Interview: Getting to know Tia Kelly

A few weeks ago, I discovered indie writer Tia Kelly via another fellow writer, Nia Forrester. I’d just finished reading Nia’s novel, Mistress, which I loved, and was waiting for her next book, Wife, to come out. Then Nia shared a post on her blog about Tia Kelly and her latest novel, Taste for Love, and it sounded like it was right up my alley–and it most definitely was.

So without further ado, let’s get to know Tia Kelly!

10364484_215119008697142_832864325_nWhen did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always loved reading and enjoyed the creative side of story telling. I guess it’s in my bloodline and I’ve always known the passion existed.

How would you describe your writing for people who’ve never read your work before? And which book would you recommend they start with?
I am a contemporary fiction writer. My novels have elements of realism and romance, but I love to explore characters lives…. one moment at a time. I would recommend The Love Sessions to become familiar with my work.

How would you describe your writing process?
That’s a hard one. The writing process for me changes with each novel. It all depends on what my characters lead me to do and I will follow wherever they want me to go. Chances are I will play with a few ideas in my head just to get the characters talking. Then I will either just start writing or jot down a very loose outline. I hate to even call it an outline. From there, anything goes.

When did you decide you wanted to self-publish your writing?
A wonderful author suggested it a few times and I was always afraid to give it a try. One day, I uploaded Love’s Rebound just to get reader’s feedback using Amazon as a pseudo-online writing class and haven’t looked back since.

What would you say are the most important lessons you’ve learned since you began publishing your writing?
Patience. I sometimes struggle with patience in my every day life, but it’s something I am getting better with thanks to writing. I had to learn that I need to give a story time to grow before it hits the pages… patience in the process of seeing it evolve while I write it… extreme patience when I get excited to write or release the next one. Learning how to give my story time to breathe… Patience would be one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned so far.

One of the aspects of your writing that I really admire is how your characters come across as real, flawed and not necessarily perfect. How do you go about creating characters? Do they come to you fully formed, or is it a long process in creating each nuance?

Thank you. I just want to write real life, especially with love. I am an unapologetic people watcher. I observe and listen to everything. I watch mannerisms, I listen to tone, I try to get all of my senses involved so when I write those elements are translated to the characters I see playing the scenes out. Usually these characters whisper softly, hinting about what they have the potential to become. Then out of the blue they show up ready to go, literally taking me by the hand and jumping into the story with me.

A lot of writers complain about finding a good balance between “real life” and writing time. How do you manage the delicate balance?

I haven’t figured that out yet, but when I do I’ll be sure to let you know. I write all the time, especially in my head. Writing rarely takes time off and pushes it’s way into my real life.

What’s next for you now that Taste for Love is live? Have you already started working on your next book? If so, could you tell us about it?
I am working on a few things right now. The one I can talk about is the next novel in the Wilkersons in Love series. Jeremy Wilkerson is content with his life and has no desire to fall in love again in Ready for Love. This novel features Alejandra, Javier Fernandez’s sister from my novella, Yours.

Tia’s Taste for Love Playlist

Philadelphia plays a big role in your latest release, Taste for Love (which pleases me as a transplanted Philly girl). Tell us why Philadelphia ended up being the setting for Taste for Love, and what is it that is so special about Philly that non-natives just don’t understand?
Philadelphia is just a great city. Perfect location for so many other things outside of the city, too. Taste for Love ended up in Philadelphia because that’s where the entire series takes place. It’s where a few of the characters play professional sports, which is perfect since Philadelphia is such a big sports town. My next novel, Ready for Love, is about Jeremy Wilkerson and he works with renewable energy. Philadelphia plays a big part in the country’s renewable energy market, too. It’s just a great city and one of my favorite places. It just felt right to use it as the setting for a few of my novels.

What advice would you give to young writers who are just starting out?
Just keep writing and never stop. And read!

Many thanks to Tia for taking the time to answer my questions! Interested in finding out more about her writing? Check out her Amazon Author Page for a list of all her available titles. 

Guest Post: Getting to Know Mara White

HOD_quote_01A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon fellow indie writer Mara White on Goodreads. It all happened by chance–another member posted a short note about a book she was reading, and the synopsis sounded pretty intriguing. Who knew it would lead me to reading a book that beautifully captures the dilemma of craving someone you know should not want? I’m halfway through Heights of Desire, and it’s a definite must-read if you like your books hot!

Could you tell us what inspired the story of Heights of Desire and the Heightsbound series?  

My main inspiration has come from living in Washington Heights and closely watching the wave of radical gentrification that the neighborhood has been experiencing within the last five years or so.  The story and plot line developed as I started writing, but the inspiration for Kate and Jaylee’s relationship definitely came from witnessing the changes in the neighborhood.

Mara White Author

Mara White, author of Heights of Desire

Two years!!  My kids are toddlers, so there was a lot of interference from daily life.  About three-quarters of the way through the novel I started to feel disillusioned with the genre and actually gave up.  Then I read a new novel and it inspired me, so I decided to reach out to the author.  She took me under her wing, beta read for me, walked me though the self-publishing process and helped turn my disheartened attitude into determination.  Without her, HOD never would have come to fruition and she’d kill me if I revealed her identity so I’ll just say that she is a phenomenal writer and quite possibly the kindest and most generous person I know.

When you were writing, did you envision any actors or actresses to play the leads? Or did you find inspiration elsewhere? 

Not really.  Dare I be inflammatory and controversial here and say that Hollywood does not fairly represent the US population.  Knock, Knock, Hollywood – let the world in!  How hard is it to cast HOD?  Hard enough that I gave up on doing a blog post on casting despite help from friends.  I would absolutely love it if readers would chime in and throw ideas for casting my way.  But to answer the question – whenever I felt that the age difference between Kate and Jaylee was too extreme or bordering on inappropriate, I would look at pictures of JLo and Casper Smart together and channel their chemistry.  I also have become – of the corner boys as well as the young men that work out on the neighborhood playgrounds in the Heights (as you can imagine) so I picked up a lot of inspiration from listening and watching.

Heights of Desire CoverHow would you describe your typical writing day?  

Oh Lord!  Write if I possibly can.  Write after the kids are asleep if I’m not too exhausted.  My most productive writing time happens on the NYC subway on my commute to work (if I get a seat) with a pen and a notebook and bumpy train handwriting.

Do you have a special place where you like to write? Could you describe it for us?  

The train!  Somewhat dirty, oftentimes packed beyond belief, always entertaining (with performers or just regular, crazy old, New Yorkers), always infuriating (late or stuck underground or running on an alternate track) and forever epic – the best mode of NYC transportation hands down.

Did you have a special playlist or soundtrack which you listened to while writing Heights of Desire? Could you share it with us? 

I mostly just listened to the soundtrack of my neighborhood seeing that wherever you go in the Heights there is always music playing!  For the playlist for HOD, I collaborated with a dear friend and fellow WaHi resident, Leslie de Jesus.  She runs a music reviewing blog called http://sinistergirlz.com  The fist song Leslie gave me was ‘Llévame Contigo’ by Romeo Santos and I listened to it repeatedly while completing the end of HOD so that’s how it became Kate and Jaylee’s song.

 When will the next book in the series be released?  

As soon as I can finish!  Late 2014

Sale Graphic-2What has been the biggest challenge for you as an indie writer? What lessons do you feel you’ve learned going through the process?  

Definitely trying to get the word out about he book to the general public.  Accept any and all help offered because you can’t possibly do it all on your own.

Have you already got plans for other standalone novels or series? Could you share any info about those with us?  

I do have new ideas as well as some older work that I’d like to revisit at some point but for the immediate moment I’m just putting my energy into finishing the Heightsbound sequel.

What advice would you like to give to aspiring authors?  

Write because you love to write.  Don’t let the criticism get you down.  Break the rules.  Run from convention.  Push boundaries.  Challenge your readers.  Scare yourself.

Many thanks to Mara for making a book blitz pitstop with us! If you like sexy women’s fiction, then head over to your favourite online bookstore and get a copy of Heights of Desire. It’s on sale this week for e-readers for only 99 cents–but I can tell you this book is definitely worth the normal price. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Heights of Desire Synopsis

A woman who has everything meets a man who can offer her nothing but trouble.  They bring each other to a height of desire neither thought possible, but is it enough to overcome the differences that tear them apart?
Kate Champion, a forty-two-year-old, married mother of two, leads an enviable upper class life of luxury.  Her comfortable path takes an unexpected detour after a chance encounter at a neighborhood playground.

Jaylee Inoa is a twenty-two-year-old, second generation New York Dominican with close ties to the Heights and the gangs that run them.

Her life of privilege is no match for the code of the streets he navigates with ease.  When a crime of the heart leads to a crime in the flesh, how far will she go to redeem him?  Can she risk all in her life that is golden for the love of her golden-eyed man?

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Heights of Desire is on sale for $.99 during the blog tour!

Purchase Links:  Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Kobo | Google Play | Smashwords

 

About the Author

I’m a reader, a writer, and a lover of all things romantic.  I’m also a coffee, hot sauce, ink, telenovela, and Bikram Yoga enthusiast.  I live in New York City with my husband and two children, and I spend a lot of time on the playground.

Connect with the Author:  Facebook | Twitter | Blog  | Instagram | Goodreads 

Enter to win an autographed copy of Heights of Desire in paperback:

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Getting to know Nick Alexander

ImageA few weeks ago, I found out about Nick Alexander through some of his fans on Twitter. I was curious, so I picked up two of his books–The Half-Life of Hannah and The Case of the Missing Boyfriend–for my beloved Kindle. I wasn’t disappointed. Both books are great reads (get thee to Amazon or your fave bookstore and buy his books ASAP). I tracked down Nick and asked him if I could interview him for kimtalksbooks. Nick is a British writer who is nowadays based in Nice, France (lucky guy!), though he spends a lot of time in London, which he says is his favorite city in the world. 
 
Q: What inspired the story of The Half-Life of Hannah?
 
A: The initial idea came from an acquaintance who is married. At forty, though he has never slept with a man, he is beginning to have doubts that he might be gay, and talking with him about it, about his love for his wife and his children, about the effects it would have on everyone’s lives if he did take that leap, got me to thinking about his wife and how she would be affected. Because I wanted a certain balance (and because I like happy endings) I invented a long lost love from her past, and the more I worked on the book plan, the more it became about her and her lost love, and the less it became about him. But I intend to remedy that in the sequel.

Q: Your earlier novels have featured male protagonists. What prompted the  switch to female protagonists? Was it a conscious decision or did the characters decide for themselves?
 
In fact only my Fifty Reasons series of novels have a male protagonist. 
My short story collection 13:55 Eastern Standard Time has both men and women, and my last two novels, The Case Of The Missing Boyfriend, and The Half-Life of Hannah feature female leads, as does The French House (out in April).
I think there are a huge number of similarities in the lives and loves of women and gay men which is probably why they tend to get on so well.
In the end, I think it’s also simply easier for me to write a story from the point of view of a woman living in a male dominated environment than it would be for me to write it from the point of view of her a football loving, Top-Gear watching husband. I think if women are from Venus, then most gay guys must be too. Certainly anyone who can bear Jeremy Clarkson must be from a different planet to me.
 

ImageQ: I loved The Case of the Missing Boyfriend. I think a lot of people can relate to the idea of going through life knowing that the person you should be with is not the person you are with. Or holding out until they meet the right person instead of settling for the right-now person. Was this a story you’d wanted to write for a while? How did it come to you?

 
A: The idea for The Case of the Missing Boyfriend first came to me whilst on a train journey from Manchester to London with my best friend Rosemary. She was reading one of my Fifty Reasons novels and commented how universal the experience of dating hell is in these dreadful days of internet chatting. She told me about a friend of hers who had been going to speed dating, and the story made me laugh so much. My brain simply wouldn’t leave that anecdote alone, and by the time the train pulled into London the arc of the story had already taken shape in my mind.

 
 

Q: Have you got a playlist for writing? Or do you compile a soundtrack for each of your novels when you write? 

 

A: Though I listen to music pretty constantly outside work, I write in total silence. Only once, when I was writing Better Than Easydid a song become an essential part of the story. The denouement of the novel was inspired by a single song, Holcombe Waller’s Take Me With You. It was so important to the book that I got in touch with him to ask him if I could include the lyrics in full. In exchange for a first edition copy he agreed, which was a huge relief as the book had been written by then!
 
Q:  Where do you do most of your writing? Do you have a dedicated space in 
your home where you always write, or are you the sort of writer who can write anywhere?
 
A: I write in a shed at the bottom of my garden. I take my daily commute across the grass every morning and work from ten till one and from two till five every day though if the writing’s going really well then I may work until eight or nine in the evening. I have occasionally managed to write elsewhere when circumstances dictated, but I find it twice as difficult to concentrate if I’m not in my little shed with my cats beside me. Routine makes anything that’s arduous that much easier whether it’s going to the gym or getting one hundred thousand words down, so I like to make everything about my working day as organised and predictable as possible to avoid distractions.
 
Many thanks to Nick for taking time out of his very busy day to chat with us! Later this week I’ll be posting a review of both The Half-Life of Hannah and The Case of the Missing Boyfriend. Until then, if you’d like to find out more about Nick, head over to his website/blog–don’t forget to check out his novels. 🙂
 
 

Getting to know Jeffrey Blount

ImageOn this cold, snowy day in Stockholm, when the streets are slick with ice and you just want to curl up with a good book, it seems fitting that you should meet the author of the beautifully-written Hating Heidi Foster, Jeffrey Blount. Jeffrey and I have a lot in common: we both have roots in historic Smithfield, Virginia; his grandmother and my grandmother were sisters; and we’re both writers. 

Jeffrey is an Emmy-winning director of Meet the Press, the Chris Matthews Show and other NBC programs. He’s also an award-winning scriptwriter for several documentaries. 

If you haven’t yet discovered Jeffrey’s young adult novel, Hating Heidi Foster, then get thee to your favorite bookstore (or Amazon) and buy it immediately. You won’t be disappointed. 

When did you first realize you wanted to write a novel?

Many, many years ago!  I can remember very well the moment I knew I wanted to write.  I was in a high school English Literature class and we were given the assignment of writing a descriptive paragraph.  I don’t remember why I made this particular choice, but I chose to write about a homeless man and his environment.  After reading my paragraph to the class, I noticed that everyone was silent.  The teacher smiled and nodded at me.  I had always loved reading and realized at that moment if I could emotionally touch very smart and very cynical teenagers with my own words, then maybe I could be a writer as well as a reader.  That day, I decided that I wanted to write short stories and novels.  In college, I wrote my way out of my freshman English class and  then met one on one with my professor for the rest of that year as she guided me through the process of writing my first real novel.  It was called Freshman Year.

ImageWhat inspired you to write Hating Heidi Foster? How did the story grow?

Hating Heidi Foster was inspired by the friendship between my daughter, Julia and her best friend, Emily.  They had been friends since early elementary school.  On weekend night, in the fall of their senior year of high school, Julia had a gathering of friends at our home.  At one point, she and Emily passed each other and I saw them speak and laugh briefly as they quickly crossed paths. But it was a special moment, shared in the way that only best friends could share it. I recognized an amazing connection. In a few months they would be graduating and probably not going to college together and maybe even studying a full country apart. And I wondered what would happen to this friendship once life got in the way.  Would they drift apart like so many old high school friends? It made me sad to think that this was a possibility. So, I decided to write them a story about the importance of friendship with the hope that in the years to come, just a glance at this book would remind them of the wonderful and powerful friendship they had.

The story grew out of the selection of a major event, which was the death of Mae’s father.  I wanted an event that would test the relationship of the best friends, but that would also highlight the depth of the connection between them. Their struggle, as painful as it is, brings to light how much they’ve meant to each other. If they didn’t care so much, couldn’t they easily let go and move on? Didn’t they need to find that out?  After finding the big event to hold the center of the story, I had to find a way to provide some closure for many characters in the book, but mainly the two girls. I used a device based on a favorite pastime of my daughter’s as she grew up. The rest of the story grew easily around those two events.  I had a story synopsis in mind, but not an outline and every time that I sat down to write, I allowed Mae to take the story in new directions.

Is Hating Heidi Foster your first novel?

No, it isn’t. The first was in 1991 and it was called Almost Snow White. It was an exploration of race relations in the 1940’s United States. One day I listened to my father and my grandmother, also named Julia, discuss African-American people who had passed as white. They wondered what would happen if those people were found out.  How would they survive? Could they come back home after turning their backs on the community that raised them? Almost Snow White follows Precious Sprately, a young Virginia woman, on such a journey of discovery.

Has your background in broadcast journalism influenced your writing style?

No, because I wouldn’t let it. The style of writing I learned in my college journalism school was extremely fact based, with little room for personal style or expression. I was able to do both.  At the same time I was writing for media, I was in creative writing classes.

I really like the immediacy of the first person narrative. Did you know from the very beginning that you would tell Mae and Heidi’s story in first person? 

Yes, because I wanted it to be a very, very intimate story.  For me, novels written in the first person allow the reader to go deeper into the personality of the main character.  I needed the readers to be totally invested in the character in order to feel her pain in the way I wanted them to. Creating an emotional attachment was critical to the story’s success.  Being inside Mae’s head and heart was the best way to achieve that.

How long did it take to complete the first draft of Hating Heidi Foster? How long did it take to reach the point when you were satisfied with your final draft? 

It took about six months. I had a deadline. The moment of inspiration occurred in the fall of their senior year and I had to have it ready to deliver as a graduation present by late May of the following spring. I was satisfied with my final draft about three years later after I decided to move forward with the book and after a very helpful editing process.

What’s a typical writing day like for you? Do you have a special place that you feel is most conducive to writing?

I write in the mornings and late at night. After taking my son to school and my wife leaves for work, I hit the office. Then after everyone is in bed, I hit the office. I can write anywhere really, but I love my office and I like to write mostly at night.

What books would you say are on your must-read list? What book are you currently reading?

The Round House by Louise Erdrich, The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, The Cove by Ron Rash and Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. I am currently reading The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge by Christine Nolfi.

Have you already begun working on your next novel? Could you tell us a little about your new project?

I have two ideas and I am in the process of deciding which one I’m more prepared to write.  Emotionally and intellectually. That’s all I’m really prepared to say right now.

What was the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? What was the best?  The worst piece of advice is in order to find success, you need to consider the market and write to it.  The best piece of advice was to write, first and foremost, for yourself.

Thanks to Jeffrey for taking the time for this interview. I look forward to reading your next novel and meeting the next time I am in the US so we can talk books and writing. 🙂 And for those of you who are curious–a review of Hating Heidi Foster will be online later this week! 

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! And now it’s time for me to get back to the revision process. 

Getting to know Karen Siplin

A few years ago, I stumbled upon Such a Girl and fell in love. There was something about the story that really spoke to me and made me take notice. Since then, I’ve recommended Such a Girl and everything else by its author, Karen Siplin, to everyone I know. I liked her novels so much I sent her an email and now we’ve also become pen-pals.  Karen is based in New York City, which is also the setting of Such a Girl and His Insignificant Other (her debut novel). Her latest release (another favorite of mine) was the fantastic Whiskey Road. She’s now hard at work on two new novels, and was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about writing, chick lit and everything in between. So let’s kick back and get to know her…

New York City plays a huge role in Such a Girl and His Insignificant Other. For Whiskey Road, the small town of Frenchmen’s Bend pulls the reader in. Do you have any tips for writers on how to make the setting of the their novels/short stories come alive?

We’re often taught to write what we know, but I recently came across a quote by author Yusef Komuniyakaa that I believe is much more useful to writers: “Don’t write what you know, write what you are willing to discover.” Frenchman’s Bend is a fictional town in my third novel, Whiskey Road; a town loosely based on rural New York towns I’ve passed through while traveling. In order to get a better feel for such places, I visited Phoenicia and Woodstock, and set up breakfast dates with locals to get a better sense of how to make my setting seem authentic. This helped me to create a place I had only imagined. I definitely advise writers to visit a place they’d like to write about when possible.

Chick lit has been proclaimed dead by agents and the media. Do you agree with this sentiment? Also, why do you think people look down their nose at chick lit?

The term “chick lit” may not survive as a marketing label, but stories about women coming of age in their twenties and thirties, and struggling with work, love, weight and family will always exist. In May of this year, I picked up Jennifer Close’s Girls in White Dresses at Book Expo America. It isn’t being labeled “chick lit”, but according to Publisher’s Weekly, it explores the “chick lit staples” of relationships and disappointing first jobs. The publisher compares her writing style to Melissa Bank. And a search at UK book sites turns up several recent releases that would have been labeled “chick lit” in the US ten years ago.

There are probably a lot of reasons why people look down their nose at chick lit, but I’ve heard some argue that chick lit fails to encourage women to dream bigger and aspire for something other than meeting a nice guy to marry. In the end, I’m not sure anyone has the right to tell people what they should be reading.

Which of your protagonists is your favorite? 

I love Caleb (Whiskey Road) and Kendall (Such a Girl). Caleb is sexy, volatile and loyal; I’m a big fan of tough, misunderstood, tattooed men in fiction. And I think the way Jimi describes him the first time she meets him says it all: “…he has the face of a man who wouldn’t desert her even if it meant he might be hurt.” Kendall is also misunderstood, and I adore that she’s a total ballbuster. The risk of making enemies at work never stops her from speaking her mind and that is an admirable trait in my opinion. She’s an adult struggling to find her place in the world after making a lot of mistakes.

How would you describe a typical day of writing?

My writing day typically begins around 9 in the morning, after I’ve had breakfast. When the weather is nice, I try to make it over to Central Park. Otherwise, I go to a library or sit in front of my computer until 3 or 4 in the afternoon.

Do you have a favorite writing space? Could you describe it for us?

I’ve always been partial to writing in coffee shops, but ever since I gave up coffee in 2007, I avoid them. I haven’t found a satisfying substitute. Libraries are a close second, but I really miss having that cup of coffee next to me. I try to walk to Central Park on nice days; I have four favorite spots in the park where I like to revise my work.

So many times, writers are advised to “kill your darlings”. Do you follow this advice? 

I don’t kill my darlings, I massacre them, but I don’t call it that. It’s just the editing process to me. If a question comes up several times from early readers about a scene or moment or phrase, a writer should consider whether she’s holding onto it because it moves the story forward, or because she’s emotionally attached to it.

What titles are on your must-read list this year?

Deanna Raybourn’s fifth Lady Julia Grey novel is high on my must-read list this year, as well as Tayari Jones’ Silver Sparrow, Duane Swiercznski’s Fun & Games and Cate Tiernan’s Darkness Falls.

What are you reading now?

I read way too many books at once. I’m currently reading Wendy Burden’s memoir, Dead End Gene Pool, Kody Keplinger’s second teen novel, Shut Out, and Gilded by Deborah Davis.

What book inspired you to become a novelist?

I was a film major in college, so movies had a stronger creative influence on me, but I was a diehard Jim Thompson fan in my twenties and would still love to write something as fabulous as After Dark My Sweet. James Baldwin’s Another Country blew me away when I read it some time in the nineties. I wish I could write as lyrically as he did.

Are you working on a new book now? Can you give us a sneak peek of the plot?

I’m working on a novel for adults and a novel for teens. Both books are wiping the floor with me, so I’m not entirely comfortable saying too much about their plots. I can say there’s a misunderstood bully in one, and the other features a recovering bad boy multimillionaire.

 

For more information about Karen Siplin and her novels, check out her website and blog