Search for a Good Read inspired Denton’s The Hideaway
An exclusive AUTHORLINK interview with Lauren K. Denton
Columnist Anna Roins
| The Hideaway
by Lauren K. Denton
Buy this Book
When quirky Margaret van Buren, or ‘Mags’ as her friends call her, passes away, she leaves a stately, old inn, The Hideaway, in Sweet Bay, Alabama to her granddaughter, Sara.
Sara is forced to leave her antique store in the French Quarter of New Orleans to restore The Hideaway before she puts it up for sale. However, when she comes across a box in the attic that contains clues of a family secret, Sara feels compelled to unravel the mystery first.
Along the way, she discovers more about Mags’s bravery and passion in her death, than she ever did in her life. This helps Sara with her own decisions and the kinds of risks she might take.
THE HIDEAWAY debuted at #39 on the USA Today bestseller list in September 2017 and was on the Top 20 Most Sold list on Amazon, coming in at #17.
This is Lauren K Denton’s first novel.
AUTHORLINK: Ms Denton, thank you for chatting with us today here at Authorlink about your debut novel, The Hideaway. The novel contains parallel perspectives (Mags and her granddaughter, Sara) alongside a dual timeline. It allows the reader to make comparisons about how each main character learns to invest in their own lives. What inspired you to write this story? How did it develop in your mind?
DENTON: The short answer is that the story came from me not having anything to read. Now, a little explanation: Reading is such a great escape for me, and I tend to get antsy if I don’t have a good book to sink into at night. I’d been having trouble finding something good to read, so I remember asking myself, ‘If I could pull elements together to make a perfect story, what would it be?’ The first thing that came to mind was the setting—New Orleans and the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. Both of these areas have wonderful old houses, and I knew it would be fun to spend some time in a story revolving around a great old house, preferably by the water. Out of nowhere came the idea of an eccentric grandmother, and of course, if you have a grandmother, you have a grandchild. I started playing with these two women and the stories they could tell. Before long, I felt like if I was invested and interested in the story this much, maybe other people would be as well.
AUTHORLINK: And they were! The book is centred around a beautiful old home in Alabama that’s been converted into an inn. It has Victorian turrets, white gingerbread trim and French doors that lead to a wraparound porch. It’s almost a character of its own. What is it about old historical homes, that have such a universal appeal do you think?
DENTON: They certainly do seem to make great stories, don’t they?! I think part of it is the mystery. Homes, as well as people, can have such interesting histories, and it’s fun to delve into those stories and find out who people were—and what houses were like—before they came into our life.
AUTHORLINK: It’s true. At its heart of The Hideaway is romance. Mags was not treated well by her society husband and she didn’t feel cherished. Later, a handsome carpenter came into her life and for the first time in a while she felt really ‘seen’. In view of this, do you believe people really can change because of another person? Can a person bring out the best or the worst in their partner? Or do think people just fall back on the personalities they always had once time has passed?
DENTON: I definitely think other people can bring out the best or worst in us. As humans, we’re built to live in community with other people—whether that’s in friendship, marriage, or family relationships—and the goal would be to spend our time with people who help us be the best person we can be instead of constantly bringing us down. I don’t think Mags was born to be a weak, passive woman, but she may have become that way for a while due to Robert’s prominence and eventual lack of regard for her. However, once William came into her life, she found she had more strength than she thought she had. His love and care for her helped her become a stronger woman, but that strength was already there, deep down.
AUTHORLINK: Your writing style is lovely – clean and evocative with plenty of show and not much tell. What made you decide to sit down and start writing something? What was your profession before you started writing? What have you written so far?
DENTON: What nice words—thank you so much. I’ve been writing for most of my life, everything from childhood journals to freelance magazine articles to loads of story beginnings that never really got off the ground. I worked for several years in promotions and marketing at Southern Progress Corporation, the publisher of magazines like Southern Living and Cooking Light. But it wasn’t until after I had my first child and stayed home that I began flirting with writing fiction. Before writing The Hideaway, I wrote another story that I now consider my practice novel. Maybe one day I’ll go back and see if it can be salvaged.
AUTHORLINK: Yes, I know something about ‘practice novels’. Once you finished the first draft of your debut novel, The Hideaway, you started a blog to record the next stages in trying to get published. It’s a great way for fellow writers to learn the tricks of the trade. You also write a monthly column in The Homewood Star, a hyperlocal newspaper that serves your community of Homewood, a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama since 2011. Do you feel these have helped you find your ‘writing voice’?
DENTON: I think they do help. Of course, writing fiction is different than writing the blog or the column, but in all of it, I try to write in a way that sounds like me, instead of trying to write what I think I should sound like. My hope is I can write in a way that feels approachable and easy to sink into, whether I’m writing about my kids, my publishing journey, or the made-up characters in my head.
AUTHORLINK: After you were signed up by an agent (with a publisher already interested), how many edits did The Hideaway go through? And later with your editor?
DENTON: My agent didn’t edit my story at all. She was satisfied with it as it was, and like you said, a publisher was already interested, so there was no need to make any big changes before handing it over to them. My editor at Thomas Nelson, Karli, is a very insightful and careful reader and she made great suggestions for the story. She didn’t ask for any big overhauls or changes. We mainly clarified characters’ motivations and worked out some timeline kinks. What you read in The Hideaway is largely as it was when I submitted it to her, but just stronger and sharper.
AUTHORLINK: That’s brilliant. Your publisher, Thomas Nelson, is a world leader of Christian content and has been providing readers with quality inspirational product for more than 200 years. Do you think your readers expected the story to be more in line with the teachings of the bible? Have you received any feedback regarding this?
DENTON: I’ve received feedback from both ends of the spectrum! There have been some readers who I think picked up my book expecting to find a traditionally Christian story (like many of Thomas Nelson’s fiction titles are) only to be disappointed that my story does not have a more overt Christian message. On the other hand, I’ve received loads of emails from readers who’ve loved the fact that the story is “clean” and safe for their parents or daughters and who appreciated that there wasn’t a prominent faith message preached throughout. Readers are all over the map as far as what they want out of a story, and I appreciate so much that Thomas Nelson has allowed my books a chance to fill that gap between traditional faith-based and mainstream.
AUTHORLINK: You have a second book coming out next year in April called Hurricane Season and are working on your third book, to be published in 2019. Can you tell us a bit about them? The first manuscript you ever completed was a story called, A Soft Place to Land. Have any parts of that novel appeared in any of the books you’ve written so far?
DENTON: Short description of Hurricane Season: Marriage, sisters, daughters, motherhood, photography, cows, and hurricanes. A little bit longer: Betsy and Ty Franklin, owners of Franklin Dairy Farm in south Alabama, have long since buried their desire for children and instead throw themselves into work on the farm. When Betsy’s younger sister, Jenna, drops off her two young daughters for “just two weeks,” Betsy’s carefully constructed wall of self-protection begins to crumble. As Betsy and Ty learn to navigate the new additions in their world, Jenna is rediscovering her passion for photography at an art retreat in Florida. When Hurricane Ingrid aims her eye at the Alabama coast, Jenna must make a decision that could change her family’s future, as Betsy and Ty try to protect their beloved farm and their hearts.
My third book is definitely a work in progress, but it is another southern story revolving around women and their journeys and relationships.
And no, no parts of my earlier “practice novel” have appeared in my books, but I haven’t given up hope that maybe one day I can return to it and whip it into shape!
AUTHORLINK: The covers for The Hideaway and Hurricane Season (to be released in 2018) are beautiful. They’re similar in their presentation, colours and design. Tell us a bit about them and how they came to be. Did you have any input in them? Do you think the cover plays an essential role in the buying process? Do you judge books by their covers?
DENTON: I LOVE my covers! The designer, Kristen Ingebretson, has done a phenomenal job in capturing the exact feeling I want to evoke in readers. Before the cover is designed, my editor asks me to fill out a long questionnaire about the book regarding title options, cover ideas, and marketing language. I show them images from the internet I’ve pulled that I feel are close to what I imagine the cover could be. Then the designer takes all the information I’ve given and comes up with her interpretation of that idea. The cover we landed on for The Hideaway is perfect in so many respects, down to the fact that there are two rocking chairs on the porch, since some important conversations happen on that porch! And for the Hurricane Season cover, there’s a poignant scene in the book that takes place around a table in the back yard with twinkle lights strung up in the trees, so the cover couldn’t be more perfect.
I think covers are an absolutely essential part of the buying process. Who doesn’t judge a book by its cover?? I’m completely guilty of it. You want a cover to pique the reader’s interest, make us wonder, make us want to be there in the setting.
AUTHORLINK: Interesting answer, thank you. How do you handle negative feedback? Is it better to stay away from critical reviews or should one embrace them, do you think?
DENTON: I’ll be honest, I don’t read many of my reviews. I did at the beginning because it was so hard not to, but now I try to mostly stay away. Even still, sometimes my curiosity wins and I scan through Amazon or Goodreads. I’m a firm believer that readers are entitled to their opinion of my book, even if it’s negative, and they’re entitled to leave a review for other readers to peruse. It’s disheartening when a reviewer is over-the-top negative (we authors are real people who worked really hard on these books, even if you think they’re terrible!) but from what I’ve read, the good outweighs the bad and a majority of people try to give constructive feedback. Also, I find it’s much easier to ignore the ones that say, “This is absolutely the worst book ever!” Even on my worst writing days, I know that’s not true!
AUTHORLINK: Of course not. And finally, for a bit of fun, if you could invite any three people (living) in the world for dinner, who would it be and why?
DENTON: 1. My husband Matt, because if I’m going to have an awesome dinner with cool people, I want him to be there! 2. John Travolta. Matt and I were recently talking about how we think we’d be pretty cool around most celebrities, but we’d probably be completely awestruck if we ever met John. Plus he’s been in a million awesome movies and he probably has some great stories to tell. 3. Josh Ritter. He’s an amazing singer and songwriter, and he’s also written a novel. I’d love to talk to him about some of the stories behind his songs.
AUTHORLINK: Ms Denton, it’s been a pleasure talking to you about your debut novel. We wish you all the very best for your future writing work!
DENTON: Thank you so much for having me! This was such a fun interview.
|About the Author:
Lauren Denton is the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Hideaway. Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren lives with her husband and two daughters just outside Birmingham. Combining a love of Deep South settings, a generous dose of Southern flavor and humor, and heartwarming romance, Lauren pens stories that chronicle women’s journeys towards truth and love, hope and healing. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent.
To connect with Lauren further, feel free to send her a message on her website or visit her at: – laurenkdenton.com; Instagram @LaurenKDentonBooks; Facebook: LaurenKDentonAuthor; or Twitter: @LaurenKDenton.
See more information at: http://www.thomasnelson.com/the-hideaway
|About Anna Roins:
Anna Roins is a lawyer, previously of the Australian Government Solicitor, as well as a freelance journalist who writes about social and community issues and has edited dissertations, websites, and books.
She has studied creative literature with The University of Oxford (Continuing Education) and the Faber Academy, London.
Anna enjoys writing novels and is a regular contributor to AUTHORLINK assigned to conduct interviews with best-selling authors.