only way pain heals. If we hide from our pain, trust me, it will come out eventually and the eruption is never pretty.
Q: After listening to your videos on the internet about the Bible Study Reclaiming Your Heart, I was encouraged to hear you talk about getting through life events that sometimes turn us upside down. All of us have had them. Have you known women who experienced infertility as Mackenzie in The First Gardener did?

A: Yes, I’ve had some precious friends who have gone through the pain of not having children. I also knew, because of different circumstances of my own story, the pain of not having children. It is a heart breaking journey. God created us to bring forth life. When that doesn’t happen it is something that has to be grieved.

Q: Did that knowledge and experience help you as you wrote about the problems of infertility?

A: Absolutely. It was invaluable.

Q: It was fun how you included southern cooking in the book, especially as Eugenia thought of it. Are you a Southern cook? Do you use recipes for southern food like okra and “home-cooked” foods when you cook for your family?

A: I am ridiculously southern in my cooking. My poor husband told me when we got married that he couldn’t gain weight. Well, that didn’t last long after I introduced him to fried chicken and country fried steak. I love people through food. A lot of people do. I love my five bonus-kids through food. And they love my fried chicken! It is the one thing they all five agree on. Oh, and my biscuits too!

Q: I also enjoyed your references to flowers and what they mean, as Jeremiah gave flowers to Mackenzie to try to cheer her up. Do you have a background in gardening?

A: No, I don’t have a background, but I love to get out there in the dirt and dig things up and plant things and watch them grow. There is something holy about that to me. I had to do a lot of research on this one. But I enjoyed every minute of it.

Q: I did, too. I enjoyed knowing the meaning for some of those flowers. Having experienced both depression (myself) and infertility (my daughter), I related well to this book. You dealt with so many subjects here. Was The First Gardener based on actual events?

A: I think this book was part of the healing process of my story about not having children of my own. I think it was also just a gift from the Lord. Whenever I finish a book I’m never sure how I wrote it or how I thought about all of the things that I did. That is when I am just grateful that God is such an exceptional story-teller.

Q: Tell us about how you got started in the writing profession.

A: Honestly, writing found me. I moved to Nashville, Tennessee to become a Christian singer. Found out pretty quickly that no one wanted to hear me sing. (My mom still does though) I was working in the parts department of a heating and air conditioning company and having no idea why God had sent me to Nashville if it wasn’t to sing. I was attending a large church at the time and had written an article for their church magazine about an organization called Mercy Ministries of America. The founder and President, Nancy Alcorn, read that article and asked me if I would come help her finish her book Echoes of Mercy because she wanted it to read like my article. I said, “Nancy, I don’t write.” She said, “Yes, you do.” That day Nancy Alcorn called me into my destiny.

Q: What advice would you give to new, aspiring authors today?

A: To tell the story God has given you to tell. Write it in the way that is true to your heart. And write a little each day. If you show up…He’ll show up. That is the promise He gave me quite a few years ago. And He has.
Q: What books should a new writer have in her/his library to help with a good start?

A: You know, I didn’t come into writing in the traditional way. I didn’t study it in college, so I’m not well versed on the “how-to’s” of writing. What I would encourage people to have in their library are books that they love. Then figure out why you love them and write that kind of story. Not the same story. But write with the heart to impact others the way those stories have impacted you.

A: Thank you, Denise. It has been a blessing to hear from you today. Since we did this interview, I have read your newest book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Readers, if you have not read my review of Secrets Over Sweet Tea, please go to the sidebar and click on that entry.

Blog readers, would you like to win an autographed copy of Denise's new book, Secrets Over Sweet Tea?  Scroll down and comment on this blog, or just say "Pick me!" or "I want to win!"Your name will be entered in a drawing and the winner will be announced on Monday, April 22 (one week from today).

You can get an extra contest entry if you "Follow Me" or "Subscribe to my blog." Just let me know in your comment that you have done that.

Leave your email address or I cannot enter your name in the contest. I have to know how to contact you. In the contest for Mona Hodgson's book, some names could not be entered because the commenter did not leave an email address.

I'll let the winner know and get her address, then Denise will mail your complimentary book.

Thanks for reading!

Reclaiming Your Heart, Bible Study by Denise Jones

Secrets Over Sweet Tea, Denise's newest novel


  1. Great interview, Juanita, certainly gave me the desire to read the book, and I would love to win it. Thanks.

    Faye Adams -

  2. Thanks for your comment, Faye. I'll enter your name in the drawing. You'll love the book.

  3. I so WANT TO WIN. I also am following. I loved the interview. Blessings

  4. Hi, Diana, glad you enjoyed the inteview. Your name is in the pot!

  5. I loved the interview. Makes me want to read the book. I would really like to win it.
    Jackie Williamson

  6. Hi, Jackie, your name is entered in the drawing. If you win, I know you will love it. Denise is a very good writer. Her book, FLIES ON THE BUTTER, is in our church library.

  7. It would be nice to read something other than a medical book. Nice read Juanita
    Karen Gion

  8. I think I finished it in about a day and a half. Of course, I did nothing else. That's the kind of reader I am when I have a wonderful book to read.
    Thanks, Karen.

  9. Wow-an interview like that makes me desperate to read your work! What a fantastic interview!

  10. Thanks, Debbie. I have some fantastic authors on my blog. Denise is one of the best. Thanks for commenting. Get a copy of The First Gardener and read it for yourself.

  11. I would also love to read this. I enjoyed the interview--always love to hear what other writers have to say. Please enter me into the contest!

  12. Thanks, Margo. I always appreciate your comments.