Award-winning author Kelli A. Wilkins writes romance in a variety of genres, including historical, contemporary, paranormal and more. She’s published more than 100 short stories, nineteen romance novels, and five nonfiction books. Today she sits down for an interview with us. Learn more about her and her books at her website and blog.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I’ve always known I was a writer, and began writing short stories in high school and college. After college, I took a commercial writing class for “fun” and I learned a lot about the art of creating interesting characters and telling a great story. After being encouraged to submit my work, I decided to pursue writing seriously. Currently, I divide my time between writing novels, novellas, and short stories.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
My first romance short story was accepted a week after I submitted it. That was pretty quick! After writing short romances for a while, I branched out into novels. My romance novel career started in 2005 when three of my books won the Amber Quill Press “Amber Heat” writing contest.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I’m a hybrid. I started out with Amber Quill Press, and from there I’ve had three novels published with Medallion Press. When Amber Quill folded, I began re-releasing my romances on my own on Amazon, B&N, and other platforms.
Where do you write?
I write anywhere I can. When the weather is nice, I like to write outside in my back yard. In the winter, I generally write in a comfy chair in the living room.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
When I’m writing and proofreading I play quiet New Age or instrumental music in the background. (I find silence is too oppressive.) When I’m typing up a manuscript and/or making edits, I listen to all kinds of music: rock, pop, or whatever I’m in the mood for. My musical tastes are very diverse.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Bits and pieces of my characters come from people I know or people I observe. However, no one character is 100% anyone from real life. I was asked about this a lot when I wrote my wrestling romance, A Deceptive Match. Everyone wanted to know which wrestler the hero Vinnie was based on. He’s a composite of a lot of different wrestlers (and other people) all rolled into one.
As far as plots go, 99% of them are just things I make up. I have a vivid imagination and my day-to-day life is not as exciting as the worlds I create for my characters.
Describe your process for naming your characters.
Sometimes this is a hard process for me. When characters “introduce” themselves to me (aka “show up” in my head), I usually learn about them and their problem/situation before I’ll get a name. Usually, I’ll get a first initial or a first name only, and then have to discover more about the character before I get his or her whole name and back-story. Lies, Love & Redemption is one example. Before I wrote a word, I had the whole opening sequence in my head. I knew Sam and Cassie’s first names, and a bit about their backgrounds, but that was it. Sometimes my characters are a mystery to me until I get to know them better—even though I’m the one creating them!
Real settings or fictional towns?
I set my stories in fictional towns that are loosely based on real places. When I’m writing, I change up the details to make them my own. I can add buildings or rearrange the layout of a town to suit the story. The town of Holloway in Lies, Love & Redemption was my invention, but it was typical of a small prairie town of that time period.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Hmm… many of my characters have quirks, but I can’t decide which one is the quirkiest. Some of my characters talk to themselves, only eat (or don’t eat) certain foods, or have little personal rituals they perform.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
Writing-wise, it’s probably the fact that I write all of my books in longhand, using paper and pen. After the rough draft is done, I type up the manuscript and edit/revise it as I go. On a personal level, I tend to talk to myself and my cats!
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People who are nasty and/or obnoxious to other people for no reason.
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Books to read, music to listen to, and my husband.
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years… dishwasher, gas station attendant, I worked in several bakeries and offices…. but the shortest time I ever stayed at a place was a vet’s office. I didn’t mind the work and I liked helping the animals, but the people who ran the place were nasty. I stayed for two days. Sometimes the job isn’t the issue, the people are!
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I read a lot of books in all genres (mystery, suspense, horror, romance, detective, New Age, nonfiction…) so it’s hard to pick just one. Like my musical tastes, my reading list is very diverse and covers everything from A to Z. Currently I’m reading a lot of John Sandford and Preston & Child books. I buy books at garage sales, flea markets, and library book sales—so I never know what I’ll be reading next.
Ocean or mountains?
Mountains. Definitely. Which is funny because my husband loves the ocean.
City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
I’m more of a country girl. I was raised in a small town and I understand small-town life, but sometimes that can be too small. I like being near cities and other places with lots of fun things to do, but I wouldn’t want to live in a big city. I can deal with the hustle and bustle of city life, but it’s nice to retreat to a quiet place.
What’s on the horizon for you?
Currently, I’m revising a new historical romance novel (as yet untitled) and I’m re-editing three more of my romances previously published with Amber Quill. After that, I have ideas in the works for a few other romances (another historical, a paranormal, and a gay contemporary).
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I welcome questions and feedback from readers. I enjoy learning which characters and books they love the best. Readers can find my social media links at my website and blog (see links above.)
Lies, Love & Redemption
Shot and left for dead, Sam Hixton stumbles into a general store on the Nebraska prairie and collapses into the arms of Cassie Wilcox.
Cassie’s world is turned upside down when the handsome stranger drops into her life. Sam is another complication she doesn’t need: her business is dying and her trouble with the townspeople is escalating. Yet she’s determined to keep the store open — no matter what the cost.
As Sam recovers from his injuries, he hides the truth about his identity and convinces Cassie to let him work in the store. He’s attracted to her and admires her independent nature but quickly realizes Cassie’s in way over her head. They fight their growing attraction, and Cassie questions whether she can trust her fragile heart to a mysterious stranger. Will he accept her once he knows about her troubled past?
Cassie resists Sam’s advances and represses her feelings until one fateful night when they give in to their fiery passion. Together, they work out a plan to save the store but find their efforts are thwarted—and their lives endangered—by the locals.
Sam’s secret returns to haunt him and pulls him away just when Cassie needs him the most. Will he regain her trust when she learns the truth?
Cassie has everything invested in the store—can she save it and find true love with Sam before it’s too late?