Interviewed by Nancy Northcott
Kathleen O’Reilly joins us in the lair today. Kathleen is the author of thirteen books and of four novellas for anthologies. Her newest anthology release, A Blazing Little Christmas, hit the shelves Dec. 1 (and is currently #71 on Bookscan!). Also, she has a new Blaze trilogy for 2008, Those Sexy O’Sullivans, that will be hitting the shelves in March, April, and May. The first book is Shaken and Stirred.
Welcome to the lair, Kathleen! You’ve had an eclectic career. You started with a Regency historical before moving to Temptation, and you’ve written several paranormal novellas for the “Hell” anthologies with Dee Davis and Julie Kenner as well as two very different books with chick lit overtones, Looking for Mr. Goodbunny and The Diva’s Guide to Selling Your Soul. What led you to branch out in so many different directions?
I get a lot of ideas in a lot of different directions, anything that catches my eye and fascinates my mind, so it’s been eclectic. I am trying to settle down, though, and focus. Eclectic is fun, but it’s not the smartest way to grown an audience, which is what I’m trying to do now.
You have the dubious honor of having been maligned by Maureen Dowd for Looking for Mr. Goodbunny. How did you feel about that?
I love Maureen Dowd, still read her columns, and someday will probably make her a romance novel heroine, because she is the quintessential romance novel heroine. Strong, classy, and somewhat bitter on the male sex, yet you know that secretly she still dreams about finding Mr. Right, because she has that vulnerability about her. But, back to her your question, I thought it was pretty cool to be able to call my parents, and say, “Hey Mom and Dad. Guess what? My book is in the New York Times today!” Not many people can say that.
The Diva’s Guide to Selling Your Soul is sort of chick lit taking a walk on the dark side. What inspired you to take that twist?
That book was therapy for me. We had just moved from Texas to New York and I was both scared and amazed at how skinny people are in New York. And fashion! Man, they dress so well! I could never compete, so I secretly imagined that all of them had made a pact with the devil. It soothed me in the most sanctimonious way. After a while, I had convinced myself that it was absolute truth, so I wrote a book about it.
Do you plan any more such books?
Probably not. I feel much more accepting of myself now. :-)
How would you describe your Blazes?
I like to write about very real characters with steamy humor and heart. I want to write about ordinary people doing extraordinary things and falling in love along the way. I’m a complete romantic, so I do believe love makes people stronger, and gives them faith to do things they wouldn’t normally have the strength to go. In a lot of people’s realities, that’s actually true.
A Blazing Little Christmas is written by myself, Jacquie D’Allessandro, and Joanne Rock. It’s set in Lake Placid, NY at a lodge, run by Mr. and Mrs. “Kraus” who are very mystical matchmakers. My story is about a woman who receives a present from Santa Claus – a few days at the lodge. When she goes there, she’s just lost her job, and has high hopes for meeting Mr. A+ on her eligibility scale, but instead of hooking up with Mr. A+, she ends up having a fling with a mysterious high school crush from the wrong side of the tracks who she always had felt drawn to. In the end, they heal each other. If you like Christmas stories, I highly recommend our anthology (and not just because I’m in it). I like Christmas a lot.
Do you have a guiding philosophy in your writing?
Yeah, be true to your characters. Don’t make them lie to the reader and do things to merely move along a plot. I love my characters, all of them. They stay in my head and heart for years -- like my best friends.
You and Julie Kenner and Dee Davis do a program on critiquing. What advice would you give to new writers seeking critique partners?
Don’t settle. We’ve been really lucky because our group has grown and matured and we can tell each other things now that we could have never said when we were first starting out. That kind of support is invaluable. If you’re looking for a partner, make sure you enjoy the other person’s writing, and don’t aim for blood the first time you critique their stuff. People are sensitive and will need to be able to trust your judgment before they will listen to a critique, and visa versa, so go slow and be patient. If it clicks, great. If not, run. Run fast.
What general advice would you give to aspiring writers? If you want to talk about your Russian book, this would be a good place.
ROFL. My first manuscript was a historical set in Russia. I got great rejection letters, and a lot of them said, “Uh, we can’t publish a book set in Russia.” Okay, actually, these days, you could probably get away with setting a book in Russia, publishers are really broadening their horizons at the moment, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. Honestly, I think my best advice is to finish the manuscript. So many people write a few chapters, polish those chapters until they glisten like a diamond, but you have to complete the book if you ever want to sell it. Chapter 1 is very important, but you need Chapter 2 as well.
How do you recharge your writing batteries as you work on a manuscript?
When I know I’m getting burned out, I take a break. Either climbing on the elliptical and watching DVD’s, or climbing into the bath and reading a new romance. I still read romance. All sorts. Harlequins, historicals, paranormals, and contemporaries.
Any strategies for staying sane during the holidays?
Sanity is overrated. Don’t even try.
Our readers might like to know you're giving away one copy of your Red Choo Diaries trilogy. In the vein of further giveaways, any recipes you’d like to share?
Oh, I have a great recipe for divinity. We love divinity. My body adores divinity and cleaves to it, like… well, it just really sticks to my body for many weeks after Christmas. Here’s my recipe:
• 2 2/3 cups white sugar
• 2/3 cup light corn syrup
• 1/2 cup water
• 2 egg whites
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1. Cook sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 2-quart pot over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. (On humid days, use 1 tablespoon less water.) Cook, without stirring, to 260 degrees on candy thermometer (or hard ball stage).
2. Beat egg whites in 1-1/2-quart bowl until stiff peaks form. Continue to beat while pouring hot syrup in a thin stream into egg whites. Add vanilla; beat until mixture holds its shape and becomes slightly dull. (Mixture may become too stiff for electric mixer). Fold in nuts (if you choose).
3. Drop from buttered spoon onto waxed paper. Let stand at room temperature, turning candy over once, until outside of candy is firm--at least 12 hours. Store in airtight container.
Sounds yummy! Thanks for joining our holiday bash, Kathleen. For more information about Kathleen and her books, check out her website, www.kathleenoreilly.com.