Wednesday, June 26, 2013


My guest, romance author, Karen Kelley, says she was an ignorant farm girl when she started her writing journey. I have to say, I've rarely found farm/ranch girls stupid. A bit naive, as are many new writers, in the corporate world of publishing but that only means conquering a learning curve. 
Karen says, “Publishing can be a rocky road with lots of highs and lows but, oh, what a fun trip!” 
To enjoy the trip one does have to develop self confidence and a thick skin but, I’ll Karen tell you more about that.

When I first started writing I was told you need a tough skin. At the time, all I could think about was getting published, always reaching toward that one goal. I figured I already had a pretty tough skin just from growing up—I was wrong.

If you keep getting rejection after rejection you'll either end up with an alligator hide or you'll give up. After six very long years I finally reached my goal. It happened really fast. I mailed off the manuscript and I got an offer by the end of the week. I'd hoped and prayed I would get "the call", but I don't think I really expected it to happen. You know how it is when you want something so bad you can almost taste it? Whether it's a new job or a dream vacation. I learned that to reach a goal you not only need a plan of action, but you also have to stop dreaming at some point and start doing. If I want to lose 10 pounds I have to eat right and exercise. There are no shortcuts. Have surgery? I've seen people gain the weight right back. But isn't the journey part of the package? For all the nicks I've gotten I've also grown and matured. I've learned to look at life from a different prospective.

Getting published did happen, though. Editor Hilary Sares at Kensington called in the middle of the afternoon and I quickly became a babbling fool without a brain. I'm surprised she didn't retract the offer. After we hung up I think I just sat on the sofa and cried. My dream had come true. I had it made.

Well, not exactly.

The line I sold to went under. I floundered until finally signing with an agent. The agent had me tearing apart manuscripts and I blindly followed where she led. She was an agent. I was still just an ignorant farm girl. Big mistake. HUGE mistake. I eventually learned most of my ignorance came from not believing in myself. How many doubts have you had in the course of your lifetime? Did they cripple you?

One day I entered a contest author Lori Foster sponsored. I didn't win but she enjoyed my writing so much she sent it to her editor, Kate Duffy. Kate Duffy offered me a contract—a really nice one J In six months I quit my job nursing and wrote full-time  For the next 4 years, I was lived my dream going to conferences, speaking to writers groups.... Kate always said as long as she was an editor, I'd have a contract.

I put all my eggs in her basket. Neither one of us could predict she would get cancer. I became a better writer and a better person because of her. She was funny, she was a friend, and a lot of the time she scared the hell out of me. Kate could be a little gruff. I went back into nursing when Kensington dropped me right after Kate passed.
Did I mention the tough hide, alligator skin???

Yeah, I thought so.

Sometimes it's a hell of a lot easier to walk away from writing. But I couldn't. After a year or so my agent (a different one) got me a contract with Sourcebooks. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough money to let me go back to writing full-time  but my books would be out there. I felt like a writer again. Stupid, I know. I don't need validation from anyone to tell me I'm a writer. I only need to write. 

Kate once told me, "Don't worry about the technical stuff so much, Karen, just have fun writing the story." She was right. I've won more awards from books where 'I just had fun' writing them. I really miss hearing her voice. She was a very special editor. 

My 23rd book, Smoking Hot, came out this month. It's a sexy, steamy paranormal. And after that? Well, I don't have an agent anymore, and I don't want one at this point in my career. I've decided to go independent the end of August. I think I'll just have fun writing. 

Source Books will be giving away a copy of Smoking Hot.  For a chance to win just leave a comment.


Karen Kelley

Everything She Wants...

Working the night shift at the sheriff's office has given deputy Raine McCandless more than enough time to fantasize about the kind of man she'd like to take prisoner, so when she arrives home to find a sexy intruder waiting for her, she's pretty sure she must be dreaming.

...Can and Will Be Held Against Her

But Dillon Taylor, with his stunning blue eyes and killer tan, is 100% real, just not 100% human. Half-man, half-angel, he'd love to answer every naughty prayer Raine has ever had. But Raine is in serious danger. And Dillon can only fulfill her every fantasy if he can keep her alive.


Currently Karen writes for Sourcebooks and the Brava Imprint with Kensington Publishing. Karen writes full-time, and collects junk which she fondly calls antiques. Her husband can still be talked into mailing her manuscripts and also helping with her publicity. She has two grown children, one son-in-law and four grandchildren and a very spoiled Pekinese. She loves sitting on the patio on a warm spring day and procrastinating about her approaching deadline. You can find Karen: Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Website.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Karen, welcome back to Over Coffee. Great topic. I call it Rhino skin. Rejections can not only discourage but can knock a writer out for the count. Some never recover the knockout. But six years of rejections is tough.

I love the advice Kate gave you, "Don't worry about the technical stuff so much, Karen, just have fun writing the story." When I forget the technical, writing is so much more fun and the words flow.

T. Drecker said...

Love these stories of people hanging in there - and it paying off. It's this kind of inspiration which helps that alligator skin feel a little thicker ;)

Ken Coffman said...

I think this is good information. Sure, we know it pays to be relentless and persistent and weather all storms, but what does that really mean? Thank you, Sia and Karen, for providing some datapoints for the kinds of things that must be endured. This is no business for the uncommitted.

Karen Kelley said...

Morning Sia, T Drecker and Ken, I always love having coffee with everyone! You're right about the ones who don't recover. I've seen a lot of them. I just couldn't stop writing. The stories keep coming. I want to know about these characters.
LOL My skin is so thick you couldn't cut it with a sharp knife! But isn't that the same with everything? Who said, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger?"
You hit the nail on the head, Ken. Commitment.

Karen Walker said...

I love this story on so many levels. Thank you both so much for sharing it here.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Karen, that was Nietzsche. I've read a lot of his writings. He was the same one who said,

"He who would learn to fly one day must FIRST learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one CANNOT fly into flying."

I think that one is also appropriate for writers. We do have a learning curve to conquer.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Ken, very true. Commitment has to be like a fire in the bones--burning hot and moving us to action. Not always easy. But then, much of want we really desire, really want to accomplish, isn't easy, is it?

Karen Kelley said...

Hi Karen and you're welcome! I'm glad you could drop by!

Sia, I'd been writing and getting rejected for so long and trying to remember everything I was supposed to be doing and I was getting more and more frustrated that I finally said, "Enough!" I decided I was going to write the next book my way and forget all about the tech stuff. Bachelor Party was the book that sold in 3 days.
The 6 years before I sold was my learning curve. I was in a fantastic writers group and belonged to a very good critique group. I absorbed everything I could about writing. I had to learn how to stand before I could fly.

Johanna Garth said...

This is the most inspiring writer post I've read in a long time. I'm somewhere in the middle of the journey and your words reminded me that my alligator hide still needs to be thicker AND also not to ever give up. Thank you for that!!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wow, what a ride. That was one long roller coaster. Sometimes the dream - and the road to the dream - isn't how we planned it.

Karen Kelley said...

Thanks so much for your kind words Johanna! Sometimes the truth is the best inspiration. Life will always be a learning experience. I don't think I'd have it any other way.

Alex, it's still a roller coaster ride! LOL But you're so right. Every time I zig, I end up zagging instead!

Mark Koopmans said...

Wow, fantastic interview and what a story, Karen.

If you haven't already written a memoir, it's all there for the writing - as long as you have fun doing it:)

Cheers, Sia :)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Johanna-I thought it was inspiring too. When one is offered a contract the thought is I'm in. That's not always the case. I've had some good friends that have struggled for years, and like Karen here, get a contract and the line goes defunct or another editor comes on who isn't enamored of their stories. Talk about a slap in the face. Not mention the slash in income. Disheartening. I'm glad Karen addressed that here.

That's where believing in your abilities and committed comes into play. :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Alex, what do they say, another quote, the best laid plans of mice and men? I think the secret is being adaptable and working with the path shown.

Mark--Aloha! Certainly inspiring enough for a memoir, isn't it? Enjoying the writing process, how very true.

Karen you mentioned writing the story you want. I think that's a matter, not of ignoring good craft writing but more, in my opinion, of putting away the inner editor/critic while writing. Letting the story flow. Sometimes trying to write with your editor/critic hat on dams up the words and the creativity. I know it has for me. I do much better just writing the story my characters are demanding and having fun along the ride. :-)

Jo said...

Seems to me there is a lot of bravery involved in this writing business. I don't know I could stand the strain.

Karen Kelley said...

HI Mark! Thanks for commenting. My memoir would be...hmmm, interesting. I think I'd rather write about life as it is now. It's much more fun. With age comes wisdom and a sense of freedom.

Thanks, Sia! It doesn't hurt to have a nursing license to fall back on. Now, working two jobs can drive a person a little crazy, but hey, at least I have a steady income!

Exactly, Sia! I did turn the critic off and that helped a lot.

Jo, I think there's a little bravery needed for every profession. Put a pair of scissors in my hand and tell me to cut someone's bangs and I'd freak out! LOL

mshatch said...

Wow, what a journey! I hope it gets a little easier from here on out :)

Elise Fallson said...

Wonderful guest post, Sia. I really enjoyed reading this. One of the things that struck me was this line: "I don't need validation from anyone to tell me I'm a writer. I only need to write." I think so many writers (myself included) forget this. And it's true, some of my best writing came while I was free to just have fun and write. I wish you all the best and much success, Karen. (:

Karen Kelley said...

mshatch, hi! Thanks for commenting. I really, really wish my journey would get a little easier LOL That would be nice.

Hi Elise. We all forget that no matter what, we're still writers and no one can take that away from us. Thanks for stopping!

randi lee said...

Man, 23 books? Now that's impressive! Congratulations on all you have achieved, and on everything you have overcome. You seem like a very strong person!

Di said...

I never really thought about the journey authors take until I started reading book blogs about a year ago - and the ever changing environment seems to be a real challenge too - good for you for hanging in there!

sallans d at yahoo dot com