Author Interview: Carla Kelly (part 2)

Interview with Carla Kelly, author of “Borrowed Light” and award winning romance novelist, continued.

I heard you had a scary threat from a reader of your regencies, because of Borrowed Light. Did you think people would react so strongly to this new twist in your career?

No, I didn’t. I expected some anger, but not that harsh. There seems to be a bit of bigotry going on, unfortunately, if some of the reviews on Amazon are any indication (I did petition to have the scary one removed, and it was). I have no objection to people not liking a story; that’s their privilege. But threats to authors cross the line, I think. Some non-Mormon readers like the story as a story and don’t find the religion a distraction. From what I’ve heard and seen, it seems that we’re dealing with the 1/3 rule, as in the American Revolution. About a third of the people were for the United States, another third were for the British, and the last third were fence sitters. Same with my book.

What do you like most about Borrowed Light?

Mr. Otto. When I was in Wyoming I joined the county Historical Society and this old rancher named Paul Otto attended. He was probably in his 70s or 80s, but he always sat very straight in his chair, as if he’d ridden a horse all his life. As I watched him, I said to myself ,”I’m going to write a story with Paul Otto in it one day.”

Also I just like cowboys. My father grew up in Wyoming, and I’ve lived there and other Northern Plains states, so I’ve been around cowboys much of my life and I like them.

Also there is the idea that we all need to find our own testimony and I wanted to explore it more. It has been applicable to me, a convert, and the lives of my children. The main character, Julia, has a bit of a struggle with this, especially when she realizes that she’s borrowing light from someone who isn’t even a member. She has to decide is this something that she can believe, and can she believe it, no matter where she is.

Is there anything you’d like say to non-Mormon readers who don’t care for Borrowed Light?

As I said earlier, it’s their privilege to like or not like a book. When readers get used to an author, they get a certain level of comfort from their books. I could compare it to my favorite British crime fiction authors. If John Harvey, for example, were to change genres I would be upset, not to the point of threatening him. We do like what we like. And I’d like to ask my more rabid fans, “Can you understand that I might be tired of writing Regencies?”

There have also been some non-Mormon readers who have mentioned that they feel “excluded” because I have written Borrowed Light with a LDS theme. That was not my intention and I’m sad they feel that way.

But at the end of the day, it’s everyone’s prerogative to like or not like a book.

And to those who are apprehensive about reading it because it is religious? What should they expect and why should they read it?

If they are readers of mine and have already read and liked my other books, then they should like this story. Yes it does contain some LDS doctrine; that’s my privilege, as a writer for a particular press. That said, it is definitely for a Cedar Fort audience. If you don’t want to read about Mormons, don’t buy this book. But if you want a good story, you should read this book.

What advice can you give a writer who is trying to break into publishing, especially since things are going so digital now days?

I think I like digital, with one warning: It can become too easy for people to self publish. It’s my contention that if a manuscript isn’t good enough for a standard publishing company, it probably isn’t good enough to be e-published. My advice, though, is to write what is in your heart. It might help to take a writing class at a local university. I’ve done that. It will help beginning writers know how to write and how to sell what they write.

Many people think that it is easy to write a book, and that writers lead a rather glamorous life. There are very few authors who are glamorous! Many of us make enough to pay a few bills, but on the whole, writing is pretty ordinary. To the people who think that they can just whip out a novel, I would ask, “Do you know how hard this is?” I remember a quote about writing from one memoirist who said, “Sure it’s easy. Just sit at a typewriter until great drops of blood appear on your forehead.” Even now, when I have more than twenty-five novels published, when I sit at the computer and write chapter 1 at the top of the page, I think to myself, “I have to write 350 more pages? Can I do this?” The difference is that although it never becomes easy, I know I can do it, because I have.

I also recommend listening to good advice. Listen and follow. The best advice I received was from my husband, and this might seem a bit sexist and harsh, but it was good advice. He told me, “Write like a man. Leave off the adjectives, and all the hearts and flowers. Keep it simple and straight forward.” He was right.

When I sent my first book to my agent, she advised me to rewrite the first 100 pages. I had a choice at that point – I could reject her advice and decide that it was fine how it was (and probably not sell it), or I could take the advice of someone who knew more about the publishing industry than I did. I took her advice and she was right. Don’t think you know best when you’ve never published a book.

Also, don’t join too many writing groups, because they can be a waste of time better spent writing. Writing is a very solitary profession. Something happens when you share your story with others; you might feel like you’ve already told the story. Play your cards close without lots of commentary from others, especially others who haven’t been published.

Carla will be doing a book signing at Walmart in Price, UT on March 12th from 11am to 2pm.

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.

6 thoughts on “Author Interview: Carla Kelly (part 2)

  • February 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    I have known Carla for years, and have enjoyed her work, I was especially excited to read this novel, and I was not dissapointed! So glad she is writing about principles she believes, lives and now bears testimony of. Of course there is so much more. You don’t need a “bodice-ripper” (she penned that that term) romance novel, we need good clean , “make- your- heart- lift” novels. Thank’s Carla!

    • February 23, 2011 at 8:12 am

      “You don’t need a “bodice-ripper” (she penned that that term) romance novel, we need good clean , “make- your- heart- lift” novels.”

      So true Dee. I usually shy away from Romance novels, especially when there are scantily clad people on the cover. I want the relationship story without the sketchy stuff, and Carla does that beautifully in Borrowed Light. Thanks!

  • June 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    I have every book and short story Carla has written (including her Western story anthology, including her fur trade journal, and am waiting for Borrowed Light), and whatever genre she feels like exploring, I will read it, because I like the way in which she considers the lives of ordinary people complicated by and caught up in the events of their time. I have not read her Borrowed Light yet–hope it is coming in the mail today, have been waiting for it!–and know I will have a treat in front of me. I’m not a Mormon, but have studied what an outsider can about the LDS church, amazed by the strength and achievements of the people who established it as a living force. I can definitely understand how Carla might be tired of writing regencies, especially after the changes at Signet and Harlequin–and I agree with her preference for “a handshake and a kiss” romances. Sex does not need to be, should not need to be, explicit. Speaking as a (very opinionated) English teacher, the insistence on including explicit sex in a romance (or any kind of) novel is comparable to those people who continually insist on using obscenity and profanity in conversation–it reveals the weakness of their vocabulary, as the other reveals an inability to convey passion, tenderness, love in any other than an explicitly sexual setting.
    I also grew up in the military (Marine Corps) and have read a lot of history (particularly WWII and Napoleonic) from a military point of view. One of the joys of Kelly’s Regency romances is the accuracy of her Napoleonic War references. In an interview publshedd about 6 years ago, I read that Carla had planned a novel set in the 1200s and was .worried that readers would not like it–I wish I could anticipate that one being published also. I’m glad that she has found a publisher in Cedar Fort, so that this book sees the light of day!

    • June 20, 2011 at 9:49 am

      Thank you so much for your comments Valeria. I’m sure Carla is grateful to know that she has such staunch fans. Hopefully your copy of Borrowed Light came already. I quite enjoyed it, and I don’t usually read romances, so I’m sure you’ll love it.
      We actually have a few reprints of her books coming out later this year (Carla Kelly’s Christmas Collection and Marian’s Christmas Wish) and two new books coming out next year. Keep your eyes open for them!

  • October 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Is there going to be a part 2 for Borrowed Light?

    • October 18, 2011 at 12:47 pm

      Yes! Enduring Light comes out in January.

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