I’m so pleased to have author J.M. Kelley on my blog today! Enjoy the following in depth interview and check out her work too!!
Let’s see. I’m a thirty-something Pennsylvania native who packed up her bags last year and moved to South Carolina. Now I fight to stave off the southern accent that threatens to invade my speech patterns, and try not to indulge in too much sweet tea and barbeque. I write, I work, I pretend I’m not a Facebook addict. I’m terminally single, and I suspect, according to my latest obsession, that I will end up with a pet hedgehog any day now.
What do you do when you are not writing? Do you have a day job as well?
I’m a blue-collar broad. Sling boxes, fail at customer service, that kind of thing. But, it keeps a roof over my head. Sort of. Creatively, in my spare time, I like anything artistic. Sketching, painting, photography. And of course, I love to read.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I’ve always enjoyed the character study. Getting into the hero or heroine’s head. And I find that romance is a fantastic platform for that. What better way to figure out what motivates a character? Love and happiness is a heck of a goal to work toward, and it’s always interesting to discover what someone would sacrifice, or what lengths they will go to, in order to get to their happily ever after.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Oddly enough, Stephen King seems to be my biggest influence. Yes, horror and romance don’t exactly mesh well, but I always found that King was fantastic with characterization. I loved the natural dialogue, and have always worked hard to achieve the kind of conversational writing that draws a reader into the world I’ve built.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Try getting a romance with a male lead published. I dare you. Nobody wants to give it a shot. There’s quite the prejudice about a male focus in a love story, yet readers always tell me they enjoyed the originality of that approach. I was at a writing conference recently, and an agent on a panel was expounding on why nobody will ever read a romance with a male lead, and I had to really bite my tongue. Give the readers some credit! They’re much more open-minded than industry insiders think.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I doubt it. I made rookie mistakes, sure. But it was a learning experience, and I didn’t have to compromise my story to accomplish publication. No complaints from me. Anything learned will be put to use in the future, not in terms of looking back in regret.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
Drew In Blue is the story of a thirty-seven year old loner unexpectedly saddled with the task of raising a baby while trying to sort out his mess of a life. Problem is, he just keeps making things worse for himself. It’s a running theme in Drew’s life, considering he never does anything the easy way. The River’s View, Pennsylvania gossip mill is watching each misstep as Drew juggles a price-gouging babysitter, a major case of artist’s block, and a best friend with an opinion to share on every bungled choice he makes.
Drew’s love life isn’t faring much better. Despite a long history of relationships that never really get off the ground, he falls head over heels for someone new, hoping that she might be the one to end his romantic bad luck streak. After a few abysmally bad false starts, things finally start looking up for Drew. That is, until he finds out (the hard way, naturally) that this new love interest isn’t the one for him after all. Turns out, it’s actually lifelong pal, and high school girlfriend, Kristina Moser. Drew’s feelings for Kris intensify as he witnesses her growing bond with his son, and he finally realizes where he belongs. Now all he has to do is convince Kris he’s right…and she’s just not buying it.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
I’d say the town itself is based on life growing up in Pennsylvania. The characters are, for the most part, imagination, but random experiences in my life have colored the townies. There are aspects in each small character. Drew and Kris are entirely fictional, though I’ve been told that there are bits of me in each one.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Drew finally confronting Kris with his true feelings was so satisfying to write. Even though Drew is highly flawed as a human, he tends to wear his heart on his sleeve. Except when it comes to her. Finally realizing her role in his life is a powerful experience for the man, and being able to show how purely he embraces that revelation was really enjoyable.
What project are you working on now? Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Daddy’s Girl, a work of women’s fiction, will be published in January of 2013 by Turquoise Morning Press. This was a very emotional story for me to write. Daddy’s Girl is about a black-sheep-of-the-family daughter returning home to rural Pennsylvania to care for her terminally ill father. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Amidst the struggle of caring for an ailing parent, Janie, the heroine, manages a little romance on the side. I lost my own father to cancer, and while this story is anything but autobiographical, it’s very inspired by my own experience as his caretaker. I tend to view it as a final homage to my father, and I hope it really speaks to readers when it becomes available. A lot of my heart is in those pages, I can assure you.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I have to admit, I’m not much of a sequel person. As a reader, I simply like to have the happily ever after waiting for me at the end. I get easily frustrated if I have to keep reading in other books for that HEA. So, as a writer, I’m not one to think of re-visiting stories. But, sometimes, I think it would be awfully fun to do a prequel to Drew in Blue. Drew and Kris, the first time around, as high school sweethearts. I’d rather enjoy really fleshing out their back story.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I’ve been rather fortunate with Drew in Blue. The reader response has been incredibly favorable, and I can’t complain about a single review I’ve received. I think, in general, the toughest thing for an author to experience is agent/publisher rejection. Your entire story is judged on the basis of a few words, and I admit there were many times I received a pass for my story in which I was left scratching my head and wondering what the heck that agent was reading, because it certainly didn’t seem like it was my novel. It’s something you have to learn to let slide. Not everyone will get your story. To expect universal appeal is madness.
Luckily, with the rise of digital publishing, there are new routes for authors to take. If you aren’t looking for endless fame and wealth, and simply want to write, you can get your story out there. What matters to me is the opinion of the readers, and I enjoy having a more intimate experience as an author. I like having someone online tell me they read and loved Drew, and then strike up a dialogue with them, person to person. No walls. No PR to go through. Just me, lurking on Facebook. It’s a satisfying experience.
The best compliment I ever received was from a man who read a short story I’d posted on my website. He felt I’d captured his marriage to his wife, who had suffered a few bouts of cancer. It was truly an honor to hear I’d somehow touched him with my words. I may have shed a tear or two as I read that email.
What sort of coffee would you order? Simple coffee, complicated soy-non-fat-extra-espresso-half-caff-nightmare?
I hate coffee! It tastes like dirt. But I’ve found this amazing milkshake at a coffee joint I frequent that has a smidge of coffee sprinkled in. It hypes me up for hours, and it’s divine. Also, they proclaim to use low-fat ice cream in the mix, so I like to kid myself that it’s healthy for me.
What do you think the coolest pet to have would be?
Hedgehog! They’re adorable. I desperately want one.
Have you ever done anything really crazy? Do you regret it?
On a near-daily basis. I’m a manic emotional head case. I take things personally. I hold grudges. But I have a book on temperament that says I can’t help it, so uh, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
What kind of person drives you nuts? (personality trait)
Do you like making up strange new words? (ie awesomesauce, techtarded) Please share if so!
I would like it, if I were any good at it. However, I like to steal the words my friend’s kid thinks up. Like ‘bagokers’. It started out with her making chicken sounds, and ended up being our code-word for crazy.
When you rip out a page from a spiral notebook, do you leave the strip with the tabby pieces in?Or do you have to remove them?
I rip those suckers right out. They annoy the crud out of me. Leaving them there would only cause chaos, mass hysteria, and possibly the Apocalypse, in my mind.
Have you ever owned tennis shoes with velcro instead of laces?
I have owned sneaks with Velcro. Even worse, I bought them at Payless Shoe source, grabbing them because they were on sale for eleven bucks. Well, shopping at Payless wasn’t the horrifying part. It was the fact that two months later, I looked down and realized I’d been walking around with Richard Simmons brand shoes on my tootsies, and didn’t even know it. Eep.
Do you prefer fuzzy or tub socks?
Fuzzy, striped, knee-high, ugly, bright, totally unable to be matched to anything in my wardrobe. I adore socks. Socks make me happy.
Are you a person who makes their bed in the morning, or do you not see much point?
Oh, you’re supposed to make them up? I thought that was just a vicious rumor.
Do you get road rage? What pisses you off the most about other drivers?
I’m from Pennsylvania, so I know all about bad drivers. But, living in South Carolina now, I kind of miss the stupidity of Keystone State drivers. At least, back home, people are in a rush to get themselves killed. Down here, they’re always trying to kill themselves, and each other, real slow-like. Turn signals are a myth. Center lanes are beyond the cognitive capacity of most residents, and I see people driving backwards all the time. Also, there seems to be a real DUI issue down here. Lots of shifty looking people puttering around on unlicensed scooters. I was told those are usually people who have lost their driving privileges, but they have no qualms about put-put-putting their way down a six-lane interstate, probably with a six-pack in the teeny storage spot in the back. If you ever come to the Palmetto State, watch it. These people are nuts.
So, yes, clearly I have road rage issues. Who wouldn’t?
Do you go out of your way to kill bugs? Are there any that make you screech and hide?
Death to spiders. DEATH.
J.M. Kelley is the author of Drew in Blue, a contemporary romance available from Lazy Day Publishing. Laws of Attraction, a short paranormal romance, is featured in Indulgence, Tales of the Cirque Romani, also from Lazy Day. Her upcoming novel, Daddy’s Girl, a work of women’s fiction, will be available in January, 2013, from Turquoise Morning Press. Blog, purchase links, and news can be found at www.jmkelleywrites.com.
Drew in Blue purchase links: