1. In one paragraph, summarize your new book.
Set in the Bible Belt of Deep East Texas, Visiting the Sins is the story of three generations of women whose lofty social aspirations are exceeded only by their unfortunate taste in men and a seemingly boundless capacity for holding grudges. A legacy of feuding and scandal lurches from one generation to the next with tragic consequences that threaten to destroy everything these feisty but perennially dissatisfied women have sacrificed their souls to build.
2. Tell us about the signature drink that was developed for your book.
The “Pokeyteeny” is a drink named in honor of one of my main characters Pokey, the love-starved, pistol-packing matriarch of the Wheeler clan. Like its namesake character, the “Pokeyteeny” is nicely aged, a little dirty, and packing heat! It’s made with tequila and will liven up a book club discussion, for sure.
3. Who are your favorite authors?
William Faulkner, Larry McMurtry, Leon Uris, Paul Bowles, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. I like Katherine Anne Porter’s short stories. All of Mary Karr’s memoirs. And mysteries by James Lee Burke.
4. What has been the biggest challenge on your path to publication?
Learning to appreciate criticism.
5. Where did you come up with the idea about your devil painting?
I grew up with a big painting of the devil hanging on the wall in our living room.
6. If you were to describe yourself as a type of southern food, what would you be?
My favorite southern food is Mexican food, so maybe I would be an enchilada with mole sauce.
7. What did you think the major advantages to doing a professional program like the Stanford Writing Program as compared to being involved in a critique group?
Actually the writing program and my critique group were both instrumental in the development of my book, just in different ways. In the Stanford novel program, we dissected a lot of novels and worked on improving specific aspects of our own novels, such as character development, dialogue, point of view, setting, and plot arc. It sort of forces you through a process that refines all aspects of your novel. Within a critique group, the writer chooses what to submit for critique, so you can really drill down and work on whatever aspect of your novel you think needs the most work.
8. How did growing up in east Texas influence your writing?
It probably infused me with the joy of storytelling. Humor, suspense, cadence, irony, the element of surprise.
9. Since you are writing about an East Texas family, do you fear any repercussions? Will anyone write you out of their will? Will you ever be able to go “home” for Thanksgiving after your book is released without someone trying to poison your turkey?
No, all my characters are fictional. But I think all my female family and friends harbor a secret wish that I will write a book about them that gets turned into a movie so they can play themselves and have a kissing scene with George Clooney.
10. What have you done (will you do) to broaden the appeal of your book since it reflects a specific area in Texas? Are there common themes or threads with which people in other States can identify?
In my experience, people enjoy reading about settings and cultures different from their own. Most people can relate to personal struggles with ambition, forgiveness, and self-destruction. And some things about human nature are universal, such as the ability of mothers and daughters to make each other homicidal.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Melanie Denman. Learn more about the book and purchase Visiting the Sins at http://www.melaniedenman.com.