Welcome to the four hundred and thirteenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre Kelly Abell. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Kelly. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Kelly: Hi Morgen, thanks for hosting me on your blog. I’ve been writing since my high school days, but had my first novel published in 2008. Since then I’ve written 3 more novels and a few short stories and am published with two different presses. I live in Florida with my family and my wonderful writing companion, my dog Snickers. I love living in the Sunshine State, as I believe I must have been a mermaid in a formal life. I adore the water and spend as much time in it, on it and around it as possible. I’m a writer! Yippee! I’ve always wanted to do this my entire life. Now I get paid to do it because of wonderful folks like you, the Readers!
Morgen: It sounds like you love your life as much as I do (even more perhaps, I don’t yet live near water and am currently having a typical English summer… lots of rain). I described you as ‘multi-genre’ what genres do you write?
Kelly: I am a diverse writer and so write in multiple genres. I love writing Young Adult and encouraging young people to read, but I also write Romantic Suspense, Romance, and Paranormal Romance. I dream one day of writing a really gripping thriller.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Kelly: To date I have 4 novels and a short story published. My In Lies Series: Sealed In Lies and Captured in Lies, a paranormal short entitled Blackheart Point, and my romance Online Angel are with Solstice Publishing. Blood Harvest Moon, a paranormal romance is published with kNight Romance publishing. I write under my own name, Kelly Abell. If my YA series that is currently contracted with Sullivan Maxx agency ever takes off, I plan to use K.D. Abell for YA endeavors.
Morgen: Initials didn’t do Joanne Kathleen Rowling any harm. 🙂 Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Kelly: Oh wow! Have I ever. It’s all part of the process of getting published. I actually absorb rejection and learn as much as I can from it. When a writer is fortunate enough to receive feedback from a professional (and I use that time conservatively), you would be a fool not to learn as much as you can from it. Build it into your craft and use it to become stronger. Over the years, and hundreds of rejections later, I’ve learned that everyone has an opinion and just because someone rejects your story, does not mean it’s NOT a good story. It means your work needs polishing OR it could mean you just haven’t found the right home for it. Keep trying, writers. Improve your craft day by day, absorb what’s useful and discard what’s not. Write On My Friends, write on!
Morgen: It’s very wise to learn from the rejections. They are generally the right thing for the wrong person and when someone does take time to comment (or even reply) then they must see merit. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Kelly: I do have an agent and she does a great job getting my books in front of publishers I could never reach. I haven’t had success yet, but I’ve been rejected by some great names like Simon & Schuster, Random House and Scholastic. But you know what? At least I can say those houses have read my work. We are tweaking and working to keep the dream alive and I’m not giving up and neither is my agent. She believes in me and that keeps me going!
Morgen: 🙂 When I tried agencies I tried the top dozen (and was rejected by all but one… the other didn’t reply). With so many authors going that route it’s not surprising but I’m not disappointed as I decided to go my own way and it didn’t take me long to realise that it’s pretty straightforward to eBook. Are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Kelly: I’ve worked in and out of the publishing industry for the last five years and I love having my books in ebook format. Paper is great too, but I can’t emphasize who difficult that process is for small publishers and its becoming increasingly difficult for the large houses. Warehousing paper books is extremely expensive for publishers and they must have a guaranteed sale, or feel very strongly about the success of a book before they will take it on. With ebooks a lot of wonderful independent authors get to have their work enjoyed by readers all over the globe. I have an ereader myself and love it. I still like the feel of a paper book in my hands, but they are heavy to carry around when I travel, so the ereader makes that much easier, plus I get the choice of all those great Indy authors! Check them out if you haven’t already.
Morgen: Only a handful of interviewees have said they prefer electronic to paper, as in they only read for former. My house is crammed with too many wonderful books to forgo them but I love having 400+ stories with me when I go away. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Kelly: This is the most critical part of being an author whether you are published with a big house or a small house. It is necessary to build your “brand name” by getting as involved in your marketing as you can. Don’t depend on your publisher to do it for you. Only you can sell yourself best. Build a website, join as much social media as you can, participate in interviews, blog posts…anything you can do to get your name out there to readers is very important. I can offer tips if anyone is interested.
Morgen: Yes please, a guest blog would be great. 🙂 Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Kelly: I am in love with all my characters. That’s like asking a mom “who is your favourite child” (winks). Of all the books I’ve written that I think would make a great movie, Sealed in Lies tops the list. Jack Weaver, a former SEAL / spy is hot sexy and in so much trouble. When he literally runs into Caroline Walters, a debutante Senator’s wife, the sparks fly. If that book were made into a movie I’d love to see Duane Johnson (The Rock) as Jack and Angelina Jolie as Caroline. That book is packed with action and romance. It would be a great flick.
Morgen: I’d pay to see Duane and Angelina spark, they’re both strong actors. 🙂 Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Kelly: Depends on the publisher. I think most publishers try to design covers that best fit the novels and make suggestions on titles that will grab attention. I also design book covers and try to keep my author’s needs and desires in mind, but it’s not as easy to do that as you may think. I think your book cover and the title of your book are the most important thing you do to market your novel. It’s the first thing a reader sees and it’s what grabs their attention. That plus a well-written, succinct blurb are critical. I’ve found simple is better. Don’t over complicate your title or include too much in your cover.
Morgen: Absolutely. Simple and smart without being dull. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Kelly: I am currently working on a contemporary romantic suspense entitled Noble Intentions. How does one woman endure the sudden discovery of the blackmailing of her famous attorney husband by his insane gay lover, and caring for her abusive stepmother all the while trying to raise her children and run her own successful business? The timing of all these events seems too coincidental to be pure circumstance. With the help of an intensely attractive and caring new man in her life, Alexa attempts to hold it all together as she navigates the mine field that has become her world. These events will try her very soul and who knows if her noble intentions will be enough to protect her when everything she holds dear is threatened, including her own existence.
Morgen: It’s a shame you’re in the US, I’ve been asked (because it’s in my hometown and I know a thing or two about writing :)) to help out at Northampton’s first gay literature festival in September. I’m sure they’d have loved to have you talk about your ‘insane gay lover’. 🙂 Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Kelly: I do try to write every day but I’m not always successful. I time it to an hour a day as it’s not my fulltime job. If I suffer from writer’s block, I find a good night’s sleep usually loosens up my muse. I dream a great deal of my plot lines so when I’m blocked I just let my subconscious have at it. By morning I’ve got a plan.
Morgen: A lot of authors say that and I heard, I think it was PD James, say that if she’s stuck she leaves a sentence half-written then carries on in the morning. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Kelly: I used to just run with it, but as I’ve improved my craft I find my stories come out a lot better if I plan ahead. I plot out an outline all the way through the end. I write my back cover blurb first and then the synopsis as well as a two or three sentence chapter outline. It makes the writing go so much faster and I don’t end up with as many plot problems because of it. I’ve seen so many writers end up writing themselves in a corner and having to spend more time backtracking and keeping up with what they’ve already written, then if they’d taken the time to plot it out to begin with. Try it. I think it will work for you.
Morgen: I’ve done both, actually the other way round. I plotted the first one then went off at a tangent (although not completely); I’d planned much further ahead than it went (to its natural conclusion as it turns out). I had an idea for the other three and just went with it. I’m very lucky that it all just flows out (I’m one of these annoying people who has more ideas than I can probably write in my lifetime – which is possibly why I mainly write short stories, so I can write more of them. 🙂 Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Kelly: I use a full character profile when I plan out my characters. I have a series of questions I ask myself that covers everything from their physical appearance to their greatest fear, and favourite color. The more I know about my characters before I start writing the easier it is to predict how they will act in a certain scene or situation I craft for them. Every now and then they hijack my “mental bus” and surprise me but I find that delightful and sometimes go with it. Other times I pull out my “mental handcuffs” and rough them back into line.
Morgen: I love that. 🙂 Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Kelly: I’m a believer of get your rough draft down on paper and then go back and work through it as many times as necessary to tighten it up. Less is more folks and the more experienced you become the tighter your writing will be and the less editing you will find yourself doing. I also don’t believe a writer should ever edit their own work. Find someone you trust with good editing skills to help you. Beta readers are a great tool as well. I have a friend that does both and she’s tough on me, but I’m all the better for it.
Morgen: I do know someone who says he doesn’t need a second reader and is impatient to get his novel online. I’ve urged him not to do that and it’s not out yet so hopefully he’ll change his mind. Do you have to do much research?
Kelly: It depends on the story. I do a lot of research when it is warranted. It is critical to make your story believable.
Morgen: It is because someone will pick you up on it. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Kelly: I’m more experienced with third person but I’ve written first person. My YA novel is in first person and alternates characters. I like first person for the intense connection the reader can develop with the main character but I do find it limiting on point of view. I’ve never tried second person but there’s always a first time. POV is something all writers need to examine carefully. Don’t let your third person become omniscient or you run the risk of losing your reader.
Morgen: Oh do try second person. It’s not to everyone’s (or many people’s) taste but I love it. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Kelly: Oh Lord yes. Buried deep in a cavernous hole under tons of concrete. LOL
Morgen: Oh dear. 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Kelly: My best advice is keep writing and write for the pure joy of it not because you’re desperate to get published. I got caught in that trap and the emotional roller coaster of it nearly drove me crazy. If you are working to constantly improve your craft the published work will come. Absorb all you can from books on writing and by reading professional bloggers on writing. Some of the information will fit your style and some won’t but always be on the lookout for ways to improve. Join a local writing association if you can. I’ve found Florida Writers Association to be invaluable in the way of contacts and writing advice.
Morgen: I don’t read as much as I should but I belong to four writing groups. 🙂 Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?
Kelly: I love the Writer’s Digest website and I have found wonderful tips in the Writing Great Fiction Series. This series of books, written by various famous authors, has separate books on Plot, Scene Creation, Dialogue, Character Building, etc. that are tremendously helpful. These can be found on Amazon or in any bookstore.
Morgen: My interviewee yesterday, Jack Whitsel, recommended Writer’s Digest. 🙂 Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Kelly: I think I’m on all of them. LOL. I find Facebook and Twitter the most valuable.
Morgen: I’m with you there, although LinkedIn came to my rescue when I was running low on interviewees back around Easter and now I’m about to book into next March! What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Kelly: I think the future possibilities are endless for writers. I believe the publishing industry will be forced to change and a lot of the old stigmas attached to self-publishing and print on demand will have to change. I think it’s a great time to be a writer.
Morgen: Hear hear. 🙂 Where can we find out about you and your work?
Kelly: Please visit my website and join up as a member. That way you can keep up with the most current news. Please follow me on Twitter. You can also visit me on Facebook.
Morgen: Thank you, Kelly.
I then invited Kelly to include an extract of her writing and this is from ‘Sealed In Lies’…
Jack Weaver, a sexy under cover operative for the CIA, can’t seem to escape a life of lies. Working undercover in the largest drug cartel in Columbia, Jack lives a life of guns, drugs and beautiful women. It all comes to an end when Jack uncovers a plot to assassinate the President-Elect on Inauguration Day. Suddenly things become infinitely worse when Jack is forced to kill his old SEAL Commander who is now a Deputy Director of the CIA. Jack is now on the run not only for his life but he’s the only one who knows about the assassination attempt, other than a mysterious man who calls himself the Emperor and seems to be calling all the shots.
Desperate for answers Jack breaks into the home of Vice-President elect Warren Walters, a SEAL teammate, where he is discovered by Warren ’s abused wife Caroline. He forces Caroline to go with him. Even as Caroline thinks of ways to escape her captor, she finds herself unexpectedly attracted to him. She begins to wonder if a night spent in his arms will erase years of abuse. When she is offered the opportunity to be set free Caroline refuses to leave, seeing an opportunity to escape her own life of lies. Desire sizzles as Jack and Caroline come closer and closer to the answers and each other. The key question is will they be able to save the President-elect’s life as well as their own, or will a blast from Jack’s past destroy them all?
Kelly is a native of Virginia, but now lives in the Sunshine state with my family. She has two kids (not of the goat variety) and one dog (who can open her own Christmas presents). She works a full time job as an insurance consultant and longs for the day she can write full time (hint, hint). She loves to read, enjoys spending time with her family, and soaking up the Florida sun.
Update November 2012: I have a new release with another publisher World Castle Publishing. It is a YA Paranormal entitled Haunted Destiny (available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk):
Destiny Dove is the only survivor of a tragic car crash that killed her parents and baby brother. A teen uprooted from her home, she is forced to live with her New Age Grandmother whom she’s been taught her entire life to fear. If that’s not enough, Destiny soon discovers she has developed the family gift of being able to see and talk to ghosts, The Shade Sight, her grandmother calls it. Grams Rose will be the one person who can help her understand her haunted destiny.
When Destiny meets hot hunk Jake Turner along with his jealous girlfriend Amy, sparks immediately fly. Jakes sees Destiny as a new kindred spirit, while Amy sees her as a threat and is determined to ruin Destiny’s life at Blake High. But when Amy’s mother, an antiques dealer, buys Amy some old furniture, it comes with a lot more than anyone bargained for. Only Destiny stands between Amy and an ancient ghostly evil so strong it might just take the entire town of Arcadia down with it. When called upon can Destiny forgive and draw upon her new gift to save Amy and a group of local teens from certain destruction?
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
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