Interview with Kelli A. Wilkins:
Hi Kelli. Thank you for doing this interview. I would like to welcome you to the Romance at Heart Interview and Author Grilling session. *bg* We are interested to find out as much about you as we possibly can, so lets get started...
- Please tell us about your latest book.
Amber Quill Press released my tenth romance, Trust with Hearts on April 25, 2010. It’s a full-length contemporary romance novel that takes place in rural West Virginia. I’m pleased to say that Trust with Hearts won Honorable Mention in the 2009 Reading Writers “Romantic Encounter” writing contest.
The synopsis is: After a bitter breakup, the heroine, Sherrie Parker, seeks refuge at her cousin Dave’s house. Sherrie meets Dave’s other houseguest, a sexy country singer named Curtis Taylor. They’re thrown together by unusual circumstances and start a sizzling summer romance.
Trust with Hearts is longer than some of my more recent releases, but the story gives Sherrie and Curtis time to get to know each other and develop their relationship one step at a time. Because of its length, Trust with Hearts is available in electronic and paperback formats. It’s already received one great review – so that’s good to hear!
- What can we expect from you in the future?
On the horror side of my writing, my horror short story, “The Ape” was recently included in The Four Horsemen – An Anthology of Conquest, War, Famine & Death published by Pill Hill Press. My short story, “Whispers from the Past” will be published in their upcoming Haunted anthology.
As for romances, I’ve written a sequel to my bestselling romance novella, A Midsummer Night’s Delights, entitled A Midwinter Night’s Delights. The sequel is just as spicy as the first story, and I hope to finish the editing/revisions in the next month, so it can be a late 2010 release. The sequel follows the adventures of Annabelle and Julian as they return to the castle for a Midwinter Ball.
Also, Medallion Press will be publishing my full-length historical/paranormal romance, The Witch & the Warrior in August 2012.
Other than all that, I’m mulling over ideas for a few new romances (a paranormal, a contemporary, and a futuristic fantasy) – in addition to writing horror stories. I’m also in the process of editing a full-length romance novel that’s set in the world of professional wresting. I’m hoping that will be my first release of 2011.
I know it sounds like a lot, but I generally go from project to project, and sometimes I’ll be halfway through writing one story (or book) when another idea starts brewing in the back of my mind. I’m always thinking of new ideas, plots, and characters. I have more ideas for stories than I have the time to write them!
- How do we find out about you and your books?
My website, www.kelliwilkins.com is the best place to find all of my writings. My short stories and books are grouped together on the site by genre. So if a reader was interested in horror, he could visit the horror section. If someone wanted to read about my romances, she’d go to the romance section. My website contains summaries, reviews, and excerpts from my Amber Quill Press romances; descriptions of my non-fiction books; and teasers from my short stories. Readers can purchase all of my writings from links directly on my site.
Every other month, I send out my newsletter, Kelli’s Quill. Each issue contains news and reviews, as well as a special “For Writers” blog/advice column where I offer writing tips, prompts, and suggestions. Its fun to write and I enjoy sharing my writing advice with readers. (My website has a sign-up page in the “News” section.)
You can also visit the Amber Quill Press website and do an author search for my name.
- How may readers contact you?
Readers/fans can write me via the “contact the author” form on my website. They can also use the form to sign up for my monthly newsletter, Kelli’s Quill.
I’ve also created pages for my books and myself on Facebook, Goodreads, Shelfari, ManicReaders, RomanceWiki, LinkedIn, and Authors Den. I’ve started posting my newsletters on Facebook and Goodreads so readers can catch up on back issues.
- How many readers/fans contact you?
I’ve had a several readers contact me. It’s nice to hear that someone likes your writing and has fallen in love with characters you’ve created. I’ve had some great reviews and interesting reader feedback about my books. People were surprised at the twists and turns in The Pauper Prince, and wondered how (or even if) Claudette and Allan would end up together. One person confessed to tearing up during parts of Dalton’s Temptation. Other people asked me if I was planning to write a sequel – or a prequel – to A Midsummer Night’s Delights. Those are great things for a writer to hear. It tells me that I’ve created believable characters that readers care about.
- Why did you decide to write romance novels?
I didn’t really decide to write romance, I just sort of fell into it! I started out writing horror stories and then I alternated those with short romances. (I also wrote the occasional sci fi story, too.) I like to say that “one half of my brain writes horror, and the other half writes romance.”
My erotic romance writing career began with a contest. Amber Quill Press was running a contest to find authors. I submitted three romance novellas, and they contracted me for all three! At the time, I was writing “traditional” (aka not-so-spicy) romances, but I had never written an erotic romance. In keeping with my knack for writing in different genres, I submitted stories in three different romance categories. A Most Unusual Princess is a fantasy, The Dark Lord is a gothic historical, and The Sexy Stranger is a contemporary.
After these novellas were released, I kept writing erotic romances. A Most Unusual Princess spawned two sequels, Dalton’s Temptation and The Pauper Prince. Although I’m drawn to historical/fantasy settings, if I get a great idea for a story I’ll go with it, regardless of the genre. To date, I’ve had 10 erotic romances published with Amber Quill Press.
- How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
I think that I have a consistent writing ‘voice’ that comes through in all of my stories. I don’t intentionally add any of my own life experiences into my work - it’s more interesting to make stuff up!
- When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first ms?
I’ve always liked to read, and when I was young I sat around writing stories that never went anywhere. So, I guess that started me out as a writer.
When I was in high school, I wrote short stories and plays for fun and I took a lot of creative writing classes. After college, I enrolled in a Commercial Writers’ Program and read some of my stories in class. At the time, I was writing short horror fiction. Everyone liked the stories and encouraged me to submit them for publication.
One day, I read a short romance in a magazine, and said “I can write that.” So I did. A few months later, I sold my first “10-Minute Love Story” to the Sun – and from there I was hooked. I became a regular Sun romance author and eventually branched out into writing science fiction stories for the Sun as well.
- Generally, how long does it take you to write a book?
Depending on the length of the story or the scope of the book, it can take anywhere from a week to a month to write the first (very rough!) draft. Shorter stories like The Dark Lord and The Sexy Stranger took a week to make it onto paper. Full-length books such as Dalton’s Temptation and The Pauper Prince took a month (maybe longer!).
I write all my stories in longhand, so after the first draft is finished, I edit it as I type it. I love the process of writing. Creating characters and telling the story of their adventures is a lot of fun. It’s interesting to see what the characters do, to watch them fall in love, and to learn how they overcome their troubles to have a happy ending.
- Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?
Before I start a book, I think about the story and get that settled away. I need to know who the characters are and what’s going to happen overall. After that, I outline the scenes and start writing. As I write, I allow myself some leeway to explore things I hadn’t considered in my outline/list. Sometimes I add entire scenes or I write scenes that are later omitted. I tend to go where the story takes me.
- What is your writing routine?
I write every day, even if it’s just for an hour here or there. Sometimes I’ll spend 5 or 6 hours writing, other days I’ll write for an hour. I write the first drafts of my stories in longhand, so I can take a pen and paper with me anywhere I go. Depending on the season/weather, I write outside as much as I can.
- What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are writing - or are there constant interruptions?
I try to write when nobody else is around, or I go into my office and close the door. My husband has his own hobbies, so we give each other time to pursue our own interests. Usually my only interruption is the phone - for some reason people know when I’m trying to write and like to call then.
- What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?
After a long day, I do yoga and go for walks. Walking is a great way to refresh your brain after writing. When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading, gardening, traveling, going to flea markets, or hanging out with my husband and friends.
I try to balance my writing life with my “regular” life, so I’m not being anti-social and slaving away writing when I could be out enjoying the world. I like going places and seeing new things, because you never know when something will spark an idea for a story or a character. I also work a Full-Time job, so I’m constantly busy.
- Where do your ideas come from?
Ideas are everywhere; you just need to find them. I tend to be a bit nosy and I like to explore, so I come up with ideas just by noticing my surroundings and observing what’s going on around me. I also have a vivid imagination, which helps give me ideas. Once in a while, a story idea or character will come to me out of nowhere. Sometimes I take two ideas and combine them into one, or I take an idea and ask myself “what if” to invent new scenarios and plotlines. My two paranormal romances, Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover and Beauty & the Bigfoot started out as “what if?” plots.
I have entire folders of ideas just waiting to be developed. I find ideas everywhere – while driving, watching people at the store, from overheard conversations… usually something catches my attention and I let my mind wander, to see where the ideas take me.
Sometimes when I’m mulling over ideas or trying to think of plotlines, I’ll play the ‘what if’ game and ask myself, “what if….” And see what I come up with. (One of my science fiction stories recently appeared in an anthology entitled What If… so I think it’s a useful phrase!
For example, my paranormal romance, Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover, came about because I had a “what if” idea: What if a vampire went to the beach and fell in love?
Beauty & the Bigfoot was inspired by a wacky “what if” idea that popped into my head: “What if a girl fell in love with a Sasquatch?” The more I thought about it, the more the story unfolded.
- What are your thoughts on love scenes in romance novels, do you find them difficult to write?
I don’t find them difficult to write because they are part of the story. My books have different “heat” levels of love scenes, and I match the intensity/situations with the characters. I try to make the love scenes as natural and as real for the characters as I can---given the story, the characters’ personalities, motivations, and backgrounds, and what level of intimacy they share. But sometimes I’ll be writing a scene and the characters “take over” and decide that the scene should go a different way, or something I planned on happening changes. (This can happen during “regular” scenes or love scenes.)
I thought I knew all about my characters before I started writing The Pauper Prince and A Midsummer Night’s Delights – but I was wrong! One thing I learned while writing those stories was that characters can jump off the page and take the story in a different direction. Even though I created the characters, I was surprised to discover a different side to Prince Allan (in The Pauper Prince) and Julian (from A Midsummer Night’s Delights).
Another thing I’ve learned over the years of writing romance is that I have to turn off my “internal editor” every so often when it comes to writing some of the more explicit love scenes. My romances with Amber Quill Press not only run the gamut of different genre categories, but they also have different heat levels ranging from 1 to 3. For example, A Most Unusual Princess is a heat level of 1, (relatively mild), and A Midsummer Night’s Delights is a scorching hot level 3. My new book, Trust with Hearts is in the middle, and has a heat level of 2..
- What kind of research do you do?
That depends on the type of story I’m writing. Once I have a genre or time period for the story, I do research for details and/or ideas for setting, clothing, occupations, or even the food that people ate. I like to weave little details into the stories and blend them in as naturally as possible. When I’m writing fantasy romance, I invent my own ‘world’ and history, so that cuts down on a lot of research. I don’t do much research for the contemporary romances. But if I need to know specific details about a subject for the sake of the character, I’ll find out all I can to make the character or situation believable.
I actually did a great deal of research before I wrote Beauty & the Bigfoot. Although I know a lot about Bigfoot, I had to know everything about the history and mythology of the creature. To write the part of Charlie (Tara’s “Bigfoot-expert” father) I needed to be able to rattle off all kinds of details about the creatures that only an avid Bigfoot hunter would know (sort of like how a baseball fan can recite a favorite player’s stats).
For my research, I went to the library and took out all the Bigfoot books they had. (And yes, I got strange looks from the librarian.) I also watched Bigfoot shows on TV. While doing research, I came across Sasquatch accounts that dated from as far back at the 1500s, and sightings that referred to them as wild men who sometimes took human wives. Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest have several names for the creatures and had their own legends, as well. All of that information got my imagination going, and the story took off from there.
A lot of the tiny details in the story are authentic – based on the research I did and the actual reported Bigfoot sightings. Knowing these details made it easier to understand the characters and write the story.
- What does your husband think of your writing?
My friends and family have been very supportive. My husband is proud to call me the “resident writer” in the family. He loves reading my stories and is always amazed at how I’m able to come up with such interesting characters and creative story ideas.
I also share my newsletter, Kelli’s Quill with my parents, friends, and other relatives, so they’re aware of my writing. I let them decide for themselves whether they want to buy the books or not. My father likes reading all my great reviews, and he’s read a bunch of my short stories and interviews, but I’m not sure if he’s read any of the erotic romances. My mother and brother have read my books and they like them.
- Do you ever ask him for advice?
Sometimes I’ll bounce story ideas off him if I’m stuck on something. Or I’ll ask a few questions to get a man’s perspective on things. He’s also given me a few ideas for short stories, and he came up with the name for my newsletter, Kelli’s Quill.
- Please tell us about yourself (family, hobbies, education, etc.)
I was raised in a small town in rural upstate New York. I went to Hofstra University and majored in Communications and minored in Drama. After college I moved to New Jersey. My hobbies are reading, gardening traveling, going to flea markets, and hanging out with friends.
- Do you feel humor is important in women's fiction and why?
I try to make my stories fun or lighthearted in some scenes, dramatic in others, and steamy when the romance heats up. I think giving the characters variety helps – not everyone is always clever or always serious.
Some of my books feature characters that have odd or strange senses of humor or are just plain witty. (Prince Allan’s character in Dalton’s Temptation was so adorable and clever that I gave him a book of his own, The Pauper Prince. Allan is able to cope with bad situations and maintains his smartass sense of humor even though the book is not a comedy. A Most Unusual Princess also has a lot of humor in it.
However, Beauty & the Bigfoot was the first book that I set out to intentionally make funny. It’s one thing to sprinkle in some humor here and there, but to start out trying to be funny can be a bit daunting...
- Fill in the blank favorites –
Dessert. – Brownies
City – London
Season - Autumn
Type of hero - tall, dark and handsome, reliable and strong, with a gentle inner nature.
Type of heroine - a clever woman who can take care of herself, yet chooses to be with the man she loves.
- Are you a member of any author groups - RWA, critique groups, etc.?
I am a member of RWA-PRO. I’ve also joined several Yahoo groups where I post my excerpts and news about my books.
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years I hope to have published at least ten more books and dozens of short stories. I’d like to branch out into full-length horror/mystery/suspense novels. I have a great idea for a series!
- After you've written your book and it's been published, do you ever buy it and/or read it?
I try not to read anything I’ve written after it’s been published. Whenever I do, I tend to find things that I’d like to change after the fact. Plus, by the time the book is out, I’m usually focusing on the next book and am too busy writing to read.
- Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite hero or heroine?
I really fell in love with Elara and Dalton from A Most Unusual Princess. I liked them so much that I created a trilogy around them. A Most Unusual Princess led to Dalton’s Temptation. That book introduced readers to Prince Allan, and he got his own book, The Pauper Prince. Once I finished all of their stories I was able to let them go “live their lives” and focus on different characters.
I like all of my books and I fall in love with all the characters as I’m writing – otherwise, I couldn’t do it! I do like Curtis from Trust with Hearts, and I was fond of Tara’s wacky humor in Beauty & the Bigfoot. I think the book I’m writing at the moment (whenever that moment is) is my favorite, because I’m putting all my energy into it.
- What book for you has been the easiest to write? The hardest? The most fun?
Beauty & the Bigfoot was a lot of fun to write – partially because it was a comedy with wacky characters, and partially because the plot was just…. strange!
I wrote A Most Unusual Princess and The Dark Lord in about a week (each) so they came to me pretty easy. The Pauper Prince was probably the “hardest” because of its length. It took a long time to write and edit.
- What sets the book apart from the other things you have written?
Beauty & the Bigfoot is one of two paranormal romances, but it’s my only paranormal comedy. That sets it apart from my other romances. Although I add some humor to my romances (where I can) this was the first story I tried to intentionally make funny.
I knew that a romance about Bigfoot would have to be a comedy – nobody would buy into the idea of a “serious” love story about Bigfoot. From there, the idea, characters, and back story about the legend grew and morphed into the book. It’s sort of a modern take on Beauty and the Beast – with plenty of humor and drama to draw readers into Tara’s crazy world.
When I was writing the story, I was concerned about two aspects: One was readers being turned off/freaked out by the idea of a woman being intimate with a “monster” (or an “animal”); the second thing that concerned me was that readers wouldn’t “get” the wacky humor and unusual characterization of Tara and her father, Charlie.
I made sure I gave the Sasquatch a name, (Joe), and humanistic traits so readers can see him as Tara does – as a really hairy guy. I’m happy to say that Beauty & the Bigfoot has received several excellent reviews, so the story and humor are connecting with readers.
- What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?
I think getting published is a significant achievement for any writer. Finishing the manuscript (whether it’s a book or a short story) is another achievement in itself. I think writers should consider each completed work, each contest submission, and each acceptance as achievements, and set their own goals.
- Which comes first, the story, the characters or the setting?
Each book comes to me in a different form. Sometimes I’ll have an entire story “jump” into my head, and I’ll know everything that happens to the characters. Other times, I’ll get bits and pieces of the story and parts of the characters. Once in a while, I’ll have a character come first, and once I get to “know” and develop the character, I’ll find out the story. The setting usually comes with the story. Once I know the story, the other pieces fall into place, like a puzzle.
- What is the hardest part of writing/the easiest?
The easiest (or best) part of being a writer is having the freedom to invent whatever I want. I love the process of writing the story. Creating characters, worlds for the characters to live in, and telling the story of their adventures is a lot of fun.
However, once the “fun” part of writing is over, then the real “work” begins. Revising, editing, and proofreading the story is necessary, but it’s not terribly creative. You have to pull yourself out of the story and focus on wording, the plot, and other details that make the story “work” as a whole. This painstaking and not-so-favorite part of the process has its rewards in the end, though. I have a phrase I use when I’ve finished a story: “I love having written.” This means I love having it all finished, polished, and done!
- Are you in control of your characters or do they control you?
I’m in control to a certain (tiny) degree. Once I know the characters and the plot, I let them tell the story and go about their lives. Sometimes they’ll do things that surprise me and don’t follow the outline. If it works in the story, I’ll leave it in, but if it doesn’t I’ll go back later and revise or edit out that part. I’ve often said that I’m not in control of the process, and I go where the story takes me.
- Have you experienced writer's block? If so, how did you work through it?
Once in a while I’ll get stuck on a plot point, or the story just refuses to work. When that happens, I take a break from writing/thinking about the book and do something else. After a day or so, I’ll usually know how to fix the problem and go back to it. If not, I’ll skip over the troublesome scene and leave it for later.
- What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
One of the most rewarding things about being a writer is the fact that I’m able to share my stories with readers. I like the idea that all of these ideas, characters, and adventures are out of my head and into the real world where other people can enjoy them.
- If you weren't writing, what would you be doing?
I can’t imagine not writing. My “real world” job involves writing and proofreading, so I’m naturally drawn to it. If I didn’t have all these ideas/stories, I think I’d be doing crafts of some sort, or working with animals.
- Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
The best advice I can give to any writer (regardless if he or she is writing horror, romance, erotica, or mystery) is the same – keep writing. Writing is a tough and solitary business. Everyone gets rejected and discouraged when stories aren’t working out, but that’s part of the process.
It takes a lot of dedication and determination to sit down every day and write something. You have to push through the times when you don’t want to write or revise a story; you have to pick yourself up and keep going when you get a rejection; you have to make time to write daily; and you have to put in the hard work to create the best plot, characters, and stories that you can. But the more you write, the easier it gets.
Writing classes are a great way to learn the basics and meet other writers. If possible, join a writer’s group or a critique group to get feedback on your stories. When you’ve written the best story you can, submit it! You can’t get published if you never submit, and you never know when your first acceptance will arrive. It’s rewarding to see something you’ve written get published and land in the hands of readers. And writing isn’t about getting rich or famous – it’s about writing your stories and sharing them with the world.
- What question would you love to answer that I didn't ask?
Even though I write horror stories, nobody ever asks me about the paranormal. One thing you probably wouldn’t think to ask is: “Do you believe in ghosts and the supernatural?” The answer is definitely yes.
A Last Note:
Thanks for the interview! It’s always nice to share my thoughts with readers. I’d like to thank everyone who’s bought my books over the years! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.
Thank you very much Kelli for taking the time with us and answering our questions. I really appreciate this interruption to your busy schedule. Good Luck, and we will be looking forward to the next delightful creation from your talented imagination!
Yours in good reading,
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