The Tales of a Contemporary Romance Writer

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Talkin' Tuesday with Barbara Kellyn

Oh my Gosh, it's supposed to be near 50 degrees today! I'm getting Spring Fever and it's not even close. :(

Today I have contemporary romance comedy author, Barbara Kellyn, visiting me. She's a hoot! Barbara, come, sit down and chat. Would you like some coffee, tea? Don't mind the noise, it's my husband playing a car racing game on the XBox 360. He'll probably come and join us at some point. Mark is the noise sort. Oh good, I'm glad you don't mind. :)

So, what's your favorite read and series?
My favorite author is Jennifer Crusie, and I would say she’s my favorite study as well. She writes in my genre (contemporary romantic comedy) and is a great storyteller. I would love to emulate the career she has carved out for herself. I have to admit that I don’t read many series (nor am I compelled to write one), but do find that once I get hooked on a new author, I read my way through their catalogue as if it were a series.
I love Karen Hawkins. She always has me belly laughing. 
Okay, what/who got you reading?
I was fortunate to grow up in a home where discovery and creative expression was very much encouraged. Because of this, I was an early reader and haven’t stopped since, although I don’t make as much time for it these days as I should. My mother is still the most voracious reader I know – she’s been known to have close to a dozen books on the go at one time! 
Really? Wow, I have a hard time with two.
Writing was a natural thing for you, but what part of it is the hardest?
The hardest part for me is the forensics, or the analytical side of writing. Why isn’t this scene working? How come this patch of dialogue seems stilted? How do I build enough tension into this chapter? When writing “clicks,” this is never an issue. It’s when something isn’t flowing right that I am really challenged by the process.

Too organized Plotter or Maniac Pantser?
My new book, The Company She Keeps, was a pantser project; it was my first foray into NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which is 30 days of quantity over quality seat-of-the-pants writing. Of course, the finished book bears only a vague resemblance to my first draft, but it was liberating to have the framework done so I had something to work with over the next year and a half. By comparison, my upcoming book, Morning Man (April 2012), was loosely plotted before I dove into writing. That process went very smoothly – it was started, finished and submitted inside six weeks. So, when it comes down to it, I function best as an “organized” pantser.   

You wrote as a professional writer. What kind of writing did you do?
I am a professional writer by day as well as by night. I work in marketing and communications as a writer and editor and own my own creative consulting business. I do mostly corporate communications (newsletters, websites, branding) and contribute to a number of magazines and newspapers. It has been immensely helpful to take what I’ve learned over the past 20 years and apply it to writing books, whether it be the importance of having a strong “hook” or the need to be concise and clear for readers.

-Is there any thing we all would be shocked to know about you?
I got my second tattoo last month; I now have one on the inside of my left wrist as well as one above my left ankle. Most people I know are surprised to find that out because I’m quite conservative and don’t really look like the typical “tattoo” type of girl.
Awesome! I have a Phoenix on my right hip. What do you have?

For Fun
Wine with cheese or Beer with TV?
Wine with cheese – because that means I’m probably dressed up in something sparkly and out having a good time.

Paperback or ebooks?
Since getting my Kindle, I have not purchased any hard copies. I’m an ebook convert now preaching the gospel to my friends and family.

Independent kitty cat or adoring lovable dog?
I’ve been a dog person all my life, yet I relate strongly with cats. I was probably a feline in a previous life.

Great cook or master at ordering take out?
Oh, hands down – it’s cooking. I absolutely love everything about being in the kitchen, it’s relaxing and it’s very satisfying because the results speak for themselves, plus I’m able to nourish or treat my loved ones with something I’ve made myself. I’m also a Food Network junkie, which (pardon the pun) feeds my creative side and encourages me to try new things.

Sexy in flannel nightwear or hopin' to get lucky silk?
When it comes to romance, I’m all about being a girly girl. Silk feels sexy to wear and it feels even better to touch.  

Romance, comedy, or horror movies?
I love a good laugh, so I’ll pick a comedy every time. A romantic comedy is even better. 

What's your biggest pet peeve in the world that makes you want to beat something/someone?
Call me the grammar police, but it drives me bonkers to see typos on signage, advertising or even on menus, for crying out loud. Uh no, it’s not a “Ceasar” salad or a “Rueben” sandwich. My favorite is a local Chinese restaurant that sells “Noddle” soup. I mean really, how hard is it to ask someone to proofread a message before putting it out there?
Good Morning America this morning had a video for a pavement sign of a school zone-- shcool. Really? The building was right next to it with the proper spelling on it! LOL 

Back to Work
You seem to have an insane amount of energy. What do you do to ground yourself to stay focused?
Thank God for that energy! I’m a single mom to two teenagers and let me tell you, nothing grounds you quite like parenthood. When it comes to my writing work, I’m an extremely disciplined person. I may not write every day, but when faced with a deadline or a goal, I’m committed to finishing not only on time, but ahead of time. That’s probably the overachiever in me. Even when I’ve struck gold with an idea and get on a roll, I wring every last drop out of that opportunity before throwing in the towel.  
LOL My husband says, "Hi!" to everyone. 
-What's the biggest misconception people have about you and your writing?
It’s probably that once you publish one book, you automatically become prolific. I’ll blame that on the James Patterson Effect. Come to think of it, that was probably one of my biggest misconceptions about becoming an author too. Of course, it’s not true. Each book is an entirely different experience from the next. Writing one, or even two, does not mean you will be cranking out books continuously.  
Aaggg. Isn't that the truth. I find every book after the first to be more important and more time consuming.
Morning ManDo you ever get so overwhelmed you want to quit?
I’m not a quitter, but I do recognize that sometimes I need to step away and take a break. When I get frustrated, it’s always best to shift my creative energy elsewhere for a while and then come back to tackling the project with a fresh perspective.

What's the writing no-no that makes you want to scream?
I don’t like when things happen a little too conveniently for the main characters, whether it’s their initial encounter or getting out of scrapes. I want to see them struggle a bit, because that’s what makes them relatable. Don’t give me any of that “our eyes met across the room and instantly, we knew it was meant to be.” Yuck, I just don’t buy that stuff as a reader. As a writer, if things happen a little too easily, I’ll go back and throw in more tension and make my characters work for it. It makes the payoff better for everyone.   

Who's your favorite story character and why?
All the characters in The Company She Keeps are close to my heart, especially our heroine Harper, but I would say I had the most fun writing the men in the story. I adore wisecracking Kenny, who is Harper’s best friend; and I fell in love with charming Jed, an “everyday” hero with a secret beneath his idyllic surface. But my favorite character is probably Marty, who is Harper’s boss and the antagonist keeping Harper and Jed apart. He is colorful and despicable, yet there are hues of likeability too. I thoroughly enjoyed writing the push-pull dynamic of his and Harper’s love/hate relationship.     

What part of writing makes you want to pull your hair out and scream like a banshee?
I’m fond of stories that get inside more than one character’s head. But writing from multiple POVs is challenging (and that’s the nice word for it) and it can be confusing. I can self-edit until the cows come home, but it never fails that my editor will flag a spot with a note that says, “Aren’t we in her POV right now? We shouldn’t know how he feels yet.” D’oh!  

Give us some advice for aspiring writers?
I would suggest starting as I did. Pick up NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty’s book “No Plot, No Problem” and then concentrate on writing quantity over quality. Personally, I believe the “rules” of writing can bog you down creatively. It’s more important to focus on the storytelling and it’s certainly a confidence booster to be able to get your first 50,000-word novel out of your head and onto the screen. Write, write, write first and foremost. There will be plenty of time to go back and fix things later.  
So, true!
Barbara Kellyn is share her last with us, The Company She Keeps. Enjoy!

Talk about taking your work home with you...

For better or worse, Harper Bukoski is married to her dream job at a small marketing agency. Thanks to the mismanagement of its morally-lax owners, it's on the brink of disaster. Despite the dysfunction around her--including a nagging suspicion that the clueless new account rep is her boss’s mistress- Harper clings to the hope that her loyalty and diligence will keep the office on an even keel.

But the tightly-wound workaholic goes into a tailspin upon meeting Jed Sanderson, whose account is keeping the agency afloat. Harper is troubled by her undeniable attraction to a man with three potential dealbreakers stacked against him: he’s a client; he’s a recently-divorced father of three, and (the doozy!) he’s buddies with her disapproving boss. If Harper listens to her head, she might miss out on something extraordinary with Jed. But if she follows her heart, she risks imploding her career and bringing down the entire agency along with it.

 Thank you everyone for joining me today. I'll see you next week when I have sweet Candace Gold/spicy as Candy Caine join us.

Have a Sparkling Day!
Rebecca Rose  


  1. Another fun one! I can so relate - have the same marketing communication corporate background is fodder for books I tell ya! And yes, good point that once you write a book you become prolific -HA! I think its gets harder because the more you write the more techniques and processes you learn to incorporate and it just plain makes it harder to write a better book again, and again, and again. ;)