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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Interview with Author Kelly Irvin

I'm pleased to welcome author Kelly Irvin to The Over 50 Writer as she talks about writing non-fiction, fiction, their similarities  and their differences.

Kelly, you have a long and eclectic writing history, including newspaper reporting, restaurant critiques, and entertainment pieces, just to name a few. What is your favorite type of non-fiction writing?

Back in my newspaper days, I l enjoyed writing in-depth features that had an underlying news value. We were able to be more creative with the writing of features as opposed to straight news stories. I once visited all the used book stores in El Paso, Texas, and talked to people who bought used books and wrote about it. I wrote about medical breakthroughs and people who benefitted from them. Mental illness, homelessness, AIDS. Those kinds of stories really challenged me more than writing about City Council meetings and zoning disputes, although these have important news value for the readers. I did love writing the restaurant reviews, too. My husband-to-be went with me and we ate some great food and some really bad food!

Do you draw on techniques you learned in your non-fiction writing experience to craft your novels?

Where my journalism background has really helped is in the discipline and the ability to write fast. I do have a full time job and an active family so I have very little time to write. When I sit down to write, I don’t mess around. I put my fingers on the keys and go. That’s how you learn to do it in the newspaper business. In other ways, newspaper writing may have hindered my fiction writing. I still struggle with narrative and description because I did so little of it before. I had to learn to write dialogue instead of “quotes.”  I thought since I wrote for a living, I should have no problem writing fiction. It came as a big surprise to find I needed to learn some new things in order to be successful. Overall, though, being a journalist meant writing everyday and doing it on deadline. The same is true of a working novelist. Trying to continually improve your writing is also the same goal in both kinds of writing.

You write romantic suspense and Amish novels. Do you think you have two separate audiences or that one audience follows your work? In other words, do you think readers follow authors or genre and why?

I think they are two separate audiences, for the most part. To be honest, I didn’t set out to switch genres. I started out writing romantic suspense because that’s what I enjoy reading. I was struggling to break into the CBA market because my novels were too gritty for their markets. I was very blessed to have two books published by Five Star Gale, a mainstream publishing house that publishes library quality hardbacks. Its niche market is libraries. I love having my books in libraries and knowing they’re still being checked out. Then my agent challenged me to try an Amish romance. I love a challenge. I wrote fifty pages and a proposal. My agent sold it before I finished the book, which went on to become To Love and to Cherish, which was on the christianbook.com fiction bestseller list. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s about telling a good story. Readers respond to that. I do think, however, that Amish fiction readers are loyal to their genre. They love all things Amish and they’re not shy about telling an author that.

You have worked in public relations for close to twenty years. What do you find most exciting about the writing opportunities that the job provides?

A good deal of my job is centered around media relations and coordinating special events, but I do get to do quite a bit of writing. I’m responsible for pitching stories to national and state publications and have been fortunate to have articles about our park recycling campaign and our tree planting initiatives published in national trade publications. I enjoy telling the story of the positive impact parks have on the lives of our citizens. When we open a new park or add amenities such as playgrounds, dog parks and skate parks to our park system, we’re improving the quality of life for the citizens we serve for generations to come. We’re giving them opportunities for healthy, active lifestyles that last a lifetime. That’s exciting and I love writing about it. I also write our employee newsletter and do some web writing, both of which are fun.

What writing achievement since you reached age 50 are you most proud of?

Having my novels published by traditional publishing houses. That was my goal. To be able to hold my book in my hands and to see it on bookstore shelves and library shelves. I know other writers who prefer to independently publish their own books as e-books and I applaud their initiative. For me personally, the satisfaction is not the same. I guess I’m like Sally Field, I need to know that others like my work—enough to direct their resources toward publishing my work. Seeing To Love and To Cherish on the Christian Book Distributors fiction bestseller list was a huge moment. I attribute much of its success to the hard work and dedication of the marketing and sales folks at Harvest House Publishing and the work of the publicist they hired, Jeane Wynn. Those were resources I didn’t have so I’m so thankful and feel so blessed to be a part of their publishing family. 

What advice do you have for those who are beginning their writing career at age 50 and over?

Discipline yourself to write everyday. Attend workshops to hone your craft. Join a critique group so you can get constructive feedback. Make sure your manuscript is as good as it can be before you start approaching agents and publishing houses. I recommend seeking an agent first. An agent can get an author’s manuscript in front of editors when the writer can’t. So many publishing houses don’t take unsolicited manuscripts anymore so an agent is really critical to success. Above all, write! Don’t waste time. Don’t mess around. Don’t find excuses. Don’t give up and don’t give in!

Where can readers learn more about you?

They can learn more about me and my books at http://www.kellyirvin.com

My books are available wherever books are sold, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Christian Books.com as well as the bricks and mortar stores.

In the second novel of Kelly Irvin’s Bliss Creek Amish series, readers will be delighted to return to a town and a family they’ve already come to love. 

Annie Shirack is trying to fight her feelings for David Plank, a young Amish man who’s struggling with an aggressive case of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. David loves Annie too much to let her into his life, only, he fears, to leave her. 

When a homeless young woman named Charisma and her two-year-old daughter, Gracie, show up in Bliss Creek, Annie welcomes them into the Shirack household and tries to help them establish a new life. But all the good deeds in the world can’t change the ache in Annie’s heart…or help her forget the man she loves.

Kelly Irvin is the author of the Bliss Creek Amish series, which includes To Love and To Cherish,  A Heart Made New, which debuted October 1, and Love’s Journey Home, which will debut in January 2013. She recently signed with Harvest House Publishing for a three-book spin-off series entitled the New Hope Amish.

Kelly has also penned two romantic suspense novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine, published by Five Star Gale in 2010 and 2011.

The Kansas native is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Sisters in Crime. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism, Kelly has been writing nonfiction professionally for thirty years, including ten years as a newspaper reporter. For more than eighteen years, she has worked in public relations for the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department. Kelly has been married to photographer Tim Irvin for twenty-four years, and they have two young adult children. In her spare time, she likes to write short stories and read books by her favorite authors.

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