Welcome to author Jane Kelly who took time from writing her Meg Daniels Mysteries to answer a few questions for us.

Describe your favorite writing spot or space.

If I could, I would take my laptop to a lounge chair on a porch, preferably on an island, overlooking the ocean surf. How often do I get to do that? Maybe once every two years. My second favorite spot? At a window table in a restaurant overlooking the ocean or any body of water. I get to do that a couple of times a year. But I am happy writing on a plane, a train, a ferry, or in a waiting room. Have lap, will write on laptop.

I limit my sessions to about two hours in any one spot. I like to move around. On an average day, I start at a coffee shop. After two hours, I change locations. I like to take a scenic route to location two, often a library, so I can have what I call “a think” to review what I wrote and consider what comes next. I repeat the process as long as my schedule allows. My least favorite place to write is at my desk.

What comes first for you, the plot or characters?

For the last two Meg Daniels mysteries, the idea started with an event (1964 Democratic Convention and 1968 Miss America protests). I start with one character: the victim and one plot point: the crime. From then on, it’s a matter of figuring out the people would she have met in the social community that forms around the event. These secondary characters direct the plot. I am 80% pantser so, after that, the characters are free to change course and redirect the story.

How do you select the names of your characters?

I have rules for myself. Do not name every character Katherine, Catherine, or Henry. Check how many characters have names beginning with B. I have no idea why, but I like names, first and last, that begin with B. If Betty Boyle stays, Bobby Benedetto, Barbara Barry, Benedict Bartlett, etc., have to go. But not the alliteration. A reader once told me they had trouble remembering the names of characters in books they read. I have trouble remembering the names of characters in books I write. As long as it doesn’t get ridiculous, alliteration can help.

And, I always check the Social Security Database.  But I never name a character based solely on their date of birth. Consider who raised this character, when they were born, and what heritage produced them. If someone is a Junior, a Third, or even a Fourth, I only care about the appropriateness of the name in the original generation because the next generations are getting those names whether they are popular or not.

When I wanted a name for a stodgy professor at an even stodgier college, I looked for faculty members in yearbooks. I’ve checked the list of partners at prominent law firms. And, of course, there is always serendipity. In my last book, my amateur sleuth had to come up with an alias for her sidekick. Sitting beside a table with a lamp on it, she looks out a window at Steel Pier. So he became a Lampier. Any name is acceptable as long as it doesn’t pull the reader out of the story.

Can you hear your characters talking?

I hear the characters talking in two ways.

I hear them as I am typing the words I put in their mouths. Each character has a vocabulary, an accent, and, most of all, a rhythm. I write dialog in their voices. As I get to know them better, their voices become clearer. I keep in mind their age, education, and socio-economic background. I acknowledge the level of grammar they use from atrocious to meticulous. I once had a disagreement with a line editor when a change was made from “as if” to “like.” That character would never, ever, ever (am I being emphatic enough?) ever, say “like” when “as if” was correct. Reading the word like was like hearing a painfully off-key note in a musical composition. I revise dialog until I don’t hear any bad notes. If I can’t recognize a character is talking without attribution that character is not yet fully developed.

I also hear them when they want to diverge from the path I planned. A character can go rogue and alter the plot. When they do, I listen and usually follow. The character drives the development of their personality and the plot.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Take writing more seriously. When I finished my first novel, I networked and within the week got the name of a very reputable agent. I sent my manuscript off right away. Within days, I got a call from the agent. He loved my book and started submitting it immediately. He did a great job for me and reported back that I had the best set of rejection letters he had ever seen. A couple of editors had indicated that they would be happy to read anything else I wrote.

So, what was my next step? Did I rush off to incorporate what I had learned from my rejection letters into a better novel? Did I write another book so that my agent could have taken my newest book to those willing to read future works? Did I take courses, attend seminars, or join groups to improve my writing skills?

No. I viewed my foray into publishing as a positive experience. I had a wonderful agent and great feedback. I’d tried. It was over. If I hadn’t run into my current publisher at a library event, I don’t know if I ever would have tried again. Luck is great, but, young Jane, you could have done more sooner if you had acted with intent.

Where to Find Jane Kelly & Her Books:

Website | Amazon | Facebook | Pinterest | Email

Amy Grundy: Murder Down the Hill
Vikki Walton: Death Takes a Break

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2 thoughts on “Author: Jane Kelly

  1. I know Jane from Sisters in Crime and enjoy her books so it was a special treat for me to learn something about how she writes them. Thanks for the insight.

  2. Great interview. Always nice to read about Jane and her books. I love learning more about other authors’ processes!

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