Thursday, April 30, 2009

Please Welcome Suspense Author, Kelly Irvin

Kelly Irvin’s writing career in nonfiction and fiction spans the last twenty-five years. Kelly recently signed a contract with Five Star Publishing for her romantic suspense novel, A Deadly Wilderness, which will be available in hardback in January 2010.
Her mainstream suspense manuscript, “The Dead Parent Society,” finished second in the 2007 Molly Contest sponsored by the Denver Heart of Romance Chapter of Romance Writers of America, while her romantic suspense manuscript, “Mine to Avenge,” was a finalist in the 2006 American Christian Fiction Writers national Genesis Contest.

A graduate of the University of Kansas William Allen White School of Journalism, Kelly has been writing nonfiction professionally for twenty-five years. She studied for three semesters at the University of Costa Rica in San Jose, Costa Rica. As a journalist, she worked six years in the border towns of Laredo and El Paso, where she was exposed to culture and language that serves as fodder for her fiction writing. She has written hard news, features, entertainment pieces, restaurant critiques, editorials, and weekly columns. Writing awards include the Silver Star Award from the Texas Mental Health Association and numerous awards in news, feature, and editorial writing from the Texas Press Association and Texas Press Women.

The Kansas native is a member of ACFW, Sisters in Crime, and Alamo City Christian Writers.

For the last fifteen years, she has worked in public relations for the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department. Kelly has been married to photographer Tim Irvin for twenty-one years, and they have two teenagers.

ACME welcomes new Five Star author Kelly Irvin, whose first novel, Deadly Wilderness, did not come easy, despite her success as a journalist. But thanks to Kelly’s high PQ—Persistence Quotient—she didn’t give up, and as you will read below in the STORY BEHIND the making of Deadly Wilderness, it’s both a unique tale and a familiar one. Whether you are a reader, a writer, a struggling novelist, you will find Kelly’s words inspiring. It’s why ACME so wanted her to come on and tell us about her “journey” to fiction publication. We at Acme suspect we’ll be seeing more books penned by Kelly, maybe a prequel...maybe a sequel. Deadly Wilderness debuts January, 2010, but you can sample it at Kelly’s website below.

The Rocky Road to Crafting Deadly Wilderness
by Kelly Irvin

When Rob Walker asked me for a book cover for A Deadly Wilderness and I admitted I didn’t have one yet, he suggested I paint a picture in words of what I thought it should look like. That sent me off on a nostalgia trip. A few years ago when I decided I was going to write a suspense novel wherein the initial murder occurs in a San Antonio wilderness park, I took my two kids for a hike in that park. I wanted to find the exact spot where the bad guy would do the dastardly deed. I have a photo I took of my daughter ahead of me on the narrow, winding, uphill trail. She’s looking back at me, a huge grin on her beautiful face. The junipers are thick behind her, and the landscape rises up to meet a soft, sunny, baby blue Texas sky. That’s where the cover starts in my mind’s eye. Except. Except notice there’s no girl on the cover. Instead, your gaze moves from the trees toward the rocky, dark terrain because a bright red splash of something has drawn your attention. Then you realize that it’s blood on the shirt of the man reclining in the grass, his open eyes staring through the trees at that soft, sunny, baby blue Texas sky. A Deadly Wilderness is like that. It exposes the dark ugliness that lurks just below the surface of seemingly beautiful places and beautiful people.

The story behind the story? How does a public relations professional with two kids, two cats, and a bunch of fish, living in a house in the suburbs, decide to write a romantic suspense novel featuring a professional hit man and a police officer who won’t rest until he gets justice for the victims? My favorite genres are mysteries, suspense, and romantic suspense. That’s what I read so that’s what I decided to write. Having been a newspaper reporter for ten years, I had plenty of exposure to the more sordid side of life. As a sideline, I proofread trial transcripts for two U.S. District Court reporters. Over the years, those trials have included three death penalty cases, several sexual assaults of children, horrendous murders of all sorts. While not an uplifting experience in terms of my view on the human race, it has provided me with endless, intimate details of how crimes are committed and how they are solved. I try to incorporate those details in my fiction to give it an authentic, realistic feel. I may not always get it right, but I try.

That didn’t make me a good writer of fiction, however. As a reporter I wrote everyday. I figured that would translate to fiction, something I’d always wanted to write. When I turned forty-five I was finally smart enough to realize I was running out of time so I gave it a shot. I wrote my first novel in about six months. Then I set out to find a publisher. I went to a conference and discovered I knew very little about writing good fiction and even less about publishing it. Five years of workshops, conferences, critique groups, and lugging my laptop to work every day to write at six-thirty in the morning or an hour over lunch finally paid off with a contract with Five Star Gale last year. For my third novel. The first two languish in a cabinet, still close to my heart, but not quite publishable.

I learned a hard lesson, presumably one that most aspiring novelists must learn. Writing fiction requires persistence, a thick skin, and a willingness to listen and learn. Musicians don’t pick up their instruments and play perfectly the first time. Painters hone their crafts. So must writers. Some of you are saying, duh, I know, but this was a painful lesson for me. Writing fiction also requires an intense desire that screams loud enough to drown out those nay-saying voices in your head that tell you no one will ever read your work but you. Somewhere I read these encouraging words: The only writer who doesn’t get published is the one who gives up. That was my mantra for five years. It’s still my mantra.

A Deadly Wilderness grew out of the first two books, but it is the place where characters, plot, craft, and the underlying message finally came together in a story worthy of publication (If I do say so myself, of course). I had to write the first two to get to this one. Ray Johnson, the protagonist, was a bit character in the first novel. I needed a partner for my first protagonist so I created Ray. For backup. But he kept taking over the stage. In a tall Texan cowboy kind of a way. I had no intention of writing about a cowboy from East Texas. I’d never even been to East Texas. No matter how I tried to relegate him to second chair, he kept writing scenes in my head in which he had the lead. Finally, thoroughly irritated, I conceded defeat and gave him the stage.

If I’d known, I would’ve given him a cooler name. You know how all the novels now have characters with names you’ve never actually known anyone to have, but they sure sound good? My poor characters were cheated—Ray Johnson, Susana Martinez, Samuel Martinez, Deborah Smith. It’s possible that I was at the point where the nay-saying voices in my head were winning, and I suspected I might be writing for myself so I gave them names that sounded like people I might know. Just regular folks eating cornflakes for breakfast, taking the trash out, and showing up to do their jobs as public servants everyday. Until Ray goes for a hike, takes a tumble in a ravine, and lands on a body missing a ring finger. He has no way of knowing this is the homicide that could end his career—and his life. Being a seat-of-the-pants writer, neither did I until I got to the end, but that’s a story for another day.

For a sneak peek at the first chapter of A Deadly Wilderness, take a hike (just remember to stay on the trail and pick up your feet) to

And thanks ACME and Morgan and Rob and everyone at ACME for inviting me to your wonderful blog spot!

Kelly Irvin
A Deadly Wilderness, January 2010
from 5 Star Gale


Rob Wallker said...

great to get you on board, Kelly and I enjoyed your blogging for us at Acme so much!

Eileen Key said...

Kelly's writing is stellar. Her characters may have mundane names, but their lives are filled with excitement. Watch for Kelly's release in January....and her rise in the publishing world.

Great interview!

Morgan Mandel said...

Have a good time at Acme Kelly.
Morgan Mandel

Peg Brantley said...

Kelly, what a wonderful background story for your first published novel!

Your craft and PQ are both rising and I'm thrilled for you.

The combination of your background and push to get the details right, gives your fabulous suspense an air of authenticity everyone will love.

Roxanne Sherwood said...

You are an inspiration, and I can't wait to read your book, Kelly!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Kelly,

Your book sounds great! Welcome to Five Star where a lot of first novels appear from writers who are first-class. All the best,

Jacqueline Seewald
new release: THE DROWNING POOL, Five Star/Gale
THE INFERNO COLLECTION, Five Star hardcover, Wheeler large print--check them out on Amazon, B&N online, or request them as your local library!

Angel Gail Rose said...


I'm so thrilled to be reading this! You've worked so hard over the years and I am thankful that I know you and that I get to see this day! I can't wait for January :-D <3

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the supportive comments. I enjoyed the opportunity to write about my favorite topic--writing!

Susan Lohrer said...

Kelly, if I didn't already know what a great storyteller you are, this interview would definitely convince me. Can't wait till the book comes out. Huge congratulations to you! : )

Kelly Irvin said...

Oops. I seem to be technology challenged when it comes to chatting via comments. I do not wish to remain anonymous, really . . . .

B.G. Sanford said...

Kelly, it's a wonderful article, just chock full of good information. I love your work and looking forward to your new book coming out.
Being a romance writer, before I leave your site, I'd like to mention my new book, "Beth:Love Along The B.G.Sanford," and just released by Eloquent Books. It's the story of one woman who overcame all odds and two ugly divorces, to find real Love......Along The Way. It's a story that's both amazing and entertaining, that you're sure to enjoy. And if you're so inclined, it can be ordered off the internet or have you local bookstore order it for you.
Good reading friends,

Margot Justes said...

Welcome to Acme. Congratulations on your first novel.
Margot Justes

Deb Larson said...

Welcome to Acme Authors! Great blog and congrats on your novel. Stop by again soon.
DL Larson