Monday, December 3, 2007

Chatting with Kathleen O'Reilly

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:

INGREDIENTS
• 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)

DIRECTIONS
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.

54 comments:

flchen1 said...

Hi, Kathleen! I love Blazes and Christmas anthologies, so I'll be looking for this one :) Thank you for the great interview and for the divinity recipe--I don't remember ever having had any, so another new treat to try! Happy Monday!

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, no, flchen, where did you come from? I was so sure that GR was mine, all mine! Anyway, congrats on the bird this morning. Maybe it was that this time I did pause to read the blog first! Clearly a bad technique!

p226 said...

Sanity is overrated.

AMEN.

Anna Campbell said...

Kathleen, don't worry about my previous post. That's my insane second personality sneaking out. I've put her to bed now. Welcome to the lair. Nancy, that was a fantastic interview. What great answers! I particularly like the one about building trust before a critiquing relationship can really work. Ain't that the truth? There are things I'll hear from someone I know has my best interests at heart that I won't from someone who is a stranger.

Love the sound of the Russian book. Would you believe I have a Hungarian book under the bed? Their day will come. Eastern Europe is the new black! Well, maybe. One day.

Congratulations on all your success. The Christmas anthology sounds great!

Can you comment a little on the different challenges of writing across all those genres? Is there one that is your favorite even if it isn't the one you're writing in now?

Anna Campbell said...

Hmm, P226, not sure I like hearing that when there's guns involved ;-)

flchen1 said...

Thanks, Anna--now that I've got it (him?), what do I do with it? ;)

doglady said...

Hey, Kathleen. Great interview. Add my Hallelujah to p226's Amen. Sanity is definitely overrated. I love what you said about being true to your characters. The first few contests I entered half the judges loved my heroine and the other half hated her. I kept getting "An eighteen year old girl would never be so sassy to a duke." several times. It bothered me until I sat down and read over what i had written. My response now is "Addy would!" I am very fortunate to have a group of CPs who are not afraid to speak their minds and whom I trust. Love the concept of your Christmas anthology! Hey, you never know - Russia and Hungary COULD be the new black. Or is that the new red? It could definitely be the new blue. I froze my butt off there. Russia in the Regency? Yikes! Do they make petticoats in thermal?

Anna Campbell said...

Um, flchen, you give him to me and tell him never to stray. That's the rules of the game. And even if those other Banditas tell you different, trust me! By the way, do you want to buy a used car?

Actually, Pam, speaking of Russia in the Regency, I always feel for the ladies who emigrated to Oz last century and wore the full Victorian regalia including horsehair petticoats. They were a tougher mob than we are today! There's photos of them in Queensland where I live - now Queensland is like Atlanta in the summer, and I speak from experience. Imagine wearing a merino gown and all the undergarments Donna described in such loving detail in Mrs. Brimley in that heat!

Jennifer Y. said...

Wonderful interview! I am really looking forward to this book! I love the Blaze books.

Oooh...divinity...a fave of mine! I might have to try this recipe!

And Anna, UGH...Atlanta in the summer...that is awful...take it from someone who knows. I can't imagine wearing the period clothing people here did long ago with the Georgia heat. Women from the past were definitely made of sterner stuff...LOL.

Sue A. said...

Kathleen and Nancy thank you for the interview!
And Kathleen I have fond memories of learning to make divinity in home ec. They taught that along with how to make pudding so we used up the whole egg.

Helen said...

Great interview Nancy and Kathleen.
You are so talented Kathleen so many different types of romance is it easy to switch from one type to another I confess historical is my favourite but I really enjoy romance love those happy ever afters.
I really enjoy chrismas stories so I will be keeping an eye out for the christmas anthology Jacquie D is one of my favourite historical authors.
Another new recipe to try at this rate I will have to make a new years resolution to diet and exercise.
Congrats flchen1 on the GR look after him for us Aussies he must need some cooler weather.
Have Fun
Helen

Helen said...

Totally agree about the clothes Anna it has been so hot and humid in Sydney the last week I wouldn't like to wear them either.
We have had storms all afternoon and it is really hunid now so I suspect more storms good night for reading.
Have Fun
Helen

Eva S said...

Hi Kathleen,
I love your historicals and it's great to find authors who can write in other genres too. I will ask Santa for this Christmas anthology with my favorite authors...
Thanks for the recipe!

Buffie said...

Hey Kathleen!! I read A Blazing Little Christmas over the weekend and absolutely loved it. Jacquie was telling me about it a couple months ago and I just knew I needed to buy it. I loved Rebecca's story. It was fun, cute, and dang on sexy!!! Makes me wonder about that guy in high school : )

I suggest that all you ladies run out and buy this anthology. All of the stories are great, sexy reads!

Kathleen, did one of you come up with the Timerline Lodge tie-in or was that the publisher?

Caren Crane said...

Hi, Kathleen, and welcome to the Lair! I have a Borders coupon burning a hole in my purse, so I will be looking for the anthology at lunch today. *g*

I think it's great that you have been able to explore so many different stories and settings. It's a shame to have to stick to one thing to grow an audience, but it certainly makes sense. I think I object because it seems so...grown up. I'm a bit of a Peter Pan that way.

Flchen1, I recommend having portraits of you and the GR taken and framing them. Hang them in your home so you can reminisce about the good times. He is a fickle bird and will, no doubt, flit off to play with someone else soon. Enjoy him while you can!

Kathleen, I have a pile of recipes waiting to be tried already this holiday season. It's beginning to look like the TBR pile. *g* The divinity is going on the pile for sure!

And Helen, never forget the Days of Mandatory Pilates coming up in January. *g*

terrio said...

I love pilates! And I really need for them to be mandatory.

Great interview. I'm always amazed at people who can cross genres so well. Did you always know you wanted to bounce around a bit or did it just turn out that way?

I'll have to pick this one up. I love Christmas and when you throw in sexy, I'm there.

Kathleen said...

Waving to all! I can't believe all this activity so early in the AM. Y'all are a busy bunch.

Flchen, thanks for looking out for it. It is a great antho and Jacquie D and Joanna are very talented ladies.

As for the divinity, it's not always for everyone, but we love it in my family.

Kathleen said...

Oh, ANNA CAMPBELL!! I am a fan! I recently finished Claiming the Courtesan (I'm very slow) and promptly went out and bought Untouched, which I loved as well. I adore those high-emotion historicals and I'm glad to see the resurgence.

Kathleen said...

Anna,
LOL about the Hungarian manuscript. I love Eastern Europe. It's big and splendid and dark and full of alpha males who torture themselves. Don't ask me why the world thinks that England is the tortured hero capitol of the world because they really haven't been to the old Soviet bloc.

As for writing across different genres, it's not that difficult for me because when I write, I hear voices in my head, like a narrator. I know some people write visually, but I write by sound. Thankfully, my narrators have accents. When I wrote my one and only historical, the narrator was Emma Thompson. When I write my contemps for HQ, the narrator is probably closest to me, and when I wrote my chick-lit books, I had a narrator that I don't know where she came from. A Jersey accent.

I love reading all genres. I don't get tied into anything, and I spent so much time reading Regency romance and Barbara Cartland's in junior high, high school, onwards that I know it like a good friend.

When I said sanity was overrated, you guys thought I was just making a joke. Ha.

Kathleen said...

Hello doglady --

When you have a character that acts out of the norm of what people expect, I think it's fairly easy to set up her character beforehand so it doesn't jump out. One scene, even another characater telling an anecdote about that character, and when the come across the duke/heroine situation, it doesn't seem strange.

Our brains like to think in terms of stereotypes, where we expect certain things and behaviors from types of people, so you have to alter your reader's neuron's the first time they hear that character's name or persona and from then on out, you're golden.

Nobody wants to read about average and accepted behavior. That's the boring stuff. Keep your sassy heroine. She'll go far (and I bet she snares that duke).

Kathleen said...

Thank you, Jennifer. I hope you enjoy it!

Kathleen said...

Sue,

I grew up on divinity in my home as well. Ahhhh.....

Kathleen said...

Hi, Buffie!

Thank you for the nice words. I confess, I love the story, too. I adored Rebecca and thought the was the perfect woman for Cory.

I actually came in late to the anthology. I had an idea for a Dear Santa story where someone answered a Santa letter to a woman who had requested a man for Christmas and then tried to seduce said woman, and my editor suggested the antho with Jacquie D and Joanne which was missing a third. The setup was already established, when I came on board, so I tweaked the idea to fit the scenario. I love cabin romances, two strangers (sorta) stuck together for a period of time.

Kathleen said...

Hello, terrio!

No, I had no plans to cross genres, but my ideas seemed to take me in a lot of different directions. I'm learning to focus now :) which I think is an excellent plan.

Although I do have this one idea that I really can't wait to write. :) As you can see, focus is a problem.

Kirsten said...

Kathleen, I'm a genre hopper as well! Though I just sold my first YA, I'm also writing steamy contemporary--each genre seems to satisfy something different, and I think jumping around actually makes you a better writer. Keeps everything fresh!

Well, I wish I could win the prize--guess I'll have to buy it instead! LOL. I love your books and am a huge fan. Actually, I'm a fan of all things Blaze. Maybe we should just have a BLAZE PARTY here at the Lair. What do you think, ladies? We've already got Tawny, and maybe we can get Jacquie D to come back...

Speaking of whom, please give Jacquie D a squeeze for all of us in the Lair. She was one of our first guest bloggers and what an amazing lady. We'd love to have her back sometime!

Anna Campbell said...

Kirsten, I love the idea of a Blaze party! Blaze girls, can we do it? In the middle of winter (well, for most of the banditas), all that heat will be SOOOO welcome.

Kathleen, thank you so much for that lovely compliment. I'm so glad you enjoyed both the blue and the green monster! Actually, I'm an aural writer too. Once I hear them talking, I'm fine and dialogue is the easiest part of writing for me. And characters literally talk to me in my hed (hmm, I hear voices - sounds a bit strange!). And ditto to growing up with Barbara Cartland. She's much maligned now but I learnt so much history from her! Perhaps we can start a trend in Eastern European romances. I remember back when settings were a bit more varied that there were a couple of wonderful books set in Russia. All that War and Peace ambience sure worked for me!

Nancy said...

flchen1--congrats on the rooster! You cannot believe a word Anna Campbell says about him, though. You see, we take turns in the bandit lair, and it's MY TURN! So you can just walk that rooster on over to ME at midnight and tell him not to stray! *g*

Jennifer Y--I've been to Atlanta in the summer. It's melting time! Have you ever seen the parade at DragonCon over Labor Day weekend? What some of those people wear, marching down Peachtree Street in the heat and the humidity, amazes me. Especially the Stormtroopers and the Klingons. The Spartans seemed to have it easy this year *g*--except for the bronze helmets!

Helen and Terrio and Kathleen--I have to make the gym mandatory for myself. Once I get in the habit, I'm good with it. It's just getting there that's the problem *sigh*.

flchen1 said...

Well, thanks for the tip, Caren--in that case, I'll be sure to keep him well occupied until our formal portrait session later today.

And Anna, I don't really need another car right now, but I am in the market for a bridge... ;)

Thanks, Helen and Nancy, he'll stay nice and cool here until midnight when I'm guessing he's just going to stroll his fickle self out of here!

And yes, a Blaze party would be FUN!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Welcome to the Lair, Kathleen. As you can see we're a chatty lot!

I must agree with you and P226 when it comes to Christmas, sanity is highly over-rated! But with the Golden Heart contest entry finished, I do find I have a bit more time to focus on the family, the holiday and READING! I must work on the TPR pile as I know I'll be getting gift cards for more books!

Your anthology sound like just what I need to get BEFORE Christmas. :) And while regency and victorian English stories are great fun to read, I honestly love historicals set in other countries and time periods...so a story set in Russia would be great!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hi, Kathleen! Welcome to our little holiday extravaganza! I loved your comment about being true to your characters, letting them live in your head & never making them lie. I think that kind of commitment to character is what takes a book from the fun read category to the read it again & again category. I like to revisit characters who feel like old friends.

I can't wait to get my hands on your Christmas anthology! Thanks for stopping by & sharing!

Susan

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Kathleen, thanks for stopping by the lair for a visit. I also love a good Blaze and yours sounds wonderful. And I have to tell you that your picture here is beautiful. So classy!

I love your comment about being true to your characters. That is something it took me a while to "get".

Jennifer Y. said...

Nancy: Yes, Atlanta in the summer is sweltering...try living there with no central A/C...yup, we don't have air conditioning in our house so we live with the heat...and fans.

Beth said...

Welcome to the lair, Kathleen! Your Blaze sounds wonderful and the perfect sexy read for this hectic time of the year *g*

I love (and totally agree with)your advice about being true to your characters - and about sanity being overrated *g* If I didn't subscribe to that theory before, having teenagers made me a believer ;-)

Thanks for the great interview, ladies!

Joan said...

Kathleen,

Welcome to the lair! Your books sound great and a great addition and sure to add cheer to the holiday season.

Jennifery, I'll lend you Demetrius to fan you this summer.

Jane said...

I like the name "Red Choo Diaries." Very clever. Do you own a pair of Choos? I wish I did.

Jennifer Y. said...

Joan, he would be much appreciated...and loved...LOL.

Maureen said...

Thanks for the great interview and recipe. Sanity is definitely overrated.

Kathleen said...

Kirsten,

Congratulations on the sale! I know you must be excited. I'm glad to hear you're a Blaze fan and I think the Blaze party is an excellent idea. Blaze Babes are very fun. I'll def give Jacquie D a squeeze. She's great.

Aunty Cindy said...

Welcome to the lair, Kathleen!
And BIG THANX for the divinity recipe.

My dear mom was not the world's greatest cook, but she made WONDERFUL divinity, once a year, at Christmas. She would usually add a little green and red food coloring to make it more festive. However, one year she spilled the green and the divinity came out, in my sister's words, "Poison green!" Nobody would eat it, except me! YUM! The entire batch all to myself and I ate with my eyes closed! :-P

AC

Kathleen said...

Nancy,

Don't remind me about the gym. Sigh. I've been very good about the elliptical, but my body is very stubborn and does not want to part with its fat, no matter how I sweat and plead.

Kathleen said...

Suzanne,

Congrats and good luck on that GH entry! I love to read over the holiday as well. I usually pick one big, long meaty, I should read this book and go through it. I'm not big on critically aclaimed "literature", but I finished Friday Night Lights one year and Lonesome Dove another, and I'm so glad that I did.

I love books that you can finish in a day, but sometimes I miss out on some really good stuff because of it.

Someday, I'll have all the time in the world to read. Not sure when, but someday....

Kathleen said...

Christie and Beth,

A book will live and die by its characters. Ask someone to talk about the myriad plots in Gone With the Wind and they'll falter, but I read that book thirty-some-odd years ago and Scarlett is still fresh in my head.

It's interesting to me that people have become so character-centric (tv, books, and movies) in a world where we have become so isolated from each other. Perhaps that's why, I don't know.

Write a great character and people remember them forever.

M. said...

i loved the description of the genesis of the diva book. it's great when writing is 'therapeutic'!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Hi Kathleen, it looks like you are going to be just like all of the guest bloggers here and add to my bankruptcy total. LOL I will be taking myself off to Borders in search of your anthology, I love Jacquie too. Anthologies is usually how I find new authors, or it was until I came to the Banditas, now everytime I read a guest blogger I end up with another new author, we are almost at the point where I will just sign my pay checks over to the bookstore. :-)

Nathalie said...

Hi Kathleen,

so many christmas anthologies!! How can I keep up if :)

I love your Blazes :)

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Kathleen! Welcome to the Lair! I'm excited about picking up your anthology. I won't be reading it till after my Jan. 15 deadline, but hey, I'll still enjoy it! :>

Sanity IS waaaaaay overrated. Just like organization. Snork.

Love the Divinity recipe. I'll be making that one. I didn't have a good one for Divinity, so now I do! Thanks!

Jennifer Y. said...

Oh, and I forgot to tell Kathleen that I loved her story in the Hell with the Ladies anthology! I still need to get its follow-up though.

Lily said...

Hi,

I also loved Hell with the Ladies... and was not aware that the Blaze imprint also had a christmas anthology going on!

Kathleen said...

Jane,

LOL. My "choos" are Lands End. :)Yes. That is sad. I'm not a shoe person. Although, I could be a purse person with the right motivation (i.e. working outside the home where people would actually see it).

jo robertson said...

Hi, Kathleen, so sorry I'm late coming to the party. Welcome to the Bandit Lair.

Your Diva's Guide book sounds delightful. I always wondered where they grew those skinny, skinny women!

And Divinity, yum! I love it, but could never make it. I'll try your recipe.

Kathleen said...

Thank you all for your nice words and good spirits. You have a wonderful group here and I'll def be back. I hope each of you have a marvelous holiday and I'll talk to Nancy about that Blaze party.

Kathleen said...

Last post. Promise.

I updated the website, and put up an excerpt from Dear Santa (my story in the anthology). Don't know why I didn't do this before.
Read it here!

ChristyJan said...

I'll be trying your divinty recipe and looking for this latest anthology ~ I love all three of these ~ sweets, antholgies and Christmas romances.

Tawny said...

Whaaah... I missed the party!!!