Jen: Today we welcome J.M. Kelley to Romancing the Book as her book tour makes a stop with us. J.M., will you share a short bio with us?
J.M.: Three years ago, native Pennsylvanian J.M. Kelley packed her bags and moved south. Now, the wannabe Carolina Girl can’t speak a single sentence without adding the word y’all at the end of it, and regards a blast of snow flurries as a doomsday-level event. When the day job allows, and when she can pull herself away from George Takei’s Facebook fanpage, she likes to go on writing jaunts to her favorite lake, or a local coffee shop with delicious shakes and questionable Wi-Fi connections.
J.M. Kelley is a proud recipient of a Carrie McCray Memorial Literary award, and is a member of The South Carolina Writers Workshop and Romance Writers of America (PAN). Readers interested in more information may visit her website at www.jmkelleywrites.com, Facebook or Twitter.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
J.M.: Janie McGee, the black sheep of her family, is free-spirited, uninhibited, and never one to stay in the same place for too long. Despite a lifetime of never seeing eye to eye, when Janie learns her father, Joe, is gravely ill, she surprises even herself by returning home to rural Pennsylvania to care for him.
David Harris sports a pocket protector, collects coins, and is addicted to Antiques Roadshow. Everything about the man rubs Janie the wrong way, from his nerdy wardrobe to his enviable friendship with Joe. And to make matters worse, Janie’s father thinks they’re perfect for each other, proof positive of how little Joe knows his own daughter … or so Janie thinks.
A shared devotion to the elder McGee begins to close the gulf between Janie and David, but a burgeoning romance opens the door to unexpected consequences neither could foresee. Joe, however, remains steadfast in his resolve to show Janie that Daddy knows what’s best for his little girl after all. Can Janie finally open her heart to David while watching the first man she ever truly loved fade away?
I didn’t have to reach very far for inspiration for Daddy’s Girl. I lost my own father in 2007, and this story, while entirely fictional, was shaped by my own experiences in caring for him as he battled lung cancer. His death led me to writing again, for the first time since high school, really. I had a lot to work through after losing him, and started writing short stories, usually very angst-ridden tales of love and loss. After a few years of that, I finally mustered the courage to write a full-length novel, Drew in Blue, that was published in 2010. Daddy’s Girl, my second novel, is my homage to my daddy, and a thank you of sorts, for him inadvertently setting me back on my true path. I hope, if he were here to see me now, he’d be proud of my choices, and especially this story.
Before he even opened the door, David knew something was off. Late night visitors, in his experience, rarely brought good news. When the visitor turned out to be Janie, his heart leapt into his throat. “Janie,” he said when he threw open the door. “What’s wrong? Is Joe okay?”
“Yeah. He’s fine.” Relief hit him so hard he took a step back and leaned against the doorjamb.
“You scared me.”
“I didn’t mean to.” Janie rubbed her hands up and down her arms and looked over her shoulder. “It’s cold out here. Mind if I come in?”
“Oh. Right.” David gestured for Janie to enter. “Come inside.” He followed when she slid past him and walked into the living room.
“It’s late.” As if she needed to tell him. The atomic clock on the wall, a Christmas gift from his mother, showed the time at almost two in the morning. Janie stood in the middle of the room and focused her gaze on the bookcase in the corner. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”
“I was reading. A little too wired to sleep, I guess.” David moved up behind her and raised a tentative hand to her shoulder. “Are you sure everything’s okay?”
The sound of his voice jolted her out of her thoughts and she jerked her head toward him. Her movements were stunted. Wooden. “Ever have one of those moments when you’re convinced you may float away, and no matter what you do, you can’t keep yourself grounded? And you need to hang on tight to something until the sensation passes?”
Whatever was going on, he thought, she was not in a good place. David gently spun Janie toward him and gazed at her. “Tell me what you need from me.”
Janie closed her eyes and lowered her forehead to David’s shoulder. “Ground me, David,” she whispered and laid her hand on his chest.
Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
J.M.: I wish! Life would be much easier if I did. I still have a day job, one with an erratic, ever-changing schedule. The theory is that I write around that schedule. In actuality, I will find myself awake at 2 in the morning, dreading an early morning shift as I desperately try to produce a few paragraphs before I fall into a coma. Now that spring has arrived, I can get back into the habit of going to the lake with my laptop. Even if I don’t write while I’m there, I find the ideas really flow when I’m out in the fresh air.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest? Most rewarding?
J.M.: The most challenging aspect of writing is definitely staying dedicated to the act of writing. I am so easily distracted–wave some shiny tin foil in front of my eyes, and I’m mesmerized. Facebook, Twitter, and general promotion threaten to lure me away from an open document, and sadly, they often win. Add a physically taxing day job to the mix, and it’s a daily struggle to stay on target.
The easiest aspect? That’s a hard one. It depends on the day and the task, and frankly, my mood. Sometimes the words flow like honey, sometimes I have so many ideas I can’t write them down fast enough, and sometimes the editing is moving along better than anything else. And sometimes…well, sometimes the easiest aspect is that moment when you realize you’re the boss, and you can step away from the computer for a break.
The most rewarding aspect, ultimately, is being in charge of the story and the outcome. Unless I have a special deadline, I can work at my own pace, put a project aside if need be, and do whatever it takes to come up with a final product I am proud of. I answer only to my own creative desires, in the end. At the same time, the amount of work I put into any given story results in a bond of sorts with the characters I create. If I’m doing it right, I’m totally invested in these people, and I really care about what happens to them. I miss them when I’ve moved on to the next story, and when I think about them, I hope those crazy kids are doing okay. That emotional connection is what I love most about writing.
Jen: How do you come up with characters names?
J.M.: That’s an exercise in randomness. I end up tossing names around with a friend until we come up with something that works. It has to suit the character and their traits. The problem is, I’m nitpicky, and prefer strong, simple, classic names and I can drive people (and myself) nuts until I finally settle on names that please me and still fit the characters I’m writing. Living in the South, now, I find myself creating a mental database of quirkier names. Some of the nicknames I hear make me giggle uncontrollably, and they’re so creative, they belong somewhere in a future book.
Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you’ve received about your books?
J.M.: My first novel, Drew in Blue, is a contemporary romance told from the perspective of the hero, not the heroine. A few men have dared read the story, and it’s always amusing to get their feedback. Most of them have been surprised they enjoyed the story as much as they did. The ultimate compliment though, is when male readers make it a point to let me know I captured the male perspective. I love it when a reader of Drew in Blue wonders if I’m really a woman.
Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book? Do you do anything to celebrate a sale, new contract or release?
J.M.: I’m a party animal. My first release day ended up falling on the day I officially moved from Pennsylvania to South Carolina. My release party was held in a friend’s living room, and was essentially large piles of candy and salty snacks served to me and her kids on Hello Kitty plates. Best release party ever. My celebrations now usually consist of flopping on my couch and staring at Amazon rankings while I eat a hot fudge sundae from McDonald’s. It’s a wonder I don’t have paparazzi following me around, I’m such a maniac.
Jen: What’s next for you?
J.M.: I am (as I complete this interview) putting the finishing touches on a paranormal romance that will be released by Turquoise Morning Press this June. Almost Magic will be included in TMP’s new boutique collection, and will be available in the Splintered line.
When it came to Vivian Burroughs’ unique connection with nature, her grandmother always said, ‘Mediocrity may not burn as bright as a firecracker, but it seldom blows up in your face’. But, the old woman never advised her on what to do when a sexy new neighbor stokes the flames of attraction within.
Jack Riley, a still-grieving widower, relocates from the big city to small-town Essex Woods with his young daughter, Elizabeth. His introduction to Vivian leaves him enchanted, but rumors regarding her abilities soon come to light. Is the local beauty a witch, or merely the product of an eccentric upbringing by her mother Fred, and Aunt Lil, identical twins with a penchant for mischief?
The mystery surrounding the woman intrigues him, considering the complexities of raising the precocious Elizabeth, a child with frighteningly accurate intuitiveness. As he reluctantly draws closer to Vivian, he also discovers how deep his daughter’s gifts run. Can Jack accept the truth about his own flesh and blood, as well as a second chance at love?
J.M. will be awarding a gift basket of some of the author’s favorite things, including a $25 gift card from Amazon and a signed copy of the Foreign Affairs anthology from Turquoise Morning Press to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. So, leave a meaningful comment (and include your email address) for entry. And if you’d like extra entries, check out the other stops on the tour.