Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Keelan Ellis – Keelan Ellis is an east coast girl for life (probably), a progressive, a lover of music and musicians, a mother of two very challenging girls, a loyal though sometimes thoughtless friend, a slacker, a dreamer and a bad influence. She likes true crime podcasts, great television and expensive craft cocktails made by hipsters in silly vests.
Thanks so much, Keelan, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Kelan Ellis: I always knew I wanted to write. I wrote a few things as a kid, including a play about civic responsibility that I wrote for a contest in second grade. I won twenty-five bucks. But mostly my writing wasn’t things I put on paper, but kept in my head. Making up stories has been the way I’ve fallen asleep since as long as I can remember. I always thought I could do it, but I didn’t start working on it as a craft until my late thirties. I don’t really know if I’m any good at it, to be honest. I don’t have any perspective on my own writing.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
KE: I write stories about people. I value both plot and character, but it’s important to me that the plot of a story serves to illustrate aspects of the characters. I don’t want to tie myself to one genre. I enjoy writing romance, but I do sometimes feel like it ties my hands. I like a happy ending too, but I don’t always want it to happen by the end of the first book. I want to write about characters who have interesting lives, full of many loves and experiences. I want them to find someone in the end—I think most of us want that for ourselves—but most people don’t fall in love only once in their whole life. There are things to be learned through falling in and out of love, and through trying and failing to make a relationship work. I want to write about that sometimes, as well as the One True Love fantasy.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
KE: The first thing I published was a novel, I’ll Still Be There. I always have a terrible time trying to describe it. It’s partly a story about two young men, best friends, who encounter some horny ghosts. It’s partly about the lives of those ghosts, who died in the late nineteen-sixties and had some interesting experiences over the course of their own relationship. It’s two love stories in one. It also highlights some of the struggles and victories that gay people have faced over the last fifty or sixty years, both the personal and the political. Early on there is a raid on an underground gay bar, and the book ends with the wedding of two men. I didn’t set out to tell that particular story, but I realized that I had the opportunity to do that during the process of writing it.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
KE: I have to let my little seedlings of ideas grow a bit in my head before I put anything to paper. Then I talk to my friend Morgan and she talks me through it, asks me questions and very often gives me ideas for what direction to take things. Then I write down a few details about the characters and make an outline that I never actually follow. Actually writing the first words is always scary to me. I have a huge fear of failure that kept me from writing for a very long time.
JSC: Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.
KE: Well, if you’ve had a few drinks with me, there’s basically nothing you won’t know. That’s probably what hardly anyone knows, now that I think about it. I’m an introvert and also pretty shy, so most of the time I play pretty close to the vest. What people don’t realize is that I have A LOT to say. I just need someone to listen and something to loosen my tongue.
JSC: Do you write more on the romance side, or the speculative fiction side? Or both? And why?
KE: I would say both, plus Other. My first two books have been about ghosts, and I also have a fairy tale to be submitted to an anthology soon. I have a dystopian novel in the planning stages—though my schedule for this year doesn’t currently have any room to write it.
I have a contemporary romance currently under review with Dreamspinner that I’m very happy with, plus two sequels to that planned. Right now, though, the thing I’m most excited about is a detective series. I’ve been working on a detective novel for the last three years. It’s actually the first novel I ever completed, but I’ve had a hard time finding a publisher. I’ve rewritten it three times. It’s not romance. The protagonist is a gay police detective, and he does have relationships throughout the course of the series, but the books don’t have HEAs and they’re not structured like romances. I may have a publisher soon, finally, and it would make me so happy. That character is like a real person to me after living with him for so long. I know people will love him if they get to know him.
JSC: What pets are currently on your keyboard, and what are their names? Pictures?
KE: My dog Penny woke me up early this morning to go out and pee, so she’s sitting close by. Normally I have my coffee in bed while I write for an hour before my kids get up, and my feisty little girl cat, Begbie, sits on my husband’s pillow. There’s also Edison, who was a feral kitten we rescued from a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, and who is now a big fat fluffball who loves to sit on our laps and make our legs fall asleep. Over the summer we lost the sweetest cat ever. His name was Lloyd and we got him before we were married, in our first apartment together. He was seventeen.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
KE: I used to be a pantser, but I discovered that being a plotter helps me get past blocks faster. So now I’m a very rough plotter, I guess. I make an outline but I’m constantly revising it as my characters continue to do whatever they please.
JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?
KE: It would be Writers Week. You heard me—a week. All writers would get an entire week where they’re not required to attend to any responsibilities whatsoever, or even get dressed if they don’t feel like it.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
KE: I made a schedule for myself this year! I have never done that. As far as life goes, I have always been a proud pantser, but this year I’ve decided to be a plotter (subject to my whims and whatever life throws at me). I have given myself through February to finish the Young Adult novel I’m working on. It’s basically a coming of age story, set in 1986. There’s a first love, but that’s almost incidental to me. The main relationship is between the main character, a gay sixteen-year-old boy, and his uncle, who is estranged from everyone in his family except his sister and her son. I don’t want to say too much, although there are things you might be able to guess from the setting, but I’ve been thinking about this one for a long time. I came of age in the eighties myself, so it’s been an interesting experience trying to put myself back there. I’ve been listening to lots of Smiths, Depeche Mode, New Order, etc. which has been fun. I listened to a Housemartins album yesterday and wrote 3K—it was great. There are also things about the book that are not fun to write. The eighties were shitty in a lot of ways. I hope people of all ages will read the book and I hope they like it, but it’s something I really wanted to write for kids coming of age now. As far as when you’ll see it, I have no clue. I don’t self-pub (at least, I haven’t yet) so I don’t have a ton of control over it. I hope it’s before the end of 2016!
And now for Keelan’s new book: Anywhere You Go:
Jess Early and Eli Dunn, owners of Ruth’s Haven Bed and Breakfast, love married life. Every jealousy bump and insecure thought is just another expected growing pain. But with Jess redefining his relationship with his best friend and ex-fiancée Cassie and Eli’s friend Travis staying with the guys while going through marital problems of his own, things haven’t been feeling quite right between them.
Not to forget, the home’s ghostly previous owners, Clay Bailey and Silas Denton, still reside in their former bedroom and delight in making their presence known—including invading Travis’s dreams in an attempt to help. They give Travis a vivid glimpse of their adventurous trip to Paris in the early 1960s and some insight about his marriage.
With tensions mounting, Eli’s father suffers a heart attack. Now Jess and Eli must remain strong and at the same time confront their evolving feelings. The young couple’s struggles become a lesson in the true meanings of love, loyalty and marriage.
“What do you think, anyway? That I’m a terrible person and Elijah’s some kind of glutton for punishment? I know I’m not any ray of sunshine, but I do love him. I do nice things from time to time.”
Travis’s face went blank for a second, and then he held his hands up. “No, I’m sorry. I don’t think you’re a terrible person. I just–I don’t really know you, Jess. I know Eli, and I really like him. He’s a good guy, and I feel…I don’t know, kind of responsible for him in some way.”
“Well, you’re not,” Jess said flatly. “I am. He’s my husband, remember? You’re his friend, and that’s great, everyone needs friends. And that’s why I’m being so goddamn nice and giving him the day to hang out with you. Don’t make me sorry I did, huh?” He picked up his coffee cup and went inside.
He went upstairs to shower, but before he went into his room he turned to look at the door at the end of the hall. He wanted to talk to them, but it was dangerous to go in there with Travis still in the house. If he happened to come up to get dressed it could quickly turn into a disaster. Or maybe it wouldn’t; it seemed that Clay and Silas had a little more control over their actions than they’d originally claimed, or perhaps known. Still, it wasn’t a risk he should really be taking. He started to turn the knob on his door, then stopped. If he didn’t do it now, he didn’t know when he’d get a chance. He damn sure wasn’t going to do it when his father-in-law was in the house.
That made up Jess’s mind, and he went into his room the grab the key from the nightstand drawer. He’d be quick; he only needed to ask them one thing, anyway.
He couldn’t feel them at all when he first entered, which was pretty unusual. “Hey. I only got a minute, can you talk?” he said. A few seconds passed, and Jess thought about leaving. He was nervous being in there. “Where the hell are you two?”
“Oh. Well…good. Listen, did you guys do something to Travis’s phone last night?”
There was silence, and then there were two voices in his head, talking over one another.
We just wanted to scare him.
We didn’t know it would break.
At least in our day telephones didn’t break if you just dropped them on the floor.
Why doesn’t he have one of those…what do you call it, like you have on yours?
“A case,” Jess laughed. “Yeah, I don’t know. Pride goeth before a fall, I guess.”
Is he very upset? He looked pretty upset last night. Can they fix it?
“He’s all right, just irritated. They can fix it, but this being the backwater that it is, he has to drive a few hours to get to a place that can do it. Elijah’s going with him, so I’m sure he’d thank you if he knew.”
Sorry kid. Unintended consequence.
Jess smiled. “I told him to go. I’m trying to be okay with it. I am okay with it. It’s fine.” He felt them laughing at him, so he said, “Whatever. You never felt insecure?”
We should tell you about the time we went to Paris.
“I’d love to hear it, but I need to get out of here before he comes upstairs.” He started to leave then paused. “Why’d you want to scare him, anyway? Not for me?”
He keeps getting calls from his man. He plays the messages out loud on his phone and looks sad but he never calls back.
“They’re having some problems. Maybe you should cut him some slack,” Jess said, fully aware of the irony of him giving that advice.
They didn’t reply, but the temperature in the room suddenly dropped about ten degrees.
“Okay, fine. Talk to you two drama queens later.”
Dreamspinner: Click Here
Amazon: Click Here
Keelan Ellis is an east coast girl for life (probably), a progressive, a lover of music and musicians, a mother of two very challenging girls, a loyal though sometimes thoughtless friend, a slacker, a dreamer and a bad influence. She likes true crime podcasts, great television and expensive craft cocktails made by hipsters in silly vests.