It’s Tuesday! That means another edition of Debut Author Q&A! Yippee! :) Today, we interview J.M. Kelley, another Lazy Day Publishing author. (We’ve also chatted with George Pappas and Liz Borino.) I found myself nodding in agreement when J.M. says that perhaps the only thing worse that getting a “no” from a publisher is getting an “I LOVE this, but have to pass…” So true!
Name of book: Drew In Blue
Book genre: Contemporary Romance
Date Published: December 1, 2010
Publisher: Lazy Day Publishing
What is your book about? Drew In Blue is the story of a thirty-six 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.
What was the most challenging part of the writing process? So many challenges! Drew In Blue was my first novel, so learning how to actually write a book was quite the process. I read books, went to writers conferences and tried to relearn the English language in order to write coherently. As for the book itself, I tackled a fully male perspective in a romance – which was a learning experience all its own being a woman. It was necessary for me to maintain a true male voice, and I had to observe, listen and deconstruct everything about the men in my life in order to be successful.
What motivates you to write? I think the biggest motivator in my writing life is the sheer excitement when story is flowing. It has to be better than any drug, not that I have a comparison basis. But I can’t imagine anything feeling as exhilarating as being on a writing roll. It’s addictive and empowering.
Did you experience writer’s block? I do struggle with writer’s block at times. Often, it’s more that I have too many ideas in my head and selecting just one or two is difficult, so my brain refuses to release any ideas at all. Sometimes I will write a short story to clear the mechanism and get the mind back in order. Other times the only thing you can do is step away for a while and wait until the muse wakes up again.
How long did it take you to write this book? I think it took about a year to write, maybe a year and half if you count edits and revisions. I am working on my second novel, and though I’ve taken a break in order to promote Drew In Blue and relocate to another state, the writing process flows more smoothly. I think subsequent works will be easier to produce now that I’ve learned a thing or two about writing.
How difficult was it to find a publisher? It’s a tough environment, especially when you’re trying to sell a different angle. Drew In Blue is a romance, but it’s from the male perspective, and it’s quite character-driven, which means I’ve bucked a trend or two in the standard romance formula. And sometimes, the only thing harder to take than a “no” is a “I really like this story! But I have to pass.”
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? That you can just throw out a story in a few weeks and it’s done. I think the biggest surprise for me was reaching “The End” and realizing I’d actually only just begun. You might have a good idea, but that first draft isn’t what you’re going to try to sell. That’s just the foundation you’ve laid, and once it’s set, you have to really get to work and make it shine.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? The characters became real to me. They spoke to me. I argued with them. Drew sulked when I wouldn’t listen. Kris pouted when I didn’t do things her way. I adore how they came alive, and how they are still very prominent in my mind. I know them. They know me. I doubt I’ll ever shake them, or would want to.
How far along are you on your second novel? I’m about halfway through my second novel, a romance set, once again, in small town Pennsylvania. But while it’s a romance, the story focuses heavily on the relationship between a black sheep of the family and her gravely ill father. The love story can only exist as long as she and her father are healing old wounds. I’m enjoying the synergy of those two plots in the emerging story.
Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? I do believe that sometimes you have to be in the right place at the right time, but you’d better be carrying gold when opportunity knocks. I am one of the lucky ones who was given a chance to share her words, but I had to work hard to get there. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into writing Drew In Blue, and I firmly believe my devotion to my characters is apparent. If I didn’t care so much, it would have been just another story getting lost in the slush pile. It’s not just that I have a book to sell. I love my characters, and I want to share their story.