J.M Kelley is another of my fellow LazyDay Publishing authors. Her novel Drew In Blue is a contemporary love story set in the fictional Appalachian town of River’s View, Pennsylvania, and filled with quirky characters that pay homage to the real-life characters she’s had the pleasure of knowing all her life.
Why don’t you start by telling us about Drew In Blue.
Drew In Blue is the story of a thirty-six-year-old loner unexpectedly saddled with the task of raising a baby while trying to sort out his mess of a life. Problem is, he just keeps making things worse for himself. It’s a running theme in Drew’s life, considering he never does anything the easy way. The River’s View, Pennsylvania, gossip mill is watching each misstep as Drew juggles a price-gouging babysitter, a major case of artist’s block, and a best friend with an opinion to share on every bungled choice he makes.
Drew’s love life isn’t faring much better. Despite a long history of relationships that never really get off the ground, he falls head over heels for someone new, hoping that she might be the one to end his romantic bad luck streak. After a few abysmally bad false starts, things finally start looking up for Drew. That is, until he finds out (the hard way, naturally) that this new love interest isn’t the one for him after all. Turns out, it’s actually lifelong pal, and high school girlfriend, Kristina Moser.
Drew’s feelings for Kris intensify as he witnesses her growing bond with his son, and he finally realizes where he belongs. Now all he has to do is convince Kris he’s right… and she’s just not buying it.
How did you choose the title?
It was really a random notion that came to me, and later I realized it tied in nicely to the artistic background of the characters, as well as the world view of the main character. Honestly, when I first thought of it I thought, ‘Hey, it rhymes. Neat.’ The logic of it fell into place later.
Who is your favorite character in Drew In Blue?
I love Drew to pieces, but Kris seems to qualify as my favorite. She was really meant to be a bit player in the story, and the girl refused to be a background character. I love how it feels to read over the story and realize that in a way, Drew and Kris as a couple took me by surprise as much as it did them. Her strength as a person is responsible for the path my story took. I kinda love her for that.
Who is the ideal reader for your book?
I think Drew can appeal to a wide variety of readers. If you’ve loved and lost, Drew is for you. If you’ve bunged up a relationship or two, Drew is for you. If you’ve ever felt like the world’s left you behind, it’s for you. I’d even like to hazard a guess that even though Drew is a romance and would appeal to a generally female audience, that men might find it an engaging read as well. My biggest desire in writing the story was to present a believable male main character, and I’d love to have the guys test that attempt for me.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I’m continuing the theme of life in small-town Pennsylvania, but this time moving the setting to Lancaster County. The main characters are not Amish, but they are surrounded by the culture. The working title, for now, is Daddy’s Girl. Janie, a bit of a black sheep, is called home to care for her ill father. While the story is a romance, with Janie finding love at the most inconvenient time in her life, the story focuses strongly on Janie and her father healing old rifts and discovering how much they have in common after all.
Tell us something about yourself.
I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and am a writer of love stories, a painter, a painfully bad knitter, and a photographer – if the pursuit is artistic, chances are I’ve dabbled in it.
After a lengthy break that included adventures in accounting and coffee distribution, I returned to my passion for writing with that old adage write what you know whispering from the deep recesses of my mind. I realized that I know how to read a book on a moving skateboard, that if you’re riding shotgun in a pick-up truck, ‘mud’ can be used as a verb, Amish traffic jams can wreak havoc on your morning commute, and Hog Maw is not to be experienced by the faint of heart.
While this list of knowledge seemed random and borderline nonsensical, it led me to one rock-solid conclusion: life in the Keystone State is a rich and endless source of inspiration. And so, I sat down in front of my laptop and began to piece together a story about life in small-town Pennsylvania – something I know a thing or two about. The result of this epiphany is Drew in Blue.
I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America (PRO), The International Women’s Writing Guild, Pennwriters, and the South Carolina Writers Workshop.
My short story, Killing Me Softly, earned a first place finish in the In Other Words Competition at the 2010 Pennwriters Conference, and my non-fiction piece, Anniversary, won Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award at the 2010 South Carolina Write’s Workshop Conference.
What types of books do you like to read?
Because I write romance now, I have been reading everyone from Jennifer Crusie to Janet Evanovich to Sarah Addison Allen. I love Toni McGee Causey. My tastes are a bit manic. I’m all over the place. Some of my favorite books are Stephen King’s The Stand, Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, and Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca, to name a few. I have easy standards for stories. A character or a setting or a theme much catch my attention. If I’m trying to walk and read at the same time, I know I’m hooked.
What is your guilty pleasure read you turn to for sheer entertainment?
Stephen King is my sheer entertainment read. I enjoy his characters. I like getting a little freaked out by the notion that a soda machine may try to kill me.
Who is your literary idol?
Harper Lee is the author I worship. To Kill A Mockingbird moved me beyond words, and will always be the book that inspired my love of reading and writing.
How do you approach a story?
I just start writing. The general story is something that pops into my head, and I mull on the topic for a bit. I seem to have a ridiculous ability to remember most of the potential story plots that spin through my brain, so unless it’s something that is critical for me to remember, I don’t really write much down. I may outline a bit here and there when I want to figure out how to handle a particular story arc, but for the most part I sit down and start typing, and that’s it.
Where do you work when writing? What is your ideal creative environment?
My ideal environment is beachside. I love to take a notebook to the shoreline and let the sounds of the ocean clear my mind and allow me to focus on what I want to write. I’m always on the lookout for a shot at a few hours on a secluded stretch of beach.
Back in the real world, though, and not the fantasy world, I write wherever I can. I carry a notebook with me at all times in case the mood strikes. Right now I’ve just moved into a new place, so I’m salivating over the idea of creating a special area just for writing.
What is the best advice you can give other writers about writing?
Just keep pushing. Keep doing the work. Keep learning. Never be afraid of anything that improves your manuscript. Listen to your gut, and when your gut says that something may need work, do the work. Writing isn’t a vacation. It’s a commitment.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
My biggest obstacle was being completely unclear on what it takes to write a book. I was a total novice, and made many, many mistakes. I may have composed the worst query letter known to man, and burned some agent bridges because of my cluelessness. But I went to the Pennwriters Conference and learned so much. Since then, I attended the SCWW Conference as well. I think conferences are a tremendous resource for authors in the making, and think it made all the difference in my work and how I handled the querying process. Invaluable information is available at such events.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
My website and blog are located at www.jmkelleywrites.com
Thanks for joining me, and good luck with your writing!