Please welcome today’s guest, Maine writer, Kelly McClymer. I first met Kelly, who lives in Orono, when we were both writing romance. We were in a critique group together for many years. She is a talented, multi-published writer who is also doing some very interesting things online.
Kaitlyn: Like many “Maine writers,” you were originally from “away.” How did you end up in Maine?
Kelly: Like many people I know in Maine, I ended up here for job reasons. Not mine, but my husband’s. He’s been employed by the University of Maine now for 25 years (they just had a dinner to celebrate long time employees—even had a few who were celebrating 50 years). That means I’ve lived in Orono for more years that I’ve ever lived anywhere else because my family moved back and forth from South Carolina to Delaware while I was growing up. Even though it has been a long time since I lived in South Carolina, the place of my birth, I can still drop back into y’all and drawl when among relatives. But Maine summers are just lovely most years, and do make up for the winters (I’m not a snow person).
Kaitlyn: You’ve been traditionally published in two very different genres, historical romance and young adult novels and your latest project The Ex-Files, an ebook original (published July 15) you describe as “chicklit.” Will you tell us something about how The Ex-Files came about?
Kelly: The Ex Files began with a question I had about how anyone can ever be certain whether the person she (or he) broke up with was not “the one.” At the time, my college age daughter and her friends were going through the dating and break up rituals of the teens and early twenties. This was so foreign to my experience, having married young (20!) and stayed married (34 years and counting). I’d also heard the stories of several people I knew who divorced and married an old flame. Obviously, being a writer, I thought I’d explore the question in a novel. Because I liked the chicklit novels that were popular at the time, I chose that genre for the story. When the genre died, I put the story aside for my YA series about a cheerleading witch. I had been sending chapters of the novel to my daughter (who, by this time, was in Madagascar in the Peace Corps). She was disappointed that I didn’t finish it. So, energized by her engagement and wedding plans, I decided to finish it for her.
Kaitlyn: You posted a chapter at a time of The Ex-Files at your blog site and invited anybody in cyberspace to critique your work in progress. How did this way of getting feedback compare to being in a critque group?
Kelly: I’ve been in a couple of critique groups over the decades with other writers (ours was the best of them, I still miss it). Those have always been good experiences, and I learned I have an iron hide when it comes to critique of my work. I wasn’t in a group at the time, and I decided that the accountability of regular posting of chapters would help me finish the novel. Posting chapters and soliciting feedback is not for everyone, though. For me, it helped get the book done despite all the other work I had on my plate.
Kaitlyn: Was there any downside to this experiment? For example, did any of those who responded seem to have their own agenda, the way some reader reviews do on online bookstore sites?
Kelly: No. Everyone who made comments was kind, but honest. I don’t know what I would have done if someone had used my chapters to rant against love and marriage or dating, or any social sticky topics. I probably would have enjoyed the debate.
Kaitlyn: You recently made ebook editions of your seven-book historical romance series available, both singly and as a “boxed set.” Can you tell us a little about these novels?
Kelly: My “Once Upon a Wedding” series follows the romantic trials and tribulations of the Victorian Fenster siblings (six sisters and a brother). When I got my rights back to the first three books from Kensington, I was not sure what to do. At the time, small publishers were looking to republish older series to make them available to readers again in ebook form. Being me, I dithered a bit (two years), got the rights back to two more, and finally decided to put the books out myself. That gave me a chance to revise a little here and there as I’d longed to over the years. Currently, The Fairy Tale Bride http://www.kellymcclymer.com/once-upon-a-wedding-ebook-boxed-sets/the-fairy-tale-bride/, the first book in the series, is free on all the book retail sites, to give readers a chance to fall in love with the Fensters. I also created two boxed sets (Books 1-4 and Books 5-7) so that readers who want the whole set can get them at a fan friendly discount.
Kaitlyn: Since all the historical romance titles contain the word Bride, you ran a month-long promotion at your blog called the “June Wedding Blitz,” inviting other writers with wedding connections in their books to contribute. Where did the inspiration for this come from?
Kelly: I spent a year promoting my series to help finance my daughter’s wedding. It seemed like a natural idea to spread the word on other authors who tackled the bride/wedding theme. After all, if you like one good wedding/bride book, you’ll likely enjoy reading more. One thing that surprised me was how many books have bride and wedding in the title. I suppose I should not have been surprised, but I did notice there was a distinct subset of bride/wedding stories that dealt with being jilted or left at the altar. I found quite a few good books to read, and readers can still find those authors showcased on my June Wedding Blitz page. http://bit.ly/QQYvju
Kaitlyn: In addition to writing, promotion, and the real life wedding of your daughter in August, you are also co-chair of the 2012 Novelists Inc conference on October 25-28. Novelists Inc is an organization for multi-published writers of genre fiction and this year’s conference will be held an easy commute from New York City in White Plains, New York. Since non-members can register for some of the programming, what would you say to a crime/mystery writer who wonders if it would be worthwhile to attend part or all (by joining Ninc) of the conference?
Kelly: NINC is a unique writer’s organization in that it focuses on the needs of novel writers who are actively publishing in any genre. This year, to reinforce our theme of Partnering for Profit, we are offering an innovative series of roundtables to discuss all the new aspects of partnership that authors have been tasked with adding to the writing workload (websites, blogs, transmedia, independent publishing, social media, etc.). We hope to brainstorm some ways for editors, agents, authors, and industry pros to work together in a way that helps authors succeed in reaching their readers, while still leaving time for the most important job—writing the novels. This year, crime novelists will not find any forensics workshops, because we’re focused on the business aspects of publishing and marketing our novels, due to being so close to the publishing hub of Manhattan. However, one of my favorite NINC conference memories was the hands on workshop offered in San Diego, where a crime scene specialist staged a “crime scene” for us and we all made notes about the things we should have noticed, ala CSI. One of my more sobering NINC workshops was a fabulously detailed lecture by a coroner. As I’m co-chairing next year’s conference again, I’ll just mention in passing that I’ve already had a member suggest someone to run another one of these expert-led mystery focused workshops. We’re just waiting to wrap up this year to get the invitation out. To attend the whole conference, you do need to be a member of NINC. However, our First Word day of panels on Thursday October 25 is open to anyone who is interested in finding out about the new partnership opportunities for writers in the digital age. If you’re in driving or train distance from White Plains, I strongly urge you to check out what we’re offering. It will be an intense, information-packed day, but lunch and dinner are included (with a chance to carry on the panel discussion along with the food, of course). Besides several top editors and agents, some of our noted speakers include Dan Slater of Amazon, Larry Norton of InScribe, and Patrick Brown of Goodreads. I could go on and on, but it would be better to check out the link yourself and see what we’ll be discussing yourself. I think it is a can’t miss day for authors who are trying to chart the best path for themselves in this new age of publishing. For details go to http://www.ninc.com/conferences/2012/index.asp
Kaitlyn: When you’ve had a chance to catch your breath, what’s next on your writing agenda?
Kelly: I have been dithering (again). But just recently I decided to act like a publisher and review my projects for potential, with the help of my new critique group. There were four vying for my time and attention. An Elizabethan paranormal YA series, a YA with SF overtones, a historical mystery series set in Victorian London, and a cozy mystery series with a secret shopper stay at home mom protagonist. It is no exaggeration to say that each of these series had strong points, and each of them was in the top slot for a time. I love all these projects and it was hard to be a hardheaded business woman and choose just one (I completely empathize with the editorial table decisions now). However, I realized that, no matter how much I love my other series ideas, the Secret Shopper mystery series is the one I’ll be launching next. I’m very excited to debut the first book in the series in early November (one of the reasons this series squeaked into the top spot is that the first book was mostly written and polished). Molly Harbison is a good mom, a great secret shopper, and she has that innate inability of some people to stumble upon crimes wherever she happens to go.
Kaitlyn: Have you ever considered writing a crime novel?
Kelly: Can I say no, even though I just said I was doing a mystery series? I have always maintained that I cannot write mystery, even though I love a good mystery novel, and I hold suspense novelists in awe at the way they can twist and turn and make me say, “I can’t read another word—I have to, I have to know what happens.” It was a bit of a surprise to me to see that I could turn my originally stand-alone secret shopper novel into a mystery with just a little restructuring (after all, she does end up helping the FBI capture a serial killer who is stalking women on an online dating site where she is assigned to do a mystery shop . . . a shop that she just may not have mentioned to her husband.) Obviously, now the suspense for me will become whether or not my readers think I pulled off the mystery once they read the novel. Molly and I both hope they do!
Kaitlyn: And now we come to our traditional way of ending interviews here at Maine Crime Writers. Please ask yourself the question you’ve always wanted some interviewer to ask you. And, of course, also answer it.
Kelly: You guys are diabolical! Who came up with that question? And, better yet, have you tasked yourselves to answer it, too? Hmmm. I’ll have to check out your archives. [Note from Kaitlyn: yes, indeed, most of us did have to answer that question, thanks to our blogging guru, Kate Flora]
Okay, here goes:
Question: Kelly, you’ve raised three children while writing over a dozen novels. Are they your biggest fans, especially knowing that your writing helped pay for their education—and most recently a wedding?
Answer: My children (grown now) have not read my work. Not even my short stories. They continue to reassure me they’re waiting until I write something interesting (translation: Harry Potter). To be fair, my daughter did help me with The Ex Files. Because I pressed her. Putting on my armchair psychologist’s hat, I would diagnose a severe case of sibling rivalry. Where I see books I put my blood sweat and tears into, they see the closed office door, the hastily put together dinner of scrambled eggs and toast, and the endless litany of “Not now, honey, I’m writing.” and “Just as soon as I finish this scene/chapter/book.” I could, of course, pull Mommy rank and guilt them into reading my work. But, ever hopeful me is waiting for the day one of them voluntarily picks up one of my books, reads it for pleasure not duty, and gives me a hug for writing it. To me, this is no different from waiting for the day when each of them recognizes that being their mom was not an easy job and thanks me for being there (except, of course, when the office door was closed, or I forgot dinner). I feel no guilt asking and answering this question publicly, either, in case any other mothers and fathers wonder. My children are more likely to read one of my novels or short stories than they are to stumble over one of my guest blogs. Sometimes the apples fall a little farther from the tree than we expect. But they’re all good apples, and I love them anyway, even if they never read my work.
Kaitlyn: Kelly’s website and blog are at http://kellymcclymer.com. Thanks, Kelly, for visiting with us today. We wish you all the best for your Secret Shopper series and your other projects, too.