I met Denise Tapscott last year on the Queen Mary during StokerCon. She had just published her first novel, a sweeping story that begins as a Romeo and Juliet story and swells into an examination of power, responsibility, and family.
Denise has a gift for creating characters that you care about and she’s not afraid to kill them off as soon as you get attached. Grandmother Zenobia is a fascinating creation: ancient, implacable, and no one you would want to cross. I look forward to reading more of her adventures in the sequel to Gypsy Kisses and Voodoo Wishes, due out later this year.
Denise was born and raised in California. She left her heart in San Francisco, but somehow managed to leave her soul in New Orleans. When she’s not creating and cultivating her characters, she enjoys dining on spicy tuna rolls, sharing a bottle of red wine with friends, and watching the latest flick (especially scary films). From time to time, this radiant left-handed pirate will even challenge others to a fencing match or two. Watch out. This Gemini is determined to win!
Denise’s favorite motto is by Hans Christian Andersen: “Just living is not enough…one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
The description of Gypsy Kisses and Voodoo Wishes:
Can any good transpire when Gypsy magic collides with Voodoo Magic? For Voodoo High-priestess Grandmother Zenobia, the answer is unclear. Opening in 1890 in Louisiana’s Carrefour Parish, Grandmother Zenobia — a self-proclaimed Voodoo high-priestess with a mysterious past — conceals her magical powers from her teenage grandson Will. She wants to live a “normal” family life, including savory downhome Southern dinners and festive church gatherings. When Will reveals he’s fallen head-over-heels in love for Syeira, Grandmother is overjoyed. In her overzealous excitement over the possibility of a future wedding, Grandmother fails to find out a crucial piece of information. Syeira is not a New Orleans local, she’s a gypsy from the Camlo tribe.
On the other side of the bayou, Queen Patia Camlo, Syeira’s mother, is furious when Syeira reveals her relationship with Will. To the Camlo tribe, the Gypsy way is the only way. Desperate to put an end to their romance, Patia casts a spell so effective that even the great Grandmother Zenobia can’t fix the damage it creates.
Grandmother Zenobia is forced to decide how much of a sacrifice she’s willing to make to retaliate against Patia, as well as avenge her family without losing her own soul.
Did something in the real world inspire Gypsy Kisses and Voodoo Wishes?
My overall love for New Orleans inspired my book. Mouth watering meals, passionate music and the colorful history that city offers, all seem to call to me. It’s a little hard to understand unless you’ve been there.
With that said, the opening chapter of Gypsy Kisses and Voodoo Wishes is loosely based in an incident that happened in real life. A few years ago, a young woman in my apartment building (or a condo close enough for me to hear sounds from) was very distressed. Around 3 am, I woke up to her crying. It sounded like she was surrounded by friends that didn’t seem to take her mood seriously. She was so upset that she jumped off her balcony. Her friends tried to stop her, but didn’t react in time.
I had nightmares for many months after that horrible accident. What disturbed me the most was how dejected she was and how not one of her so-called “friends” tried to help her until it was too late. I never found out what happened to the young woman. It broke my heart so much that I took that despair and created a character that was very close to one of the main characters.
What is your favorite scene in the book — and why?
That’s a tough question! I’m torn between when Queen Patia casts her first spell and when Grandmother Zenobia secretly meets King Dorian in the woods. For both scenes I wanted to reveal a different side of the characters. I hope the readers can see past the strong, sometimes negative facades the Queen Patia and King Dorian have and experience their softer, vulnerable sides too.
What was your writing process like as you wrote Gypsy Kisses?
In the beginning, I had written most of the novel in a journal. It feels a little more organic to write with a nice blue pen on freshly lined paper. As I plodded through the story, I wrote little notes of things and places to research. I have tons of notes on scrap paper everywhere! Presenting interesting characters was a big challenge in my first few drafts, so I created a separate notebook filled with personality questions (and answers) for every character in the book. Some of the questions for my literary characters are the same questions I use for characters I develop when acting. Learning that being specific makes the story come alive inspired me to do research in New Orleans, too. Reading a recipe on how to Grandmother Zenobia might make her gumbo is very different than actually standing in a kitchen making Gumbo myself (Thanks to the New Orleans School of Cooking).
What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?
Hearing from people who said they were inspired to read, after not picking up a book in years, was the best thing to happen to me. I’m honored that they went out of their comfort zone to read my story. A few people posted photos of where they read my book; one included Australia by the Opera House.
What do you have planned next?
I’m working on a few short stories. There’s one in particular about bullying that I love so much that I’m also gonna convert into a screenplay. Plugging away at the sequel to Gypsy Kisses and Voodoo Wishes is always a daily treat, too. I recently attended Stokercon 2018 in Providence, Rhode Island, and learned a few more things to sharpen up my writing skills. It’s always great to learn more about what you love to do. So if all goes well, ENLIGHTENING OF THE DAMNED will be done before the end of the year.
You can pick up a copy of Gypsy Kisses and Voodoo Wishes from Amazon.