Three-time Golden Heart® finalist and Laurie winner, Kelly Gay, can finally say this is her year. With fifteen years of writing and several manuscripts under her belt, she thought 2005 was her year. After all, she’d signed with an agent, finaled in the Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart and won a Laurie; it would seem she was on her way to a sale. But it took three more years of writing, beating back self-doubt, not placing in a single contest, and parting ways (amicably) with her first agent for lightning to strike again.
In 2008, she landed a new agent, double-finaled in the Golden Heart, and sold her urban fantasy manuscript, The Better Part of Darkness, to Pocket Books in a two-book deal, all in the span of five amazing months. She’s still wondering if she fell down the rabbit hole . . .. If so, she’s setting up house in Wonderland permanently.
In actuality, Kelly lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children, two absurdly large cats and one normally (still absurdly) large Great Dane, and her beloved Alpha Smart.
Read on to learn more about Kelly and her amazing journey to publication. All those leaving a comment for her will be entered in a drawing for a Sees Candy gift card.
Kelly’s first novel with Pocket, The Better Part of Darkness, will be released summer 2009. It tells the story of Charlie Madigan, a divorced mother of one, who lives in a world where the beings of heaven and hell exist among us, and they aren’t the things of Sunday school lessons and Hallmark figurines. In the years since the revelation, they’ve become our co-workers, neighbors, and fellow citizens.
Charlie works for the ITF (Integration Task Force). It’s her job to see that the continued integration of our new “friends” goes smoothly and everyone obeys the law, but when a new off-world drug is released in Underground Atlanta, her daughter is targeted, and her ex-husband makes a fateful bargain to win her back, there’s nothing in heaven or earth (or hell for that matter) that Charlie won’t do to set things right.
How did you react when you got The Call?
When I got the final call from my agent (we went through “interest”, readings by other editors at Pocket, an offer, and then some negotiating before I got that final call), it was a very surreal moment. I got off the phone and just sat there, frozen, for a long time. But once it set in, an enormous weight lifted from my shoulders. All the hard work, 15 years of writing and wondering if I was on the right path—well, it was a giant validation. I cried, couldn’t stop laughing, and jumped around the house, and I’m still saying to myself even now, “I can’t believe I sold.”
I spent most of the day calling family and emailing friends and writing loops. That was the most fun I’ve ever had. It was especially cool to tell my writing friends; they understand the bumps and bruises along the road to publication, and their reactions (most of them knowing how long it took me to sell) were so awesome.
What led you to write romances?
The book that sold to Pocket is an urban fantasy, but I have a few romantic comedies and paranormals that I wrote prior to TBPD (The Better Part of Darkness). I started writing romances because that’s one of the genres I love to read. I adore romantic comedies. I also gobble up anything paranormal. (Sherrilyn Kenyon, Gena Showalter, Kresely Cole and Karen Marie Moning totally rock).
How did you go about getting your agent?
Colleen Lindsay at Fine Print Literary became my agent in February of 2008. During my daily blog surfing, I saw that a new agent had hung out her shingle. After visiting her blog and reading about her interests, I felt TBPD might be a good fit.
Colleen requested the full from an email query and a few sample pages, read it in under a week, and then sent me an email saying that she was interested in representing me. After speaking with her on the phone (I was so nervous!) and asking a ton of questions via email, I knew she was the right agent to represent my work. She’s down to earth, way smart, knows the industry, and she’s not afraid to go to bat for a client.
What’s the best advice you’ve received about writing?
The best advice I’ve gotten and can pass along is simple and obvious, but I feel it’s the best bit of advice you have to take to heart if you’re going to make it in the business. Keep writing!
That’s it. There’s no magic formula. It really is all about sitting down and writing. Your writing will get better and better. You’ll turn out books. You’ll write in the face of rejection, in whatever obstacles are thrown in your path. Even if it’s God awful, like Nora Roberts says, you can fix a bad page, but you can’t fix a blank one.
Which of your stories is closest to your heart?
TBPD is pretty close to my heart because I had Charlie’s story in the back of my mind for years. I kept wondering “what if’s”: What if our myths and traditions of heaven and hell were based on some obscure truth? What if the beings in them were nothing like we had imagined? And what if this woman, Charlie, works on the front lines, dealing with the integration of our societies, and suddenly she’s forced to make a terrible choice when it comes to her child?
Charlie is close to my heart because I’m a mom, too. I know the fierce nature of a mom protecting her young, and I can certainly relate to the nuclear explosion that I’d bring upon anyone or any thing that threatened my child and the fall-out that would follow. In Charlie’s story, however, it’s all amplified by supernatural beings and powers beyond her control.
What part of writing brings you the greatest enjoyment?
A typical writing day usually involves comments in the margins like: “This is terrible.” “Fix this!” “Gah!” 🙂 But I love writing, and I do it because I’m compelled, it seems, by forces beyond my control. There are stories in my head that demand to get out. They want their moment in the spotlight. They want an audience.
There is nothing like those moments when the words flow and the story takes on a life of its own. It’s a really cool feeling when you’re swept away by a story, when you get tears in your eyes or get ticked off by a character’s choice. There’s immense satisfaction in giving that kind of entertainment to others, to know that, for a little while, you were able to take them away from the daily grind and show them your world.
How do you fuel your creativity?
I fuel my creativity by reading, art, and movies. I love pre-Raphaelite painters. Their work is so romantic and beautiful; the mind can’t help but be inspired. And there’s nothing like an awesome book or movie to make me want to jump up and write something just as awesome.
Music helps me get into certain moods, but I can’t listen to it when I’m writing because I end up listening to the lyrics instead.
And if chocolate (as I look at my giant M&Ms dispenser on my desk) fueled my creativity, I’d be Stephen King and Steven Speilberg all wrapped up in one by now! 🙂 Unfortunately, chocolate only adds to the pound-count not the page-count.
How do you deal with the hills and valleys of a writer’s life such as rejection, discouragement and doubts?
Again, for me at least, there is no better way to deal with rejection or doubt except to keep writing. Act any way you want. Cry, get angry, eat Godivas like they’re going out of style, but however you cope, you must continue with your writing. I’ve racked up hundreds of rejections over the past fifteen years. And the only way I’ve found that gets me through it is to react (usually a few minutes of sulking followed by a beer and pizza 🙂 and then to continue writing.
Letting rejections get to you can stifle your drive and creativity. You have to develop a thick skin and realize that not everyone is going to like your work, even when you’re a New York Times bestselling author. You can’t please everyone. But until then, you hone your craft and learn from the “good” rejections.
Eventually you’ll get to a point where you’re writing material on par with published works. After that, it’s just a matter of finding the right person who gets you and loves your work. But still, you need to keep writing. That first “on par” manuscript may not be the one that actually sells.
What encouragement would you offer those of us on the road to publication?
After I hit ten years of writing, I told myself five more years. If I wasn’t published by then, that was it. I had to face the facts. I had to move on, finish my degree, focus on my family, and just be happy with all I’d been blessed with thus far. I mean, how long could I keep putting myself through one disappointment after another?
My five years was up last year. And when that moment came around, I quit writing for a few months. I started taking classes again to finish my degree. But, I couldn’t stop my creative mind or the habits I’d developed as a writer, a creator. It’s part of my make-up.
I finally came to the decision that I didn’t want to get to the end of my life and look back with regret or wonder what could have been. Even if I never sold a thing, I wanted to try until the very end or until the creative spark left me. Had I listened to my timeline, I would have missed my sale by a mere year.
So, if there’s any encouragement I can give other writers, it’s not to give up. Not if you’re a creator at heart. Not if you continue to think of stories, scenes, and bits of dialogue in the shower, riding in the car, or in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep. Listen to your calling. KEEP WRITING. KEEP SUBMITTING. It will happen.
Leave a comment for Kelly:
Have a question for Kelly? Want to know more about her writing process, her stories or Pocket Books? Leave a comment. She’ll be dropping by throughout the day to chat with you.
On Word Press blogs, the comment link is found at the top of the post by the title.
Since chocolate is one of Kelly’s prime sources of creativity fueling, I’m holding a drawing for a $15 Sees Candy gift card, one dollar for each year Kelly held on waiting for that oh-so-sweet first sale. Each person who leaves a comment will be entered.
Congratulations to Lynn Raye Harris, winner of the drawing.