Author Interview: Jennifer L. Kelly

I have an exciting interview for you today with the wonderful Jennifer L. Kelly. She’s here to talk about her upcoming title, The Earth Key (The Elementals Book 2), and some of her adventures in self-publishing. I’ll be posting my review later this week so keep an eye out for that!

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1. How/when did you come up with idea for this series? Where did you get the idea for Ka’s tattoo?
I came up with the idea for this series from a photo I saw on Pinterest. It was a man standing in a rom looking out at four portals of different worlds each a different color. I wrote book one for NaNoWriMo and it kind of grew from there. I still have the photo on my Pinterest. The idea for Ka’s tattoo came from Pinterest as well (I draw a lot of inspiration from images and music). It was an Elemental Star, but not with the elements that I needed, so I drew my own version and it looked too hand-drawn. I sent my drawing to a graphic designer I followed on social media and he exceeded my expectations with his version of it. The reason Ka got a tattoo in the first place (in case you’re wondering) is because I have about 10 tattoos and many of them marked a change or event in my life, and I felt it was appropriate for Ka to do that and what better place than the Black Bazaar?

2. What is your typical writing process? Did you always know what was going to happen throughout the series?
Uh….:) I don’t really have a process besides listening to music and writing at night preferably. When starting a book I usually have ideas floating around in my head and then I just write with no planning and see what happens. With a series, it’s a little bit different since I have to complete plot arcs by the end of the series, so I eventually need to have an idea of what’s going to happen. But sometimes I surprise myself, so to answer your second question, no I often don’t know what’s going to happen. I feel like the characters take on a life of their own, and I can try and nudge them in a certain direction, but usually they surprise me. In retrospect, I’ll look back and be like: Oh, you were building up to that, you little stinker, and I hadn’t even noticed! Characters are funny like that.

3. In The Earth Key, you really start to explore the mythology behind the Impossible Girl, particularly through the relationship between Ka and her mother. What made you decide to use that relationship as the focus?

In psychology, they say some people have “daddy issues”, but I think I have “mommy issues.” My mom and I mostly get along, but we are very different people. I’ve just always had a complex, confusing relationship with my mother. Maybe it’s because I am an only child. But I feel like I am always trying to understand it, so it is my way of exploring it. Subconsciously, I did it in my other series too, The Lucia Chronicles, where Lucia’s mother was keeping secrets from her about her past that ended up directly influencing Lucia in the present. Also, in my women’s fiction, The Fractured Life of Jenny Mcclain, Jenny has a difficult relationship with her mother too. Maybe some day I’ll work out my issues, but until then it will probably continue to pop up.

4. Your journey to publish The Elementals wasn’t the easiest and you ultimately ended up self-publishing. If you’re willing, could expand on your journey? Additionally, what have you discovered about self-publishing that you wish you had known earlier?
It was a journey that tried my patience. After self-publishing all of my previous books, I decided to give traditional publishing a shot. I went to the Midwest Writer’s Workshop a few summers ago and signed up to pitch an editor from one of the BIg Five. You only get about 30 seconds for the whole thing, so that in itself created anxiety. But the editor asked me to send her my whole manuscript. Usually it can take up to 6 months to hear back, but I waited a year. In the meanwhile, I queried about 20 agents and mostly heard back a lot of “It’s not for me, but good luck.”

So, after about a year I followed up with the editor, kind of to let her know I still existed since I hadn’t heard anything. And I got a reply from one of her colleagues that she had switched publishing houses. I tried following up at her new house, but never heard anything back. So, in this case I didn’t take no news as good news. I decided to go ahead and self–publish and by the time Army of Fire came out it was about two years since I’d written it. That is the longest I have ever waited. I wrote The Prophecy in November 2013 and published it in January 2014. Granted, I know better now and have slowed down my process a bit.

I have learned so much about self-publishing in 3 years, but the most important things I’d wish I’d known were that 1. doing it right can be expensive 2. how to properly format the interior  and 3. you are you’re own marketing/publicist (and it is a lot of work). Eventually, some indies hire someone or if you publish with an independent press they may help you, but even in a traditional publishing process you better have a platform established and a marketing plan of some kind before you even submit. If anyone’s curious, I periodcially vlog about self-publishing on my YouTube channel.

5. If you had to, which Element would you choose?
I like to think that I’d choose Fire, but I probably wouldn’t. I’d probably be an Earth–that library! I loved studying and school (still do) and I could see myself in that environment.


6. What are 5 books that you always recommend to others?
1. The Giver by Lois Lowry (It changes every time I read it.)

2. The Time Traveler’s Wife (I refuse to see the movie and for years, I would re-read the book.)

3. All of the Harry Potter books because I feel like if you’re a reluctant reader, this is high-interest text.

4. The Raven Cycle (I only just discovered it this summer, but I am steadily tearing through all of Maggie Stiefvater’s works.I just finished her first as-yet unfinished trilogy and you can really see how her writing as changed over the years.)

5. The Wicked Lovely Series (These were my first foray into Faerie, and they were dark! But it was my first non-vampire exposure to magical realism).

I feel like there should be some classics on this list, but I’m actually not too much a fan of classics. I think analyzing them for my English major ruined some of them for me.

About The Author: Jennifer L. Kelly

1e67be_7b51ed09fc2244c782604384867315ffI am an author and full-time educational professional. I have been a middle school language arts teacher for eight years and a professor of education for four years. I have a Bachelor’s of Arts in English with a writing minor as well as a Master’s of Education with a reading endorsement.

 One of my childhood dreams was to be a published author. I partipated in NaNoWriMo 2013 with my 8th grade students and behold my dream came true. What resulted from a month long of daily writing was a 91,000 word novel! After student approval, I self-published my first book, The Prophecy: The Lucia Chronicles Book 1, in January 2014.

 Besides writing, I enjoy yoga, reading, traveling to warm and/or exotic places, taking my dog for hikes, running fun 5Ks,and watching Doctor Who. I have lived my entire life in the Cleveland, Ohio area.

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3 comments

  1. Thanks for doing this fun interview! I haven’t read this series, but am really interested in the traditional versus self-publishing question. It seems like doing self marketing is key, even if you end up at a traditional publishing house. If that’s the case, what’s the real benefit to traditional publishing if you get a lot less money on royalties?