Gypsy Kisses and Voodoo Wishes by Denise N Tapscott Genre: Southern Gothic Horror, Paranormal Romance
Can any good transpire when Romani magic collides with Voodoo Magic? For Grandmother Zenobia, the answer is unclear.
The year is 1890 in Carrefour Parish, Louisiana. A Voodoo high priestess with a mysterious past, Grandmother Zenobia conceals her magical powers from her grandson Will. She wants him to have a "normal" family life, including savory Southern dinners and festive church gatherings. When Will reveals that he's in love with a girl named Syeira, Grandmother is overjoyed. In her excitement over a future wedding, Grandmother fails to find out a crucial piece information. Syeira is not a New Orleans local, she's from the Camlo family.
On the other side of the bayou, Queen Patia Camlo, is furious when her daughter reveals her relationship with Will, who is not Romani. To the Camlo tribe, The Traveler 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 must decide how much she's willing to sacrifice to retaliate against Patia, as well avenge her family, without losing her soul
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. But, watch out. This Gemini is determined to win!
Often referencing her favorite quotes, below is Denise's favorite motto by Hans Christian Andersen:
"Just living is not enough...one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower."
Where were you born/grew up?
I was born in the San Francisco Bay area. I lived there for most of my life until I decided to pursue acting. A good friend helped me pack up and move to Los Angeles. Funny thing about life though; I visited New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and I’m so taken by the people and the culture that I go back every year. I feel it’s my home away from home. I often joke that I left my heart in San Francisco, left my car in Los Angeles and left my soul in New Orleans.
Who is your hero and why?
My dad is my hero. He is one tough cookie! He was in the Air Force and lived through both the Korean War and the Vietnam War. My mother said one of the reasons she married him was she knew life with him would be an adventure. No matter what came our way, good or bad, my dad was always and still is always there for our family. He's had two open heart surgeries and survived prostate cancer. My mom recently passed away from Alzheimer's and he was diligently, passionately by her side, day and night. They were married for 51 years. To me their love is legendary. My dad is the kind of person that always reminds you to be safe and encourages you to follow your dreams.
What do I do to unwind and relax?
I like to enjoy a nice glass of wine and either watch an episode of Supernatural, check out a good movie at home or read books. I try to read stories that my fellow Horror Writers have created to support them and to sharpen my craft. If the weather is nice I might head out to the beach and watch for dolphins or sand pipers. It’s very grounding.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less:
Enchanting, earthy, silly, sunny, and sweet. I once took a seminar with Sam Christensen to investigate how you are seen in the world. It was very interesting to see how people perceived me and how I viewed myself. Two of my personal catch phrases that stick with me are "Sweetest apple on the tree" and "marching to the beat of a really happy drummer". There are a LOT more great phrases that describe me but those tend to stick out most, depending on my mood.
Which of my novels can you imagine made into a movie?
I imagine all of my stories, the novels and the short stories made into movies or cool TV series. I'd love for Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg or Viola Davis to play Grandmother Zenobia.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I have rough drafts for three more novels and a few short stories that highlight more about Grandmother Zenobia. My first short story, The Price of Salvation was released September 2019. It's one of my favorite stories about my favorite main character (I love them all, but she "speaks" to me the most). When I was working on my novel Gypsy Kisses and Voodoo Wishes for what felt like an eternity, a writer friend encouraged me to step away and write a simple short story to clear my head. I cheated a bit and wrote the story about Grandmother Zenobia. Now I have several other short stories for my readers who prefer shorts to novels. The collection will be called "The Friends and Foes of Grandmother Zenobia" and readers will see different sides to her personality and see the character in different time periods.
How did you come up with the title of your book Gypsy Kisses and Voodoo Wishes?
I liked the idea of a story where Voodoo would battle Romani Magic. After doing some research I discovered both magical worlds aren't as scary as Hollywood makes them out to be. I wanted something else to make the two sides appealing. I thought of kisses and wishes, and without giving any spoilers, these two elements helped the story along. Thus Gypsy Kisses and Voodoo wishes came to mind. When looking more into the Romany culture (which is challenging because I want to be respectful), right before the book was published I found that some people are offended by the word Gypsy. If I could ride in the way back machine with Sherman and Mr. Peabody, I'd find a better term for Gypsy. The idea that the title could be offensive to someone breaks my heart.
Where did you come up with the names in the story? Are your characters based off real people or did the all come entirely from your imagination?
I researched most of the character's names based on their personalities. An example would be Patia Camlo, Romani Queen of the Camlo tribe. She is very angry and bitter and the name Patia means bitter. On the other hand, her husband is named Dorian means gift. I also chose it because of the Oscar Wilde story The Picture of Dorian Gray. I love the movie version and I wish they’d remake it! I wanted an interesting name for a Voodoo High Priestess and I came across the name Zenobia. It turns out there was an actual person, Queen Zenobia of Palmyra. I though her story was fascinating and it's how I put a few pieces together for my character. It gave her many more layers than I planned.
One character, Olivia Milton came about from an actual, real life, heart breaking situation. Her name means “Olive tree” and I wanted her name to be a little ironic. Without giving any spoilers, Olivia is probably the closest characters I created to an actual person.
Otherwise, my characters are entirely from my imagination. Most of them have my own quirks, flaws and fun features.
If you could spend time with a character from Gypsy Kisses and Voodoo Wishes, whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I'd definitely spend a day with Grandmother Zenobia. I'd love to sit down with her and watch her do a few tarot readings for people. I'd also love to stand next to her and help cook a delicious down home southern meal, including dessert. She'd have all kinds of advice and stories to share with me.
I’d also love to spend a day with Dorian, King of the Camlo Tribe. I think he’d be fun to party with when he was in a good mood, and I bet he’d have all kinds of stories to share.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
The main characters are pretty much set in stone; the smaller ones definitely come to me as I write. They all have very interesting story lines.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I prefer to write in silence. It helps me to hear and understand my characters on a deeper level and see where I want the stories to go. If there has to be noise, I prefer to listen to classical music, especially Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Songs with lyrics distract me too much and my story lines get fuzzy.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I have several stories going at a time. Grandmother Zenobia has been around a long time and different parts of her past pop in to mind. There are characters in my upcoming novels that have awesome things going on and when inspiration hits I have to write their stories out too. Because the tales are so distinctive I don’t get confused when I write them. I just have to choose which one speaks to me the loudest to work on. LOL
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
I research locations of where the stories would take place so I can see in my mind where my characters would live and breathe. I’ve been to New Orleans many times; I took a cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking to understand how Grandmother Zenobia made gumbo. It’s way more intricate and mindful than I expected. I’ve also done research on Voodoo and Hoodoo to understand what they are really about and how to be respectful of them and not butcher them the way Hollywood might. Just last month I had a nice lunch with a Hoodoo/Root worker in Atlanta.
Pen or type writer or computer?
I’d have to say both. Initially I wrote everything on paper, with a nice pen. I have countless journals and folders of handwritten notes. After a while I got frustrated with trying to translate everything I scribbled so lately my first choice is to sit in front of a computer. If I’m not near a computer? I definitely will find some paper and I always have a pen nearby.
Describe your writing style.
I believe I write in a visual style? I want to see what my characters see, and feel what they feel. I have a background in acting and I’ve found that if I can picture a certain character trait or location, they become real to me. I hope that the visual descriptions translate to my readers too, while still adding to the plot of the stories.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Oh yes! There are times when life gets too noisy, too emotional, too chaotic or sometimes too dull. You’d think that my characters would bust at the seams to be heard and seen! Yet, when I score the time to sit in front of my computer, I’ve found myself staring at the screen waiting for the next twist and turn for the next story, and the curser just blinks at me. Taking a walk outside usually helps a bit, but not always. Sometimes I have to shut the computer down and read. I’m fortunate that I have a whole universe of characters and adventures to toy with so if one story won’t budge, I can edit another, or add to yet another one. Researching character traits also helps inspire me and can get me out of a rut. Otherwise, I have at least 4 books I’m currently reading to change my focus and shake off my writer’s block.
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!