(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. A.J. was written by A.J. Downey.)
“So, tell me…does this armor make me look fat?”
Kelly pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes, willing herself to take a deep breath before opening her eyes to see a full suit of armor posing before her. She narrowed her eyes. “Elf, put the armor back on its stand.”
“But does it make me look fat?” The armor struck another pose.
“In short? Yes. Now get out.”
The armor hunched its shoulders then clanked its way back to its rank, took up position there once more, and suddenly came out of the armor flew a golden being that reminded Kelly of the genie from Aladdin—just much smaller and a lot more annoying. He couldn’t make wishes come true to conjure anything out of thin air, but he could possess any inanimate objects, making them come to ‘life’ as long as he was in them. He hovered in the air and crossed his arms as he pouted. “You’re so mean!”
Kelly arched a brow at the ELF—Energy Life Form—but then she smiled as she leaned forward on the counter in her Muse Shop and braced her chin on her hands. “You know, when some calls me mean, it only gives me permission to live up to the reputation.” An evil smile slid across her face causing the ELF to pull back from her. However, Kelly then shook her head and pointed to the mirror in the back of the shop, giving Elf a stern look. “Now, back to your world.”
“But I wanna stay here! With you! Can’t I just possess…” He darted a look around the shop and landed his eyes on a chair. “That chair? I promise to be good!”
“No.” Kelly shook her head. “I don’t want to have to explain to any of my guests why a chair is suddenly moving. Now go!” She shooed him out of the front of the shop and into the mirror then allowed herself a sigh of relief as she headed back to the front just as the door chimed with a visitor entering.
Approaching the counter once more, Kelly found her guest already looking around the shop. “A.J. Downey?” She poked her head around a corner and smiled when AJ looked at her. “Hey! If you’re looking for a portion that’ll conjure some really hot dude, I hear it’s that vial on your right, on the third shelf. Not sure if it’s true though. Haven’t test it yet.” Kelly shrugged with a smile.
“No thanks, I’ve got plenty in my head and they’re all a pain in the ass for the most part. You must be Kelly?”
‘Yep!” She reached her hand out to shake A.J.’s. “Thanks for coming. You’re welcome to browse around while we talk, if you’d like. I have things to put on the shelves anyway.” As Kelly said this, she went back to the counter, picked up a box and came back to the shelves, and began putting odd trinkets in their new homes. “So,” she glanced over to AJ, “Tell me a bit about yourself, what you do, and how it all fits into you being a writer.”
Heaving her back pack a bit higher onto her shoulder A.J. looked around. “Well, I’m a security guard twice over, I pull a regular 0800-1730 shift Monday through Friday, I write full time and I do part time Maritime security work on the weekends. So you could say I have a lot of down time to think about things. I pretty much started getting bored at work and started writing as a way to pass the time.”
“And it’s a great and very productive way to pass time.” Kelly smiled, putting a snowglobe on the shelf next to a chipped teacup. Then she motioned for A.J. to follow her as she went back the counter to put some items in the display cases. “You’re welcome to sit if you’d like. Unburden yourself from that backpack. It looks heavy.” She motioned to a stool on the other side of the counter. “Sorry I don’t have anything more comfortable down here. But anyway, so beside writing to pass the time, were you writing before that? As a kid or something like that?” She lifted her brows as she then unlocked a display case and slide a jewel-encrusted dagger into place.
A.J. slid the pack off her shoulder and sat up on the stool. It did not go unnoticed that she slid her leg through one of the pack’s straps before planting a booted foot on the stool’s bottom rung securely. A few attempts at picking the pack up and setting it down got it to sit straight, but she already begun talking. “I wrote a lot in Jr. High and High School. Won a couple of awards for my short stories and poetry but nothing serious. I guess looking back on it, it gave me the dumb idea that I might actually be good enough to do something with it but probably not enough to go trad published. I started reading more. I’ve always been a reader. Wow, some of the books on kindle were rough. I knew I could do better, so I started writing with no real end goal in sight. First few books I tossed out there were meh. Then I picked up on MC romance as a genre. Holy crap did that take off! Been doing it ever since.” A.J. gave a tight little smile, uncomfortable is the word that comes to mind.
Kelly smiled at her warmly. “Yep, writing will do that once you find the right story! So what are you working on right now? What inspired it?”
“I’m way ahead of the game actually…Let’s see…” A.J. pondered a moment and let out an explosive breath, “So the SHMC series totals out at six books and a novella. Book five is going live on July 1st, book six, sometime this fall and then the next trilogy which is The Kraken MC picks up after the events in the SHMC books. I finished the first book in that trilogy, The Virtues Trilogy, a couple of months back. I then took a time out and wrote the first book in a PNR series with Ryan Kells, ‘I Am The Alpha’. It launched August 4th, and while I was working on that I also co-wrote the first book in my Angel’s Grace trilogy with author Jeffrey Cook. It went with him to WorldCon in August but won’t officially launch until later, probably fall or winter. So that leaves what I am currently writing which is the second book in The Virtues Trilogy, Marlin’s Faith.” A.J. smiled just a touch smugly.
Kelly tried to keep up with everything, but then she shook her head amazed. “You are one busy writer!! I’m not even sure where to start with all that.” She laughed. “So, pick one of those, and tell me what it’s about.”
A.J. leaned back in her seat and rocks forward, “It’s so hard to pick just one! They’re all such great stories and just about every one of them is anticipated by someone or a group of someones. You talked to Ryan Kells, right?”
“Yes, I did.” Kelly nodded and tried to recall Ryan’s and her conversation. Finally thought, she shook her head and chuckled. “I can honestly say I can’t remember what his story was about because at the end of our interview he fell down a steep hill and scared the daylights out of me!” She then laughed and looked around their surroundings and smiled. “It’s much safer here.”
A.J. raised an eyebrow, “Well that’s not helpful.” Her iPhone appeared out of her pocket and she shot off a text. “I’m just going to assume he talked about IATA and go with something else then…let’s see…Let’s talk Virtues Trilogy. It’s far enough removed from the SHMC series that I think I can get around any spoilers.”
“Yes, most definitely don’t want to give away spoilers!” Kelly nodded as she pulled up a stool and got more comfortable. “So tell me about this series.”
A.J.’s iPhone pinged, “Yep he talked IATA.” She turned off the phone and slid it into her back pocket. “So The Virtues Trilogy starts out with Hope, who walks into The Kraken MC’s club house looking for a girl who was the last person to see Hope’s sister before she disappeared almost two years prior. The girl Hope is looking for was last seen with The Kraken MC.” A.J. slid off her jacket and stuffed it into the top of her bag before continuing. “So, first thing’s first, she runs into Cutter, who obviously knows something about the girl but isn’t telling and of course, the game of cat and mouse ensues. All kinds of shenanigans. It’s fun times!”
“Sounds dangerous but fun.” Kelly smiled as she leaned in to hear more.
A.J. grinned, “Very, Hope is an ever loving badass and Cutter is as Alpha male as they get.”
Kelly laughed. “Oh yes, this sounds like it would be fun. So, this is a trilogy then?” She raised her brows.
“Right, except that like the SHMC novels, the central storyline remains a constant but each book features a different couple. Hope, Faith and Charity are the three Virtues and in this case, they are three sisters who become irrevocably entwined in the lives of the men of The Kraken MC.”
“Ahh!” Kelly nodded as she now understood, and then she smiled. “Well, that’s very interesting! Now, this question might be difficult, but of the different couples, which one is your personal favorite?”
“Depends, are we talking just The Virtues trilogy or are we talking all of the books I’ve written to date?”
Kelly paused for a second to think but then chuckled. “Okay, first just the Virtues trilogy, and then the other.” She was curious to know of both.
“Virtues, Cutter and Hope, so far but I haven’t written much of Marlin and Faith yet and Charity and Nothing haven’t had their day at all except for one pivotal scene I have planned out. As for the SHMC…” A.J. heaved a huge sigh, “God that’s hard.” She stared into space for a ridiculous amount of time before finally coming back to herself. “It has to be Reaver and Hayden. I can’t help it. Reaver is my favorite.” She looked defeated for a moment and palmed her face like she regretted saying the words out loud.
This reaction got Kelly to raise a brow. “Oh? And who exactly is Reaver?” She smiled as she asked.
“Reaver’s my boy.” A.J. grinned and opened up the back pocket of her pack, slipping out her Surface Pro 3. “This is him.” She brought up a picture and turns the tablet around for Kelly to see.
Kelly looked at the picture. “Ohh, nice!” She smirked then looked up at A.J. “And why do you like him so much? What make him so awesome?”
A.J.’s face sobered. “He gets what it’s like to be so broken inside as to be unloveable. He forges his own path and does everything his way and anyone who gets in his way… well, he,” A.J. cleared her throat, “Handles them. Without mercy, without remorse. Reaver knows what regret tastes like but it’s not exactly how you think.” A.J. looks at Kelly plaintively but doesn’t expand on that last thought.
“Sounds very intriguing.” Kelly nodded then smiled, “I can understand why you like him. So, are any of your characters inspired off real life people–maybe a mix of people you know—or did they all just start speaking in your head?”
“Hope was very much so based off the eldest daughter of my best friend. She’s snappy, witty, and sarcastic in all the best ways. Other than that, no one else immediately comes to mind.” A.J. slipped her surface back into her bag, and zipped everything up. She got up and re-shouldered it, but not to leave. She started to look around the shop but kept her hands to herself.
Kelly watched her look around at all the different trinkets of the shop. “If you find anything that really speaks to you, you may have it—free of charge. These things have no master. They know who they belong to.” She smiled when A.J. gave her a perplexed look. “But anyway, back to your story, what do you think makes your story stand out above the rest that are in the same genre? What makes it so different?”
“My characters are real. Real people with real and relatable heartache. Dealing with real issues and overcoming those issues the way real people do every day.” A.J. smiled and picked up an antique straight razor. “Reaver would like this.” She set it back down and kept looking.
“I think your books will help a lot of people going to similar troubles. You might take it deeper and darker than they have to encounter in real life, but sometimes that is necessary, so people today realize they don’t have it that bad.” Kelly rose from her seat and took a few scrolls from behind the counter and moved to put them on a high shelf. Then she turned to A.J. and smiled, “Find anything you’d like to take?”
“Oh, no thank you. I have plenty of things at home. Too many things. I like to keep things here and there that belong to my characters. My last piece is a wrist band worn by Faith in my latest WIP.” A.J. slid her pack completely onto her back.
“That is very neat! Really ties the characters into the real world.” Kelly then gestured to the store. “But if you ever change your mind or need inspiration of any kind, you’re welcome to visit. Never know what you’d find…or what will find you.”
A.J. moved around a shelf. “I have no shortage of things to do. I have eleven more books plotted, two more ‘Moon Forged’, Two more ‘Angels Grace’ and the rest MC. The last two ‘Virtues’ and five more set in the ‘Sacred Hearts’ universe but as separate books from the initial SHMC story arc.”
Kelly shook her head, amazed. “My hat goes off to you with all those projects. I have NO idea how you can do all of them. I can only manage one at a time.” But then she smiled, “Do you have any tips for people who’d like to try and multitask with stories?”
“Oh I don’t. I write one at a time straight through. It took me and Ryan 19 days to do ‘I Am The Alpha’. My record is still less than two weeks and that was for my longest book, ‘Cracked & Crushed’. It only took me 11 days to write it and it topped out at 110,000 words. I can’t write more than one story at the same time it gets to be too overwhelming. I’m doing it right now and am doing okay at it, but yeah. Even I have my limits.”
“110,000 words in 11 days???” Kelly’s eyes widened, and then she wagged her head. “Wow! No way would I even attempt to do that. That is very amazing.. Well good for you, and keep writing!”
“Keep in mind I write about 9hrs plus a day, and it isn’t uncommon for me to bust out 10k plus words a day in a story. So yeah, it’s doable to get to the end of that first draft. I know I’m kind of a freak that way. And before you ask… I don’t know where I get it or where it comes from. It’s sometimes as effortless as breathing. Then there are those books I struggle and delete half the damn thing and rewrite it.”
“That’s got to be painful—deleting half of it.” Kelly winced but then nodded. She understood the process well. “But I’m sure it’s better than before when you rewrite it!”
“‘Fractured & Formidable’ ended up being 32 chapters the first time. I got half way through ‘Damaged & Dangerous’, the next book in the series and went back and deleted everything in F&F from chapter 19 onwards and rewrote it. It was fucking brutal.” A.J. looked up sharply. “Sorry, I swear a lot. Comes with the territory.” She shrugged but doesn’t look totally apologetic more like it is a conditioned response.
Kelly didn’t bat an eye. Some people swore while others didn’t, and she accepted that. “Well, I’m glad you managed to find the troublesome part of the story, untangle the problem, and rewrite it. That’s a good lesson for us all.” But then she looked at her watch and frowned, “Hey, it’s getting really late, and I have an appointment in the story realm soon. Sorry to have to cut this short.” She looked up at A.J. apologetically. “You’re welcome to stick around though if you’d like.” She motioned to the Shop.
“Oh, hey no! Thanks so much for having me me come by. I’m actually in need of a caffeine fix and some quality time inside my own head. I’ll catch you later?”
“Sure thing!” Kelly grinned. “Anytime! You take care, okay? And keep me posted on your books!”
A.J. waved absently like she was already listening to something Kelly couldn’t hear. “Yeah sure, absolutely!” she said distractedly, her feet already carrying her towards the door.
Note: AJ Downey’s book ‘Cutter’s Hope’ is slated for release in January 2016. Follow her on social media for more updates!
If you want the easy button digest, as well as a bunch of exclusive content you can’t get anywhere else, sign up for her mailing list right here: http://eepurl.com/blLsyb