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Saturday, October 2, 2010
Welcome Author Kemberlee Shortland...
KS: I'm originally from the Central Coast of Northern California. I came to Ireland in early 1997 on a 'trip of a lifetime', met a guy and stayed. What do I love best about where I come from? Well, aside from family, there's a rich history and incredible scenic beauty one can only appreciate after moving away. I have to say, I can't imagine never living back home again, now that I appreciate it more.
YGR: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? How has that childhood dream affected your current career?
YGR: What do you do for fun?
KS: In no particular order - knit and stash yarn, castle hunt and travel, read and research, play with our dogs, enjoy married life . . . but mostly knit ;-) I always have a project on the go in my purse, right next to a good book.
YGR: How has your environment / upbringing colored your writing?
YGR: Tell us about your latest book. Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?
KS: A Piece of My Heart was published in January. Mick and Kate were childhood friends who thought their growing affections would mature into a love of a lifetime. When they're pulled apart, it takes ten years, the deaths of Mick's parents, and an addendum to a will to bring them back together. The secondary characters give the story an added richness and complication to Mick and Kate's lives. Gobnait (a real traditional Irish name) is the femme fatale with her sights on Mick. Flann Flannery is a slippery character who adds a dangerous element to the story's suspense. And Hairy Molly . . . well, what can I say about her? She tried to steal the limelight of the story. I love her!
My current WIP is tentatively called The Diary. It's a time travel that takes heroine Maggie back to her roots in Ireland one thousand years in the past -- to the time of Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf.
Excerpts for all my books, including my WIPs, can be found on my website, http://www.kemberlee.com
YGR: How did you come up with the title for your book(s)?
KS: Currently, most of my story titles have come from or been inspired by song titles. A Piece of My Heart is one from the late, great Janis Joplin. Her lyrics were so perfect for my story, so I paid tribute to her by naming the book after her greatest song.
YGR: How much of your work is real? How much is fantasy?
KS: All of my stories are works of fiction, but sometimes I draw from real life situations to enrich a story.
When coming up with the plot for A Piece of My Heart, I looked for that 'thing' to pull Mick and Kate back together. There had to be a catalyst, and I didn't want to reuse what others had used. I like my stories to be as unique as I can bake them. Then one day, our Border Collie, Daisie, threw a toy in my lap and looked at me with such life in her eyes and I stopped what I was doing to look at her. Daisie was my catalyst! She was a rescue dog who was found in similar, but not exact, circumstances as Molly's pup in the story. I won't get on my soapbox here, but I'll just say it's no uncommon for the situation I wrote about to happen in real life in Ireland, and most farms around the world. I'm hoping by using this plot element in my story, it will open people's eyes to how working dogs are treated.
Ironically, Daisie's original name was Molly, and hairy as a hairy thing, as they say! In Ireland, girls with lots of hair are affectionally called Hairy Molly, so the dog in my story became Hairy Molly. On an aside, Daisie's sisters were named Millie, Missie and Minnie. Molly was the prettiest of the pups -- pretty as a daisy -- so we named her Daisie. She never responded to Molly anyway.
I've included a picture of our girls here. Daisie is the hairy one sitting. Poppy is also a rescued dog. She's a smooth coated Border Collie, and the clown in our family. Typical youngest child syndrome, I'm afraid!
YGR: Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
KS: Sometimes the biggest challenge is finding time to write. I'm a night writer and always will be, simply because the day is too challenging . . . household chores, two active Border Collies, the phone, shopping, outside noises, etc. I require as much silence as possible to concentrate, so the night is usually best, unless no one is looking for me during the day, the neighbors are quiet and the dogs have had a long run.
YGR: What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
KS: Write what you like to read. Write what you know. Do your research and get your facts straight, especially when writing historicals or regionally set stories. But just write. If you like to write but aren't into fiction, try other genres . . . nonfiction, articles, promotional packages, blogs, Hallmark cards . . . it's all writing. Sorry, emails don't count . . . unless you're doing interviews, submissions or anything to promote your work.
YGR: Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?
KS: Funny you should ask this. I just wrote an article called the Fallacy of Writer's Block ( http://kemberleeshortland.blogspot.com/2010/09/fallacy-of-writers-block.html ). No, I don't believe in it. But I do believe in procrastination and responsibilities outside of writing.
If I find myself at a dead end in a story, I look back to a point just before the dead end when things were going well. I treat writing like taking a road trip. I plan my route (synopsis), fuel up the car (eat some food), and get moving (write). If while I'm driving, the route I've highlighted comes to a dead end, I look at my map and look at other routes that will take me to my destination. Road blocks can be anything . . . road works (a plot element I'm still working through), slow trucks (underdeveloped writing), fallen tree (characters stop talking to me because they have no idea what I'm doing), etc. Even if my route takes me down a cul-de-sac, there has to be something there my character MUST experience before they return to the main route. If not, that whole passage is removed to a file for possible use later or in another book, and I go back to where the story was actively moving forward and continue from there. Sometimes scenes can be perfect, but their context isn't.
YGR: Who is your favorite author and why? What books have most influenced your life?
KS: Tough question! I have a lot of favorite authors for a lot of different reasons. For historical fiction, it's Elizabeth Chadwick. All. The. Way! She has a way of pulling readers into the story and making them feel like they're part of the story -- part of the history! Romantic suspense - Linda Howard is my go-to-girl. Her heroines are strong without being butch or bitchy, and her heroes are pretty yummy! Thrillers - Dean Koontz is my man. And it doesn't hurt that he's set a lot of his stories in and around my home town, or that he cut his literary teeth on romance.
I think the book that most influenced my personal life was one called God on a Harley by Joan Brady. It was published back in 1996. I'm not a religious nut or anything, but the inspiration in this book made me look at my life as it was and make the changes necessary to make it better. I don't want to be one of those people with regrets in my final days. Between Brady and Nike, I just did it, and got on with my life as I wanted it, back then and still today. I highly recommend this book. I've since reread God on a Harley, and it's still a brilliant story. http://www.joanbradybooks.com
How did you deal with rejection letters?
Writers must have a tough skin for this business. Rejections can be a real let-down, either if the letter is a bog-standard form rejection or the editor/agent has some not-so-nice things to say. Or it can be a positive experience, especially if the editor/agent says something good. I take each rejection as inspiration to do better. No one likes to be told there's something wrong with their story. Many take it as a personal affront. It takes a change in mindset to understand how to deal with rejections and how to learn from them. Life is full of learning opportunities. As well, rejections, like reviews, are just one persons opinion -- the aim is to find an editor/agent who feels the same way you do about your story.
YGR: What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
KS: Writing is a job, no matter how much you enjoy it. And like any job, you must have tools to do it. For me, tools are in the mind, desire at the top, along with integrity, self-motivation, ambition, honesty . . . Also, respect. Not just for yourself or your characters, but for fellow writers. I find especially in the romance field that there's a lot of competition, and I hate to say it, women can be catty. I think a lot of this behavior is that we forget to respect our fellow writers. After all, we're all supporting the same genre, which means we should support each other and each others work.
YGR: Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions and/or erotic content?
KS: For me personally, the limits publishers put on which stories they accept are good guidelines. I grew up watching horror movies and reading the likes of Dean Koontz and a little Stephen King. I think todays TV anesthetizes us to blood and guts fiction, which I don't necessarily think is a good thing. Having said that, there are areas I'll never go with my writing . . . graphic mutilation, rape, hurting children in anyway, and a lot of BDSM. As an author, and a human being, I don't like how people can be mean to each other. I guess that goes back to respect.
YGR: Do you ever research real events, legends, or myths to get ideas?
KS: My current WIP, The Diary, is set in 1014 around the time of the Battle of Clontarf and Ireland's greatest High King, Brian Boru. He was a real man and a legend in his own time. I'm really having fun with this story because my heroine travels back one thousand years to her roots in Ireland. There/here, she discovers the man who's haunted her dreams and has a chance to change the course of Irish history. So yes, I love legends, myths and real historical events.
YGR: Which is your favorite of the books you have written?
KS: Not fair! That's like asking which is your favorite child LOL
YGR: What's the weirdest thing you've ever done in the name of research?
KS: I had to ask my husband about this one. Neither of us could think of anything weird . . . or at least weirder then my normal behavior ;-) For A Piece of My Heart, I had to suffer through (she says with tongue firmly in cheek) hours attending sheepdog trials and talking to herders, working our Border Collies with a shepherd, and visiting the Connemara countryside.
For the next book, Rhythm of My Heart, I forced myself to listen to a lot of blues music (which I really love), feeling the wind in my face on the back of a Harley (bliss), and eating copious boxes of Tunnocks Teacakes! (you haven't lived until you've tasted these!)
With Shape of My Heart, perhaps the most difficult (yeah right) was archaeological research (another passion), driving Mini cars at breakneck speed (OK they do about 70mph if you're going downhill with the wind at your back), and living in the West Cork Countryside. Yes, yes. I'm willing to suffer for my craft!
YGR: Where can we find you on the net? Where can we find out more about your books?
KS: My website is http://www.kemberlee.com. Under the My Books link, readers can see what I've published and what I'm working on. And they can laugh at the excerpts of stuff I've pushed to the back of the drawer! There are also links to some other fun stuff there.
I also run two blogs --
'Hearticles: Articles with Heart' is where I post writing articles every other week. My schedule of subjects and their release dates is posted on the side bar, and there are links to previous articles there as well. Tomorrow's article is about blogging . . . the top 20 reasons why one should blog, and 10 reasons why they fail . . . http://www.kemberleeshortland.blogspot.com
'Heart Shaped Stones' is my non-author blog where I talk about my life in Ireland. http://www.heartshapedstones.blogspot.com
And I'm always at the end of an email if anyone wants to contact me personally.
I'd like to take this opportunity to say congratulations to the winners of my September contest. The answers to my questions and the winners names are posted on my homepage, http://www.kemberlee.com
I'd also like to say a BIG thank you to You Gotta Read for asking me here today. It's been a lot of fun! As a treat, one lucky person to comment on my interview will receive a digital copy of A Piece of My Heart.
Available now - A PIECE OF MY HEART, part of the Irish Pride series, Highland Press - An award winning, 5 star romance set in the wilds of western Ireland
Available now - CONSTANT CRAVING, the short story sequel to A Piece of My Heart, Tirgearr Publishing
CONTEST - Enter my September Contest. Great prizes to five lucky winners. Log in at www.kemberlee.com to enter.