AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: MORGAN KELLY
Avon author Morgan Kelly has stopped by so the bunnies of JR can interrogate (oops interview) her…
Tell us a little about Midnight In Your Arms?
It’s a Halloween time-travel love story set both in 1926 and 1866. The premise of the story is that Laura Dearborn, a former WWI Frontline nurse who is also a psychic medium earning her living reading palms and conducting séances in 1920s London, inherits a house that has always haunted her dreams—a house she didn’t know was actually real. The even stranger thing is that the house was left to her in the will of a man who died 30 years before she was even born. So she goes to Stonecross Hall to investigate, and ends up falling in love with the apparition of Alaric Storm, the man who left the house to her! Only he might not really be a ghost. He might actually be able to hold Laura in his arms on Halloween Night. She might be able to stay with him forever, if only she can work out how. It’s very much a Gothic, ghostly love story that has a twist of its own.
What inspired you to write Midnight In Your Arms?
I have always loved eerie, moody 19th century novels like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights—they have been my strongest influences in romance writing, along with Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier, and more modern approaches to the Gothic aesthetic, such as The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. I wrote it because I want more books with that signature eerie, spine-tingly storyline that seems like a ghost story, but might not be. I like the subtly of being scared when I might not have any reason to be. It creates more fear and fascination for me than a straight-up, in-your-face paranormal. Though I love those, too
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
I usually start out with a specific premise that I hope will grab readers, and then the characters come to me. I then write some preliminary chapters just to get a “feel” for the characters and the tone of the story. I really do fly by the seat of my pants much more than I think I should—so I am learning how important plotting a story is.
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
No, I didn’t always write romance. Well. I did. I wrote what I now realize was a lot of romance when I was a kid, and loved to come up with dramatic plots and fatal love matches. But when I grew up, I wrote what I guess would be called literary fiction, and that’s what I’ve published up to now. But I always wanted to write historical fiction. I’ve tried my hand at it several times, and have a trio of unpublished romances that I hope I will turn into more polished novels. As I mentioned before, I was inspired to write romance because of certain novels I read and loved in my formative years, and also because of my passion for history and BBC costume dramas. Romances are delightful fantasies, both for readers and writers—I write them for the pleasure I hope I will give as well as the pleasure I feel when I write them.
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
I hope it’s not facetious to say that my favorite character is the one I’m writing at the moment! I think it needs to be that way, to give a character the proper devotion and fine-tuned detail that makes them truly come to life. If they don’t seem real enough to fool me into thinking they are actually alive, they aren’t going to live for the reader, either.
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
I struggle to get all of my characters right, to be honest. That’s the hardest part—trying to make each character distinct and to make sure the reader believes they are real, and that their story is real. To believe in the love the hero and heroine have for each other. It’s something that takes a great deal of fine tuning, sometimes. I don’t always feel like I’ve gotten my characters “right” until the copyedits are done! But that may well be my own insecurity.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
I definitely draw inspiration from real people, whether it’s someone I know, or perhaps a famous personality. Watching movies really inspires me in a tactile sense—and I can’t help but imbue my characters with some of the physical things that make certain actors alluring. I often give my characters personality traits and quirks of people I know, because the things we find irritating and endearing in real life are the perfect furnishings with which to flesh out a character into the third dimension. Characterization is often like playing with a paper doll, trying different things on, and taking them off again, until it’s perfect.
As far as fun stories go—I recently clandestinely named a hero after a college friend who has a particularly wonderful, romance-heroey name. I haven’t told him that I’ve named a hero after him. I wonder what he would think, if he knew!
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
Wanting to start something new before the current project is finished! I’m getting much better at that. From the time I got the call about Midnight in Your Arms being offered on by Avon, to the time when I handed in the final edit, I didn’t work on anything else, even though I had a million ideas wriggling through my brain! It took a LOT of self-discipline. And then it felt like a huge treat when I was “allowed” to begin a new project.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
Hmmm. That I’ve been a vegan for much of my life, and so is Mr. Kelly! Is that surprising, or just a really boring factoid? Ha! I can’t think of anything else.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
My frivolous love of lipstick and nail polish :^} And watching “America’s Next Top Model”.
What TV Shows are you addicted to?
“Downton Abbey”, of course! And “Game of Thrones”. And BBC “Coast”. Oh, and let’s not forget my greatest love—“Doctor Who”.
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
I need to wake up when I feel like it to a long, leisurely morning of reading other people’s stories. And then, sufficiently inspired and no longer in a grumpy mood (mornings are NOT my best time of day) I write in the afternoons, with a long evening break, and then I write into the small hours of morning. Also, I need for no one to talk to or even look at me, ha ha.! And there needs to be tea. Lots and lots of tea.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
Music is perhaps the most potent influence of my life, on par with literature. It permeates every moment. When I was a poor young university student, I spent all my spare cash, and some of my grocery money, on concerts and vinyl records, like a hipster dork. I still do the same thing now, except that I can afford groceries, too! Progress!
I think the theme song for Midnight In Your Arms would have to be “Is There a Ghost” by Band of Horses, especially the bit that goes: I could sleep, when I lived alone. Is there a ghost in my house? It so eerie and fitting.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
My hero, Alaric Storm, would be played by Gabriel Abry—who is not an actor but a model, but he would be PERFECT. And my heroine, Laura Dearborn, would be played by Eva Green.
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
I was in bed! Ha. I had just woken up. And then I called my husband at work and told him, without even getting up first.
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
Well, I was very young when my cousin and I used to swipe her mum’s Harlequins from her hiding place under the bed (where she chucked each of them after they’d been read, and she had DOZENS at a time under there) but we only ever read the juicy bits. I learned a lot about sex and sensuality from those books, but I didn’t read them in their entirety—so the more honest and accurate answer would be that I first devoured Outlander by Diana Gabaldon when I was 16, and literally refused to eat or talk to anyone until I had finished it. And then I went directly to the bookstore and immediately bought Drums of Autumn. I have never forgotten the pleasure and absorption of reading that book—it sucked me right into Jamie and Claire’s world the way Claire had been pulled through the stones into the 18th Century. That is what I love about time travel scenarios—a voracious reader already knows what it’s like to be spirited away to another time and place. A good historical romance is like time travel. You really feel and believe that you are there in that time period, and that the characters are as real as you are.
What author causes you to “go fan girl”/ squeal over/anticipate upcoming books?
I can’t pick just one—and this list is as short as I can make it: A.S Byatt, Susanna Clarke, George RR Martin, Stephen King, Philip Pullman, Michael Ondaatje, Anne Michaels, Sarah Waters, Sherry Thomas, Julie Anne Long, Lisa Kleypas, and Julia Quinn, among many others. I read A LOT!
If you still have one of those pesky non writing jobs what is it?
No, I don’t! I write full time, in a variety of genres.
Do you have a favorite movie you have seen in the last few months and/or an all-time favorite?
I recently watched and really loved “Ondine”, starring the delicious Colin Farrell. It was raw and gritty but still retained a haunting fairytale quality. I highly recommend it. For those of you who also love “The Secret of Roan Inish” and “Swept for the Sea”, especially!
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
I have several planned projects—more historical romances, and a YA trilogy about Nova Scotian witches. I’m writing another WWI era romance at the moment that has to do with a wartime governess, and it will be part of a series.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be? Sherry Thomas! Or, equally, Julie Anne Long.
How do you pick your characters names?
I prefer really plain, traditional character names, for the most part—and I keep lists of them. Usually a character’s name sort of…zaps me in the brain! And I know it’s the right one. The hero from Midnight In Your Arms has rather a dramatic name—Alaric—which is unusual for me, but I thought it was fitting enough, given the Gothic nature of the story, that an exception was in order :^]
Do you prefer the love at first sight approach or a steady growth throughout?
Both? I love it when there is an initial, explosive reaction—either of hate so strong it must turn into love or destroy the characters, or there must be an affinity so intense that makes no sense, and captivates them. And then their love must grow over the expanse of the story to the point where their initial chemistry is fully justified. I think that’s what “love at first site” really is—an initial hormonal chemistry that grows into the love that makes it seem like it was always love, and not just lust.
What is your reaction to people who say one of the following…”Oh you write romance, I thought you were a real writer”, “Romance isn’t a real writing career” or the ever popular “Oh, one of those books”.
I have several responses to questions like that.
1) The Brontes wrote romances. Shakespeare wrote romances. The first novels ever written were romances, and now we call them Classical Literature.
2) What? I can’t hear you over the sound of the royalty check hitting my mailbox. (Wishful thinking, but THEY don’t need to know that!)
3) Literary elitism is a very unattractive quality.
4) Yes, one of “those” books that outsell every other kind. Stupid me. I must be a complete idiot. I’ll go write a “real” book now and starve to death in a garret, while the rest of the romance writers in the world enjoy combined sales of 1.4 BILLION DOLLARS annually!
5) You mean the kind of book everyone is reading on the train on the way to work in the mornings stashed inside of a copy of War and Peace? Yup. One of those.
Where can readers find you?
Please visit me at one of the following places to find out about my current blog tour and all of the October and November giveaways that will be happening! If you are reading this later on, visit anyway, because I love doing giveaways for my readers at any time of the year, for no reason at all, except that I think you’re all such fantastic people
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?
The kind on a stick with coconut milk ice cream inside of it. Covered in almonds doesn’t hurt, either. Or hot in a cup, with whipped topping. Also, with a caramel center, dusted with pink Himalayan salt crystals! Mmmmm. Heaven.