Interview with Kelley

you see my review of Kelley’s book? Do you want to get a copy? Just follow her!
on BookBub: Death by Diploma on BookBub
When did you
realize that you wanted to become a writer?
I am book obsessed—have been since I
was three years old. It has always seemed like such a natural progression, from
being obsessed with reading stories to want to dissect them and want to create
some of my own. New obsession!
Is being an
Author all you dreamed of, or did it just happen?
I feel like my life all around just
happened, just keeps happening, and yes it is all I ever dreamed of. I work hard
to keep it happening, though. I mean, once it starts. If that even makes sense.
What was the
very first thing you ever wrote?
 I used to be really into writing
the captions for my high school yearbook, but I didn’t get really into fiction
writing until I had a Creative Writing class in college. The professor, Charles
Clerc, liked this SciFi story I wrote and even wanted me to enter it in an L.
Ron Hubbard Science Fiction short story contest! I didn’t win the contest, but
by then it was too late—I’d caught the bug!
What was the
inspiration for your book? 
My father was a voracious reader and a
lifetime learner, who by the age of 32 hadn’t figured out what to do with his
hundreds of college credits that had never turned into any kind of degree. He
asked my mother, who was his girlfriend at the time, what he oughta do with his
life. She said, ‘Well, how many books do you have?’ He said, ‘I dunno…five
thousand?’ ‘Why don’t you open a store?’ was her response.
So he did—in 1966 he opened one of the
first used bookstores (I call him the ‘inventor’ of the used bookstore.) He ran
the bookstore for 40 years and always forwent some of his sales to bring his
favorite books home to my mother, my sister and me. No question about it, the
mysteries, thrillers and spy games were his favorites, and consequently became
One time he brought me a book from his
new favorite series—Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar books. I think it was Drop
Shot. I resisted this series for a while because Myron is a failed professional
basketball player and sports agent, and I don’t like sports and considered
myself too artsy to care. I’m now married to a baseball coach and have two
sports-obsessed sons, so you can take that irony all the way to the corner of
your office and have a big laugh over it. I certainly did. 
Anyway, I finally read the book, and I
was hooked. I couldn’t figure out the ending right away, I loved Myron and Win,
it was suspenseful and fun and I laughed all the way through it. I loved it!
And I wanted to do it! I immediately wanted to tell a story that did all those
things. So I emailed Harlan. I emailed Harlan, told him how much I loved his
book and how much I wanted to write one. Believe it or not, he wrote me right
back! His advice was to “just do it” and he gave me the title of Anne Lamott’s
fantastic book on writing Bird by Bird. 
So I did. I mean, it’s not like I sat
down the next day and then three months later I had a book, but I didn’t have
an outline or a story board, or anything like that. I had the main characters
vis-à-vis my life and the failed screenplay, and I knew who got killed and
basically why he was killed and who killed him, but the rest happened in the
story as it appeared.
 I’ve heard this makes me a
‘Pantser.’ Pantzer? Someone who writes stories in a basically disorganized way
but eventually a story comes out. The other type of writer is called a
‘Plotter’, and in a lot of ways I’m jealous of this type of writer, in the same
way I’m jealous of all the Supermoms at my sons’ elementary school—the ones who
are the room moms for each of their always-three-or-more-children and who make
sure the house is clean before the maid arrives. I’m envious of that level of
organization: I bought a beautiful pink three-ring binder, complete with
pockets for each of my characters, with the intention of filling the pages with
information on each character, journals from each POV, and the pockets with
pictures from magazines representing setting, characters or story ideas. The
binder is still sitting, empty and pristine, next to my printer. So there you
I guess to put it all together, I got
the idea for Death by Diploma from my job, a failed screenplay, Myron Bolitar,
and my dad. Whew. Maybe I should take Stephen King’s standard answer, and just
say, “I bought it at a little idea shop in Utica.”
Who is your
literary hero? 
Can I just make a list? J William Shakespeare, John Steinbeck.
Harper Lee, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Madeline L’Engle, Beverly Cleary.
Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Harlan Coben, Lee Child, Lois Duncan, Jonathan
Kellerman, Peter Heller, e.e. cummings, A.A. Milne. C.S. Lewis. Stephen Tyler,
Steve Perry, Chris Stapleton, Steve Martin, Louis C.K., yes and I know some of
those are songwriters and some are comedians, but they’re all writers and great
ones in my opinion. I guess anyone who will put themselves out there, make
themselves vulnerable to the masses and always be wanting to learn and improve,
those are all my heroes.
How much of
your characters are based on your traits or someone you know personally?
All my characters, even the evil ones,
have components of me and everyone I’ve ever come into contact with. No one is
safe—I’m just sayin’.
Describe your
main character in six words.  
Soft-hearted. Gentle. Unsure. Delicate.
Yearning. Surprising.
Describe the
world you’ve created in six words
Mountainous. Foresty. Granola.
Small-town.  Beautiful. Cheerful.
What scene
was your favorite to write?
 Anything where Emma and Leslie
are verbally sparring or joking with each other. The scene in the basement when
they are listing adjectives to describe Edward Dixon is one of my favorites.
What scene
was the hardest for you to write?
 Any scene where a dead body is
discovered is hard for me, because I’ve never actually seen a murder victim,
and I want to get it right, while still keeping it true to the ‘cozy’
What are you
working on now? 
I am working on Book #2 of The Chalkboard
Outlines® cozy series. I also have a narrative nonfiction book I’m working on
called The A or B Principle—it’s this weird hybrid genre of medical memoir,
humor and life improvement.
Accomplishments? Improvements?
 I was diagnosed with Multiple
Sclerosis in 1994, just halfway through my second year of teaching. I’ve now
been dealing with that disease almost half my life, and it has both challenged
and uplifted me, as chronic illness often does. My first doors to publication
were opened due to the disease, when I was a local speaker at an MS Luncheon
which was keynoted by Jackie Waldman. She wrote an inspirational series called
The Courage to Give, so she asked me to write a story then featured in Teachers
With the Courage to Give. 
This publication led me to be featured
in three other non-fiction pieces, including a Simon and Schuster series by Kay
Allenbaugh called Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul. I feel dealing with this
illness has made me a better person and consequently a better writer. I was raised
in a seriously functional family, with parents who had emotionally (if not
financially) spoiled daughters, AKA me. We didn’t lose family members, no one
had a drug problem, people said ‘I love you’.
 I don’t know if I had much
compassion or empathy, though, with all this hunkydoriness. All the
aforementioned reading also sparked my imagination plus a genetic tendency
toward being a worrywart, and I felt all the good fortune couldn’t last. I
wasted a lot of time waiting for the other shoe to drop, and when it did, in
the form of a terrifying and unpredictable disease which didn’t kill me, and
yes I’m going there—made me stronger, some of those missing ingredients fell
into place. I think I am much more dialed in to this world than I was before I
was diagnosed, and the increased information and perspective has made me (is
making me) a better writer and human. Most of the time. I’m always workin’ on
it, anyway.
there any authors or books you recommend? 
I just finished three really good book
club books, all totally different and I absolutely recommend them all: The
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled
Hosseini, and The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
What’s your
favorite thing to do when you’re not writing? 
Reading, of course. J I love hanging out with my two little
boys and my husband and I love concerts and plays and musicals and ballroom
dancing. Oh, and he loves baseball games, but he mostly does those with my


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s