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*cued music from The Actor’s Studio, camera zooms in on Hellion, a stunning redhead (clearly a pirate due to her magnificent hat) and Megan Kelly, a petite and pretty brunette, who is sitting across from Hellion. A cover board of Megan’s new book cover is standing on an easel next to her: The Fake Fiancée*
Hellion: Hello, Megan! Long time, no see. *turns to audiences* Dear viewers, Megan is one of my fellow members of the MORWA Chapter in St. Louis. She heads the Critique Group, called CORE, and used to run two separate groups: one on Tuesday and one on Saturday. Very crazy, in my opinion. I mean, working. Megan is very brave and very persistent; and she has also very graciously agreed to be interviewed today. Everyone, please welcome Megan Kelly!
Crew: *cheering and whistling; Sin rushes over and offers Megan some grog which she happily accepts*
Hellion: Okay, let’s get started! First question, Megan, how did you get assigned into that role (with CORE), and what are your favorite parts of the job?
Megan: I had attended from the first and saw the value of getting feedback. I was a contest junkie until I sold and probably will be in the published contests now. When the moderator decided to jump ship, I was nearest the gangplank.
Hellion: I know how that can happen.
Megan: It was either volunteer or be pushed overboard, too. So I volunteered. *laughs* I love when someone reads their work and it's stronger than her earlier writing. Then I know we're doing good. Also it's a kick when one of us sells (me, Kimberly Killion, Annmarie McKenna, and Mary Paine in the past two years) or finals in a contest from something we all critiqued.
Hellion: Wow! A lot of familiar names! What a great group! How important is it, do you think, to be a part of your local chapter? I know a lot of fledgling writers aren’t even a member of RWA. How valuable do you think the chapter meetings (and CORE groups) are?
Megan: I've received so much from my chapter. I don't think I'd be published without them. Not only does MoRWA offer monthly programs, but the support of my chaptermates has been invaluable. Perhaps you don't know this (because I hid it pretty well), but for a good six years, I landed my writing ship on a sandbar, so to speak. Block, hiatus, drinking binge--call it what you will, but they were dark days. If I had quit attending meetings, I wouldn't have gotten back to writing. So a good group is very important, whether it's RWA or not.
Hellion: Mates are definitely important! A support group is indispensable.
Megan: Attending conferences put on by RWA National and other chapters has helped me learn, too, as has feedback from their contests. As for a critique group or partner, I think it's vital. My writing is stronger due to what I get from my CP and CORE. I learn from feedback when I read my own work, of course, but critiquing someone else's work means I better know what I'm talking about. Listening to other members who find different aspects in someone's work helps me make my work stronger. It transfers to my writing, but it's a mysterious process I can't explain.
Hellion: *grins* A lot of life is a mystery. How long have you been writing? (How long did it take you to publish?) And most importantly, what’s your Call Story? We love Call Stories. Do you remember when you got The Call?
Megan: Do I remember!? How long can the answer be? Okay, first: I started writing seriously in 1994. I was, like, twelve. *coughs* I entered a contest, pitched to an editor, sent off the ms. Got back the ms. *wink* I got THE CALL in 2007. However, there's that "hiatus" on the sandbar I took. During those six years, I didn't finish anything.
Hellion: That sounds familiar.
Megan: I started two stories but only got into "the sagging middle" of each before setting them aside. I worked on this and that, but I'd lost the belief I'd sell. The characters stopped walking around in my head. One day, for no reason I can pinpoint, they came back. Once again, I was making up stories for strangers I'd see on the street (axe murderer, bank exec, bride-to-be, pirate). The joy was back. I still didn't believe I'd SELL, but I wanted to write again.
Hellion: Been there, done that.
Megan: So... in June of 2006, my invaluable CP, Carol, showed me the Romantic Times magazine article where the Harlequin American line put out the call for mss from new authors. I had 72 pages of a book done and a synopsis I'd written for contests, so I sent a partial. Six weeks later, I got a request for the full. Of course, I hadn't touched it in those six weeks because I wasn't going to sell. I couldn't decide whether to be thrilled or scared spitless.
Megan: *nodding* I set a deadline of six weeks, said goodbye to my family and barricaded myself in my office in the basement. Six weeks to the day, I mailed the finished ms, with much thanks to Carol! Four months later, March 1, 2007, I was actually working in my office, with my printer running, and the washer and dryer chugging several feet away. Didn't hear the phone ring upstairs. I went up for a break (more chocolate) and saw the message light flashing. Kathleen Scheibling, Sr. Ed. at Harlequin American, wanted to talk to me about my ms. Now, I'd had a call before, where the senior editor said right away, "this isn't the call you're hoping for." So I tried not to get excited that Kathleen's was THE CALL I was hoping for. But who could possibly NOT hope?
Hellion: *laughing* Clearly you can’t.
Megan: Exactly. Missing the first call was great for me, actually, because I had time to breathe; I found my printout of "What to Do When You Get The Call" and took time to read it over and make a few notes of pertinent questions (advance, payout, royalty), and I could walk off a little excited energy around the house. So…I called Toronto and got Kathleen's voice mail since she was away from her desk. [Are you freaking kidding me!?] I left a message then called my DH on my cell phone. He tried to talk me down. The house phone rang and Kathleen wanted to buy my book. She'd been about to leave for the day and possibly the entire weekend (this was a Thursday) due to a blizzard blanketing the city. But we got this done first and I asked her to drive VERY carefully. *laughs* That night we were celebrating my mother in law's birthday, so we had cake in the house!!
Hellion: *LOL* Your poor hubby! So he was the first one you told after The Call?
Megan: Yes. He's been my biggest fan and most solid supporter. I know women who no longer write because their husbands didn't support them. So I realize how lucky I am. Then I called Carol.
Hellion: Good husbands are hard to find. He sounds like a great guy. I’m sure he likes the research too. *grins* You write under a pen name. How did you come to choose your pen name, and why did you decide to go with a pen name to publish?
Megan: When my kids were toddlers, I told the mother of one of their playmates that I write romance. Suddenly my calls regarding playdates don't get returned, she avoided me totally, and even the calls I made to her as a customer for her business met with silence. Fortunately, the kids were too young to know what was going on, but I decided then my writing would never hurt my children. Also, I'd joined RWA and heard of writers being stalked. So a pen name made sense. I picked Megan because it sounds normal like me, and I was named for my Aunt Margaret, anyway. I've always liked the name Kelly, and it's in the middle of the alphabet so hopefully readers could find me at a bookstore or library without crawling on the floor.
Hellion: Wow, are you kidding? What a wench. That’s so not cool. I can see the definite highlights of having a pen name. Okay, what’s your favorite movie?
Megan: Wow, you’re still completely random.
Hellion: Yep, still am. *shoots the undead monkey* Part of my charm. *monkey starts eating banana again*
Megan: Uh, do I get shot, too, if I fail to mention Pirates of the Caribbean first? Gotta love the adventure and romance and hot guys. Also Field of Dreams, The Wizard of Oz, and Pride and Prejudice (preferably the mini-series with Colin Firth).
Hellion: Good (and correct) answers! And Colin Firth is the only real Mr. Darcy. Just saying. Okay, your newest book, The Fake Fiancée is out this month. Can you tell us more about it?
Megan: Joe Riley needs to get his matchmaking mom off his back, and "enlists the help of" (ie, blackmails) Lisa, a mom who needs money for a special program for her misbehaving son. Lisa doesn't trust easily since her ex ran off with all their money and a bimbette from his office. Joe falls in love with Lisa, but it's a rocky road. He has to make up for their bad beginning and figure out how to father her two kids.
Hellion: A blackmailer! Sounds like my kind of fellow! Joe definitely had his work cut out for him to pave the road back to heroic, then. Are you working on anything new now?
Megan: I'm currently writing a spin-off of The Fake Fiancee, featuring Joe's business partner, Dylan Ross. He's a "fixer," who gets tangled up with Tara--who doesn't want him "fixing" her life, thank you very much. They're a lot of fun to write. This story features Dylan's brother, Adam, and his eight children, which I hope will be my fourth book, so I'm having a blast.
Hellion: That does sound like a lot of fun. I love Mr. Fixer—that would be a lot of fun to write! What’s your favorite type of hero to create?
Megan: I love to write about the guy next door. He's more real to me than billionaires, at least in my neighborhood. He's a strong individual who respects a woman and is supportive without fear of losing any masculinity points. He has a sense of humor, and of course is always terrific looking.
Hellion: Terrific looking is definitely a must-have. How do you write the family dynamic so well?
Megan: I'm not sure how to write without a family in the story. Marrying the Boss didn't have kids, which was a total departure for me. Then all of a sudden, the characters' parents start taking over scenes! I just went along for the ride. As you might remember, Hellion, I have two children. I'm the fifth-born in my family, as is my husband, so we have lots of "dynamic" things going on.
Hellion: Wow, that’s a lot of siblings…and cousins! I bet you have entertaining family reunions and dinners. Okay, time for some more random questions.
Megan: Again? You’re not going to threaten to shoot me again, are you?
Hellion: I don’t think so, but no promises. What’s your biggest pet peeve? If you were in Bed, Bath, and Beyond with an unlimited budget, what one item would be on your must-have list and why? And what’s your favorite flavor of Crystal Lite?
Megan: I have lots of pet peeves. Rude people would be my current number one. I don't shop in BB&B, so I don't know what they carry. I'd love to have a hot tub, though, if you're thinking of my birthday present. Thanks!! Does there have to be a reason? Sheer relaxation. I like raspberry lemonade Crystal Lite, a pitcherful of which we keep in the fridge at all times. But I mostly live on versions of Diet Coke--caffeine free for after 2 pm and Vanilla Zero for the early part of the day, or if I need a caffeine boost.
Hellion: Caffeine is almost better than rum. Almost. Okay, final question, then I’ll turn this over to the crew to ask you questions: What’s the best piece of writing advice that’s worked for you?
Megan: "Never, never, never quit." It's really from Winston Churchill, so I'll give you a writer's quote, this one from Nora Roberts: "I can revise anything but a blank page."
Hellion: I think I like Churchill’s better. But leave me to be perverse! Okay, crew, come talk with us! What questions do you have Megan? What is your favorite boy-next-door type of story? And do you think it’s possible to be the boy-next-door and insanely rich?