Interview & Contest: Kemberlee Shortland

ShortlandKemberleeJen:  It’s a new week at Romancing the Book and today we welcome Kemberlee Shortland as our guest.  Kemberlee, will you share a short bio with us?
Kemberlee:  Kemberlee is a native Northern Californian who was raised in a community known as Steinbeck Country, home to author, John Steinbeck.

Kemberlee was an early-learner and started writing stories very young, she began her professional writing career as a book reviewer in 1995. In 1998. she co-founded RIO (Reviewers International Organization), chaired the RIO Award of Excellence, headed up the RIO newsletter, and served two terms as RIO President.

It was in 1996 while employed by Clint Eastwood that Kemberlee couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend six month in Ireland. While in Ireland, she met a man who eventually became her husband. Upon permanently relocating to Ireland, she focused on her writing, traveled extensively around the country, and published dozens of Irish travel articles.

Because of her knowledge of Ireland, Kemberlee has had the privilege of working as researcher and editor with some of the romance industry’s top authors who have set their stories in Ireland.

In 2005, Kemberlee’s first works of fiction were published and she now has eight books to her credit, including the popular Irish Pride Series — Rhythm of My Heart, A Piece of My Heart, and Shape of My Heart.

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Jen:  Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Kemberlee:  Shape of My Heart – Irish Pride Series, book three

Gráinne has moved back to Dublin to get her life straightened out. She dreams of college and a better life. She’s working for her brother, Kieran, in his newly reopened pub, The Blues Tavern, but the money isn’t enough to support herself and pay tuition. Moonlighting at The Klub! as an exotic dancer seems to be her answer fast money.

John ‘JD’ Desmond is a detective working undercover in the Blues Tavern. The Klub!, owned by Jimmy Malloy, is being used as a drug front, headed by the notorious Taylor Wade. JD had intended to get Gráinne to snitch for him, but when he falls in love with her, things get complicated.

When Gráinne witnesses Jimmy’s murder, she and JD are forced to go on the run until Wade can be apprehended. Wade lives up to his nickname, The Hunter, and JD and Gráinne quickly find themselves at the end of a gun and running for their lives.

Shape of My Heart is the third book in the Irish Pride Series. Grainne is Kieran Vaughan’s sister, whom we met in his story, Rhythm of My Heart. The idea for this story came out of seeing her brother finding true love. Their parents died when Kieran was just 18 and was left raising Grainne on his own. Seeing him find love angered her because Eilis ‘took’ her brother from her, while at the same time, Grainne sees Eilis as the right woman for her brother, which makes her happy. She wants the same love in her life, but she also realizes that before she can have it, she needs to make some personal changes. Part of the learning process for her is making some mistakes. In this case, a major one. But it brings her face to face with the love she’s always craved.

Jen:  What what age did you discover writing?  Tell us your call story.
Kemberlee:  I was an early reader and speller. Probably around 1st grade, I started borrowing picture books from libraries and writing the stories I saw in the pictures. I did that because I couldn’t find books I wanted to read — write what you want to read, and all that. I’ve been writing ever since.

Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Kemberlee:  A bit of both, actually. I’ll write a basic plot and come up with a great opening line, but the writing itself is usually done as I go. I don’t storyboard, and I don’t have a thousand 3×5 cards scattered around. What I do, though, is treat writing like a car journey. My brief outline is like a road map. I pinpoint starting point and destination, then mark up a few places I’d like to see along the way. If the story isn’t working, it’s because I’ve deviated down a one-way road, so I’ll go back to that part of the story where I was moving forward and try another avenue. My system hasn’t failed me yet.

Jen:   Do you have a writing routine?
Kemberlee:  Not really. I have loads of notes and partial stories. What I don’t have a lot of these days is actual writing time. We launched a publishing house two years ago and most of my time is dedicated to that. Though, this year’s resolution/goal was to plan more time for my projects . . . which is why I’m here. Thanks for hosting me.

When I do write, the words tend to just fall out of me. Nora Roberts once said in an interview, when the interviewer asked how she can write so many stories every years, “I barf them out.” Meaning, butt in chair and get the story out, don’t stop until it’s done. I get that! Each story in the Irish Pride series took me 6, 8, and 7 weeks respectively to write. I just . . . barfed them out. I kept writing until there weren’t anymore words.

Jen:  How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Kemberlee:  I always heard that a good writer always has a notepad and pen/pencil available at all times. I was never good at that. These days with modern technology, as long as I have my phone, I can send myself emails when I have thoughts.

Jen:  Is there a genre you’d like to write?  Is there one you’ll probably stay away from?  Why?
Kemberlee:  I’d love to try my hand at a thriller. Maybe create the new Jack Reacher.

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Kemberlee:   Living in Ireland, I’ve been able to travel all over the country to meet people from all walks of life, see the vast differences in scenery, experience the local cultures and practices, etc. Being able to do this made it easy for me to set my stories in the locations I did. Hollywood stereotypes Ireland and a lot of writers follow that stereotype, often getting it wrong. I want my stories to be as authentic as possible, even if it means using a spelling from Connemara that you wouldn’t see in Dublin. Some people think research only counts with historical, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Jen:  What’s the most challenging aspect of writing?  Easiest? Most rewarding?
Kemberlee:  Most challenging — Aside from finding time these days to write, I don’t think writing is a challenge. I love it. Even when it’s being a b@st@rd to me, I love it!

Most rewarding — When I can connect with readers through storytelling.

Jen: Who has influenced you as a writer?
Kemberlee:  Many authors. I great up in an area known as Steinbeck Country, for the author, John Steinbeck, who lived and wrote there. I’ve read most of his works and fell in love with his simple imagery. A few well chosen words or phrases and you can practically smell the setting.

I’ve devoured romances since I was 12 or 13. Jude Deveraux, Julie Garwood, Judith McNaught, Julia Grice — The J Ladies — were always influences. (At one time I considered a pen name starting with J because I felt the best authors had J names lol) The first several books I wrote were historicals because that’s what I was reading, but they taught me the value of good research.

Later when I was writing contemporaries, I had been given a few Linda Howard books to read, from her romantic suspense collection. Linda was a great influence in teaching me how to blend suspense with romance. After reading about twenty of her books, I went back to my own work to see where I could ramp up the suspense.

And I can’t not mention Dean Koontz. His books are full of suspense, too. Some of the scare years off me! I haven’t quite added that to my romances yet, but give me time.

Jen:   If this book was made into a movie, who do you see playing the main characters?
Kemberlee:  This question always makes me nervous because I don’t get out to the movies like I used to. Having said that, Alex Pettyfer would make the perfect JD. He has the look I was going for when I was writing, and based on his acting skills, he could pull of JD’s character really well. For Grainne, probably Bellamy Young. She has the looks, and after seeing her in MI:III, she can handle anything from exotic dancing to fighting for her life.

Jen:  If you were able to travel in time, where would you go and what 3 things would you take with you?
Kemberlee:  I’d probably go back a few generations to meet some of the historical figures in my family tree. Three things I’d take with me would probably be my Samsung tablet and load it with photos of today’s ancestors, books, movies, and music. It has a camera so I’d use it to take pictures. And I’d take chocolate. I don’t think there was chocolate back then.

Jen:  Who are some of your favorite authors?  What are you reading now?
Kemberlee:  Dean Koontz, Linda Howard, and Elizabeth Chadwick are all go-to authors for me for fiction. I enjoy biographies, especially those of some of the musicians I follow. I’m currently reading the new bio on Robert Plant (lead singer of Led Zeppelin) and quite enjoying it.

Jen:  How do you come up with characters names?
Kemberlee:   I stand corrected. The most challenging part of writing is coming up with character names. I’m extremely fussy about names. They have to fit the character I’m creating or I just can’t continue with the story. For my Irish series, character names must be Irish, but I don’t want to use the standard ones everyone uses, like Ryan and Liam, Maggie and Fiona. Nothing with an O or Mc either. Well, not yet anyway. Sometimes, a good, old fashioned name works well, like John (JD), Michael (Mick), and Kathleen (Kate).

I also write erotic under a pen name. The first book was set in 12th century Wales. The hero is a notorious mercenary and needed an equally badass name. I eventually found one that suited my purposes — Bedwyr. It means ‘grave-knower’ in Welsh. No better name for a man who’s paid to take lives, eh? In reality, Bedwyr is the Welsh for Bedivere who was a knight of the Round Table and the only knight to know where Arthur was buried . . . the grave-knower.

Jen:  Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Kemberlee:  I identify with all my characters for one reason or another. I don’t think there’s an author out there who doesn’t put *something* of themselves into their characters. For Eilis (Rhythm of My Heart), it was her weight. For Kate (A Piece of My Heart), it was longing for someone she couldn’t have. For Grainne (Shape of My Heart), it was always seeing her best efforts crashing around he feet, especially with relationships.

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you’ve received about your books?
Kemberlee:   I don’t know if it’s something I enjoy, but it is a validation of one’s ability to connect with readers when they tell you a story they read of mine made them cry. The story I’ve received that comment about most is The Power of Love. It’s the story of a young couple who find out their pregnant quite unexpectedly. And just as unexpectedly, the wife gets a terminal diagnosis. Honestly, even I got choked up a bit when I was writing it. And still do when I reread it.

Jen:  What’s been the highlight of you career to this point?
Kemberlee:  I’ve had many highlights over the years. They’re all different so it’s hard picking just one. If you were to press me though, I’d have to say it was that connection with readers.

Jen:  What did you do to celebrate your first book?  Do you do anything to celebrate a sale, new contract or release?
Kemberlee:  I’m pretty sure it was with Ben and Jerry’s. I celebrate everything with ice cream.

Jen:  What’s next for you?
Kemberlee:  My current WIP is called The Diary. It’s a time travel set in Ireland between 2014 and 1014. Eevean has never felt be ‘belonged’. Even when things in her life seem to be going her way, she somehow finds ways of sabotaging them because she doesn’t feel worthy of them. For as long as she can remember, Ireland has called to her and she finally decided to go. She’s taking a year to see the country and discover what it is that has been in the back of her mind for so long. Not long into her trip, she finds herself whisked 1000 years into the past and into the arms of a man she’s dreamed about most of her life.

Darragh is the clan chief and has loved Eevean since boyhood, but after a tragedy, she pulled away from him. No matter how he tried, he couldn’t reach her. Then during the Imbolc festival, she comes to him, gives herself to him, and expects whatever had happened to her she’ll either finally tell him or they can move past it. It’s the clan priestess who reveals what happened to Eevean.

When Darragh is summoned to ancient Dublin to fight alongside his Ard Ri, Brian Boru, Eevean’s stories of a future Ireland must be told to the king with hopes of saving his life. Spies are all around and Darragh and Eevean are on the run for their lives. Can the future save them?


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18 thoughts on “Interview & Contest: Kemberlee Shortland

  1. Thank you for hosting me today. I’m thrilled to be here.

    I’m here all day if anyone has any comments or questions. Or if you just want to talk about Ireland. 🙂

    • Hey Christy! Yeah, it’s a great part of today’s modern technology. I don’t always have my purse with me, therefor I don’t always have a pen and paper handy. But the phone is always with me, and with Android, I can email myself notes. Awesome!

    • Some places can be like that. I’ve lived in Ireland 17 years now and it hasn’t been until we moved here to Mornington that we’ve actually lived in a community full of friendly people. My hubs is from Cork and even in his neighborhood, it’s changed so much in recent years that everyone he knew has moved on, and those left or who have moved in are very standoffish. Up here, I guess everyone is relatively new, since it’s a sort of planned community, that anyone else who happens in is just part of the new and growing community.

  2. Great interview, Jen and Kem. I do envy you living in Ireland, Kem. As you say, you can absorb the different cultures and customs that a visitor like myself doesn’t really get to experience.
    It’s interesting what you say about Irish character names. I’m having that problem now in the Irish novel I’m writing. The main problem is that so many Irish names can sound very different from the way they’re written and the general advice is to use names your readers know how to pronounce. That’s not easy with some Irish names!

  3. My favourite place in Ireland? So difficult to choose – the view of KIlliney Bay from Dalkey, the wildness of the Wicklow Mountains, the other-worldly scenery of the Burren, the Atlantic waves crashing against the Cliffs of Moher, the deserted famine villages, the prehistoric remains and the medieval castles. I could go on for ever!
    But I think it was Connemara that stole my heart and has to be my all-time favourite – such stunning scenery with the mountains and lakes, and different views at every bend of the road – followed by a pint at one of the pubs in Clifden 🙂

    • You’re so right, Paula. It’s hard to pick just one place in Ireland to call a favorite. Even though it’s such a small island, the regions on it are so diverse and unique. Such as the Giant’s Causeway with the basalt columns, the Burren’s lunar appearance, the mountains in Donegal (highest cliffs) and Kerry (highest mountains), miles long beach strands in Inch/Dingle and Bettystown, the Inishowen Peninsula, and more. And as you said, the old castles. Maybe not as impressive as those in Wales, Scotland, and England, but we have some pretty neat ones, not all restored. Sometimes it’s more the history surrounding them than their re-invented structures for tourists…like the Rock of Dunamase near Portlaoise, Black Castle in Wicklow Town, Lynch’s Castle in Galway City, Grace O’Malley’s castle/Rockfleet in Connemara, Aghnanure Castle in Connemara, the city walls around Derry City (the only town in Ireland with it’s full walls still intact), etc.

      And let’s not forget the stunning views from the mountains and coasts.

      Yep, we could go on forever 😉

      • Now you’ve listed more places I want to visit, Kem – especially Kerry, Killarney, and Dingle. That’s the part of Ireland that is high on my bucket list!
        Loved Donegal, but when we were there it rained every day, so I’d love to go back and see it without all the rain!

        • Yep, I’m a right instigator, I am 😉

          Funnily enough, I’ve been to north Clare/the Burren/Doolin area a bunch of times and every time it’s rained or been very windy and overcast. Have never once had a chance to get to the islands or take the boat to the base of the Cliffs of Moher because the weather has sucked every time.

          • It was too windy the day we’d planned to take the boat from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher, but otherwise we’ve had beautiful weather on every visit to the Burren. Lucky or what?

          • Very lucky. We had one day we could have gone. It wasn’t raining or windy but really cold, and I didn’t have a warm enough jacket o.0 It’s always something LOL

  4. My paternal grandparents immigrated from Lochalsh. I’ve never been but I’ve heard stories for years about the life and people. I would love to visit one day.

    • Thanks for visiting Sebella. Lochalsh is in Scotland. Did those grandparents move to Ireland? I have ancestors from Kilmarnock near Glasgow who left Scotland for Ulster in Ireland in the 18th century. There progeny then left for the Americas a generation or two later.

    • Me too. I need someone with a whip standing behind me, it appears. Now that we’ve just past the anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf, the 1000 year commemoration, and everything being about Vikings at the moment, I have some inspiration. Now I just need the time.

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