J.M. Kelley has stopped by Wednesdays with the Arts to share her writing art with us. If you have any questions or comments for her, please leave them in the comment section. Comments are moderated, but she’ll be able to respond once comments are posted.
Thanks for stopping by J.M. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Three years ago, native Pennsylvanian J.M. Kelley packed her bags and moved south. Now, the wannabe Carolina Girl can’t speak a single sentence without adding the word y’all at the end of it, and regards a blast of snow flurries as a doomsday-level event. When the day job allows, and when she can pull herself away from George Takei’s Facebook fanpage, she likes to go on writing jaunts to her favorite lake, or a local coffee shop with delicious shakes and questionable Wi-Fi connections.
J.M. Kelley is a proud recipient of a Carrie McCray Memorial Literary award, and is a member of The South Carolina Writers Workshop and Romance Writers of America (PAN).
Q. How long have you been writing?
I’ve always loved to write, but after high school, I drifted away from the pastime. It wasn’t until my father died in 2007 that I decided I needed an emotional outlet, and finally began writing again.
Q. What inspired you to write?
Writing is catharsis in my world. If I get annoyed at someone, I can channel it into working on a villain, if I’m feeling down, I can pour that emotion into a dramatic scene. Writing is the best medicine. It helps me work through the ups and downs of life.
Q. What do you like best (or least) about writing?
What I like least is trying to figure out marketability. I much prefer to write what I want to write without worrying about the career aspect of writing, but sometimes you have to go there and accept the odds aren’t good that people will be open to your idea about circus clowns falling in love under the Big Top.
Q: Is there one particular thing that you find challenging about writing?
Distraction. I am so easily distracted, and can be pulled away from a manuscript by the shiny lure of a scrap of tin foil, frankly. Easy access to Facebook and Twitter make it hard to be a good writer, especially when it is so easy to justify it as promotion for already published works. I’m working on a plan to wean myself off the internet-addicition, however. I swear, I am!
Q.Tell us something interesting about you that not many people know.
I’m a metal head. My MP3 selection is a head-scratcher to most people, because apparently I don’t look like I could break out into head-banging at any second. I love loud music. I can’t help myself. I grew up on bands like Queen, Kiss, Black Sabbath, and I adore Ronnie James Dio. I can barely mention Ronnie James without flashing devil horns. You just have to respect a man who can write loud, hard-driving songs about…rainbows.
Q: What book are you sharing with us today? Tell us a little bit about it.
Since it’s October, it’s only natural to point out my paranormal romance, Almost Magic, a fun story to write, and a perfect quick read enjoy as you contemplate how to steal the Butterfingers from your kids’ Halloween loot. Almost Magic is available in ebook format.
When it came to Vivian Burroughs’ unique connection with nature, her grandmother always said, ‘Mediocrity may not burn as bright as a firecracker, but it seldom blows up in your face’. But, the old woman never advised her on what to do when a sexy new neighbor stokes the flames of attraction within.
Jack Riley, a still-grieving widower, relocates from the big city to small-town Essex Woods with his young daughter, Elizabeth. His introduction to Vivian leaves him enchanted, but rumors regarding her abilities soon come to light. Is the local beauty a witch, or merely the product of an eccentric upbringing by her mother Fred, and Aunt Lil, identical twins with a penchant for mischief?
The mystery surrounding the woman intrigues him, considering the complexities of raising the precocious Elizabeth, a child with frighteningly accurate intuitiveness. As he reluctantly draws closer to Vivian, he also discovers how deep his daughter’s gifts run. Can Jack accept the truth about his own flesh and blood, as well as a second chance at love?
Q: Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?
Vivian strolled down her street, reveling in the warmth of the sunny June day after a long week of rain and gloom. “Morning, Mrs. Andrews,” she called.
“Good morning, Miss Burroughs.” The older woman grunted as she stooped to pick the morning paper from her driveway. “Dumb paperboy can’t just toss it on the porch, can he?”
Vivian laughed. “Would any of us know what to do, if our paper was ever where it should be?”
“I guess not.” Mrs. Wagner waved the paper at Vivian. “Enjoy your day, Vivian.”
“I intend to.” Vivian continued on. As she crested a gentle hill, she stopped surprised by a flurry of activity at the old Wentz cottage. Piles of boxes sat outside the garage, and a small crew of movers scurried around a small truck parked in the driveway.
She approached the property, but slowed her pace when a silver Honda pulled up alongside the curb, and a man and a young child emerged. The little girl was a blur of white-blonde curls as she bounded from the car and ran straight for the silver maple, its low branches stretching over the yard.
Oh, the girl with the petals.
The air around the girl shimmered with her energy, and Vivian smiled as she recalled her first glimpse of her during the May Day Celebration. An aura like hers was not easy to forget. Auntie Lil was right. You did need sunglasses to be in her presence.
The little girl hauled herself onto the lowest tree branch, despite her frilly dress and patent leather shoes. In seconds, she disappeared into the green cover of leaves.
“Elizabeth, if you fall out of that tree and scrape yourself up, you’ll bleed all over your dress and won’t have anything nice to wear to your…appointment,” the man shouted as he walked toward the edge of the property.
Vivian laughed out loud, covering her mouth when the man glanced her way with a raised eyebrow.
“She’s in this fairy princess stage,” he said with a sheepish lift of his shoulders. “I’m glad she’s getting some mileage out of that dress. She was in a friend’s wedding last December, and she’s already outgrowing it. She wears this get-up on days she announces there’s an important fairy meeting to attend.”
Vivian nodded, as if the explanation made perfect sense. “Fairies are quite insistent upon formal dress for their meetings. The consequences for casual attire are severe.”
The man grinned and took a step forward. “I’m Jack. Jack Riley.”
“Nice to meet you, Jack Riley.” Vivian took his extended hand and smiled at his firm handshake. “I’m Vivian. I live down the street.” She pointed in the direction of her own home. “I assume I should be welcoming you to the neighborhood?”
“Signs point to yes.”
Vivian’s breath hitched in her chest as her eyes slid over Mr. Riley’s frame. He was tall with red hair and wore wrinkled khakis and a light blue shirt, with the top two buttons open and the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Sunlight glinted off the golden hair of his strong forearms. Her eyes lingered on his broad shoulders, and came to rest on the dusting of pale freckles on his forehead. She was such a sucker for the boy next door look, especially when it really was the boy next door.
The heat of a flush crept up her neck when she realized his awareness of her inspection. When she dared to make eye contact once again, admiring the brilliant shade of green, she realized his eyebrow was arched again and a bemused smirk played on his lips.
“Everything all right?” he asked.
Oh, boy. Busted. Vivian made a sound of assent and her eyes lingered on his short, copper hair. “I was just thinking there’s something familiar about you. Were you at the May Day Celebration last month?”
“Ah, yes.” Jack gazed at the tree. “The catalyst for all this chaos. My daughter fell in love with this town after the shindig.” One foot dangling below the canopy of leaves was the only evidence that his daughter was still somewhere in the branches. “Elizabeth, I’m warning you. Don’t go any higher. Not in those shoes. You’ll break your.…”
“Are you okay?” Vivian asked when his face turned ashen.
Jack shook his head and squeezed his eyes shut. “I almost said something pretty stupid.”
“Oh.” Vivian frowned. What could be so stupid, and why did he look so stricken? There was sadness in his eyes that tugged at her heartstrings. She opened her mouth to ask for more details, but realized he might perceive her questions as being too nosy. She hazarded a peek at his left hand—he wore no wedding ring.
“Is there a Mrs. Riley?” she blurted out. Uh oh.Dumb question.
Jack flinched. “At one time, yes,” he said. “She…uh, she passed.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” Vivian reached out and touched his forearm, but jerked her hand away when Jack looked down at it with wide eyes. “Hey,” she said, stepping back. Her fingertips burned almost as hot as the tips of her ears. “You’re busy. I’m sorry for disturbing you. I’ll let you go.”
“No.” Jack stepped toward her, closing the distance. “I apologize.” He gestured toward the house. “This move…well, this is a huge step for Elizabeth and me. I think I’m a little overwhelmed. Big changes, after all.”
“I can empathize.” Vivian said, smiling. “You picked a great location though. Most of your neighbors will roll out the red carpet for you. If you need anything, all you have to do is knock on any door and you’ll find help.”
“Sounds terrific,” Jack said. He cleared his throat and shuffled his feet. “How about I knock on your door?” It was Vivian’s turn to quirk an eyebrow. “I mean, if I need something. A cup of sugar, directions to the grocery store.That kind of thing.”
“Of course,” Vivian exclaimed. Her voice hit a shrill pitch she didn’t know she was capable of achieving. “I live at the top of the cul-de-sac, in the blue house. The obscene amounts of flora and fauna will serve as your landmark.”
“Thanks.” Jack ducked his head, and she was pleased by the flush that reddened his cheeks. “You have a good day, Vivian.”
“You too, Jack.” She began to walk away but paused when Elizabeth dropped from the tree and waved.
“Goodbye, Vivian,” the girl shouted.
She glanced at Jack, who wore a confused frown on his face.
“How the heck did she know your name?” he asked. “She couldn’t have overheard us all the way over here.”
“Guess she did,” Vivian said, her lips curving upward as she waved back to Elizabeth. The brilliant aura she possessed might not be the only special thing about the girl.
Maybe she just knew.
Q: Where can readers read more about your books?
My website is at www.jmkelleywrites.com, which is an easy launch-pad for anything having to do with me and my writing. All my social networking links are there (and I’d love for you all to join me on Facebook and Twitter), and, of course, book blurbs and purchase links are available as well.