Rae: Thank you for hanging out with me. First, if we were meeting at a coffee shop I’d be drinking an iced coffee with Coconut Milk. What would you order?
Kelly: Sadly, I never developed a taste for coffee, so I’d probably go with a juice offering or cold water. For me, hanging out at a coffee shop is very much about the company I’m keeping!
Rae: For those that are unfamiliar with your writing, you write contemporary romance with heat. Can you tell us a little bit about your backlist? What do you find the most challenging about writing erotic romance?
Kelly: I think the hardest thing is finding the right way to develop the characters and the story. Sex scenes should serve a purpose in the development of characters, story, or both no matter how hot you write. I think one of the best examples of this is comparing the two stories I wrote for the Rogue series of anthologies. In “Dissent and Desire,” my story in Rogue Affair, the story is as centered on Frankie’s exploration of her sexuality and burgeoning understanding of her domme preferences as it is about resistance through science. Hence, there’s a *ton* of sex in “Dissent and Desire” for it being only around 12,000 words. On the other hand, “Coming Up Rosa” in Rogue Hearts, is around 18,000 words and there’s only one sex scene in it. While the sex scene is pivotal to the story, it’s not the focus of the development of Ian and Rosa and their relationship with each other. When I write sex, I like to write hot, but I also feel comfortable in letting the characters guide me in how they’re progressing along that front and don’t rush them if that’s what they’re telling me.
Rae: Many authors have a second career, do you and if so, are your co-workers aware you write romance? What is the biggest challenge to balancing two careers? Do they overlap?
Kelly: I do have a second career as a librarian, and my immediate coworkers are well aware that I write romance! I think a couple have even read a story or two. In some ways, the great blessing for me is the overlap in the careers as I have a lot of contacts in the publishing industry from the librarian side of things and being involved in Romancelandia has also assisted me in my librarian career as I can speak to librarians very knowledgeably on self-publishing and the challenges authors face. But, the biggest challenge is that as much as the careers overlap and the fact that many people know both of my egos have an alter ego and what the alter ego does, few people know about both *names*. This is because I actively avoid publicly linking the names for family reasons. So, while I’d love to take better advantage of the platform my alter ego has as Kelly, I can’t. That being said, I’m being more open as alter ego that people can ask me privately about Kelly’s identity.
Rae: I know that you have a passion for knitting, is it easy to find time when writing? What was the most complicated project you have taken on? Years ago I attended a Stitches convention for knitters and yarn enthusiasts, I highly recommend it!
Kelly: STITCHES!!! I went to the Midwest one a couple of years when I was living in Chicago and loved it! It’s honestly not that easy for me to make time to knit when I’m drafting a story. What I’ve started doing in the last few months, however, is to put in my planner that I need to knit at least a couple of rows on whatever the current project is per day. I think the most complicated project I’ve done recently (well, most complicated that I’ve completely finished ever as well), are cabled berets that I made for myself and my mom. I took a class with Norah Gaughan last fall through my local yarn store and I finished my beret just after Thanksgiving. When my parents visited in December, my mom saw the hat and said “I want one exactly like that.” We did come to an agreement on a different color of the same yarn, but I managed to send it off to her just before St. Patrick’s Day this year. I would share the pattern, but you can only get it if you take Norah’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” cabled hat class.
Rae: A few weeks ago you posted about a HUGE giveaway at Penzey Spices and their generosity, I must thank you. While I’ve visited their store, it’s been a while. I made sure to get out to a store and purchase the fabulous blends for cooking. What’s your favorite spice blend and what do you use if for? For readers who love to cook can you share your favorite blends with us? Oh, and no readers, they are not sponsoring this shout out.
Kelly: Ha!! I told everyone I knew about that and if they had affiliate links, I’m betting I would have made a nice chunk of change from that weekend! Picking a favorite spice blend is hard! I’m going to make it easier on myself and choose one each of “sweet” and “savory.” I *love* their Baking Spice blend and use it in all of my baked goods even when no added spices are called for. It’s my secret ingredient in my apricot oatmeal bars that I bring to a lot of conferences. I have people who will come at me with pitchforks if I don’t bring the AOBs with me! I also love their Original Taco Seasoning. If you’re going to go with a preblended taco seasoning, this is the one you should get.
Rae: When you sit down to write, do you write the old fashioned way or type away at the keyboard? Writing all the words is a challenge, do you have a writing ritual or secret location to get the work done?
Kelly: I’m very much a keyboard person. This is mainly because I’m a trained touch typist and I really dislike writing by hand for extended periods of time. However, when I’m brainstorming, I often do this by hand as it seems to work better for me. It helps that I’ve found paper (28 lb. and heavier) and pens (InkJoy gel pens and my Lamy Al-Star fountain pen with a medium nib) that I adore using. The closest thing I have to a ritual is routinely using the same playlist of stored songs on my phone or the station I’ve curated on Pandora to listen to with headphones and drafting in 15-minute sprints. I usually write at home on my desktop, but I can also write using my iPad as I use Scrivener to draft and the files are linked through Dropbox. Before I had this setup, I drafted in Google Docs, so I would write on my old laptop, iPad, or phone as I found the time.
Rae: Are you the writer who has a notebook for all the words that flow while driving or do you dictate into your phone?
Kelly: Thankfully, my commute doesn’t involve driving myself and I, in fact, no longer own a car. But, I do keep a “Brainstorm” note on my phone that I’m frequently adding to, and I do periodically do a voice recording when a story idea smacks me upside the head as I’m trying to fall asleep.
Rae: How do you tackle plotting your series? Is it on a massive board, sheets of paper or just write as you go with a simple outline? A lot of authors use Pinterest and make awesome boards to tease readers, are you one of them?
Kelly: I have actually been on Pinterest since almost the beginning, but mainly as alter ego who has a crapton of boards dedicated to food and recipes (people can email my privately for the link ). As Kelly, I could never get the hang of using it as a vision board since I’m not a vision board kind of person. I tend to keep my plotting as simple as possible as I started my writing life as a pantser and tend to prefer the plotting to be loose. With “Coming Up Rosa,” I played around with a variation of Cherry Adair’s Post-It plotting method. It seems to have worked well enough (though I *always* need to go deeper in revisions), so I’m going to keep playing with it for longer projects.
Rae: There has been a lot of chatter on social media about planning and organizing to stay focused and succeed in personal goals for 2018. How do you keep it all from spiraling out of orbit between the family life and writer life? Are you a planner girl or digital calendar queen?
Kelly: This is one of the areas where I do appreciate being single and sans children–the only calendar I have to worry about is my own. As for planning tools, I have gotten *SO* hooked on the Cocoa Daisy planner kit! While I said I disliked writing fiction by hand, I actually prefer to do planning on paper. I think part of it is due to the way my memory works and how it’s often tied to where things occur in space. Writing down something helps to cement it in my memory. That being said, I’m also working on being more proactive with my marketing efforts and am building an editorial calendar using Google. And when it comes to conferences, you’ll have to pry my phone with the digital calendar and any apps out of my cold, dead hands.
Rae: Where can readers find you in 2018? A: 2018 started off quiet, but, man, is it going to be a busy summer!
Kelly: In July, I’ll be speaking at the Orange County Chapter of RWA on July 14th, signing at the Indie Author signing during the RWA conference in Denver–which you do have to be an attendee to get into–and at the Readers for Life Literacy signing which is open to the public on the 21st. There is another possible event in the works for early July in the DC area, but it hasn’t been finalized yet. In August, I’ll be at the Book Obssessed Chicks BBQ Beach Bash on the 25th. In September, I’ll be in Canada for the Toronto Romance Writers Northern Hearts conference on the 22nd, and back in Baltimore, MD, for the Baltimore Book Fest the 28th to the 30th. I’ll probably be spending the rest of the year recuperating from all of that!
Rae: What can we expect in 2018? Do you have other projects in the works?
Kelly: Rogue Hearts released on May 8th and contains my story “Coming Up Rosa.” I’ll be in the Reindeer Games holiday anthology which will be releasing later this year and is organized by Andie J. Christopher. In addition to that, I’m working on a nonfiction project for authors on using librarian skills to better market their books, and then I’ll be tackling the next novels in the Capital Kisses series so that Stacey and Jorie can quit yelling at me. Stacey in particular needs to get her story straight as I’ve already started two drafts and chucked them 😉
Rae: Thank you for hanging out in the cafe today.
1. What is a must read book and why? In the last six months, I’m going to go with Alexis Daria’s Take the Lead because I read it over my Christmas break and loved it so much that I immediately dove into the second book in the series, Dance With Me, and loved that, too!
2. What is one place that I should see if I visit your hometown? My hometown is Chicago, and I’m going to go with the Museum Campus because it’s got the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium, along with having a killer view of the skyline and lakefront.
3. Do you take-in or cook? If so, what is your “go-to” dish? I do both, and lately it’s been takeout from a nearby pizza joint that also does subs. I get the chicken fillet sub that has provolone cheese and I have lettuce and mayo added. When I get it home, I sprinkle on some smoked paprika and…:finger kiss:!
4. What is one thing readers would be surprised to know about you? How utterly dark my sense of humor can be. Many people are taken aback when I tell them my undergrad degree is in how to hide the bodies. It really is. Anthropology with a focus on forensics, and a minor in geology.
5. Hard Rock or Classical? Favorite Band or Artist? FOO FIGHTERS!!! I had to restrain myself from heading up to Boston during their 20th anniversary tour as I already had tickets to see them in Chicago and DC.
6. If you had an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world for research, where would you go? Australia and New Zealand. Those locations have been on my travel wishlist since I was in college.
7. What is your guilty pleasure? Grapefruit juice. Some people need coffee in the morning. I need my ice cold grapefruit juice.
8. What are you afraid of? Heights. Even just watching them on TV (Valkyrie sitting on the edge of her ship to watch the fight between Thor and Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok gets me every time).
9. Tats or No Tats? If tats, how many and what did you choose for your first one? Tats! I only have one right now that’s celtic knotwork on my back. I know the concept of what I want next, but I have to identify someone who can bring that concept to life. Which I’ll probably do after I decide *where* I want it.
10. Organized or Free Floating? A bit of both. If I’m too organized, I rebel and do nothing, but if I’m totally free floating, I get nothing done that needs doing.
11. Binge watcher or weekly viewer? Which show(s)? More of a weekly viewer, and mainly of QVC’s cooking and food shows (my poor wallet!). I do have Netflix and Hulu, so I’ll binge on the shows that I don’t get regular access to since I don’t have cable. Those tend to be crime shows, particularly American Greed. I probably watch that most after QVC.
12. What’s on your playlist? Mainly rock, pop, and dance. If I’m using it to work, I prefer songs with an upbeat as they seem to be the best at keeping me on track.
13. What play or musical do you want to see next? Hmmmm…I don’t particularly keep abreast of plays and musicals, so I have no idea what’s currently in development. I’d love to see Hamilton, but I haven’t managed it yet. The last play I saw was Danai Gurira’s “Familiar” and, oh, man, that was *amazing*! I’d definitely love to see a production of the next one she writes.
14. Are you a crafter? Yep! I mainly knit these days, but I’ve also done jewelry making and scrapbooking.
15. What’s your favorite TV show and why? Hmmmm…this is a hard one to pick. I’m going to go with American Greed because I find financial crimes to be fascinating, and I love Stacey Keach’s narration. I do miss City Confidential which was another winner thanks to the narration work done by Paul Winfield and Keith David after Paul’s death.
16. If you could pick a book you’ve read and make it into a movie, which book would it be (besides yours 🙂 )? I think The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. The premise is so twisty, it might actually be better served by being a TV series, though. There’s so much intrigue with a mix of supernatural abilities that it’s an utterly absorbing story.
17. What’s your favorite movie of all time and why? Clue. Flames, flames on the side of my face. To make a long story short…too late. Seriously, how in the hell can you beat that cast?
18. Would you rather see a movie in the theater or at home on DVD and why? It depends on the movie. I do love the experience of going to the theater with like-minded people, but I hate being in a completely crowded theater. I do love going to outdoor movie showings, and TCM’s anniversary and other special reason showings of older movies in theaters is fabulous!
19. What is the one thing you can’t live without? My family. They help keep me rooted and have always been there when I’ve faced challenges.
20. If you could invite 5 people to dinner (not friends and family – that’s too easy) who would be at your table? Where would you eat? Beverly Jenkins, Caitlin Doughty, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michelle Obama, and Mark Ruffalo. I think we’d have to eat at a family style restaurant because we’d be so caught up just talking about stuff that we wouldn’t be able to sit and make a decision on what exactly to order.
21. If you could try any career for a day, what would it be? Forensic accounting. Which is weird because I once spent five hours with my dad’s accountant and my brain is still hurting over twenty years later, but I find the work they do to track down where the money has gone in the commission of a crime to be so fascinating.
22. Person you admire and why? My mom because she built a career for herself in work she enjoyed doing, while balancing the demands made on her by having a family of five children and a husband whose schedule was erratic due to his own career.
Rae: Thank you again.
Kelly: Thanks so much for having me!!
Kelly Maher is the author of contemporary romances that feature smart
heroines, witty heroes, and settings that make you feel like you’re
living there. A city girl at heart, Kelly currently lives in DC where
she works as a librarian when not writing.