Saturday Special: Kelly Ann Riley Sold!

2009 Golden Heart® winner and debut author Kelly Ann Riley writes contemporary and historical romantic suspense and mystery. Tread Softly: A Want Ad Murder was an 07 Golden Heart finalist in the Romantic Suspense category. Her entry, Kitty’s Fire, finaled in Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure in 08 and won in Inspirational this year.

I had the privilege of interviewing Kelly Ann in June. Since that time, life has held even more successes for her. She went on to win the Golden Heart this year and to sell her winning entry, Kitty’s Fire, to Love Inspired Suspense.

Kelly Ann lives on 15 rural acres in Alabama with her engineer husband, two teens and an eclectic menagerie of cats, dogs, birds, horses, turtles and other assorted critters. Kelly Ann is a Registered Dietitian with an MBA who has worked in various hospitals and clinics as a teacher and manager. She’s also worked as a firefighter, waitress, janitor, teacher’s assistant and shoe salesperson, experiences that have given her fodder for her stories. When not heightening the suspense for her characters, she likes to read, read, read; watch movies (a happy ending is a must); direct her church’s youth club; camp; hike; swim; garden; play with her many animals and hang out at bookstores.

Join me as we learn more about Kelly Ann’s journey to publication.

(And be sure to check out the drawing prizes at the end of the post.)


Kelly Ann Riley


Wow, Kelly Ann! When you were here as my guest in June, did you expect to be back so soon as a Golden Heart winner and debut author with a contract offer on the table? I’m not surprised. With your many successes up to that point, I felt sure I’d hear good news in the near future. Congratulations! I’m delighted for you.

•Things happened quickly for you. Please give us a summary of what took place in the weeks following the interview and leading up to that life changing phone call. Be sure to include the euphoric experience when you leaned that your name was called at the RWA® Nationals Awards Ceremony.

Thank you, Keli, for having me back on your wonderful blog, and no, I didn’t expect it to be this soon. This is really cool.

The summer was remarkably busy. I traveled to Utah and Wisconsin on two separate trips, worked on my historical romantic suspense, The Promise, and edited Kitty’s Fire after Steeple Hill requested it from the Golden Heart Contest.

Sadly, I was unable to attend RWA’s National Conference in D.C. For the last five years, my family has volunteered to assist in a teen mission trip for our church. This year we went with thirty-five teens to Monument Valley, Utah to conduct a Vacation Bible School program for the Navajo children and do some community work projects. I hadn’t missed the national conference in many years, but because of the earlier dates of the conference this summer, it overlapped with the mission trip. Since I’m the VBS coordinator, leaving in the middle of the trip would’ve been difficult, and I struggled with what to do. My family was very supportive and told me to go to D.C. since I was a Golden Heart Finalist, but in the end I felt God wanted me on the trip.

We stayed in the SDA Mission school in Monument Valley, and luckily there was an Internet connection, so on the night of the Golden Heart and RITA ceremony, I planned on watching the results online.  Unfortunately, I forgot about the time zone difference and went to go eat supper. I even left my phone behind because I’d return shortly. When I got back upstairs, there were a string of text messages on my cell phone from my writing partner, Cee Dunsheath, telling me they were announcing the Golden Heart Winners, my category was up, etc. But the message I zeroed in almost immediately was


Kelly Ann Riley-GH Winner

Jacqui Jacoby took this photo of my winning announcement on the Jumbotron screen during the Awards Ceremony.

My heart nearly stopped. I had to reread it several times and then call Cee before it sank in. I started jumping around and squealing. People who didn’t even know what the Golden Heart was congratulated me. It was great fun!!

I wish I could’ve been at the ceremony, but I felt truly blessed by being on the mission trip, and winning the award added an extra special blessing. My friend and fellow 07 Golden Heart finalist, Donnell Ann Bell, accepted the award on my behalf, and when she sent me the Golden Heart pendant, I got to celebrate all over again.

Golden Heart Pendant 2

I opened the box from RWA and beheld my beautiful Golden Heart necklace.

I was thrilled to find out that Tina James from Steeple Hill had requested the full manuscript of  Kitty’s Fire. After a quick edit, my agent sent it off at the end of July.

My cat, Victor, had fun showing off my pendant.

My cat, Victor, looks cute showing off my pendant, doesn't he?


•And then you got The Call! I was so excited when I first received the news. As everyone who visits my blog soon learns, I love to hear Call stories. Would you please share yours? Did you know it was coming, or what it a total shock? How did you react when your long-awaited first sale became reality?

I love hearing about The Call Stories too. I always thought it was fun that the authors could remember the date and exact time they got The Call, even many years later. Since I’m terrible with dates, I used to wonder if I’d remember the details like they did. Now I can say, yes, I think that moment is etched in my brain forever.

The morning of the day I got The Call, I was lying in bed and thinking “Please God, let this be the day someone buys my book.” This wasn’t the first time I’d sent similar prayers skyward about my writing career, nor will it be the last, I’m sure. Little did I know… 🙂

Tuesdays are when my agent generally follows-up on submissions, so when Kelly Mortimer called that morning, my heart skipped a beat, but … it wasn’t The Call. She’d phoned to inform me about another opportunity I might try out for. We even discussed that it was still too early to call Steeple Hill to find out the verdict on Kitty’s Fire.

This was Tuesday, August 25th, a day that had been marked on our family calendar for months because the Jonas Brothers’ concert was coming to Nashville. My daughter and her best friend were in teeny bopper heaven. Nashville is about two hours away from our home in Alabama, and we were loaded up in the car to go pick up the best friend when the cell phone rang at 1:42 p.m. It was Kelly Mortimer again, and she asked if I had any questions about the other opportunity. (She’d emailed me guidelines, and I’d packed them in my purse to take with me to the concert.)

So we were chatting about the different requirements when all of sudden she said. “Well, there’s one caveat, you may not have time to work on the mystery series because you are a Steeple Hill author now.”


I screamed and had to pull off the road. I couldn’t believe it. Kelly got me good. It was so funny and thrilling. My daughter had a big grin on her face and had to sit there and try to be quiet. I could barely concentrate as we went over the details of the offer. Finally I accepted it, calmed down some, and drove very carefully to the concert. I think I even screamed for joy a few times more—not that anyone could hear me above the deafening teenybopper screams (note: take earplugs to combat the fans if you attend a Jonas Brothers Concert).

So, that’s my Call Story. The offer was an answer to prayer, a dream come true, and that day changed my life forever.


•I’ve heard a writer’s plate becomes very full as she embarks on her new career as a published author. Please share with us what’s going on now, what you’ve been learning and how you’re adjusting to living with publisher’s deadlines.

I’ve been floating around on Cloud Nine for days, but I think I’m finally settling back to earth as my responsibilities become more apparent. I talked with my editor (always wanted to say my editor :-)) last week, and she sent me a list of revisions. I’m also supposed to submit some ideas for a new title and fill out an Art Fact Sheet for the cover. I also need to get my next proposal polished and ready to send in, and then there’s the ACFW conference in Denver in a couple weeks.

My family is starting to realize more that writing is a job, and I can’t just drop everything at  moment’s notice for unimportant things. I’m lucky I don’t  have to work outside home right now, so I can write during the day. I homeschool our daughter, but she’s in high school, so she can be more self-directed. I’ve always been a planner, but I’m striving now to be even more organized with time management as I try to balance family, homeschool, church duties, and writing.


•Since you’ve just gone through the initial euphoria of getting a contract offer and the resulting return to reality that soon follows, what advice would you offer others who have yet to receive The Call about how to prepare themselves for life as a published author?

I have a lot to learn but I’ve heard this advice from other authors, and I think it’s helped me: Before The Call, learn to write to deadlines, have an established writing routine, and remember that writing isn’t just art, but a business. If you start acting like professional writer before the first contract, you’ll have an easier time adjusting to being a published author.


Questions for Kelly Ann


Kelly Ann, it’s been great to have you back at Romance Writers on the Journey to share your wonderful news with us.

And now, I invite your visitors to squee with you and to ask you any questions they have about your sale, your debut novel and what life is like after receiving that long-awaited contract offer.

To leave a comment, click on “Comments” below the date in the title at the top of the post.


Learn More About Kelly Ann

Visit her Web site:

Friend her on Facebook: Kelly Ann Riley

Follow her on Twitter: Kelly Ann Riley


Leave a Comment for Three Chances to Win

To leave a comment, click on “Comments” below the date in the title at the top of the post.


Saturday Special Drawing

I’m holding a drawing for those who leave a comment for Kelly Ann on Saturday, September 5th.

Because Kelly Ann’s debut novel involves a cat, and because I’m a cat person, too, I have cat-themed prizes to give away to two lucky winners.


Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?

Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?

101 of the most perplexing questions answered about feline unfathomables, medical mysteries & befuddling behaviors.

By Marty Becker, DVM, and Gina Spadfori


~ and ~


Cat Naps Note Cards

Cat Naps

A set of sixteen note cards featuring four adorable shots of kittens catching some ZZZs. (Four of each design.)

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on Kelly Ann’s post on September 5th (by midnight Pacific time) and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On September 6th, I’ll post the winners’ names here and in a comment.

Congrats to Jamie Michele who won the book and Cee Dunsheath who won the note cards.


My Regular Drawing

My next drawing will take place September 10th.

The winner will receive a visit from Gerard Butler.

OK. Not exactly, but she will get to see him in one of his famous roles.

I’m offering a DVD of The Phantom of the Opera in which he stars along with Emmy Rossum and Patrick Wilson.

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by September 10th (multiple comments do increase your chances) and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On September 11th, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.


You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!

If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me, your blog hostess Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and September 30th. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.

On October 1st, I will choose one person who will have her/his choice of several covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your debut novel in your hands.

(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)

About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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46 Responses to Saturday Special: Kelly Ann Riley Sold!

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome back, Kelly Ann. And congratulations again on your Golden Heart win and First Sale. What an incredible summer it’s been for you.

    I didn’t ask you about Kitty’s Fire. What is the story about, and when can we expect to see it on the shelves?

  2. Cee Dunsheath says:

    YEAH, Kelly! LOL I get a thrill just thinking about the Golden Heart and “The Call.” I screamed so loud when I saw your name come across on the RWA boards, my whole family came rushing into my office. Took me 16 tries to text the words “YOU WON!”

    Would’ve had the same reaction to your “Call,” but unfortunately I was at work in the library when I heard the wonderful news. Oddly enough, my boss frowns on screaming in the library. 😉

    So here’s a virtual WAHOOO! from someone who knows just how hard you work and how much heart you put on the page. Congrats!

    And, once again, kudos, Keli, for a marvelous interview.


  3. Hi Keli,
    Thank you so much!! I’m so grateful for all the terrific things that have happened this summer, and all the wonderful, supportive people in my life.

    The setting and idea for “Kitty’s Fire” came from when I was a firefighter in Calfornia’s San Bernadino mountains. Here’s the blurb that went out on Publisher’s Marketplace which sums up the story–

    “Kelly Ann Riley’s debut KITTY’S FIRE, in which a L.A. firefighter returns to her hometown to prove her father didn’t start the fire that killed him and two others, and an ex-FBI agent goes undercover as the new fire chief to prove her wrong; but neither expect the sparks that fly between them.”

    The book, an Inspirational Romantic Suspense, will be out in the second half of 2010 with a different title in the Love Inspired Suspense line. I’m so thrilled to be an author with Steeple Hill. I have stacks of their books around my house. 🙂

    Thanks again for having me on your fabulous blog. It’s such fun here.

    Kelly Ann

  4. WOW Kelly – I read this on the pixie loop but it is still such a great call story.

    I was so pleased to hear you had won the Golden Heart this year. And I am so pleased you are now a Steeple Hill Author. I think you agent deserves an award for the way she told you. AWESOME.

    Enjoy your new status – you are about to enter the roller-coaster ride of being a published author. Strap yourself in.

  5. Hi Cee!!

    Thank you!! You made the whole Golden Heart experience extra special for me. I couldn’t believe it when you texted me the news. And it also was fun to listen to you on the phone muffle screams at the library. 🙂

    Thanks for all your support and help over the years. And I know that soon we’ll all be screaming for your first sale too!!

    Kelly Ann

  6. Hi Kelly!

    This really is a great story–from the winning of the Golden Heart through to your sale. I, too, missed accepting my GH because I stayed home for a good cause, so I understand the debate you went through. Don’t worry, we screamed and cheered just as much as if you’d been there!

    Congrats on becoming a Steeple Hill author. I can’t wait to read the book.

  7. Jeannie Lin says:

    Congratulations Kelly! It’s wonderful to have so many Ruby Sisters embarking on this part of the journey at the same time.

    And those Cat Naps are ridiculously loveable. I spent a good five minutes just staring and smiling. I didn’t coo, but I wanted to.

  8. Kelly says:

    Congrats, Kelly, from the other Golden Heart Kelly!

  9. Hi Kelly Ann and a big congratulations!!!!!!!

    I enjoyed your Call story and particularly appreciated your advice to unpublished authors.

    I see many more published books in your future 😉


  10. Kelly, congratulations! I felt very humbled to learn why you weren’t able to accept your award in person.

    Victor is a beautiful boy. He looks lovely in gold.

  11. Sue Mason says:

    Hi Kelly,

    Congratulations on your sale!

    My wip is about a firefighter, too. Maybe I could email you offline and pick your brain about smoke inhalation victims! LOL.

    Do you feel a lot of pressure about having another story idea ready? Or do you have tons of ideas waiting in the wings?

    Love your cat, btw. Looks like our princess Allie, but she outweighs him by about 10 pounds!

    Best of luck with your writing!

    Pixie Sue

  12. Kelly Ann,

    Congratulations again on your sale! I think it’s great that your daughter was there when you received The Call. How wonderful that she got to see all of your hard work and commitment pay off. What a gift to her! More hugs!


  13. Hi Tracey.
    Thank you so much! I’ll let my agent know you liked how she told me about the sale. 🙂 And congrats on your book coming out this month. Those reviews listed on your webpage are awesome!

    Thanks again,

    Kelly Ann (stapping in for the rollar-coaster. Wahooo!)

  14. That was STRAPPING myself in for the ROLLER-coaster ride in being published author. (Good thing I’m not editing today) 😉

  15. Hi Annette,
    Thank you. I’m glad you liked the story, and I hope we get to meet at a future conference. Congrats on your September book release. That’s so awesome!!!

    Kelly Ann

  16. Yay, Kelly!!! I’m so happy for you! Since I’ve been praying for my friends to get “the call,” you are the first one. 🙂 Congratulations again.

    Can’t wait to see you in a week and a half! Look for me!

  17. Thanks Jeannie!

    And I agree–it’s so cool so many ruby sisters are starting on the journey as published authors. I’m thrilled your GH winner, Butterfly Swords, sold to Harleguin Mills and Boon.

    I love those Cat Naps too. (Keli, where did find them?) 🙂

    Kelly Ann

  18. Thanks Kelly!! Congrats on all your contest finals and wins!! I saw you’re going to have a book release soon! Way to go!

    Kelly Ann

  19. Hi Mary,

    Thanks so much. That means a lot to me. And may there be many more published novels in your future too. (BTW- Loved the title of your June release “No Ordinary Cowboy.)

    Kelly Ann

  20. Keli Gwyn says:

    Kelly Ann,

    I pulled those adorable Cat Naps note cards from my secret stash of blog prizes. They’re from a company called RSVP: Reach Someone Very Personally. The Web site is

  21. Sue Mason says:


    I forgot to mention the Jonas Brothers. My daughter would be so envious of you guys. The Jonas were just here in Toronto and she tried to get a wristband to their meet and greet at the local Much Music, but to no avail. I know what you mean about the screaming!



  22. Thanks Keli,

    Great Web site!!

    Kelly Ann

  23. Hi Sue!!

    Oh yes, the Jonas Brothers!! My daughter wanted to go see them so bad back when they weren’t so so famous (and tickets were cheaper) but we didn’t go. So this time when they were coming close by, we HAD to get tickets. We even joined the fan club so we could purchase earlier than the general public. I figured it was a once in a lifetime teen event (somehow I doubt that now. LOL) and the Jonas Brothers are good kids.

    We couldn’t afford the Meet and Greet, but we sat down near the front, and there were times when she could move up the aisle and be just a few feet away from them. And Nick gazed into her eyes once. (sigh). LOL But, yeah, our ears were ringing when we got out of there–not from the music, but the screams. LOL!

    In answer to your question about feeling pressured to have more stories ready to go.. I felt a little overwhelmed at first, even though I know I can handle the stuff needed to be done for this book. I do have other books/projects in the wings so hopefully it won’t be too hard to pull together some more proposals.

    Cool that you have a firefighting WIP. We (my husband and I) were First Responders in a little mountain town, so there weren’t that many calls compared to a city. We did get some odd ones though. LOL.

    But it was fun being on the department. I got to drive the truck and “play” with the equipment. In the case of smoke inhalation, we mainly were to get them out of danger and keep them breathing until the paramedics arrived. But if you’d like to ask me questions, you can email me at

    Thank you about Victor. And as he’d probably say, “If Princess Allie looks like me, she must be gorgeous.” LOL

    Best of luck to you too in writing career!

    Kelly Ann

  24. Thank you Jamie,

    I appreciate it. I wish I could’ve been there to see you win your Golden Heart, but I know I was where I was supposed to be. Hopefully, we can meet up in Nashville. 🙂

    And thanks on behalf of Victor. He may look good in gold and wearing the pendant, but I think he was more interested in playing with the chain. LOL

    Kelly Ann

  25. Kelly,
    Congratulations on your sale and the Golden Heart!!! So happy for you. Knew you’d make it. Looking forward to your book! And I think your beautiful cat is a great photo poser. What more could you ask for? 🙂

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