BLURB: Little did Jordan Meadows realize, when Dad insisted she get a job, it would turn out to be such an amazing summer! Who would have guessed that all her eyebrow, bikini, and leg waxes at Tranquility Spa would pay off as job experience? Working behind the scenes on the set of House of Wax IX: Return of the Revengenator, she becomes the go-to girl for paraffin wax. Then she meets Keith Charles, a band nerd at from her high school. Between draping his freckled arms with wax and making sure he looks extra clotty, she’s stunned to find herself falling in love with someone outside her own clique. As filming and the summer draw to a close, she’s a changed girl, for sure. She's made friends with people she never would have associated with at North High School, but what about her friends, the awesome foursome? Should she break up with Keith, since he’s not a member of her exclusive, inner circle? Or is it time to branch out and make new friends?
Thanks for stopping by, Denise. We're so excited about House of Wacks can you tell us a little bit about your heroine, Jordan?
I envisioned her, just the tiniest bit, as being similar to the Cher character played by Alicia Silverstone in the movie Clueless. She’s kind of spoiled—well, maybe a lot spoiled—but she knows she’s spoiled, and she’s also genuinely a nice, caring person. And she is smart enough and tuned into the world enough to know that it may be time to grow up a little and make friends outside of her cliquey inner circle.
What kind of summer jobs did you have as a teenager? Any exciting adventures to relate?
My dad, a psychiatrist, actively discouraged me from working during my teen years. He felt that it was more important to focus on studies than to get an after-school job, although I doubt that I could have found the time anyway, because I was so active in swimming, gymnastics, dancing, and piano (!!). The summer I turned fifteen, though, I got a full-time coaching job at Jim Brown’s Gymnastics Camp, teaching gymnastics to little girls. I worked for Mr. Brown during my summers in high school.
In college (I attended IU Bloomington), I finally got to the point that I felt so guilty for taking money from my dad, that I got a job at the McDonald’s in the College Mall. The uniforms were gross, made of 100% polyester. Whenever I took a bag of trash out to the dumpster, my skin crawled from the sensation of that polyester fabric
burning right through me in the blistering hot sun. I lasted there about three weeks, then decided to try the Wendy’s across the street, on College Mall Road. The uniforms were better and I could wear my own pants, as long as they were blue.
I worked at Wendy’s, off-and-on, part-time for the duration of college. I made the mistake of telling Randy Martin, my boss, that I ‘enjoyed’ working the salad bar, and that’s where I got assigned every day; that, and cleaning up the tables in the dining room. During the lunch-hour, I used to get sent out to the line of customers to take pre-orders. As customers studied the menu, trying to decide what they wanted, their mouths would salivate. I watched, fascinated.
Working at Wendy’s was probably my first real experience with being expected to behave like an adult. At an employee meeting early one morning, Randy said that we should try to arrive at work at least five minutes before our shift started, as opposed to running in the door at five minutes past the hour. That really stuck with me.
The summer I turned twenty, in addition to working at Wendy’s, I also landed a part-time lifeguarding job out at Shawnee Bluffs, an IU alumni camp located on Lake Monroe. Then I got hired on at the IU Outdoor Pool to finish out the summer season. One night, my dad turned to my mother and said, in a voice filled with surprise, “Denise hasn’t asked for money recently.”
You dedicated the book to your dad, how much did he influence your desire to be a writer?
Ironically enough, my dad wasn’t really into reading fiction. He was much more interested in reading The Wall Street Journal and his medical journals. He loved
facts and history. One summer, when I was about ten, he drove me all the way from Bloomington to Crawfordsville, Indiana, for an all-day swim meet. Well, we got to the pool, but nobody was there! We looked more closely at the notice and realized that we’d arrived a week early. My dad called my grandfather, who lived in nearby Ladoga, and Grandpa drove over to Crawfordsville to meet us. We toured the Lewis “Lew” Wallace Museum. Lew Wallace was one of Ulysses S. Grant’s generals during the American Civil War, and he also happened to be the man who wrote Ben Hur. Daddy was very impressed by that. Wherever we went, be it a family vacation, a weekend jaunt, or a trip to the farm, Daddy always wanted us to learn something. In his final years, when he was confined to the house, I got him a subscription to The Wall Street Journal. It was the best gift I ever gave him. He told me he read that newspaper cover to cover.
Although my dad did once refer to my writing as a ‘hobby’ (and only my dad could get away with referring to my writing as a hobby), he was incredibly supportive of my dream to become a published writer. It pains me no end that he had passed away by the time I finally sold my first novel. I would have loved to have shared that good news with him.
Why do you want to write YA?
I feel that YA is a particularly good fit for me. I believe that all writers fit into certain niches, areas in which they shine or have a unique gift or talent for writing. After my success in landing a contract with The Wild Rose Press for House of Wacks, I wrote a number of other YA manuscripts, stories that mean a lot to me and which I hope to see published. As Flannery O’Connor would say, it is the nature of my talent. Or words to that effect.What kind of books did you like reading when you were a teenager?
One night when I was thirteen, my mother kept me up half the night describing for me the joys of Jane Austen’s Emma. I dutifully read Emma, but didn’t fall in love with Jane Austen, not at that moment, in any event. You have to be a girl of a certain age to enjoy Emma. Then I read Pride and Prejudice and I was hooked. I worked my way through everything Jane Austen ever wrote, including The Watsons and Sanditon.When a reader finishes a book by Denise Gwen, what do you hope she takes away from it?
My mom also introduced me to Georgette Heyer. I adored her lovely, light Regency romances. I also enjoyed Agatha Christie mysteries tremendously. Our family room had built-in shelving and basically resembled a bookstore. I read whatever I could get my hands on.
Unfortunately, as a teenager, there were so many books I had to read for English class, that I didn’t always get to read that much solely for pleasure. For class reading, I really did enjoy David Copperfield, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, The Grapes of Wrath and The Pearl.
I hope, first and foremost, that my reader enjoys the story. If she learns something from it, well, that would be great, but it’s not required! Even my dad understood that sometimes people read novels simply for the pleasure of reading.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Denise. I know everyone will snag a copy of House of Wacks when it comes out next Friday. And be sure to check in with Denise next week when she's our guest blogger!