Intimate Conversation with Janice L. Dennie
Veteran author, JANICE L. DENNIE, has returned with a heartwarming new romance set in California’s lush Napa Valley. Kenton’s Vintage Affair, book 1 in the Underwood’s of Napa Valley series, introduces the reader to the fictitious Underwood family, owners of a successful winery in Napa Valley. Janice began her her writing career in 1997 with her debut novel, The Lion of Judah. Her second novel, Moon Goddess Queen of Sheba, was published in August 1999.
Janice was born in Denver, Colorado and raised in Northern California. After graduating from college, she began working for a federal agency. However, writing has always been her passion. Janice services her community through various charities, and non-profit organizations. She currently writes full-time and lives in Northern California with her family.
BPM: How did you get to be where you are in your life today? Who or what motivated you?
JLD: Higher education was stressed in my family. My parent’s exposed us to as much as they could when my siblings and I were children. Earning anything lower than a C in grade school was unacceptable and meant automatic punishment. My oldest brother was a straight A student, my other siblings and I were A & B students. Both of my parents motivated me to want to accomplish something in life. My parents always said, if you’re going to stay at home, you must either go to school or work; no sitting around. It was implied that they expected me to make something out of myself.
I got to be where I am today because of my mother’s sacrifices. As a working woman, she became a strong role model for me to pattern my life after. I got to be where I am because of my faith in my heavenly father.
BPM: Who does your body of literary work speak to? Do you consider authors as role models?
JLD: I absolutely adore Black History. My body of literary work speaks to readers who enjoy learning about history in general, Black history in particular. My first book The Lion of Judah introduced the reader to the idea of Black royalty, which I knew nothing about. Since we do not live in a country that has kings and queens, I looked to Africa for inspiration. I read an article in Newsweek magazine that referred to Haile Selassie as The Lion of Judah. After researching the subject, I found out the Lion of Judah, was based on the Solomonic line of kings, which descended without interruption from the dynasty of Menelik I, son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. I was shocked. My book came next. After that I wrote Moon Goddess, Queen of Sheba.
I’ll never forget the time I took a black history class in college and learned about Black scientists and inventors. I brought that book home and my father, an engineer, took it from me after I finished the class. He gave me the strangest look I’d ever seen on his face. He couldn’t believe there was a book about 19th century black scientists and inventors. I’ve often wondered why the accomplishments of great African American’s were excluded in our American history books. So I set out on a journey to learn as much as I could.
I do consider authors as role models especially for impressionable youth. It’s amazing how words can hurt or help people. I prefer to write stories that uplift the human spirit. I like writing about how characters transform into different people.
BPM: What inspired you to sit down and actually start writing this book? Why now?
JLD: I lived in Vallejo, California for twelve years. It is the gateway to the Napa Valley Wine Country. There are some wonderful restaurants and wineries there. All the years I had been going to the wine country, I never saw a black winery. When I found out that there were African American wineries in Napa Valley, I decided to write Kenton’s Vintage Affair. I researched black wineries in Napa Valley, I was shocked. I invited three of the wineries to participate in a panel discussion and private wine tasting at an event that my chapter of a non-profit organization was hosting in Oakland. They all graciously accepted. I wrote the book after that experience.
I wanted to write Kenton’s Vintage Affair now, because I felt if I didn’t write about these black wineries in Napa Valley no one else would. I also wanted to give readers a chance to escape into the world of Napa Valley by reading my book. The wine country is such a romantic place, so why not write a romance novel about a black family in a beautiful setting.
BPM: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
JLD: I enjoyed creating the characters from scratch. I also enjoyed writing about the setting, which I think is gorgeous.
BPM: Where do your book ideas come from? Are your books plot-driven or character-driven? Why?
JLD: My book ideas come straight from my imagination and my love for African American culture and history. My creative imagination stems from my father’s bedtime stories he told my brother and I, when we were small children. My father was a great storyteller. He made up this story called The Hard Biscuit, which turned out to be a little scary for a five-year-old. I dreamt about that story and even had nightmares, nonetheless, it was my father’s storytelling that sparked my creative imagination.
I love plot driven stories by authors such as Walter Mosley, but my books are usually character driven because I enjoy falling in love with characters. I remember reading my first romance novel The Wolf and the Dove, by Kathleen Woodiwiss. I can still remember the names of the characters. I can’t remember the details of the plot, but I can remember the characters.
BPM: Could you tell us something about your most recent work? Is this book available in digital forms like Nook and Kindle?
JLD: My most recent work is Kenton’s Vintage Affair, book 1, in The Underwood’s of Napa Valley series. The book is available now on Amazon.com in Kindle format.
BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters or speakers. What makes each one so special?
JLD: The Heroine is Briana Rutledge from Baton Rouge. She is an unemployed Low Country chef who comes to Napa Valley to heal from her grandmother’s death. She stays with her grandmother’s good friend, Henrietta Underwood, the matriarch of the Underwood family. What makes Briana special is that she is a young entrepreneur determined to open her own restaurant. I think more young women should become entrepreneurs and create their own opportunities.
Kenton Underwood is the family vintner (winemaker) for Underwood Hills Winery. He loves working with the earth. He only produces cabernet wines, but wants to expand the family’s winery to include white wines to his label. What makes him so special is he is one of the few successful African American vintners in Napa Valley.
BPM: Are there under-represented groups or ideas featured in your book? If so, discuss them.
JLD: Black vintners are under-represented groups in Napa Valley. I discuss this in the book, as well as some serious issues that the Hero must face.
BPM: How does your book relate to your present situation, education, spiritual practice or journey?
JLD: Like myself, the hero and heroine are both college educated, Christian, business owners.
BPM: Did you learn anything personal from writing your book? Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book?
JLD: I met Dr. Ernest Bates and Ms. Vanessa Robledo, Mr. Vance Sharp and “Mac” MacDonald, all winemakers in Napa Valley while researching this book. I learned the art of wine-tasting and wine production from all three vintners.
BPM: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
JLD: My goal was to expose readers to black wineries in Napa Valley and establish a series of romance novels in that setting. I think I achieved that goal very well beginning with Kenton’s Vintage Affair, book 1 in The Underwood’s of Napa Valley series.
BPM: What projects are you working on at the present?
JLD: I am completing my other books in the Napa Valley series.
BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
JLD: Visit my website at www.janicedennie.com.
Find my book here: www.amazon.com/Kentons-Vintage-Affair-Underwoods-Valley-ebook/dp/B00NS4KW0I
Kenton's Vintage Affair by Janice L. Dennie
Unemployed chef, Briana Rutledge, inherits a cottage on one thousand acres of land in California’s Napa Valley, making her a millionaire. She sets out to turn the cottage into her dream restaurant. But others have agendas to destroy Briana and her plans.
The Underwood brothers have inherited the character DNA of their male ancestors, a line of old fashioned southern gentlemen who took great pride in protecting women and children. As the eldest brother, Kenton Underwood has been betrayed and no longer believes women need his protection. He has no room for love until he meets sexy, understated, Briana Rutledge, who finds a special place in his heart. But Briana harbors a deep seated fear that prevents their future happiness. Kenton has also been scarred by an obsession that fuels his competitive behavior. Can their relationship survive Kenton’s obsession and Briana’s fear?
Order Kenton's Vintage Affair by Janice L. Dennie. This title is available now on Amazon.com at: