Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Welcome Isabo Kelly!

This week The Lady Novelist talks with RWA NYC member Isabo Kelly about her newest releases from Cerridwen Press.

To heal a magical rift that could rupture the very essence of time, Arlana Von Fordin and Lord Commander Oric of Browan face a treacherous journey. Assassination attempts, warrior goblins, telepathic attacks, a cryptic dragon and the jealousy of a deadly blood sorcerer stand between them and finding the answer to a centuries old riddle that will force them both to face their destiny.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself, what is your background and how long have you been writing before you were published.

Well, I’m one of those strange ducks who grew up in Las Vegas. I studied zoology in college and got my Ph.D. in animal behavior (studying deer mating J). There was about 3 ½ years between getting my bachelors degree and starting my Ph.D. during which I spent a lot of time writing. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, but I didn’t think I could actually be a writer until my first year in college. Even then I thought it would be a hobby and science would be my career. But before the first year of my Ph.D. was finished, I knew I wanted to be a writer more than a scientist. I still wanted the degree, so I finished the program. But science became my hobby and writing my main focus.

How long was I writing before I got published… Well since I’ve been making up stories all my life, it was a long time before I got published! If you count from the time I actually started submitting my work, it took me about 8-9 years to get my first anything published.

Q: Tell us about when you got “the call”

My very first “call” was an email from a small but prestigious new e-book company called Dreams Unlimited. They were actually one of the first e-book publishers, and they published Sherrilyn Kenyon’s first paranormal romance under her own name as well as a novella by Diana Gabaldon. So it was pretty thrilling they wanted one of my books. I was still in Ireland in the middle of my Ph.D. and living with a house full of Irish (and one Scottish guy). I had to do a happy dance around my room, but no one was home from work yet to celebrate with me! That was back in 1999.

Q: What made you choose romance?

I always adored the love stories in books. And when I discovered romance, I realized what was missing from my fantasy and science fiction reads—sex and a focus on the relationship! So I decided to write what I wanted to read but couldn’t find at the time—a real mix of fantasy and romance.

Q: What you do love about writing romance?

Happy Endings!! I can guarantee a happy ending. I also love the focus on character and all the emotions that get churned up in a developing relationship. And I’ll admit it, I love writing sexual tension.

Q: You write for two different e-publishers. Can you tell us a little bit about what it’s been like working with both Cerridwen Press and Samhain?

Actually, I’ve had a pretty good experience with both companies. I adore my Cerridwen Press/Ellora’s Cave editor. She’s really easy to work with, but she doesn’t let me get away with sloppy writing, logic errors or anything else I might be embarrassed by later. She’s a good champion for me in the company. There have been some hitches in the road when it comes to print runs and distribution of print books. It took about a year and a half for Marshall’s Guard to come out in print, and around the same amount of time for Thief’s Desire’s print release. But that seems to be getting ironed out. And to be honest, there’s always going to be issues no matter what house you work with. Overall, though, I’m happy enough to keep writing for EC/CP.

I’ve only just started working with Samhain, but so far, I’ve really been enjoying the author-friendly environment of Samhain. Chrissy (the owner) is a very savvy businesswoman, so I’m hopeful Samhain will have a good future as a publishing house—which can only mean good things for its authors. My former editor was a doll, so she gave me a good introduction to the company. I was really sorry to see her leave. I just got a new editor in the last month, and she’s been really good to work with so far. So I can see continuing to publish with Samhain as long as they keep taking books from me.

I’ve had about three small press publishers close on me since I started publishing, so I try not to take anything for granted. But I’m hopeful both these companies still have a long future ahead of them.

Q: Your book, Destiny’s Seduction is a Fantasy Romance, and it’s also a sequel to Thief’s Desire which has just been released in paperback by Cerridwen Press. What sparked the idea? Was it a character? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?

I was editing my first novel (a fantasy romance which is still in the drawer) and found myself totally head over heals in love with one of the secondary characters—Jacob Marin. I decided he needed a book of his own. Then I was reading something totally unrelated and suddenly, the perfect woman for Jacob introduced herself—she was playing cards in a smoky pub and cheating the other players out of a fortune. That was how Thief’s Desire started. Events in Thief prompted the direction I went with Destiny’s Seduction. For Destiny, I knew the heroine and the bad guy first, and had an idea of the opening scene (the very opening of Chapter 1). The hero came to me as I thought more about the heroine’s journey.

Q: You write fantasy and science fiction. How do you go about world-building when you write?

I’m supposed to say here that I spend a lot of time world-building before I start writing. And I do spend some time developing aspects of my worlds before I launch into the first sentence. But I don’t do a lot. I usually can’t wait that long! I start with a character or two—almost all my stories have started with characters first—build enough of their world to get started, then plunge into the story and learn more about the world as I write. This does mean I have to pause a lot during the writing to daydream and mull over my worlds. But as anyone who knows me will attest, I LOVE world-building. I love traveling through new places in real life and in my imagination. So the exploration factor of world-building really appeals to me.

Q. What/Who do you like to read?

I obviously love reading science fiction, fantasy and paranormal romances J I enjoy non-romance science fiction and fantasy, too. Then there’s Regency historicals, romantic suspense and the occasional mystery. As for authors, the list is probably too long to do justice here but my auto buys in no particular order are Linnea Sinclair, Susan Grant, Julia Quinn, Rhonda Thompson, JC Wilder, Stacey Klemstein, JD Robb, Mary Janice Davidson, Janet Evanovich (the Plum books), Rachel Caine, Eileen Wilks, Eloise James, Terry Pratchett, Jennifer Crusie, Robin Owens, Michele Hauf… The list goes on and on, really. One of the great things about being a writer is I have a good excuse for my book habit—I can always call it work related research. Oh I also read a lot of popular science books, particularly stuff about cosmology and physics (there’s a reason I write science fiction).

Q. What is your writing process? Do you plot extensively first or do you tend to “fly in the mist?” Has your process changed over time? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

As you can tell by my world-building process, I’m a real “fly in the mist” kind of author. I actually prefer writing that way because I get real excited when things I didn’t expect to happen do. I start with some sort of opening scene, a couple of characters and a general idea of how the book will end and then I run with it. The problem with writing this way is that I usually have a lot of re-writing to do when I’m done. I don’t clean up much at all as I go. I have to give myself permission to write the shitty first draft. If I didn’t, I might not ever finish a book! I do have to figure out some plot details, usually about a third of the way through the book, but I find a lot of my plots develop out of what’s happening in the story on the way to the ending I’ve envisioned.

Recently, I have started writing synopses before writing the book. And I’ll admit, I do find this really helpful, particularly for short stories so I know I’ll have enough room to tell the story I have in mind. But even with synopses, I still give myself room for the story to surprise me and grow as it will. In my really rough synopses, I usually say things like “and something exciting will happen here” when I’m not sure what that something will be.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

First and foremost, be sure to finish the novel! If you’re getting bogged down in editing and trying to fix the book before it’s finished, stop editing immediately and just bang the remainder of the book out. You can always fix it later, but it’ll never be finished if you keep tweaking the earlier chapters. The other best advice I know is to just keep at it, persist, no matter what gets thrown your way. This can be a tough business, with a lot of frustrations, annoyances and heartbreaks. It can be easy to give up on submitting to avoid those disappointments (and even after publication, you can—and probably will—still get rejections). So you do have to be persistent.

Q. There was a recent article called "Harm in reading romance novels," Do you think romance novels harm or empower women?

Empower—especially modern romances with heroines from every walk of life, experiencing all those things women go through and coming out strong and happy at the other end. Obviously, like every work of fiction, there’s a lot of fantasy involved in romance novels. You rarely have a heroine complaining about the hero’s socks being thrown on the floor. We don’t really want that much reality in these stories. But what we do get is stories of redemption, the power of love, and the way loving and trusting the right person actually makes us stronger, even if we’re strong to begin with. Romances let us explore how powerful we are as women. How could that be harmful?

Q: Romance has garnered the biggest market share in genre fiction, yet it gets the least respect in popular and literary culture. Do you have any thoughts on why that is? Do you find this prejudice changing?

Well Romances are written for pleasure and it’s a female dominated audience/business, so I think that traditionally garnered a lot of disparaging comments. Most genres have had to take their share of criticism from literati types at one point or another. If it entertains and sells well, obviously it can’t be good! LOL. Personally, I’d prefer to write something that entertained and sold well than something hard to finish that sold four copies!

Is the prejudice changing? That’s hard to say. Most of us who read romance novels don’t bother hiding the covers anymore. And romance or romantic elements are sweeping through all the other genres. Personally, I’m proud to tell people I read and write romance novels, but that could just be me.

In the end, though, I don’t think the prejudice of the literati matters that much. I certainly don’t care if they poo-poo romance. And obviously that huge market share of readers doesn’t care either. They just keep buying the books, getting great reads and setting books down with a happy sigh. Long live the most flexible and diverse genre on the market!

Q. What are you planning to work on next?

This could be a long answer. I have two science fiction romances submitted to Samhain at the moment, and if they decide to take the books, there’s a third in the series I’ll have to write. The science fiction romantica novel I just sold to Ellora’s Cave is intended to be the first of a series, so depending on scheduling, I have the second book in that series to write. I have two paranormal series I’m working on, and the sequel to my Samhain fantasy novel to write. And those are just the more pressing possibilities. LOL. What takes priority will depend on contracts and my publishers. But for the moment, in between edits, I’m working on the first book of one of my paranormal series because…well it’s fun and I don’t get to work on it as often as I’d like. (Btw, this is how I deal with the submission process—I keep writing while I’m waiting to hear back from publishers and agents, to keep my mind off the submission. But it means I end up with an awful lot of books going at once!).

Thanks very much for the excellent questions, Elizabeth! This was fun.

Thank you Isabo for stopping by the Lady Novelist!

Look for the following coming from Isabo Kelly in 2007:
BONFIRE NIGHT ~ Ellora's Cave, Oct 24 2007
LACHMUIRGHAN: HALI'S RESCUE ~ Samhain Publishing, Dec. 2007

And you can purchase THIEF's DESIRE, and it's sequel DESTINY'S SEDUCTION as well as MARSHALL'S GUARD now from Cerridwen Press.

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