Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Chatting with Romance Author Kelli A. Wilkins

Hello everyone!

Today I'm sharing an excerpt from my recent interview with the Writer's Nook. I talk about the writing life, my two new romances, and more!


 1. How did you get your start as a storyteller?
I never decided to be a writer—it was something that seemed natural to me. I have been writing horror short stories since I was in elementary school and writing always interested me. I’ve been blessed with a lot of ideas, and I just kept writing story after story as they came to me. I never tried to get any of my writings published until I enrolled in a commercial writer’s program as an adult. People liked reading my short stories, and I liked writing them, so I decided to submit them for publication. From there, my “official” writing career was born.

I began submitting my horror stories to online and print magazines and eventually started writing “10-Minute Romances” for the Sun. They also published science fiction stories, so I wrote those, too.
I got my start with full-length romances when I entered the Amber Quill Press “Amber Heat” writing contest. I submitted three novellas (A Most Unusual Princess, The Dark Lord, and The Sexy Stranger) and they took all three! 

When people ask me how I can switch up genres so easily, I like to say, “I’m a writer, I can write anything.” And I do!

2. How do you begin the process of telling a new story? Where do you start?
Each book comes to me in a different form. Sometimes I’ll have an entire story “jump” into my head, and I’ll know everything about the plot and the characters. (That happened with Dangerous Indenture, A Perfect Match, A Most Unusual Princess, Trust with Hearts, and The Viking’s Witch.)

Other times, I’ll get bits and pieces of the story and parts of the characters. Once in a while, I’ll have a character come first, and after I get to “know” and develop the character, I’ll find out the story. Then the other pieces fall into place, like a puzzle. (That happened with Four Days with Jack, Beauty & the Bigfoot, Killer in Wolf’s Clothing, and Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover.)

Before I start a book, I need to know who the characters are and what’s going to happen to them. After that, I outline the scenes and start writing. As I write, I allow myself some leeway to explore things I hadn’t considered in my outline/list. I might add entire scenes or write scenes that are later omitted. Writing a new book is always an adventure for me and I never know where the characters or stories will take me.

Sometimes I’ll be writing a scene and the characters “take over” and decide the scene should go a different way, or something I planned on happening changes. I thought I knew all about my characters before I started writing  Midsummer Night’s Delights—but I was wrong. One thing I learned while writing those stories was that characters can leap off the page and take the story in a different direction. Even though I created them, I was surprised to discover a different side to Julian (from Midsummer Night’s Delights).

3. After seventeen-plus romantic novels how do you keep it fresh and spicy in the (literary) bedroom?
I let the characters in each story determine the sexual content. Every story is different, and so are the sexual lives of the hero and heroine. Writing for the different characters and their individual situations helps keep things interesting and fresh.

In most romances, a sexual relationship is almost a requirement. However, the type of relationship and the frequency of the love scenes have to fit in with the characters and the heat level of the story. Love scenes should show how the characters relate to each other, how they fall in love, and add something to the overall emotional intensity of the story.

I’m often asked how I “know how much to show” in the love scenes. Sometimes it’s nice to give the characters “privacy” and imply what goes on (this lets readers use their imaginations); and yet, other times, readers want to see the passionate side of the relationship. I blend a little of each into my books. But no matter what type of love scene I write, I try to keep most of the focus on the characters and what they’re thinking and feeling emotionally—how the experience makes them more connected to their lover—rather than focus on what their bodies are doing.

4. When you finish a book what do you do to let go of your characters and the world of that story?
When I send a book off to the publisher, it’s not really “done”—there’s more work ahead. I need to do revisions and review the galley. After those are completed, I breathe a sigh of relief and unwind from writing for a while. I might do no writing at all (except for blogs) for a week or two and catch up on my reading. (When I’m writing, I don’t read, and when I’m reading, I don’t write.) This helps me leave the characters behind and I focus on other things.

After a while I’ll get the urge to write again and start working on something new. Although I love my characters, I know when the story is over, it’s time to leave them behind. (Unless of course, they come back to me later and want me to write a sequel!)

5. You are a prolific short story writer. What is your key to creating a successful piece of short fiction?
The best advice I ever got for writing short stories is: write tight. Take out anything and everything not essential to the story, such as extra words, details, dialog tags, whatever. This is especially important when I’m writing horror short stories. Too many words or distractions can break the tension, ruin the suspense, or otherwise distract the reader.

You also need a compelling story that draws readers into the world of the characters and holds them there. Not everyone believes in ghosts, but if you write a ghost story that sucks readers into that world and scares them, you’ve done your job. A “hook” beginning and a great ending are musts in creating a good short story.

I enjoy about writing horror stories because they let me explore plots and characters I couldn’t use in a romance.

6. What is your favorite part of the writing process?
 My favorite part of writing is the actual writing of the book. I like creating the outline and developing the plot and characters, but the story really comes alive for me as I’m scribbling away. (And I do scribble—I write everything in longhand with paper and pen!) The writing of the first draft lets me get inside the characters’ heads and dig deep into the story. It frees me to write whatever pops into my head. When I edit and revise, I have to focus on the mechanics of writing, grammar, cutting away what’s not essential to the story—all the technical “not so fun” stuff that helps pull the book together.

7. You have just released Dangerous Indenture. How did you handle working in that era of American history?
 Before I wrote a word, I hit the library and do research. When I wrote Dangerous Indenture, I learned about indentured servants. I already knew where I wanted to set the story, so the location wasn’t an issue.

After I completed the research I needed, I sat down and wrote. Having all the information ahead of time made it easy for me to incorporate nuances and other details into each story. Many people ask me if writing historicals is “harder” than writing contemporary romances. They’re not “harder”
they just require more research and planning.

8. Does your approach to character or relationship differ in your period pieces?
Not really. Many of my historical characters are outspoken, rebels, or otherwise considered “not proper” for their time. Each of my books is a look into a different world, and each character is unique to that book, that time period, and that setting. Not all my historical heroines are virgins “just because” most people expect them to be. Many of them work a job to stay alive or are forced to fend for themselves, much like a contemporary heroine would. Not every hero is a knight in shining armor who always acts like a gentleman. Rothgar (from The Viking’s Witch) has a reputation as a fierce warrior, but is hiding a vulnerable side and a dark secret. These are traits which could easily carry over to a modern-day hero. I don’t hold back on anything with my characters or their relationships just because I’m writing a historical romance. I let them tell me their stories, and I go with it!

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with readers! I invite everyone to visit my site to catch up on all my romances, sign up for my newsletter, and send me their comments and questions.

Happy Reading!
Kelli A. Wilkins

Catch up with Kelli on the Web: