I had the exciting opportunity to interview Carla Kelly. She is super nice and down to earth, not to mention being an award winning Romance Novelist, although her newest novel, “Borrowed Light” is not your usual romance. Carla addresses that fact as well as sharing her plans for the future and more.
What got you started writing Romance?
My writing career officially started in the mid 1970s, when I started selling. (There’s a difference between writing and selling.) I was working at Fort Laramie, WY as a ranger while my husband worked at a community college. Actually, let me back up a bit and say that I really like the Indian Wars, and since I was there at Fort Laramie I decided to write about them. It was a short story and I was able to sell it to a little magazine that is no longer in business. I liked writing westerns and kept at it, eventually earning two Spur Awards from Western Writers of America for best short story of the year. My stories kept getting progressively longer until one day I said to myself, “I could write a novel. I really could.” The first novel that I sold was historical fiction, set in the royal colony of New Mexico in 1680. I sold it to publisher that is now part of Penguin Putnam. They changed the title to Daughter of Fortune, which I didn’t care for, but oh well. After it was sold, I asked my agent what I should do now; she suggested that I try Regency Romance.
I don’t read romance novels, so the shift was different. My escape reading is British crime fiction. But as I began to write romance, I think my audience appreciated it because since I never read romance, I wasn’t unduly influenced by that romantic style. Readers often tell me they like my romances because they don’t “read” like someone else’s. It’s good to have an independent voice.
You said your Westerns won some awards, but you’ve won some awards for your romance novels too, right?
I also won two RITA awards from Romance Writers of America. These monster statues are made by the same company that makes the Oscars. They are pretty heavy and are gathering dust on my shelf. It’s the writing that’s fun for me, not so much the awards.
You’ve written more than 40 regency romance short stories and books, but your new book doesn’t quite fit that genre. Why the change?
Over the years I’ve gotten more uneasy writing for Harlequin. I feel like they are too graphic, although I’ve been told that mine are mild in comparison. Borrowed Light was actually started about 10 years ago, but because of contracts for other projects I hadn’t been able to work on it much – just bits and pieces here and there. So it took so long because of lack of time, not because I didn’t know what I wanted to say. Then last year, there was a four or five month lull and I decided to finish it. I did, but I don’t read LDS fiction, so I wasn’t sure about the market for it. I didn’t have an agent for it, so I had to pedal it myself.
I sent it to Deseret Book first, because that was the only local publishing company I knew of (we hadn’t lived in Utah for 27 years). They had it for about a month, which is a good sign, but they sent the manuscript back with a nice letter saying that it didn’t fit their needs. But at the bottom of the letter the editor suggested I send it to another publisher. In asking around, some people told me about Cedar Fort, so I went to that website and liked what I saw. Soon after they received the manuscript an acquisitions intern e-mailed me and said they wanted to publish it. This has been a good switch for me.
Are you planning to continue trying other genres, or will you go back to Regency romance?
I have a contract to finish up two more books for Harlequin, but I probably won’t do any more for them anytime soon. I prefer to write “handshake and a kiss” books (I don’t know if that’s what they’re really called, but that’s what I’m calling them). These books have romance in them, but they are about more than just romance.
Also I am weary of writing Regencies. I feel I’ve said everything I want to say and if I keep going, it could become repetitive and stale. Actually Harlequin recently agreed to allow me to write a Western, finally. If they had offered that to me earlier, I might not have taken this route. But as it is, I won’t shut the door on Harlequin. I want to work more with publishers in my region, Cedar Fort and others. What I’m writing now is exactly what I want to write.
See Author Interview: Carla Kelly (part 2) tomorrow to hear Carla’s reaction to threats and advice for new writers.
Carla Kelly is a veteran of the New York and international publishing world. The author of more than thirty novels and novellas for Donald I. Fine Co., Signet, and Harlequin, Carla is the recipient of two RITA awards (think oscars for romance writing) from Romance Writers of America and two Spur awards (think oscars for western fiction) from Western Writers of America. Following the “dumb luck” principle that has guided their lives, the Kellys recently moved to Wellington, Utah, from North Dakota and couldn’t be happier in their new location. Carla likes to visit her five children, who live here and there around the United States. And why is she so happy these days? Carla looks forward to writing for an LDS audience now, where she feels most at home.