Today, I sat down with J.M. Kelley to talk about her writing process. Enjoy!
1. When did you start writing?
I enjoyed writing while I was in school, but I didn’t nuture the passion. Over the years, the desire to get back to writing was always there, but real life seemed to get in the way. When my father died in 2007, however, I needed an outlet for the storm of emotions his loss created. I began writing short stories again, and realized the passion was still there. A corporate downsizing finally gave me the time I needed to get serious about my writing. The result of that massive change in my life was my first novel, Drew in Blue.
2. Are you a pantser or a planner?
I have to fly by the seat of my pants. I have a day job with varying shifts, so I can never have a set writing pattern. I will be awake at 3 a.m., if the juices are flowing. Planning would be useless for me, because in the end, I never finish with the story I thought I was going to write.
3. Can you give us an idea of your writing process?
I am a writing mess. I start in the middle, write some of the ending, go back to the beginning…if any editor saw my first drafts, it would drive him insane. I will write out pages of dialogue, let it go for weeks and go back, praying I can inject story into the conversation. I never really know how a story will end when I begin, because my first concept inevitably is blown out of the water by the endless possibilities that keep popping into my brain. The only constant is that basic, initial concept of a story.
4. Which authors have influenced your work?
I consider Toni McGee Causey and Janet Evanovich huge influences. Their snarky characters are wonderful. I cannot write completely serious heroes and heroines—there has to a dose of self-deprecating humor in their development in stories. Bobby Faye and Stephanie Plum have personalities I simply adore. Stephen King has always been an influence, as well. He is a master of characterization. More recently, Sarah Addison Allen’s style of writing has intrigued me. I love the gentle touch she uses in the worlds she creates. Really, I think every book I open has some influence on me, as a writer. I mentally note the things that work, or what doesn’t float my boat, and try to apply what I learn toward my own writing.
5. What are you plans/future projects/new releases that we should be aware of?
My second novel, Daddy’s Girl, will be released the week of January 27, 2013 by Turquoise Morning Press. A work of women’s fiction, Daddy’s Girl is the story of a black-sheep-of-the-family coming home to care for her ailing father. In June of 2013, I will be releasing my first foray into paranormal romance, Mediocre Magic, and I’ve signed a fourth novel, She Let Herself Go, release date to be announced. A busy new year is on tap for me, that’s for sure!
6. Any tips for new writers?
Develop a thick skin, starting from the first written sentence, through the process of finding a home for your work, and on past publication. The only way you can improve as a writer is to be open to other opinions. Our stories will always be our darlings, but our opinions aren’t the most important. Agents, editors, readers, reviewers, critique groups…they will all bring different impressions of your work to your attention. You have to learn to take a deep breath when criticism comes your way, and learn from it. Even in the harshest of opinions, there may be a nugget of enlightenment you can take away. Shake it off, keep a stiff upper lip, and keep doing your very best.
7. Any tips for old writers?
Never forget what it’s like to be a new writer. If you forgot why you started this crazy journey in the first place, what’s the point in continuing?
publisher website for Daddy’s Girl: www.turquoisemorningpressbookstore.com
After one too many Snowmageddon shoveling catastrophes, J.M. Kelley, a native of Pennsylvania, loaded her car with all of her belongings and moved to sunny South Carolina.
Now, she finds herself shivering when temperatures dip to fifty degrees, and battles against the slight Southern accent she seems to be developing. When not toiling away at her day job, she can be found huddled over her laptop in a quiet corner of her favorite coffee shop, slurping a caffeine-laden milkshake as she writes.
J.M. Kelley is a proud recipient of a Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award. She is a member of the South Carolina Writers Workshop, Pennwriters, and Romance Writers of America (PAN).