Kathleen O'Reilly wrote her first romance at the age of eleven, which to her undying embarrassment was read aloud to her class. After taking over twenty years to recover from the profound distress, she is now proud to announce her new career - a romance author. Kathleen lives in New York with her husband and their two children who outwit her daily.
Her latest book is a Blaze Anthology called A Blazing Little Christmas.
Dear Santa… When a secret Santa invites Rebecca Neumann for a holiday getaway, she jumps at the chance. And when a sexy blast from her past appears, she's tempted to jump him, too…
Q: Tell us a little about yourself, what is your background and how long have you been writing before you were published.
I never wanted to be writer, because I wanted to be rich, and writers were poor, but everyone told me, “Kathleen, you’re going to be a writer.” However, I didn’t listen. I went into technology (to make money) and they were looking for technical books, and I thought, hey, I can do that. So, there were three of us that wrote a book together, and it did pretty well. Unfortunately, my technology skills got obsoleted by the Evil Empire (Microsoft, in those days), and thus, I needed to find something new to write about, so I decided to try writing a romance novel. Now, I have ALWAYS loved romance novels. I started reading them when I was about ten, and I have no idea how many romances I have read over the years, but it’s well into the thousands. I started writing romances in 1997, and it took me about 3 years before I sold. I have 1.5 manuscripts stashed away, which are actually not that bad, but alas, they are Russian-based historicals, which is a huge taboo… Oh, well, someday when I’m rich and famous.
Q: Tell us about when you got “the call”
I have two critique partners, who had been published for about two years before I got published, and I was feeling very turtle-esque in my publishing career, but things were starting to pop, and I knew I was getting close, and sure enough, my first call came from Harlequin, who wanted to buy my Christmas story, A Christmas Carol, for their Duets line, and the second call came less than a month later from Berkley, who wanted to be my one (and currently only) historical, Touched By Fire. I’ll never forget talking to my editor at Harlequin the first time. She kept telling me all the things that I needed to change about the book, and never said a good thing, and by the end of the convo, I’m thinking, “And you want to buy this book, why?” Eventually, I realized that my editor is just “that way” and I’ve learned to accept that, although recently she’s been trying very hard to be nicer. She put in a smiley face in my last manuscript (her first smiley face ever), but it was a circle, two eyes, and no mouth. Beggars can’t be choosers.
Q: What made you choose romance?
I adore romance. I adore happy endings, and some days, I just really need a happy ending. I know a lot of people who not only need, but deserve a happy ending. In a romance, you know coming in that you’re guaranteed the promise of hope by the time the book is over. The world needs more hope. The world needs more love. Especially now.
Q: What you do love about writing romance?
Gee, this is a hard one. Pretty much everything except the deadlines. I think my favorite thing is telling people that I write romance novels. The people I have told don’t get all huffy or poofy about it, they think it’s really cool, which I think says a lot about my excellent taste in my friends.
Q: You just completed a trilogy for Harlequin Blaze called the Red Choo diaries. Any behind the scenes stories or the idea that you’d like to share?
LOL. Okay, I actually got the idea for the first book from my husband. He got stuck in Washington DC, and planes weren’t flying, so he was going to rent a car and drive back to NYC. There was a lady behind him who wanted to hitch a ride, so they ended up sharing a car-ride back into the city. Transit emergencies can always cause lots of problems and thrust people into situations that they ordinarily wouldn’t be put into. Anyway, I thought it was a hoot. Tthe lady worked for a magazine and told him all sorts of fun magazine stories (which will probably end up in a book at some point in time), so I scarfed the idea for the first book in the series. Also, I will say that Sam (the hero in the third book) is loosely based on Stephen Colbert, whom I have a secret crush on.
Q: You started out writing historicals and now you write sexy romances for Harlequin Blaze as well as single-title for Downtown Press. What has that been like? How do you juggle multiple projects?
I’m a mother of two school-age children. That explains so much of my juggling talent. J. Actually, I write all my books pretty much the same way. I get very tied to my characters, so when I’m writing a story, each one feels very different and unique. I will say that I had to stop working on a book in mid-stream and then switch to another manuscript before switching back, and it was difficult, but I managed. I don’t think I could write two books simultaneously, though. My head gets very tied up in the current characters life. It’s like a mini-soap opera, I think.
Q: Tell us a little about the anthologies for Berkley (Hell with the Ladies, Hell on Heels) along with Julie Kenner and Dee Davis. What was the genesis of this project?
Julie and Dee are my critique partners and BFF’s and we were sitting at conference one time, talking about the bad boy craze. We decided that the ultimate bad boys were the sons of Satan, and started laughing about it, and then realized, it was a pretty durn good idea. Berkley liked it as well.
Q: You also have a blog. Do you think that it’s helped get your name out there and generated new readers?
I think so. I’ve been quoted in USA Today because of my blog, and I know that when I was posting regularly I got tons of traffic. However, I’ve stopped updating it, because I got stuck with a lot of very tight deadlines and knew that something had to give, and so I put it on hold. If life calms down, I’ll probably blog again, but I’m not sure if life will ever calm down.
Q: What do you think is the most effective way for a writer to promote his/her books?
Keep writing. Seriously. I know some people who are really good at promotion and do it well, and it makes them happy, but I’m not sure that it does anything other than make the author feel like they have some level of control. I send out ARCS to booksellers and make up bookmarks for booksignings and run an ad for Romance Sells, and it’s enough to make me feel like I’m not a total black hole when it comes to promotion, but in the long run, you’re known by your books. And in today’s world, people expect a lot of books from their authors, and it’s very difficult to deliver consistently, especially when your time is occupied with other things. Stepping off my soap-box now.
Q. What/Who do you like to read?
I love James Patterson, Stephen King, and Harlan Coben. In romance, I adore Nora’s romance trilogies, Harlequin Presents (especially Sara Craven), Lori Handeland, J.R. Ward (that’s pretty much the extent of my paranormal romance reading), Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jill Shalvis, Julia Quinn, and Julia London. And of course, I’ve read everything that Julie Kenner and Dee Davis have ever written, because it is, the best.
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?
LOL. I want to have a process, I really do, because the beginnings of the books are usually painful, painful experiences for me. But alas, I have no process. Eventually though, after I beat my head against the brick wall long enough, I crash through it. I usually write tons and tons of character notes until I get my characters into what I call “the cool phase” which is the moment when I know that I can hang with these people and have a good time. After they become “cool” then the plot stuff starts to fall into place. And when that doesn’t work, I call Julia and/or Dee and make them help me.
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?
Keep plugging away. Writing is hard, and you have to have a thick-skin to do it. Eventually, I think you’re a happier writer if you cocoon yourself into a little island where rejections, bad reviews, and low sell-throughs do not exist. Those things will happen to everyone at one time or another, but there’s always good stuff, too. Kinda like if you hang out in the sun too long, without sunscreen, and you get burned. Being on the beach, in the sun is fun, but you really need to have that SPF 4000 to handle the burning rays of the bad stuff in writing.
Q. There was a recent article called "Harm in reading romance novels," Do you think romance novels harm or empower women?
You know, I think there’s probably a study that says that little puppy dogs can do harm to people, too. Seriously, they think chocolate is good, then chocolate is bad, then chocolate is good. Pshaw. Anything can be a problem if it’s perceived in the wrong way or for the wrong reasons, but the truth is that everyone is unique, and all these studies are whacked. For the most part, I think romance novels are great, but I’m sure there are four women out there (and one of them is Oprah), who have been traumatized by reading Barbara Cartland at an early age.
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?
I think for a long time all popular fiction got a bad rap and I do think that’s changing because of money. Publishers have become more focused on the bottom line (a double-edged sword), but because of that, the books that make money get more attention, and romance = ka-ching. I think it’s definitely changed, although it’d be nice if it could change a little bit more, IMHO. Hollywood does the same thing. Look at the films that are hitting the theater now. A ton of “important” war films, and yet this weekend, it was the vampire movie that hit the #1 slot, far and away. Sometimes people want and need serious, classical, weighty tomes and films, but they also need a chance to relax and simply have a good time, and romance is a great way to fill that void (no bawdy pun intended).
Q. What are you planning to work on next?
I’m just finishing up the last of four books -- WHEW! -- and then I’m going to take a shower, get some sleep, and begin speaking to my family again. I have a new trilogy coming out in March, April, and May 2008 for Harlequin Blaze, called Those Sexy O’Sullivans. It’s about three hot, single brothers in New York, and they own this bar… The first book is Shaken and Stirred. I think people will like this trilogy a lot. And then I have a book in the Thoroughbred Legacy continuity from Harlequin, Courting Disaster, due out in November of 2008. It’s been my first experience with a continuity, and I have to confess, I thought it was a lot of fun. Difficult, but fun. And that’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll have other stuff to announce, but right now, I just really want to relax.
Thanks for stopping by Kathleen!
You can purchase Kathleen's anthologies with Dee Davis and Julie Kenner Hell with the Ladies and Hell on Heels from Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. And A Blazing Christmas will be in stores next month.