Vanessa Kelly Gives Us Advice — and FREE BOOKS!!!!

All right, children. Settle down and listen to RomanceMama now, because we are honored to welcome one of my favorite authors today. As y’all know, I will read a Regency Romance from time to time, and some of the very best of the recent crop come from Vanessa Kelly. I got to meet her, get her autograph, and declare myself fangirl #1 at the Silken Sands Conference this past March. She not only writes killer stories about rakish lords and plucky heroines, she is one of the most genuinely nice people you could meet. As evidence, I point to her spending all that time at Silken Sands answering my dumb questions about becoming an author. Patience, thy name is Vanessa.

And as further proof of what a sweetie she is, Ms. Kelly has offered not one, but two books for giveaway to random posters today. A copy of Mastering the Marquess and a copy of Sex and the Single Earl are up for grabs. I’ve read both, and if you are a winner, you are in for a treat. (And if you aren’t lucky enough to get one free, get to your bookstore immediately, cause they are must-reads!)

So without further ado, here’s our conversation with Vanessa Kelly!

Tell us about your path to publication.

Like most fiction writers, it was by a long and winding road. I spent several years in graduate school studying English literature and doing lots of non-fiction writing. After grad school, I went to work as a researcher for a large public-sector organization. I wrote many more words in that job, again all non-fiction. Not to sound corny, but I did yearn to do something more creative and I tried all kinds of different hobbies, including playing the piano and needlepoint. Of course, I was a huge romance reader, and I’d been reading and loving historical romance since I was a teenager. It came to me in a typical “Road to Damascus” moment that I should try to write what I loved reading – a Regency-set historical romance. The core idea for my first book, Mastering The Marquess, was something that came from my research in grad school, so away I went! It took me about 18 months to write the book, several months to find an agent, and only two months after that to sell the book to Kensington. Of course, along the way I completely revised the book two times, so it really wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

Is this a hot cover, or what?

What is coming up next for you?

My third Regency-set historical romance, My Favorite Countess, will be out in May 2011. It’s a continuation of the series I started in my first two books. I also have a novella coming out in February in a Kensington anthology called An Invitation To Sin. I’m really excited about that one because the other writers are Jo Beverley, Sally MacKenzie, and Kaitlin O’Reilly. My novella is called The Pleasure Of A Younger Lover. As you can guess from the title, it’s a pretty sexy story!

I also write contemporary romance with my husband, under the pen name of VK Sykes. Our first book, CaddyGirls, was released by Carina Press in July. Right now, we’re at work on a number of projects, including more books for Carina.

What was your smartest career move?

I don’t know if I can break it down into any one thing. Finding the right agent was key to taking my career to the next level. I also put a lot of effort into promoting my first two books, and I think it’s paid off to a certain extent. I’ve tried to develop a career strategy that supports my ability to write the books I want to write, and also helps me build my “brand” as an author.

What was your worst career move?

I wish I had a dramatic story, like accidentally knocking an editor down an escalator, but I’ve got nothing like that! There hasn’t been one move (so far!) that’s had a really negative impact on my career. But I do sometimes regret the amount of time I’ve spent on promotion and social media at the expense of my writing time. It’s hard to find the balance, and sometimes it feels like a necessary evil.

I guess the other thing I regret is the time I’ve spent trying to chase a particular writing trend, when my heart wasn’t really in to writing those kinds of books.

What advice would you give to a writer pursuing publication?

Work on your craft. Let me repeat that: work on your craft. Too many genre writers are so obsessed with getting published that they’re spending way too much time on blogging and trying to build a brand before their writing is at the level needed to get published. Set your goals and do the hard work you need to achieve them. There are no short-cuts. Educating yourself about the publishing business should be enough to convince anyone of the truth of that.

Thanks, Vanessa! I have to admit, being the Regency-mad reader I am, I haven’t gotten to Caddygirls yet. But the download is ready and waiting, so I know what I’m reading this weekend! And I cannot wait for the next in your Regency series – I know which of your characters I want to get what’s coming to him/her!

So post away, kids, and I will pick 2 lucky readers, each of whom will win a Vanessa Kelly book!!!!

20 Responses

  1. I think that’s fantastic advice–to work on our craft. We hear so much about promotion and marketing…but it always comes down to the writing.

    Your book sounds amazing and I can’t wait to read it! 🙂

  2. You are so right, Vanessa, when you say WORK on your craft! It is work. But it’s love of the project that keeps us unpubbeds going — as well as the goal of holding the finished project in our hands instead of just our hearts.

    I love Regency tales and the peek they give us into history. Thank you for blogging with us! Hope you know we’re truly supportive of you and not just part of the promotional business keeping you away from the keyboard! You won’t find a bunch more appreciative of your taking time to post on our anniversary blog! Best wishes in your writing career–because I see a long, productive career for you!

    Can’t wait to read SEX AND THE SINGLE EARL!

  3. Thanks for being here and inspiring us. I gotta get myself back in the groove of working on my craft. It is so much more fun to do the first draft- editing is a bear- but I’m slogging through it-

    Hope to see you again at a future Silken Sands conference.

  4. Hey, you sizzlin’ ladies! Thanks so much for having me on the blog today. No worries – this is the fun stuff! And thank you so much for all your support.

    I think we get so caught up in the mad rush of “the business” that we forget what it’s actually all about – the reader and the book. You can do the best promo in the world, but if the book is crappy no one is going to buy the next one. Ask any agent or editor what is the most effective promo, and s/he will tell you that it’s to write another great book. Of course, 5 minutes later s/he will tell you to do more promo, at which point you should count to 20 so you don’t push said editor or agent down that escalator!

    Gotta love this crazy business!

  5. Great interview! Maybe to make your promo more fun, you could make up a “worst career move” — the escalator one sounds like it could be a winner. LOL

    All of the networking and promo stuff is important–the tricky part is its such a great procrastination tool, because it’s easy to convince yourself you’re working on your career when you’re avoiding writing. (Not me. Or anyone I know. I just made that up. LOL)

  6. Donna, you are absolutely right! Promo is a fantastic procrastination tool. I make use of it frequently.

  7. Vanessa, it is always wonderful with a new book coming out from you, I do love your books!

  8. Fabulous interview and that cover is hot! Definitely drool-worthy.

  9. Thank you so much for being here today, and you have inspired me greatly.

  10. Thanks, Tessa! I’m so happy you like my books!

    And, yes, jeanette. I really scored in the cover department.

  11. gothicdweller, I’m glad you found my interview to be helpful!

  12. Very excellent advice. Thanks, Vanessa for sharing!

    I tend to agree with the issues facing many a writer out there in the blogosphere. Truth be told it’s easier to sit down and work on a blog then face the hypercritical nature of one’s self as they (me) work on a new project.

    Did I mention I adore regencies? Yeah. I do. Looking forward to checking out your work!

  13. Great interview, Vanessa. Thanks for visiting the Sizzlers and sharing so much useful info with us. I LOVE Zebra Regencies and look forward to reading Sex and the Single Earl. BTW, do authors get to meet the models? RitaVF

  14. Love, love the cover!! you are a new to me author, which I love finding. The book sounds wonderful, I will be putting it on my to buy list.

  15. Kimberly, I think that’s a very perceptive point. Our own fears can really hold us back from success. Have you ever read Bob Mayer? He has written several wonderful books on how to conquer our fears as writers and move into what he calls our “courage zone.”

  16. Rita, aren’t the Zebra Regencies great? In fact, I love all the Zebra historicals! Thanks for supporting us! Sadly, we do not get to meet the models on our covers.

    Martha, thanks for stopping by!

  17. That cover is all sorts of amazing! I love your advice about working on your craft, and not to chase the market. Those words are too true: if you don’t write what you love, we (readers) can tell.

  18. Julie, absolutely true. If you chase the market you’ll always be running behind. You have to write the kind of book that you want to read.

  19. Hi! Great advice for all careers: practice, practice, practice.

    I’m going to get around to reading “Caddygirls” one of these days (I love “Mastering the Marquess” and “Sex and the Single Earl”) and I’ll be sure to look for “My Favorite Countess” when it comes out.

  20. Ok, here are the lucky winners!!!!

    Martha Lawson — Mastering the Marquess

    Kimberly Loomis — Sex and the Single Eart

    Send your snail mail addresses to me at

    and I will get with Vanessa and have your books sent!!!

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