LW: What gave you the idea to set your latest novel, The Muir House (Zondervan, July 2011) in Rockwall?
MD: I’ve lived in Rockwall a little over four years now and have fallen in love with it. Since I set all my novels in Texas, I decided why not Rockwall?
LW: Can you tell us a little about The Muir House?
MD: Sure. It’s a love story. It’s a lost story. All under one roof.
LW: That makes no sense. Elaborate please.
MD: Sorry, I just really like that wording. Willa Muir is a twenty-something girl who can’t say yes to a marriage proposal because she has a hole in her past, a missing memory. She believes she has to venture home to Rockwall to settle the mystery so she can move on with her life.
LW: And you chose to place her in The Muir House, which is based on the Reese house north of Hwy 30 on Hwy 205.
MD: I’ve driven by that big, white house hundreds of times, wanting to know its secrets. Of course, it didn’t shout them to me, so, as a novelist, I made up a story. It came alive after I had the opportunity to walk through it with Cathleen Lewis, a local real estate agent and dear friend. I took photos and breathed in the history. Those photos helped me flesh out the revival of a former funeral home to a destination bed and breakfast.
LW: How long does it take you to write a novel?
MD: Typically 4-6 months.
LW: And how many books have you authored?
MD: It’s hard for me to say since I’ve co-written a few and helped write another. But in terms of traditionally published books (the kind you find at Barnes & Noble), The Muir House is my eleventh. (Update: Book 14, Everything, releases in October).
LW: So did you mention Rockwall’s history in the book? Is it a travel brochure for the City of Rockwall?
LW: So are you hoping to receive free restaurant gift cards?
LW: Tell me a little about how you got your start as a professional writer.
MD: Actually, the story involves you.
LW: Don’t flatter me.
MD: I will flatter you. In the early 2000s I’d been writing for ten years in obscurity. I wrote miles and miles of unpublished words and knew it was finally time for me to pursue publication full time. When I first heard about the Rockwall Christian Writers Group RCWG, I was entirely excited and freaked out. I attended my first group with a short story in hand, worried I didn’t know what in the world I was doing. You were kind and encouraging. You shepherded me through the writing process, particularly helping me understand the publishing industry. Not long after attending RCWG, I wrote my first novel (still unpublished), attended my first regional conference, then boarded a plane for my first national writers conference where a literary agent signed me. That was 2003. I sold two parenting books that year, then switched back and forth between parenting books and southern fiction.
LW: So if people come to the RCWG, they’ll get published like you.
MD: Oh sure. Because getting published is very easy.
LW: Anything I haven’t asked?
MD: Well, you’ve asked a lot.
LW: I can be a bit wordy.
MD: Here’s something interesting. If you look at the cover of The Muir House, you’ll see a picture of a home on the lower right hand side. I took that picture of the actual Reese house. So a piece of Rockwall is on the cover.
LW: Thanks for spending this time with me.
MD: My pleasure, Leslie. Thanks for asking such great questions.