Thursday, February 3, 2011

Meet and Greet Debut Author, Keli Gwyn!

Please help me welcome DEBUT author Keli Gwyn to the Alley! Keli just sold her first book to Barbour Publishers and it will be releasing in July of 2012. We are thrilled to have her here and asked her stop by to share her publication journey. So without further ado, heeeeeeere's Keli!

Thank you for inviting me to the Alley, Casey. I’m honored to be here.

I’ve interviewed a number of novelists over the past two and a half years at Romance Writers on the Journey. Today, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before: interview myself. Yes, Slightly Saucy Keli will grill, er, question Mild-Mannered Keli.

SSK: Casey wanted you to share a bit of your publication journey, so please do. I know you tend to be a wordy writer, though, so do us all a favor and fight the urge to write a novella. Think short and sweet. A miniature Hershey’s bar, not king-sized. Deal?

MMK: Certainly. Whatever you ask.
At the tender age of seven, I fell in love with writing and—

SSK: Ahem!

MMK: Sorry. I’ll fast forward.
I began writing with a goal of publication in 2006 and completed five inspirational historical romances in two years. To find out if they were any good, I submitted 37 contest entries. I managed to place six times and double final in the 2008 Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® contest. That success boosted my confidence, but I had a great deal to learn.

The next year I did two things: I tried my hand at a contemporary romance, quickly learning that was a poor fit, and I studied craft. At the end of that year, I mustered my courage and passed a critical eye over my five historicals. After cringing at my newbie attempts, I determined that one of the stories showed promise.

One year and two major revisions later, I felt I had a story that was ready and entered it in ten contests. To my surprise, I ended up with eight firsts, my third GH final, and five requests for fulls, including one from my Dream Agent, Rachelle Gardner, who offered me representation in December 2009.

But I still wasn't ready. I took a deep breath—as well as Rachelle's excellent advice—deleted the final 3/4ths of my story, and rewrote it. In October 2010, she sent it out on submission. Two months later she sold my debut novel to Barbour Publishing. After an initial investment of five years, 10,000+ hours, and over 1,000,000 words, I was a contracted author, proving that hard work and perseverance really do pay off.

How was that?

SSK: Not bad, although I think you could do some tightening if you tried.

Clearly you’re a wee bit OC. Forty-seven contest entries? Really, now! Sounds like overkill to me. But it worked, so I can see why you’re a firm believer in contests. What advice do you have for those entering them?

MMK: Don’t do what I did. I entered before my work was ready and employed an “anything goes” contest selection method. Those early manuscripts came back with similar comments because, while prolific, I wasn’t progressing. I could have saved myself time and money had I waited until I had a better knowledge of craft and been more selective.

The second time I entered the contest circuit, I took a more organized approach.

1) Before I entered, I polished the entry until it shone, incorporating the excellent suggestions of my longtime critique partner, Anne Barton.

2) I chose to enter the inspirational category, not historical as I’d done before in several cases. My one exception was The Emily because that contest allows for a sub-category, such as inspirational, and chooses judges accordingly.

3) I considered who the final round judges were.

4) I chose contests that allowed me to send enough of my story so that it ended on a hook

5) I had a completed manuscript, one ready to send if I received requests.

SSK: You call entering ten contests narrowing your choices? Still seems like a lot to me. Why so many? Are you an approval addict as well as OC?

MMK: It was a lot, but I had a good reason. I’d finaled 8 times out of 37 before, which was roughly one in five. I figured by entering ten contests, I might final two times. I never expected the results I got. If I had, I wouldn’t have entered two of the contests because my entry ended up in front of one editor’s eyes three times. She was really nice about it, though.

SSK: You ask your guests to answer some personal questions at the end of your interviews. Let’s see what I can throw at you. When you’re having a bad day, what’s the best thing you can do to cheer yourself up?

MMK: Go to Taco Bell. I’m seriously addicted to that place and am sure a seven-layer burrito has curative powers.

SSK: Which age, when you turned it, was the most difficult to accept?

MMK: You would ask about age, wouldn’t you? *Smirk accompanied by eye roll*

I don’t know why, but I dreaded turning 40. I was in such a blue funk the weeks beforehand that my hubby and daughter didn’t know if they should make a big deal out of that milestone birthday or ignore it. Finally, the day arrived, and I realized turning 40 wasn’t so bad. I popped into a party store, got some “over the hill” decorations, and put them up. In hindsight, the forties were fabulous and the fifties are off to a fantastic start.

SSK: One more, but it’s a doozie. What is your most embarrassing moment? And remember, I know you well, so I’ll know if you’re not telling the truth.

MMK: Oh, you would do this to me. All right, I’ll be honest but only because one of the talented Alley Cats who writes funny stories might be able to use this as fodder. *Deep breath*

Back in my twenties, I went to the bank one day to cash a check and was shocked to see a new teller, a cute young guy. I ended up at his window, reached into my little shoulder bag, and put a hand on my checkbook. Unbeknownst to me, something wrapped in white paper had lodged between the covers. I whipped out the checkbook, sending the slender item sailing. After performing a perfect arc, that tampon landed on the counter right in front of the shocked fellow. His eyes went wide, and the fire in my face reached five-alarm status in a heartbeat.

When I slunk out of the bank a few minutes later, he and another male teller huddled together in the back of the bank with their heads together. They glanced at me and shook with laughter. My flaming cheeks and I hightailed it outta there.

SSK: Well, you did it. And since you were a sport about it, I won’t ask you about the time you—

MMK: Thanks for your questions. It’s been . . . interesting.

SSK: My pleasure. Now to ask your post’s visitors a question.

MMK: After that last one, I’m not sure you can be trusted. I think I’ll handle this.

How do you cheer yourself up when you’re having “one of those days?”

Since my book, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, won’t be out until July 2012 (tentative title and date), I’m offering a copy of my critique partner’s bestselling debut novel, The Preacher’s Bride, as a drawing prize. I’ll let Casey fill you in on the details.

Keli Gwyn is a writer of inspirational historical romance represented by Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary. Keli’s debut novel will be released by Barbour Publishing in 2012. She’s the wife of a British sports car enthusiast, the proud mother of a college student, a member of Toastmasters, and a Taco Bell addict. She has a weakness for Coach handbags, collects hedgehog figurines, and has a hard time not singing along when 70s music is playing in the Dollar Store.

Hey everyone, Casey here again!

Like Keli said, an offering of The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund is being offered, so leave a comment for Keli to be entered. :-)


Keli Gwyn said...

Casey, thanks again for the invitation to join you lovely ladies at the Alley. It's a delight to be here.

I look forward to responding to comments and answering questions, but I'm out in California and have stayed up late, so don't expect to see me until mid morning. Until then . . .

Misha Gerrick said...

Congrats on your debut, Kelli. I hope that your book sells well.


Katie Ganshert said...

Love the interview Keli! So much fun! Especially the embarrassing moment. I've had quite a few myself!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Keli, You realize you are seriously one of my favorite people and the more I get to know you, the more this applies!

Love that you are a Taco Bell fan. Hmmm. Reminds me of college. ;)

I love you, woman!

Okay, I turn up Spanish music really REALLY loud when I'm in a funk and embarass my children dancing it out in the car. ;)

~ Wendy

Sarah Forgrave said...

Keli!!! So excited to have you here, and that interview was your best yet! :) I love your advice about contests. So, so helpful and wise.

As for your question, I tend to hide away and bury myself in a book...either mine or someone else's.

Anonymous said...

Keli, your publication story is interesting. And very encouraging. Congratulations!

Leanne said...

Haha, I loved this form of interview! :) Oh I think I would have died if I was in your shoes in your embarrassing moment!

I'd love to read that book!

leanniegehrke at hotmail dot com

Keli Gwyn said...

~Misha, thanks for the kind words. As my friend Ruthy from Seekerville would say, "From your mouth to God's ears."

~Katie, you've got me wondering about your embarrassing moments. Any of 'em involve women's sanitary products used as projectiles?

~Wendy, so, do you speak Spanish or just rock out to it in the Mama-mobile? As for Taco Bell, there were days when I was working to put myself through college that I ate lunch and dinner at TB. Can you say addict?

~Sarah, reading is a wonderful way to escape from whatever is getting us down, isn't it? I like that you enjoy reading your own stories as much as those by others. I can't wait until the day I'm reading your story in book form.

Keli Gwyn said...

~VV, thanks for visiting and for sharing in my excitement.

~Leanne, I was a fumbling mess during the rest of the transaction. Afterward, I thought of all the clever things I could have said. Unfortunately, I wasn't cool enough in those days to deliver a smile and a quip. These days, I think I could actually make a joke out of it. :-)

Beth K. Vogt said...

This was such a fun interview. Thanks to both SSK and MMK for starting my day off with laughter! And congrats to . . .um . . . you both (?) on landing that publishing contract!

Keli Gwyn said...

Beth, my alter ego and I thank you for dropping by and sharing in our excitement.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Keli, I'm so excited for you and thanks for sharing your story!

You are brave to share that Taco Bell story!

I've actually never entered contests, but am going to try my first one this Spring. Mainly for feedback...I love getting feedback. I've heard some contests are good for feedback, others offer a score and not too much feedback. Have you found that to be the case? I'm all about the comments.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh My Goodness!!!!!!! This was the best interview I've read in quite awhile! You are so creative!

And oh, wouldn't I love to use that funny-but-embarrassing moment! But since I tend toward historicals, I suppose that's out! :)

I really like the tenative title of your book! I bet it is surreal to have your dream turning into a reality, especially since you have a bit of a wait until it comes out!

Lovely interview by (and 'of') one of my favorite people in the world!


Casey said...

What a fun interview, I knew as soon as I read it that Keli is going to make a great addition to the world of Christian fiction and I don't think it will stop with just one book. :)

In honor of Keli's visit and her first sale, I have breakfast burritos with all the trimmings on the side bar. :) Stop by and stick around a while.

I'll bring the cinnamon rolls in just a little bit. :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Yay, Keli!!! So glad you stopped by The Alley today. You've done some great interviews in the past and this one is just as great. So much fun learning more about you.

Let's see...when it's one of "those days" I like to listen to music real loud and let those worries fade away. And when it's warm out (not the negative 5, 10, and 15 degrees we've been getting here) I love to go for a walk.

Thanks so much for visiting!

Keli Gwyn said...

Julia, congratulatoins on your decision to venture into the Contest Circuit. The feedback can be a great way to learn how your story stacks up, what areas could use some work, and what your strengths are.

Most contests offer some feedback. For those sponsored by an RWA® chapter, I would go to the chapters' websites to read the criteria. Contests known for encouraging judges to make comments like to include that in their promo. The Golden Heart® is one of the few contests I'm aware of that offers nothing but a score. Most have a score sheet with various categories, such as plot and characterization.

I suggest looking at a contest's score sheet, if available, before you enter to see the types of things the judges will be looking for. Knowing they'll comment on sensory detail, sentence variation, etc. serves as a reminder to include those elements in your entry.

Keli Gwyn said...

Sherrinda, thanks for the kind words about the title. I'm rather fond of it myself. =)

My embarrassing moment would work well in a lighthearted contemporary such as those Sarah or Krista write, but, alas, we historical writers can't use it. A proper lady in 1870, the year my story takes place, would never carry around a wad of rags or cotton batting, let alone whip it out of the reticule hanging from her wrist by mistake. Not that it could even fit in one of those dainty little handbags. =)

Keli Gwyn said...

Casey, those breakfast burritos are yummy. I'm on my second one.

Cindy, music is a great way to chase away the blues. Well, unless you're listening the blues, I suppose. Me? I crank classical when I need to cheer myself up. Vivaldi and Mozart have some lively pieces, as musical you knows. Which musicians or groups' work lifts your spirits?

Jody Hedlund said...

Ah, Keli! What a fun interview!! I love your embarassing moment! I think I've blocked most of mine from my memory--quite conveniently! :-)

And I love what you said about entering contests. I really do think that many newer writers rush things. Perhaps with all of the blogs and writers sharing experiences, writers begin to feel an undue pressure to get out there and be like others. And I really think we all need to evaluate what's best for our unique situations!

Thanks for sharing one of my books, Keli! You're a sweetheart! I don't know what I'd do without you! :-)

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Keli,

Cute interview! Congratulations again on your sale. July 2012 seems such a long way off. But I'm sure it will go quickly.

Hope you gets lots done on your latest wip in the meantime!

(I think I'm not eligible for the draw since I live outside the U.S.)



Keli Gwyn said...

Jody, thanks for taking time from your writing to stop by. I would agree that there is pressure to get "out there" as quickly as we can. In my case, my premature attempts to do so were costly, although they did teach me a great deal. One important lesson I learned was to step back and take time to study craft, which I did while working on building a web presence. In retrospect, that was a year well spent.

I'm delighted to offer a copy of your bestselling novel for the drawing, knowing the winner is in for a real treat.

Keli Gwyn said...

Sue, it's nice to see you here at the Alley. How is the weather up your way? Is your part of Canada being hit as hard as a good portion of the U.S.?

Since I'm the one mailing the book, I'll mention that I'm willing to send it to US and Canadian addresses.

Pepper said...

Oh Keli,
SOOOOOOO glad to have you here. And thrilled to my toenails with your news!!
It couldn't have happened to a sweeter gal, or a more encouraging one.
I'm not taking your most embarrassing moment and putting it in a book, but I am taking MINE. I love it! It's PERFECT for romantic comedy...and boy, did I feel the sting of a flaming face. Argh.
And then I laughed. Hard. Because it was THAT funny!
Yours was great. I laughed hard at it too - just so you know ;-)
And laughter's good meds.

Okay - I'm ready to snoopy dance all over again, Keli. Will this need to celebrate dissipate over time? :-)

Terrie Todd said...

Not sure I'm eligible for the book prize,living in Canada, but must comment anyway. What an enjoyable post! Hope I'm never interviewed by such a well informed reporter. (I was just waiting for her to compliment your outfit. Oh well, maybe she didn't particularly care for it.)

Casey said...

Pepper, *shakes head* you go to all that trouble to tell us it's going in a book and then won't SHARE it????

SHERRINDA! Help me out here! :)

Pepper said...

Maybe I should write suspense

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Casey's right, Pep. You can't tease us like that and not share about your "moment". :)

Jill said...

Wow, great interview. That's one way to get a perfect one--interview yourself! p.s. Don't enter me in the contest because I already have the book. :)

Pepper said...

Let me just say...
It had to do with a handsome young dermitologist - and my first visit.
Oh dear, I'm starting to blush just thinking about it

Casey said...

Oooo, sounds like a doozy! Secret huddle!

You're not getting out if that easy. :)

Unknown said...

Congrats on the book deal and for following your heart!

I loved the embarrassing moment story. *grin*

Hope to win the book, have heard it's great!


Julia M. Reffner said...

Ooohhh..that does sound juicy, Pepper!

Keli, Thanks so much for offering help for the newbie like me. I don't think I could even enter the Golden Heart since my novel is definitely NOT romance of any sort.

Keli Gwyn said...

Pepper, thanks for making me feel SOOOOOOO welcome.

We gotta get you a contract, my friend, because I'm eager to read your story so I can find out what took place with that dermatologist. Sounds like it was mighty interesting.

Keli Gwyn said...

Terrie, I'm willing to ship the book to a US or Canadian address, so your name's in the drawing. =)

I'm surprised SSK didn't ask about my attire. She must have taken pity on me because I answered her questions early one morning while in my soft, fleecy snowflake-patterned jammies. Stylin', don't ya know!

Keli Gwyn said...

Jill, if you enter and win, you could always give Jody's book to a friend and introduce her to my talented CP's work. =)

I think SSK was pretty easy on me. She knows all, but she didn't totally embarrass me by asking me to tell you about my super-sized dust bunny "pals" that are so large they frighten the cats or the fact that my poor hubby will slip into my office, tell me how much he supports my writing, and then ask ever so gently ask if I could possibly do a load of whites.

Keli Gwyn said...

Pensees, thanks for sharing in my excitement. You heard right. Jody's book is great, and I'm only one of many who think so. She hit the CBA fiction bestseller list with her debut novel for a reason.

Keli Gwyn said...

Julia, if there's no romance in your story, it wouldn't be a fit for the Golden Heart. There is a Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category, though, which you might be able to enter if the romance is there but is just isn't the main feature.

Casey said...

At least he is supportive, Keli! Can't ask for anything better. :-D

Keli Gwyn said...

Casey, my Gwynly is wonderful. I couldn't ask for a more supportive hubby. That's why I feel badly when I don't tackle Mt. McLaundry when I should.

Jillian said...

Great interview Keli! I loved your most embarrassing moment story. Here's a question for you. Did you ever go back to that bank? :) I can't wait for your book release. Congrats!

Keli Gwyn said...

Jillian, yes, I went to the bank. Had to. It was the only branch in town. I just made sure I donned my wig, sunglasses, and trench coat first--and removed certain items from my purse before entering. =)

Mary Vee Writer said...

You have been a delight to have today. You even kept up the fun with your responses to others. I look forward to your book.
Thanks you for entertaining, teaching, and enlightening us today.
I had so much more to say...but others already did, I echo the fab comments above:)

Keli Gwyn said...

Mary, I've enjoyed hanging out with you Alley Cats and your way cool pals. I love your site!

Mary Curry said...

Hi Keli,

The answer to your question is really easy for me - I read a book. Fast forward to July 2012 and it will be yours! How exciting is that!!!!

Keli Gwyn said...

Mary C, thanks for the kind thought, one that both excites me and at the same time still seems surreal.

Keli Gwyn said...

Casey, thanks again for being such a wonderful hostess. I love all the visuals you added to the post.

I'll leave it to you to conduct the drawing for Jody's book and forward the winner's name and mailing address to me.

Casey said...

I loved hosting you Keli! Adding the "spice" to the interview was such fun when it was done so creativly already. Wishing you the best!! And yes, I'm taking care of the drawing right now. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Cyndi (Pensees), Casey told me the good news that you're the winner of the drawing. Congratulations! I have Jody's book packaged and ready to go out in today's mail. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

lgm52 said...

Thanks for the entertaining interview. I enjoyed it!