MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR WENDE DIKEC🦋
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
My name is Wende Dikec. I write young adult fiction under that name, and women’s fiction/romance under a pen name, Abigail Drake.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
I’ll tell you about my most recent book, “The Enchanted Garden Café,” which is being published by Kindle Press and comes out May 1, 2018. This started when my youngest son, who was around 13 at the time, was invited to sing at an acoustic show at a smoothie bar in an area of Pittsburgh called the South Side. The place, which has since closed, was called The Enchanted Garden, and it was this funky, inspiring little place. My son performed there for a few hours, and while he sang, I did a lot of people watching, and the idea for the book was born. It’s the story of Fiona Campbell, and here is the blurb for the book:
For her sixth birthday, Fiona Campbell’s mother, Claire, made her a peace sign piñata filled with wishes for a better planet instead of candy. When she got her period, her mother held a womanhood ceremony at their café and invited the neighborhood. On her sixteenth birthday, they celebrated with a drum circle.
Fiona grew up trying to keep the impulsive Claire in check, and their struggling café afloat. She plans to move out, but first must find a way to stop a big corporation from tearing down their business and destroying her mother’s livelihood.
Claire thinks karma will solve their financial and legal problems. Fiona prefers a spreadsheet and a solid business plan. The last thing she has time for is Matthew Monroe, a handsome complication who walks through their door with a guitar on his back and a naughty gleam in his eye. But when disaster strikes, and Fiona’s forced to turn to him for help, will she learn to open her heart and find she can believe in something magical after all?
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
I’ve always loved reading women’s fiction and romance. “The Enchanted Garden Café” also has a touch of magic to it that I really enjoy. It’s a quirky, whimsical book, and it was such fun to write.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
Other than hanging out at a smoothie bar in the South Side? Just kidding – I actually had to do a great deal of research for this book. One of the characters is a reiki therapist, another is a Wiccan, another is transgender, and another reads tarot cards. I don’t know much about any of those things personally, so I did a great deal of research. I read books on each subject, looked up recent articles online, and interviewed people. I wanted to get it right because I think it’s important not to misrepresent people and their beliefs or identity in any way. Then I had sensitivity readers look at my manuscript to make sure I did a decent job. They were all happy with it, which made me feel very proud.
Can you tell me about your Series?
It’s called “South Side Stories,” and each book, like “The Enchanted Garden Café”, takes place in the South Side. The second book, which I’m nearly done writing, is called “The Hocus Pocus Magic Shoppe.” It’s going to be a really fun read.
Do you have a favorite book out of this series?
Only “The Enchanted Garden Café” is out right now, I so guess that’s my favorite.
Where did you get the inspiration/idea for your series?
When I walked around the South Side, I felt inspired by all the people there, and the funky, eclectic shops. I’m setting each book in a different shop, and each will be a stand-alone, but they will be interconnected.
Was it always meant to become a series?
It was an obvious choice for a series because there are just so many stories in the South Side!
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write?
A typical day for me is to be licked awake by my dog, a black lab named Capone, at around 5:45 am. I feed him, drink large amounts coffee, and then get to work. I’ll often start with a guided meditation for writers created by my dear friend Madhu BazazWangu. Meditating clears my mind and helps me focus, and it’s great for solving plot problems. My favorite place to write is at my desk. It’s by a huge arched window in my office and overlooks a pretty meadow near my house. My office is a mess at the moment, since I still haven’t unpacked from a recent writing trip, but usually it’s a peaceful, serene haven. Also, Capone loves to curl up on my feet under my desk as I work, and that’s pretty nice, too.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
My upcoming book is called “Love, Chocolate, and a Dog Named Al Capone.” Although I’m embarrassed to admit it, my dog has a FB page (don’t judge me!). The people who follow his page have been begging me for a book with Capone as the main character. It’s been challenging for me, but now it’s nearly done, and I really like how it’s turning out.
Where do your ideas come from?
Everywhere! Writers are naturally people watchers. We find inspiration in things others might overlook – like a few hours spent in a smoothie bar in the south side!
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
The hardest part about writing is having so many ideas, but not having the time to write all the books lurking inside my head. So many of my readers have been begging me for sequels to my YA books, but I just haven’t had time since I’m currently committed to two adult series. It breaks my heart, because I know my young readers love these books, but sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I’m in the process of working with someone to create a trailer for “The Enchanted Garden Café” right now! It should be done today. I think trailers are helpful to a certain extent. I’ll be going on a blog tour soon, so it seemed like a useful tool to have, but I’d never tell anyone it’s mandatory – especially for someone with limited resources.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
As far as my books are concerned? I think it was when I had the courage to part ways with my agent and head out on my own. For me, it was the best decision I’ve ever made, and I’ve never regretted it. Also, several of the awards I’ve won for my books have meant a great deal to me. Last year I won the Prism for my book, “Traveller,” and that was amazing.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Getting to work from home, make my own schedule, and sit at a desk with my dog warming my feet. Bliss. I also love connecting with readers. Writing a book is only half the journey. It’s not until someone reads (and loves) what you’ve written that the journey is complete.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’ve made huge strides since my first book came out two years ago. In ten years I hope to be shouldering most of the financial burden for our family with my writing, so that my husband (who has supported me emotionally and financially for over 25 years) can relax and enjoy a life of leisure. I also hope he’ll start doing all the cooking, because he’s a really good cook.
Have you always liked to write?
Yes, but I never thought it was a “practical” thing to do. Instead I studied Japanese and Economics in college and spent years travelling. Although I’ll always regret, in a way, not majoring in writing, my experiences and my life have been amazing and I honestly wouldn’t change a single thing.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
The more you write, the better you’ll be at it. Also, great writers are great readers as well. Make time in your schedule for reading. It’s important.
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
I spent many years working in import/export, which I loved, but then I found something even more rewarding – teaching English as a Second Language. I loved doing that, and worked at several universities. I also love teaching writing classes. I get to do this in coordination with my writing because I teach classes to children at local libraries, and I teach workshops at writing conferences.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
Yes, I do read my reviews, but I never, ever respond to them. I deal with negative reviews by putting it in perspective. Although hurtful, it’s only one person’s perspective. Reading all the glowing, positive reviews (while drinking wine and eating dark chocolate), usually makes me feel much better.
What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?
My favorite part is when my readers finish one of my books and send me a personal note to tell me how much they enjoyed it. It’s the most wonderful thing in the world.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
Here is the beginning of “The Enchanted Garden Café,” which will be released May 1st:
Falling in love is like baking.
Results may vary with experience.
I opened the box and stepped back, tripping over a pile of Himalayan wind chimes I’d left lying behind me on the floor of the shop. They clanked in a discordant melody as I untangled them from my feet.
“What the heck?” I asked, ignoring the chimes and focusing on the parcel that had arrived in the mail earlier that morning. Tiny stone phalluses in various shades of gray filled thecontainer to the brim. Checking the return address, I noticed the shipping cost and wanted to cry. Most of our inventory budget for the entire month had been used to mail this one small box halfway around the world.
“Mom, what exactly did you order from Inuyama, Japan?”
My mother popped her head around the corner, a bright smile on her face. “Did they finally arrive, Fiona? I’ve been waiting for ages.”
“For stone penises?”
Why was I even surprised? This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. My mother, Claire de Lune Campbell, had never been the master of impulse control, and she had a history of making very poor decisions. She’d been born Claire Campbell and added the “de Lune” in, what I can only guess, was a moment of pot-induced inspiration. The pot no longer played a part in her life, but the total inability to make common-sense decisions remained.
Mom picked up one of the stone penises, a happy twinkle in her eye. “Aren’t they lovely?”
On the outside, Mom and I looked alike. The same blonde hair, the same blue eyes, the same stubborn tilt to our chins, but there the resemblance ended. Mom was as happy and bright as a butterfly landing on a flower, and she had the same level of fiscal responsibility. I stressed about everything, especially money, but I had good cause.
My mom owned and operated the Enchanted Garden Café, where we served food, coffee, and specially blended teas and sold unusual items in our small gift shop. Nestled in the middle of the South Side, the funky hippie district of Pittsburgh, it was the perfect spot for my mom but a constant source of anxiety for me.
I wiped sweat from my face and brushed off my clothing. Dust covered my T-shirt and shorts, and some kind of stone powder had fallen out of the box from Inuyama onto my tennis shoes. Mom, glowing in a dress made from recycled saris, didn’t have a speck of dust on her, but she hadn’t handled the phalluses.
Kate, the girl who worked behind the counter, came over to us, her blue eyes alight with curiosity. “I want to see them,” she said. Mom handed her one, and she studied it closely, peering at it through the thick black frames of her retro hipster glasses. Her ebony hair was pulled off to the side in a low ponytail, and her colorful tattoos peeked through the crocheted black cardigan covering her pale skin. “At least they are anatomically correct. Look at those veins.”
My cheeks grew warm, and Mom smiled, putting a cool hand against my face. “Aww, Fiona is blushing.”
“No, I’m not. It’s hot in here.”
“Of course it is,” she said, making me feel twelve instead of twenty-five, but it was hot for early June, and the air–conditioning was broken. Again. Even with all the windows open, it still felt stuffy.
I ignored her and picked up a penis. “What are these things anyway?”
She beamed at me with pure, unfiltered happiness. “Fertility charms from a little shrine in the mountains of Japan. They have a big festival there every year. I went once.”
She sighed, most likely remembering happy times at the fertility festival, and went back to the kitchen. I looked at Kate and rolled my eyes, making her snicker, before getting back to work. The fertility charms came in all sizes and seemed handmade. I just wasn’t sure how to sell them or where to display them in our shop.
A Victorian eyesore, the café was painted on the outside in what once had been a mix of bright pink and various shades of green. The pink had faded to a dull rose, and the green looked like the color of old limes just before they rotted. It needed work and a fresh coat of paint, but instead of doing so, we spent our money on phalluses from Japan. That was how things worked with my mother. No planning. No rhyme or reason. No logic. No rational thought.
The bell above the door tinkled, and I turned, a penis in each hand, as a stranger walked into the shop. I couldn’t see his face at first because the sun was at his back, but he carried a guitar case. A sure sign of trouble.
“Hello,” he said as he came closer.
He had straight dark hair that brushed his shoulders, brown eyes, and a goatee. He reminded me of a sexy, naughty French pirate, and I knew his kind well. Close to my age, he was definitely one of the artsy, flighty types who always hung out around my mom. I could spot them a mile away.
“Holy guacamole, if he were any hotter, I’d need new underwear,” whispered Kate, taking off to the back of the shop and leaving me alone to greet the stranger.
For no reason at all, my cheeks grew so warm they pulsated. I needed to get the air conditioner fixed. Yet another item on my list of practical things we couldn’t afford to get done.
Sexy French Pirate Man looked down and smiled. “Sorry to bother you. It looks like you have your hands full.”
I’d almost forgotten about the penises. I quickly put my hands behind my back, a silly move since an open box of them sat right on the table in front of me.
Composing myself, I casually placed the phalluses on a shelf next to some potted herbs, hoping they’d be mistaken for some kind of garden sculpture. They did look a bit like worms from a distance. Up close, unfortunately, there was no disguising them.
Sexy French Pirate Man just stood there watching me. I found it extremely annoying.“Can I help you with something?” I snapped.
He looked like he was trying not to laugh. “I’m here to see Claire.”
“Of course you are,” I muttered under my breath.
Where did your love of books come from?
I’ve always been a voracious reader, and I’m happiest with my nose in a book. I can’t remember a time that I didn’t love reading, and I think this is interconnected with my love of writing.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
I think the books we read as children influence us in ways that no other books do, so I’d have to say the books that had the greatest impact on me were books I read as a child. I loved “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Little Women,” and “The Little Princess.” All left their mark, and reading them now is like a visit with an old and dear friend.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It energizes me, but sometimes I do get a little mentally exhausted when working through a tough part of a book. I rely on naps and chocolate to get me through it. And coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I write what is in my heart, and I’ve been lucky enough to find readers who appreciate it.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’m friends with an entire tribe of wonderful, supportive, phenomenal writers. I think my closest friends are my Mindful Writing buddies. We go on retreats together several times a year, and they are the most amazing people I’ve ever known.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
“I Took the Road Less Travelled, and Got a Little Lost.”
Where can your fans find you and follow??
I have two websites, www.wendedikec.com and www.abigaildrake.com. You can find all my social media stuff on those sites. I’m also very active on my dog’s FB page: https://www.facebook.com/caponethewonderdog/