In Conversation with Award Winning Author Kelly Moran

Kelly Moran is widely celebrated for her ability to craft enchanting stories that leave readers spellbound. Drawing inspiration from the people and events around her, Kelly’s imagination is always working on the next tale to share. Kelly’s literary achievements include being named a RITA® Finalist, RONE Award-Winner, Catherine Award-Winner, Readers Choice Finalist, Holt Medallion Finalist, and earning coveted spots on USA TODAY’s Lifestyle blog’s “Must Read” & “10 Best Reads” lists. She was also a finalist for the Romance Writers of America® Award of Excellence. Her novels have been translated into German, Czech, Romanian, and Dutch. Outside of writing, Kelly enjoys sentimental movies, indulging in all forms of art, amusing herself by driving others insane, and catching up on sleep whenever possible. Although it’s her little secret, Kelly has a fondness for coffee and chocolate. 

Originally from Wisconsin, Kelly now resides in South Carolina with her partner, three sons, mischievous dog, and sassy cats. Kelly welcomes feedback from her readers and is always thrilled to hear from them.

How do you approach the process of writing a novel?

Very delicately. Stealth-like. 

Kidding. Mostly. The path from idea to writing isn’t as simple as pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Many of my readers are in it for the long haul because of my series, so I first have to look at from a perspective of how many books will this translate to down the road. I do write stand-alones, too, but I’m more series-oriented. If the book is going to be a series, I plan for, in advance, the people around my main characters to incorporate them in the background for future stories. It helps the reader connect and want to know what happens to them. 

From there, I typically jot out a basic timeline in order to get my plot, setting, conflict, and characters roughly mapped. Then comes research. Erringly important. Everything from the region’s weather to fauna for accuracy. The character’s job is researched, as well. Often, when it comes to setting or careers, I interview people who live in the area or work in the same field. Secondary elements such as pets, housing styles, and income brackets are examined also.

Once those things are in place, I will usually write the first chapter to get a more in-depth feel for my character’s personality. They tell me the story. Psychology is imperative to make characters dimensional. Thus, I like to study their backstory and what made them who they are from a psychological standpoint to be sure their dialogue, actions, and traits fit.

The fun begins afterward. Writing. I have critique partners who read my manuscripts by the chapter as they’re typed in order to catch pacing, plot, conflict, or grammar issues. When the manuscript is complete, I edit. Then I upload it to my tablet to read. I find mistakes better that way. Then edit some more. If I’m wishy-washy about certain factors or the manuscript itself, I sometimes send it to a few trusted beta readers for input.

As for the actual writing, I have a home office. There’s lots of coffee and chocolate involved. I like to write in peace without distractions. My cats and the dog haven’t grasped that concept yet. 

You have written in several different romance subgenres, including contemporary and paranormal. Do you have a favorite subgenre to write in, and why?

I don’t really have a favorite, per se. I find both incredibly satisfying and pique my interest. They’re also what I’m most comfortable with or what I know. For instance, you’d never catch me writing a historical novel. I’d muck that up big time. It would depend on my mood when it comes to inspiration. In saying that, I’m very selective in what paranormal subjects I broach or choose to write. Which is why I have twice as many contemporary titles as I do paranormal.

With my contemporaries, I’ve delved into sub-tropes such as western, small town, romcom, beach reads, and tear-jerkers, though I’m mostly branded for small-town romantic comedies.  What I adore about contemporary is they could be stories about everyday people we pass on the street or places where we live. They could be our mothers, neighbors, brothers. There’s a simplicity to it that’s erringly connective and beautiful. It’s important to me to weave strong women and real world issues into those stories, especially medical conditions or disabilities, and to show that bravery comes in all forms, including vulnerability.

The facet of paranormal that I love is anything can happen. World-building is entirely up to the author. We can take reality and bend it to our whims to create whatever we desire. My paranormals lean toward ghosts and witches, and I don’t see myself veering from those two subjects. I have a couple trilogies out now. “Phantoms” is about a team of paranormal investigators on a fictional TV show. Each book has a different site, couple, and type of haunting. I have an avid fascination for haunted houses and scary programs, so this series hit all my spooky feels. “Fated” is about 3 witch sisters who have to pair with a rival human bloodline to break a 300 year old curse. Think of fate and destiny with magic. Wicca is quite fascinating, often misunderstood, and I’ve always had interest in herbs or nature. Throw in potions and spells? I’m there.

The “Redwood Ridge” series has a strong focus on family and community. How important is that theme to you as a writer, and how do you weave it into your stories?

As an author, I think it’s vastly important to me in my writing because it is in my personal life. It takes a village, as they say. “Redwood Ridge” is a small town, so community is implied. However, big cities and urban landscapes can have the same vibes. Neighbors in an apartment complex or friends in a church group or co-workers in an office space. Communities are everywhere if we look. Family, as well. Often, I write about unconventional family dynamics since that’s life imitating art. Family can be whatever we choose it to be. Some we’re born into, and others we form along the way. Blood and DNA don’t always play a factor, nor should it. As humans, we’re not meant to be alone. We need connection, and my stories reflect that. 

How has your writing process evolved over the course of writing this series, and what have you learned about yourself as a writer through the experience?

Most authors can attest that with each book we write, we grow. We improve our skills and get better at it. Kind of like the ‘practice makes perfect’ motto. Perfection is unrealistic, but you get the gist. There’s a piece of me in every story I write, whether a sarcastic comment, specific personality trait, or experience. I learn through my characters and vice versa. I often find myself surprised by that tidbit, that I learn something new nearly every time. Reflection and internalization would probably be the culprit. Writing is an often lonely, isolating job, so it makes sense. My process has been much more efficient with each ‘The End.’ 

“Redwood Ridge” came along as a concept pretty deep in my writing career. This was the series that kicked off all my foreign translation contracts in Germany, The Netherlands, The Czech Republic, Romania, and Russia. It amazed me, the worldwide interest, but it reiterated a fact that we romance writers have known for a long time. Love, in all its forms, is a universal language. We all strive for it, desire it, crave it, and mourn it. It is the catalyst for all action and reactions. It’s what gives us hope. I think I needed that reminder, and I can thank my little fictional town for that. 

What advice would you give to aspiring romance writers, and how would you suggest they go about developing their craft?

Whew. How much time do we have?

*For starters, read in the genre you want to write. Romance has many subgenres. *Research. It’s one of the largest things you can do to your credit. Research everything. Research. *Find yourself a writing community in the same genre. There are several romance writer organizations to help you hone your skills and craft. At the very least, get 1 or 2 critique partners to go over one another’s work-in-progress. Critique partners are invaluable. *Find your voice and stick to it. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it. This will come naturally to you the more you write. *Make connections with other writers and bloggers. Reviewers are your friends. And be kind. Encourage, don’t discourage.

*As for the writing: Avoid too many adverbs and clichés. Use metaphors and similes sparingly. Show don’t tell. Limit dialogue tags. Emphasize body language. Separate internal from external conflict/dialogue and reinforce. Don’t bog down with backstory. Less is more. Use the 5 senses. Don’t be repetitive. Tie up loose ends. Read aloud. Edit, edit, edit.

*After you’ve finished a book: Figure out what your goals are (such as Indie or Traditional), and plan accordingly. If you’re wanting Indie, hire an editor and a cover designer. If you’re seeking Traditional, follow submission guidelines to the letter. Most of all, never quit. If you want it bad enough, go after it. Only you can reach your goals and make your dreams come true.

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