Jen: Today we welcome Kelli A. Wilkins to Romancing the Book. Kelli, will you share a short bio with us?
Kelli: Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books. Her romances span many genres and heat levels.
Her paranormal-comedy, Beauty & the Bigfoot, was published in September 2017.
Kelli released Trust with Hearts, a contemporary romance, in July 2017. Her third gay romance, Four Days with Jack, was released in June 2017. Kelli’s trilogy of erotic romance novellas, Midsummer Night’s Delights, Midwinter Night’s Delights, and Ultimate Night’s Delights was published in spring 2017.
Loving a Wild Stranger was published in January 2017. This historical/pioneer romance is set in the wilds of the Michigan Territory and blends tender romance with adventure. Kelli’s third Medallion Press romance, Lies, Love & Redemption was released in September 2016. This spicy historical western is set on the Nebraska prairie in 1877.
Her writing book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction is a fun and informative guide filled with writing exercises and helpful tips all authors can use.
Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and Twitter: www.Twitter.com/KWilkinsauthor. She also writes a weekly blog: http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com/.
Jen: Please tell us about one of your newest releases and where the idea came from.
Kelli: My latest contemporary romance is Trust with Hearts. Here’s the summary:
Trust with Hearts
After a bitter breakup, Sherrie Parker seeks refuge at her cousin Dave’s house in rural West Virginia. Early one morning, she runs into Dave’s other houseguest, a singer named Curtis Taylor. The last thing Sherrie wants is to share living quarters with a country music crooner – even if he is sexy, in a cowboy sort of way.
Thrown together by circumstances, Sherrie and Curtis get off to a rocky start, but soon discover they have more in common than they ever imagined. Unable to fight their growing attraction, they give in to their desires and start a sizzling summer romance.
Everything is perfect between them until Sherrie discovers that Curtis is keeping secrets from her – and his biggest secret of all will change everything. Can their newfound love survive, or will destiny keep them apart forever?
Like all of my books, I have no control over when, where, or how the idea for a story will come to me. Each book is created in its own unique way. So how did Trust with Hearts come about? Is the sexy and sultry Curtis based on a particular country music celebrity? Here’s the scoop…
The idea for Trust with Hearts came to me before a country music concert. I was sitting in the front row before the show started, when all of a sudden the whole plot and all the characters jumped into my head. Naturally, I started scribbling down notes (on the back of an envelope, of all things!) before the house lights went down.
Although inspired by real-life, the character of Curtis isn’t based on that one particular country music superstar – rather, he’s a blend of three or four cowboy-hat-wearing singer/songwriters. Elements of the “inspirational” singer are there, but I used my imagination to fill in background details and invented whatever else I needed to make the story work.
Here’s a tame excerpt from Trust with Hearts:
“I told Sherrie to work things out with you. She seemed fine with it,” Dave said as he stirred a pot of spaghetti sauce on the stove.
Curtis carried the supper dishes to the table. “Yeah, well, that sure changed fast.”
He set Sherrie’s plate close to Dave’s. The round table would fit the three of them fine, but he didn’t want to get too close to Sherrie. He didn’t need to start a new fight with her when they hadn’t finished the old one yet.
“She came down to the cottage blaming me because she couldn’t sleep. I coulda let that go, until she insulted my music… again,” he added. “Did you tell her about me?”
Dave sprinkled black pepper into the spaghetti sauce. “Of course not. All she knows is you’re staying here and working on your music. I didn’t mention anything about,” he paused and looked toward the kitchen doorway, “CJ, or the hospital. If you decide to tell her, that’s up to you.”
“I doubt that’s gonna happen, seeing how she feels about country music,” he replied as he arranged silverware next to the plates. “You know I rarely offer up opinions, Dave, but your sweet-lookin’ Yankee cousin’s—”
He stopped as he saw Sherrie standing in the doorway. “Oh Lord.”
“His Yankee cousin’s… what?”
He breathed a sigh of relief. At least Sherrie hadn’t heard him call her sweet-lookin’. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. Truth be told, Sherrie was sweet-looking.
Waves of chestnut-colored hair framed her oval face. Her almond-shaped brown eyes were draped with long lashes, she had a kissable, rosebud mouth, and from what he’d seen of her this morning, Sherrie was curvy in all the right places. Too bad she acted so moody.
He stared into her eyes for a full fifteen seconds. His piercing baby blues were capable of rendering women speechless. They had the power to charm, as well as disarm, anyone.
Sherrie shifted her gaze to the floor and he smirked. Direct eye contact had done the trick. Sherrie might have lots of fight, but she had nothing to back it up.
“Ornery,” he answered. “I was about to say ‘ornery’.”
Dave banged the wooden spoon on the edge of the pot, breaking the tension in the room. “Sher, I thought you were gonna apologize to Curtis.”
“I did, but then His Royal Majesty dismissed me.”
Curtis moved back as Sherrie strode past him and yanked the refrigerator open. She stuck her head inside and rummaged around.
He took advantage of the opportunity and admired the way her denim shorts clung to her backside. A tingle spread through his groin as he envisioned running his hands up the back of her smooth thighs. He turned his head as she took out the pitcher of sweet tea.
“What were you looking at?”
“Nothin’.” Why did he feel compelled to touch her? It must be hormones, he reasoned. The last thing he needed was to get involved with a Yankee woman who hated him on sight. He scratched his chin and chuckled. Now there was a switch. Women all over the world would pay a fortune to spend five minutes in the same room with him, and yet Sherrie despised him.
“What’s so funny?” she asked.
“Bull.” Sherrie sat at the table and poured herself a glass of tea.
He rolled his eyes. Naturally, she had taken his seat. He wouldn’t protest. Sherrie was Dave’s cousin, and he’d been raised to respect women—even stubborn Yankee women.
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Kelli: Believe it or not, I’m both. When an idea comes to me, I make an outline with the basic scenes, snippets of dialogue, character descriptions, notes on point-of-view and plot, then I sit down and start writing.
I follow the outline but I keep myself open to scenes going in different directions. Sometimes characters reveal things about themselves or an unexpected detail is revealed while I’m writing. I go with it and write it all out. Later, when I revise, I can always change or cut things that don’t work.
I never know where the characters or the story will take me. So each book is a new adventure for me as I’m writing it.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest? Most rewarding?
Kelli: For me, the easiest part of creating a new book is the actual writing of the first draft. I love the process of writing the story. Creating characters, worlds for the characters to live in, and telling the story of their adventures is a lot of fun. It’s interesting to see what the characters do, watch them fall in love, and learn how they overcome their troubles to have a happy ending.
However, once the “fun” part of writing is over, then the real “work” begins. Revising, editing, and proofreading the story is necessary, but it’s not terribly creative. You have to pull yourself out of the story and focus on wording, the plot, and other details that make the story come together as a whole.
This painstaking process has its rewards in the end, though. I have a phrase I use when I’ve finished a story: “I love having written.” This means I love having it all finished, polished, and done!
It’s very rewarding to see the characters I’ve created out of “nowhere” come to life in a book and know that readers are swept up in the story.
Jen: If you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Kelli: Stephen King. Even though I primarily write romance now, I started out writing horror stories and I’m still a fan of the genre. I read a lot of Stephen King growing up and love his books today.
No matter what type of story he writes, he follows the basic rules of storytelling: he creates interesting plots and invents characters that people care about. Mr. Mercedes and the other books in that series are great reads – and they’re not necessarily “horror” stories. I think On Writing was a perfect look inside an author’s mind and explained exactly how this whole writing “thing” works.
Aside from writing, Mr. King and I would have lots to talk about: movies (horror and otherwise), music (we both like Slaid Cleaves and Dwight Yoakam) and we have an odd sense of humor (hello, Dave Barry).
Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you reading now?
Kelli: I read everything, so in a sense every book I’ve read has influenced me in some way. I don’t always read big-name authors. If I come across a book and the plot sounds interesting, I’ll give it a try, even if I’ve never heard of the author. (And I hope readers will do the same for me!) I’ve discovered a lot of good books by people I’ve never heard of before.
Right now, my two “go-to” authors are Stephen King and John Sandford. I read a lot of books in different genres (mystery, thriller, suspense, non-fiction, horror), and my “books-to-read” shelf takes up an entire bookcase.
Jen: How do you come up with character names?
Kelli: Sometimes this is a hard process. When characters introduce themselves to me I usually learn about them and their problem or situation before I’ll get a name. Usually, I’ll get a first initial or a first name only, and then have to discover more about the character before I get his or her whole name and backstory.
My historical western, Lies, Love & Redemption is one example. Before I wrote a word, I had the whole opening sequence in my head. I knew Sam and Cassie’s first names, and a bit about their backgrounds, but that was it. Sometimes my characters are a mystery to me until I get to know them better—even though I’m the one creating them!
Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Kelli: When I’m not writing, I’m usually working around the house, gardening, going to flea markets, or reading. I enjoy hanging out with friends, going to the movies, traveling, and relaxing in front of the television with my husband. If I need a break from a writing project, I’ll go for a walk, meditate, or do yoga.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Kelli: I just finished writing the rough draft of a contemporary paranormal romance. I’m also revising a Gothic historical, and I’m toying with outlines for another contemporary gay romance. None of these projects have titles yet, so readers should stay tuned for updates on my blog and site.
I hope you’ll check it out. Trust with Hearts was a lot of fun to write and blends a sultry romance with heartwarming drama.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts today. I enjoy hearing from readers, so feel free to write me with comments or questions about of my romances.