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Interview with Denise Weimer

Not much hurts as deeply as being handed your dream only to find you’ve landed in a very public mess.

Denise Weimer had been writing since age 11—storytelling not only defined her but encompassed her most treasured childhood memories.

“My parents were big history buffs,” she said. “They’d take me to historical sights in the Southeast, and whenever we went into an old house or visited a historical town, my imagination would take over. I’d think about who might’ve lived there and what their lives might’ve been like.”

Mom’s encouragement was crucial

Those special moments and the curiosity they triggered sparked her love of story. “I started taking spiral notebooks with me and scribbling out stories as we drove along. Then, I read them to my mom, and that’s how I started writing.”

Her mom’s encouraging responses added fuel to the flickering flame God had sparked within her heart. “She saw that I had talent, and she’d say, ‘Did you borrow that from somebody?’ She encouraged me to keep writing.”

Denise did, filling notebook after notebook. This love continued into adulthood, and she kept telling stories, believing that one day God would bring one of them to print. Straight out of college, it seemed as if He were working to do just that.

“I’d submitted queries for a civil war trilogy to numerous publishers. One day I returned from work to find a message on my answering machine. The caller identified herself as someone from Bethany House Publishers and asked me to call her back. I thought, ‘They wouldn’t leave a message if it wasn’t good.’”

Good news is relative

When she called back, though the news was good, it wasn’t what she’d hoped for. “The woman said my sample chapters had gone to the final review committee, but though they loved the story, they were unable to publish it because they had just committed to a gentleman with a very similar story.”

It felt like a dead end. “At this point I put my writing on the shelf, because I’d done everything I knew to do.”

Time passed. Denise started a career in public relations then later left that career to raise her kids. God squelched her desire to write. That phase of her life, it seemed, was over.

Hard to kill a calling

But God wasn’t done with her. During this time, as her little ones started taking naps, Denise’s muse began to re-emerge. “I started feeling that stir in my heart again, and I thought, ‘I might-could write something short.’”

That something short turned into a novella set in 1886 Tallulah, about an hour and a half from her home at the time. The area, once a large resort location, was called the Niagara of the South. An idea for a story took hold. This time it made it all the way to print.

But before she could even celebrate, a major setback hit again. “The publisher set the price of the books so high, I couldn’t sell them to bookstores or gift shops,” she said.

But all was not lost. “During this time, I started getting connected to the community and its history.”

Another strong opening

One day, John Kollock, a well-known historical print artist in Georgia, approached her and offered to help. “He said he’d read my book, thought it was really good, and wanted to help me with my research for future projects.” And thus the dream that had hit so many challenges began to grow once again.

Only to hit yet another huge snag, post publication.

“I’d been looking for a publisher and hadn’t had much luck when I learned one of my acquaintances was starting a publishing house. She hired me as her substantive editor, and I helped her release the house’s first book.” Denise wondered if this could be her answer.

Maybe this time?

At first, it seemed yes, but by the time it came for her second book to release, everything fell apart. “I was left holding the bag and had to order a bunch of books myself. When the publishing house failed, I had to deal directly with the printer, and I paid for everything.

“I felt like I was back to square one, only worse. I had a botched release and knew a publisher wouldn’t want to pick up my series now. Heartbroken, I started questioning my dream. I asked my husband, ‘What am I going to do? Is this God’s will?’”

The situation was hurtful—and public. “I’d come so close to my dream, not only with my own writing career but also working as an editor in a publishing house, and both things were gone very quickly.”

God speaks

Following her conversation with her husband, Denise sat down with a Beth Moore study she’d been working through. Her eyes were pulled to Hebrews 6:10-12: For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

Two phrases of that verse stood out: “Show the same diligence” and “So that you will not be sluggish.” These spoke to her of not giving up her labor of love, which she was doing for God and His glory.

As she continued reading, it seemed God spoke directly to her heart. “The next paragraph said, ‘Sometimes things don’t work out with our earthly employers, but God sees what they don’t.’”

God’s message to her felt so direct, she was floored, silent. In that moment, she knew she had to put her writing on the altar. “I’ve always thought I was meant to be a writer. I always felt He gave me that gift and desire, yet it seemed as if all the doors were closing, and I needed to take a moment to say, ‘Lord, I’m willing to be redirected.’”

Trying again

This time, God led her to the perfect publisher. “My story hit all their preferences. From the beginning, it was easy and we moved forward without a hitch. The publisher decided to release the entire series, titled The Georgia Gold Series, four historical romance stories set in mid-1800s Clarkesville and Savannah. Each of those four books was released between 2013 and 2014.”

This launched her career, and with it, another series called the Restoration Trilogy. Book One will release this spring and Book Two will come out in the fall. Through all the ups, downs, dead ends, and round abouts, Denise can see God’s hand. When asked what she’d tell other writers facing setbacks, she said, “Make sure you’re on the same page with God and His plans for you. Be willing to set your dream aside for a time, or to surrender it fully, even if it’s painful.”

And to those who believe God is leading them but still haven’t seen fruit from their labors, she says, “Maybe recheck your pathway, because today’s market has changed so much.” Some are called to write for big publishing houses, others to work with small presses or to publish independently. “Everyone’s path is different, and we need to be okay with that.”


Novelist and speaker Jennifer Slattery, also writing as Jen Pheobus, uses humor, grace, and truth to inspire God’s children to live abundant, Christ-centered lives. She does content editing for Firefly, a southern fiction imprint with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, and is a frequent contributor to Visit her online.

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