I'm pleased to bring my friend and writing buddy, Kelly Irvin to you "live" today.
SN: Kelly, welcome! You've written a number of manuscripts. Tell us about them.
KI: If you don't count the two I've written and put in a drawer, I've completed five manuscripts and I've two partials that are still twirling around in my brain, waiting to be finished. All are romantic suspense/suspense.
SN: I know you've finaled in writing contests. What are your thoughts about those?
KI: I have a love-hate relationship with contests. They can be incredibly helpful in getting feedback on your manuscripts, but that feedback can be very painful sometimes. Once in a while, when you see your name on a list of finalists, they offer a great sense of affirmation that you're on the right track. Of course, they also offer unpublished authors the opportunity to get their work in front of editors and that's important.
SN: Are critique groups important?
KI: I would not still be writing after five years if it were not for the encouragement and kick-in-the-rear get-going support of my critique group. It's important to find the right critique partners, the ones who give you loving criticism. My critique group is my sounding board and they reel me in when I get carried away so they don't just critique my words, they help me keep my manuscripts on track.
SN: When did you decide to get an agent and how did you find one?
KI: I went to conferences to pitch and the pressure was so intense when I realized that was my only opportunity to get my work in front of houses that don't take unsolicited manuscripts. I can't afford to go to several conferences a year. I needed an agent to shop my work year-around. I sent proposals to agents the same way I did to publishing houses. Several turned me down, but I kept trying until the right one came along.
I found Mary Sue Seymour, of the Seymour Literary Agency, on a web site that listed reputable agents. She represented mainstream authors, primarily, but she was looking to focus her client list more toward the CBA. I sent her an email query, she asked for a proposal, and then a full manuscript. And then offered me a contract.
SN: Is there a character in one of your manuscripts who you can most closely relate to? Did that character impact you in some way?
KI: I would have to say Piper Martinez. She's the main character in the manuscript that's in the drawer and she appears as a secondary character in several others. She's a working mother and wife whose spouse is her polar opposite. She struggles between a calling to ministry and a husband who'd rather have her safe at home. She lost her first baby to a miscarriage. She's independent, yet she still longs for approval. The thing I learned from Piper's ongoing story is to never underestimate the power of love--earthly or Fatherly.
SN: What's the number one thing you've learned about writing?
KI: It's easy for someone like me, being a former newspaper reporter by trade, to put a bunch of words on paper. That doesn't make it good literature. I didn't start seriously writing fiction until I turned 45. In two months, I'll be 50. Many times I've wanted to quit. I can't. The sheer joy I feel when I'm "in the zone" and the story is rolling from my fingertips is too intoxicating. Like every fiction author I know, I want to be published. Whether that happens or not, I will always be a writer. God wired me that way.
SN: What do you know now that you wish you'd known before you started sending manuscripts to publishing houses?
KI: How important the marketing component is. I'm in public relations. You'd think that would have been first on my mind. Now I realize how critical it is to brand myself and my work in order to make sure I stand out from the crowd. My position line is Salsa Suspense . . . San Antonio Style, a reflection of the multicultural diversity and regional color found in most of my work. Having a hook is so important in today's crowded publishing world. Showing the editor that you're ready, willing and able to market yourself earns you additional points. You've got to write a good novel first, but don't stop there. Show your willingness to help sell it.
SN: Wow, Kelly. I love that position line. What are you working on now?
KI: I'm editing "The Dead Parent Society", which recently placed second in The Molly Contest sponsored by the Heart of Denver Romance Writers. It's a mainstream suspense novel I want to enter in the Minotaur Crime Writing Contest, which has a December deadline. I'm also trying to finish "High Note", which is a sequel to "False Note", currently under consideration by a CBA publisher. If it sells, I'd like to have "High Note" ready to offer.
SN: Congratulations on being so close. I hope we have something to celebrate soon! What are your future plans?
KI: To keep writing. To start a new series with a new slate of characters I've yet to meet. To sell the half dozen short stories I never seem to have time to market. I have two teenagers on the brink of starting college. When they've finished I want to go back for a masters in creative writing. (Shh! That's a secret my husband doesn't know!)
SN: Don't worry, Kelly. I won't tell anyone. *grin* Do you have any favorite resources that might help other writers?
KI: I love reading writing magazines because they make me feel connected to other writers. I also highly recommend ACFW to any newbie writers out there. A sense of community is so important. My favorite new resource is for suspense/crime writers. It's called Police Procedure & Investigation, A Guide for Writers by Lee Lofland.
SN: Great leads there. Thanks, Kelly. How about research?
KI: Since I write crime-based fiction, a lot of my details come from being a contract proofreader for four court reporters who work felony courts here in San Antonio. I've read capital murder trials, sexual assaults, etc., which means medical examiners, ballistics experts, DNA experts, police officers, homicide detectives, gang members, etc., testify and I get so much of my technically correct details from that. Having been a reporter and having a TV news photographer as a spouse also help in that regard. I'm a fanatic about reading the newspaper and clipping anything that has to do with crime investigation, police procedures, or crime itself, so I can springboard story ideas from these real-life issues.
SN: What's your personal writing process?
KI: Since I work full time in public relations, I have very little free time for writing. I have to make every second count. There's not a lot of time for outlining or storyboarding. I get an idea. I put my behind in the chair and I write. Makes my critique partners a little crazy. Sometimes I write out of order. Makes them a lot crazy. The price I pay for this free-flowing style is that I spend a great deal of time editing and rewriting. But when a character is in my head and he's telling me what's happening, I have to go with it or I lose that spark. It's almost like having hallucinations. It's bright, it's vivid, and the characters are alive--sometimes characters I didn't even know were in my story. I try to at least know what's coming two, three or four chapters ahead so I don't get stuck and I always know who did it and why. Just not always how.
SN: Kelly, thank you for chatting with us over your Thanksgiving break. And continued successes and growth in your writing!
It's all better with friends.