Monday, June 29, 2009

A Few Questions for Kelley Armstrong


Kelley Armstrong is a best selling author of several series including Nadia Stafford, a hitman (hitwoman? hitperson?) with a conscience. I want to thank Kelley for dropping by to answer a few question about her latest book, Made To Be Broken, in her thriller series and some off topic stuff as well. Kelley’s readers and any writers who drop by are in for a treat.

Leave a comment for your chance to win a paperback copy of Made To Be Broken signed by Kelley and a signed copy of my book, Endo. Both will arrive in an evidence bag with a toe tag, fingerprint cards and a few ‘Crime Scene’ bandages. Check for details at the end of the interview.

Q. Aside from all of the writing you do, you have a family and with that comes demands. Are you also a professional juggler? How do you manage to be a mom, wife and bestselling author whose touring schedule has dramatically increased over the last few years?

A. I think, in some ways, I was lucky to have my first book published when I had three kids already, two under the age of two at the time, because I quickly learned how to make the most of what little free time I had. As the younger two hit school age, the extra time gave me a chance to do more. I’m finding now that I overdid it a bit, so I’m easing back!

Q. Where do you write most often? And, do you ever break from your location and go out to a coffee shop or park to write?

A. I write most often in my basement office. It’s quiet and distraction-free. I’ve learned, though, to write in other locations—on the road, it’s a must. I do enjoy the clich├ęd coffee-shop writing thing now and then. I’ve discovered that as long as no one is talking directly to me (or likely to), I can tune it out.

Q. Please give your thoughts on outlining. Do you stick hard and fast to your outline or do you massage as you write?

A. I definitely massage as I go. The first act usually matches my outline, and the second has most of the main points, but the third almost always changes a lot. These days I don’t even bother to do more than jot down the basic idea for the resolution during the outlining phase.

Q. How much and what kind of research went into writing Made to be Broken?

A. A lot more went into the first novel, Exit Strategy. For this one, it was only things specific to the plot, like adoption law in Michigan.

Q. Did you bend any writing ‘rules’ in the Nadia Stafford series?

A. I bend them so often I don’t even notice anymore! I can’t remember any specific ones for this series, though.

Q. Made To Be Broken had no prologue which was a bit of a surprise to me. However you did start this book with a (silenced) bang. How important is the first scene?

A. I went back and forth a few times on the opening to this one. The natural prologue would have been the murder of a previous victim, but that would have given away too much of the mystery. I initially started with the hitman job Nadia does with Quinn. Then I worried because that wasn’t the main plot, so I changed it, starting with Nadia and her assistant, Sammi. I had her leave for the job with Quinn, then return to find Sammi had disappeared. But that meant a very slow start, one that didn’t properly introduce Nadia as a hitman. So I reverted to the original version.

Q. You handled what could easily have turned into blatant exposition gracefully in the book. What is the trick to making necessary information seamless and non-expository?

A. If it’s necessary (and it shouldn’t be included if it isn’t) then it needs to be broken up into the smallest chunks possible and woven into the narrative. Writing pages of exposition is begging modern readers to skip pages, meaning they’ll miss something the author thought was important to the story.

Q. You write complicated female protagonists and Nadia Stafford is definitely one of them. Do you ever feel a responsibility to represent woman in fiction?

A. No. My focus is on strong and complex characters, male and female. Writing them from the female POV means that those traits are more obvious in my women, but I’ve tried to work them into the men as well.

Q. I’m always happy when a piece of information jumps out at me in a fiction novel. One of those nuggets from Made To Be Broken was that a cougar sounds like the scream of a woman. Is this information you filed away for use some time never knowing if you’d ever need it? As an author, do you feel you look at things around you differently?

A. I do file away trivia like that, and I suppose it makes me look at the world differently. I’m always hearing things that I think would make a good tidbit or twist for a book, then holding onto them until I find the right place.

Q. You made purely Canadian references in this book: Canadian Tire and Lotto 6/49 to name two. Is there a risk of alienating U.S. readers?

A. There is if it’s overdone. I make sure that the meaning is clear—Canadian Tire is identified as a store, Lotto 6/49 is obviously a lottery etc. If it comes naturally to me, as a Canadian, to use a certain reference, then I do, but I don’t go out of my way to add it for flavour.

Q. You also use brand names like Maglite instead of flashlight. Any worry that readers will see this as ‘product placement’?

A. Again, it’s a matter of quantity. If every item is identified by brand name. then it smacks of product placement. I use them only when the character would, so with Nadia, it’s for things like her equipment.

Q. How difficult is it to keep a balance between character plots and the main plot or do they rely on each other to such a degree that the equal balance is automatic?

A. They do rely on each other. That wasn’t always the case with my books, but I’ve learned to consider character development more when coming up with the plot, so the two can progress in tandem.

Q. Are the involved, intricate relationships in Nadia’s life there to help balance out her anti-heroine archetype?

A. They are. When working with an anti-hero, a writer needs to balance that "anti" part with other things. Readers want to identify with the main character, which is tougher in this type of book, so backstory and outside relationships are important. Readers don’t need to like the character, but understanding her is important.

Q. Do you ever make a personal statement in your fiction writing? Take Nadia’s feelings about Tim Hortons or how she feels about non-unionized workforces – is that her opinion only or is it tinged with Kelley Armstrong?

A. It’s Nadia, which readers sometimes have difficulty understanding. I’ve had more than my share of e-mailed complaints because of a statement a character makes. I explain that I write first-person narrative, which means it’s the character talking, not me. An author hasn’t done her job with character development if she doesn’t know what a character’s opinions would be…or if they all match her own!

Q. What is the most important thing you’ve learned about the publishing industry?

A. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m not sure what’s most important, but one bit of new knowledge that I think is important to pass on is that it’s not a closed industry. Unpublished writers like to tell themselves that they aren’t getting picked up because publishers don’t want new writers or new material. The truth is that editors are always looking for new work. They want to find new authors. The problem is getting your work to the person who falls in love with what you’ve written.

Q. What’s more difficult, getting published or continuing to be published?

A. Getting published was harder, but staying that way is tougher than I imagined. Before I was published, like most writers, my entire focus was on getting my foot in the door. I didn’t really think about what would happen after that. The next step, though, is staying published, and it’s far from a given.

Q. Was there a time when you were first published that things weren’t as you expected? Did you struggle even though you’d been published?

A. That’s always a tough question to answer because when writers complain about the hardships and stresses of the business, it sounds like whining, particularly to all the would-be authors who would love to be in our shoes. I wouldn’t trade this job for anything. I love it. Of course there are things that are tougher than I expected. Staying published, for one thing. I’m at the point where I’m not in danger of losing my career if the next book fails, but there’s still that constant pressure to do better and fear of starting to slide backward.

Q. With so many books being published all battling for diminishing shelf space, it’s easy for those starting out as writers to get discouraged. What advice can you give aspiring writers dreaming of getting published?
A. I’ll give very simple advice this time. If you want it, go for it. If you really want to write, really need to write, then no amount of rejection will stop you, and that’s exactly the tenacity that will get you published.

I want to thank Kelley for taking time to answer my questions and hope you will drop by to thank her as well.

To be eligible to win a signed copy of Kelley’s Made To Be Broken and a signed copy of my book, Endo, all you have to do is leave a comment. Come back to the blog on July 18th to see if you are the winner. This is a worldwide contest and the shipping is on me. Simple right? Remember, regardless of how many comments you leave, you can only have your name (blogger ID) entered in the contest once. Good luck.

In the meantime, swing over to Amazon and pick up a copy of Made To Be Broken and Endo.
Thanks for dropping by.

100 comments:

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading the comments and I have added this book to my TBR list. Luckily, this summer I have a lot more time to read.
JOYE
JWIsleyATaol.com

Selestial said...

Great interview! And as always, Kelley, thanks for the encouragement to those of us striving for publication :D

argray said...

That was one of the best author interviews I've read in a long, long time. Great advice, Kelley. Thank you!

Tony said...

Looking forward to the new book, Kelley! Keep 'em coming!

Becky Hooper said...

A really great interview =] Gave some wonderful insights into Kelley and how she works.
Thanks you!

Craig Faustus Buck said...

I was intrigued by Kelley's comment that she's "learned to consider character development more when coming up with the plot." The ultimate extension of this is Elmore Leonard's process of starting without plot or outline, but knowing his characters and putting them in a situation to see what happens. I'm looking forward to reading Made to be Broken.

Craig Faustus Buck

CrystalGB said...

Great interview. I learned alot about Kelley.

CrystalGB said...

Great interview. I learned alot about Kelley.

An Again said...

Cool interview and great give-away. A toe tag!

Laura T. said...

Great interview Kelley. I am a long time reader and love all your books and really appreciate all the time and effort you put in to your website.
Thank you, Laura

Scotty said...

Great interview. This series so different then the otherworld series. I'm just wondering what inspired you to change it up?

Christine Merritt said...

Thank you both for your kind and continued attention to us fans - we appreciate that you are so considerate of us!

Zita said...

Wonderful interview :-)

Kay said...

Enjoyed the interview with Kelley. Absolutely *love* Nadia along with your Otherworld characters too!

Snarky Writer said...

I adore Nadia. Devoured Exit Strategy and stalked Barnes & Noble until Made to be Broken came out, and finished it in a couple of days. Thanks for the interview and the encouragement, Kelley! :D

Danielle said...

I absolutely adore the characters you develop. Not everyone has the ability to make such great characters, of any kind! You are both very talented!

Kaelie said...

I am really looking forward to reading Made To Be Broken. I really enjoyed Exit Strategy, even though I initially started with the Elena Michaels books.

Great job!

Kaelie

Lisa Mason said...

Kelley I just love your books! I must admit I favor the Otherworld eries, though. Can't wait for Frostbitten!

Anonymous said...

Really interesting to see what a big difference there is between your new series and your otherworld series, it certainly shows what a fanastic writer you are to be so diverese!
Aisling

Everlight said...

Hey Kelley! I am a huge fan of the Women of the Otherworld series, and can't wait for the next book to come out. I'm hoping to see you at the Festival of Fear in August! :)

Sylvie

aknight8 said...

It is always great to see a concise but thorough interview, with key questions, with a wrtiter like Kelley. I love her books and can't wait to read the next few she has coming out! Thanks for posting the interview, and I loko forward to exploring your work as well.

kirayna said...

Love Kelley's work, looking forward to more :)

mitzy said...

Love all Kelley armstrong´s books she is a really good writer

californiameaghan said...

i love kelley armstrong's other series but havent read any nadia books yet. thanks for running this contest.

buff_4_angelus said...

Is it just me or is she amazing in all aspects. I met her at a book signing and she is just so nice and so funny! I loved learning a little bit more!

Joni G. said...

I am SUCH a Kelley Armstrong fan - I've read EVERYTHING so far save "The Awakening" - I'm just waiting for my niece to finish it before I get it!

Emma said...

Consider me entered! Loved Made to be Broken and would love to check out Endo.

arlington said...

Wow! I could enter the competition just for the bonus- "Both will arrive in an evidence bag with a toe tag, fingerprint cards and a few ‘Crime Scene’ bandages."
The precious books are just the bonuses. ;)

Sabrina said...

Very interesting interview, thank you! And thanks to Kelley, too! :)

Also, totally entering the contest. *g*

Kristi said...

Great interview. The questions were really thoughtful and I enjoyed reading the answers.

Jamie said...

I love Kelley and all of her books!

kathy_erb said...

Awesome interview Kelley, thanx.

Jasmine said...

Great interview. Love Kelley's books.

Dannan and The Girl said...

Great interview! I love reading these types of interviews (especially with Kelley!).

Lindsay Curry

robynl said...

wow, that was a great interview(as many have stated already). Hi to a fellow Canadian. I haven't read any of your books and don't know as I've heard of you before(shame on me) but plan on rectifying that soon.
I love the 'evidence bag' part that contains the books as well as other items.

Anonymous said...

Love the interview! I can't wait to read both books :D

Amber
amberg_20@hotmail.com

Helen said...

Wonderful interview! It's always interesting to hear about the process of creating the books that we love.

Kathy said...

Great Interview! I can't wait to read this book!

Jessica said...

Great interview! Love Kelley's books.

hannah_lydia said...

I am looking forward to reading both books. Great interview, with some fabulous advice.

cait045 said...

I can't wait to read the new book...I have loved everything else Kelley has written

Anonymous said...

Kelley's interview was great. Thanks for all the tips!
=)
Mindy
minder_bug@hotmail.com

Jess said...

Great interview! I love seeing a bit more into the busy lives of people juggling a professional writer career AND managing to have a "real life" too!

Dodie said...

A great interview Kelley, as always!
It continues to amaze me that you can go from Elena's world to Nadia's world so easily. They are both excellent series, and I can't wait for more!

:0)

Jennifer Cornette said...

Fantastic interview as always Kelley!!

kim said...

Love Otherworld... just getting started on Nadia Stafford and Darkest Powers. Thank you!

Amy305 said...

I absolutely loved this book! Can't wait to see what is next for Nadia! And I love everything I have read by Kelley Armstrong, a great Canadian voice to be enjoyed by all! And thank you to Kelley for your answers and advice.

:)

donna said...

I enjoy Ms Armstrongs books. I really enjoy the Nadia Stafford series. It is rapid paced and totally enthralling.

Stacey said...

Always love to learn more about you =)

JENI said...

KELLEY'S AWESOME. SHE'D NEVER FALL OFF THE READING LISTS EVEN IF THE PUBLISHERS SUDDENLY BECAME STUPID AND CEASED TO DO THEIR JOB INTELLEGENTLY.

Georgia Bradbury said...

Heyyyy. This was a helpful interview for me as I'm an aspiring author! Also just wanted to say that I don't feel alienated by her books even though she uses Canadian terms and American terms or whatever and I'm English. I just think Kelley Armstrong is awesome she's my favourite author and is one of my biggest inspirations!

Georgia xx

Email:- guitatzrock@hotmail.co.uk

Georgia Bradbury said...

Well actually my email is guitarzrock@hotmail.co.uk
The other one was wrong lol. xx

Diane Girard said...

A very perceptive interview. The responses are encouraging and realistic too. Thanks.
Diane Girard

lingeorge said...

I absolutely LOVE the Nadia Stafford character! The books grabbed me, sucked me in and would not let go until the end, which stuns me because I didn't see it coming, like most mysteries. I highly recommend these novels as well as the Women of the Otherworld series. I am looking forward to checking out Endo. Always willing to check out a new author. Yet, when I find one I really like, I grab every book of theirs I can.

lingeorge said...

I absolutely adore the Nadia Stafford character. The books grabbed me drew me in and wouldn't let me go until the very end, which always gave me something I didn't expect, unlike a lot of mysteries. I fell in love with the Women of the Otherworld first, and have read every one. I am looking forward to reading Endo, always willing to try a new author.

Jamie said...

Thanks for the interview, it was awesome! Kelley is my favorite author and it was great to learn more about her and how she writes.

elaing8 said...

great interview.I love Kelley's books.please enter me in the giveaway
thank you
elaing8(at)netscape(dot)net

Stacie Burchfield said...

I just finished reading Summoning and really enjoyed it. I am looking forward to reading Made to be Broken. Thanks for all the great books!

Aine said...

great article. i'm all caught up on kelley's books, except nadia!

Julie said...

Hey, both were good books! Looking forward to more from both authors. Great interview.

Tija said...

Great interview, Ian! As an aspiring writer it was interesting to learn that even after you get your foot in to door it's still a struggle to keep it there. And thanks for the words of encouragement, Kelley!
Looking forward to reading more from both of you!

lady00diamond@hotmail.com

Mardel said...

Hi Kelley, I've been reading all of your Women of the Otherworld books, and love them. Reading your interview, you seem like a very practical writer. I like that. Endo-the picture on your site, (is that you?)the man who's fallen with his bike, concerns me. :) what a rush though, yes?

Erica said...

great interview! kelley's one of my fav authors :)

Keri S said...

enjoyed made to be broken very much and i like the canadain references. I like that you develop your characters Excellent job both of you.

Tez Miller said...

Am glad this series is set in Canada, instead of the US. We need more Canadian fiction! :-)

Katie said...

Great interview!

iokijo said...

excellent interview..
It looks like I have a couple books to add to the Otherworld books on my shelf.
Thanks for blogging the interview.. look forward to more of your books Kelley.
ioki_jo at hotmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Kelley,

I'm sorry to have missed your booksigning in PDX. It was my daughter's birthday. I've been a big fan for a long time (Jeremy's my favorite with Derek fast becoming my second).

Your talent for creating memorable characters and stories that are intelligent and fascinating is obvious.

Thank you for all the hard work you put into your books and for making your characters and worlds so much fun to get aquainted with.

Thank you for sharing your creativty with us.

TJC

Kaylanette said...

I am addicted to the "Otherworld" series and can't wait until each book comes out. I have not read this series and am glad to have read this interview to see what other work you do and look forward to purchasing both of ya'lls books. I love the toe tag as well, Kim Harrison did that on one of her books and it it a fun idea. Thanks for the insight. I think all of us readers wish we could clone ya'll so that you could write faster. Keep them coming and thanks for publishing such awesome work.

Chris J. said...

Terrific interview Kelley and I love your books! From the first one till now you have always created a heck of a story line and I look forward to many more. My fave series is the Other world ones, though I like them all. :)
I have to agree with an earlier comment, the insight and questions rocked!
Thanks Kelley!

Teresa said...

Great interview, can't wait to read this one too. Count me in for the giveaway

Blue Voodoo said...

Great interview!

~Marra

ABarrett said...

Loved the interview... great tips and advice for aspiring authors!

I love contests!

Tyava said...

Thanks Ian for a great interview. You had some really well thought out and original questions. I appreciate being able learn something new from Kelley.

Kelley, thanks for your honest and thorough answers. All of your interviews are remarkable, but for aspiring authors this one is a must read.

Great idea to have an author interview an author!

proudhockeymama said...

Great interview Ian!! Definitely peaked my interest in Kelley's book. I LOVE the Cdn. Tire and 649references. Sounds like a must read to me!!

Anonymous said...

That was a great interview and thanks for the advice.

Kate Mobley

Andy said...

Kelley has been my favorite author for a few years and it's always neat to read her comments on what goes into her writings. Thanks!

beckernc said...

Thank you Ian and Kelley for the great interview. I keep waiting to here if there will be another Nadia Stafford book in the future. I love the Nadia and Jack characters.

Calca said...

Thanks for the interview. I love Kelley's work and Ian is new author for me, so please count me in for the books in the giveaway.
calcamanin at gmail dot com

Team Leavitt said...

Great Interview. Love all Kelley's books. thanks for the contest!

BreiaB said...

Great interview. I love getting insight into the minds of authors.

SamJ said...

Thanks for this fascinating interview!

Kristen Heyl said...

I hate to admit that I haven't read any of your books yet Kelley but you are next on my to read list for when I am on vacation this month. :)

Wendy said...

I can't wait to read this one, I love Exit Stratagy. Great interview.

BA Kehoe said...

I always enjoy interviews with my favourite authors. ^.^ I can't wait for Frostbitten and crossing my fingers for another hitwomen novel from kelley as well!

Lauren said...

Looking forward to *any* new books.

Lauren
westernrider1098AThotmail.com

Morgan_IP said...

=] That was great.

B J Stabler said...

Great interview. I always look forward to anything by Kelley.

Paula said...

I really enjoyed this interview. I love Kelley's books and have often read question/answer things that are about specific characters or stories and in this case I liked that the interview centred on her approach to writing. Very interesting and inspiring!
Could you make it a regular thing? I would love to read much more!!

orionmcm said...

Excellent interview. People are able to relate to you so easily. You're such a down to earth person Kelley. Love all your books. Have already read Made to be Broken and enjoyed every word. Thank you!

LadyVampire2u said...

Awesome interview. I always like getting to know the inside info on my favorite authors.

Wendy said...

WTG...I like the Canadian references! Great interviews.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this interview especially because it was from a writer's perspective. Or it seemed that way to me.

Insightful questions from Ian and good answers from Kelley.

Thanks,

Metz Photography said...

I really enjoyed the interview. Kelley Armstrong is one of my new favorite authors!!

Thanks!
Kelly

Joyce Peart said...

Kelley, I've read all your interviews and each one is always a little different. Something new comes out or comes out in a different way.
I don't have a clue how you can keep up the pace you do. You make me feel tired.
Finally, I don't think you could write a bad book if you tried. From the first time I picked up Industrial Magic and was hooked by the second page, you have not disappointed. You are a brilliant author, and as I like to point out to people, you're Canadian.

donnas said...

Great interview.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for the next Otherworld book to come out!

Ian O'Neill said...

And the winner is:

Selestial said...

Great interview! And as always, Kelley, thanks for the encouragement to those of us striving for publication :D


Please contact me at ioneill@cogeco.ca

Congratulations!

I want to thank everyone who read the interview and left a comment. I especially want to thank Kelley for taking time to participate and for offering a signed book. Please visit Amazon.com or Amazon.ca and pick up a copy of any of Kelley's books. While you're there, I hope you'll grab a copy of Endo as well.

Thank you. Keep reading and writing.

Cheers,
Ian

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Anonymous said...

Hi there

This post was interesting, how long did it take you to write?