Collin Kelley is a fellow Vanilla Heart author. I've yet to read one of his books but soon will once I get my reading devices under control. As someone who took a college course on writing poetry designed to help with word choice we share a bit more than telling stories.
1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?
I am a jack of all trades, actually. By day, I'm a journalist, but I'm also a poet and novelist. In the 90s, I wrote for the stage and a couple of screenplays, so I've dabbled in all the genres.
2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?
Poetry was my first love. I started writing in high school after discovering Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Alice Walker, Sharon Olds and Whitman. Learning to write clearly and concisely in as few words as possible has helped me in every facet of my career.
3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?
'm planning to write a travel memoir about London. I've been going there for 15 years and have met a lot of characters and had some odd adventures, so I want to capture all that in a book.
4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?
I love Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Alice Walker, Jeanette Winterson, John Irving and I just finished reading Michael Cunningham's latest, By Nightfall, which is excellent.
5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing?
I grew up near Atlanta, Georgia with supportive parents. They taught me to read at a very early age, so by the time I was in first grade I'd read all the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries and was ready to move on to Judy Blume. I was reading way above my grade level, which freaked out the teachers and librarians. I started writing little stories and skits when I was in junior high. I had my first poem published in Welter in 1993. Since then, I've been published in magazines and journals around the world.
6. Which of your characters is your favorite?
In Conquering Venus, it has to be Diane Jacob. She's the cynical, sarcastic teacher who has absolutely no filter on her mouth. Writing her dialogue is fun because she's the least like me of any of the characters in the novel.
7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created?
I suppose the villain in Conquering Venus is Frederick, the young man who had an illicit affair with Irene Laureux's husband, Jean-Louis in 1968. Jean-Louis is mysteriously murdered during the student/worker riots in Paris and Irene is sure Frederick knows the answers or was directly involved.
8. What are you working on now?
I'm finished the sequel to Conquering Venus, which is called Remain in Light. All the characters are back from the first book, but I'm also trying to create a standalone story that you can pick up and enjoy without having read Conquering Venus. While Venus is literary fiction, Remain in Light is a literary thriller with plenty of intrigue, mystery, detectives and crooked cops in Paris.
9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?
Conquering Venus is my debut novel. The idea for the book came in 1995 after I helped chaperone a group of high school students on their senior trip to Paris. I was so taken by the city, the odd mix of people on the trip and the politics happening while we were there, that I wanted to create a fictional story to explore all those experiences.
10. Tell me about your latest book and how it came about. Enclose the opening of the book around 400 words.
In the summer of 1995, Parisian widow Irène Laureux is 67 years old and has been unable to leave her apartment on rue Rampon for almost 30 years due to crippling agoraphobia. When American writer Martin Paige, acting as chaperone for a group of high school students on their senior trip, checks into the hotel across the street, Irène discovers that she and the young man have logic-defying connections, including similar tattoos and unresolved mysteries about the deaths of their partners. Irène's husband, Jean-Louis, was mysteriously killed during the chaotic 1968 student/worker riots and Martin harbors a dark secret about the suicide of his lover, Peter.
Prologue: The Reflecting Hands
For here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life. – Rilke
In his dreams he can remember her name. From the shadowy first glimpses when she was peripheral, on the edge of a crowd or morphing into a friend or family member, to the day the plane lifted off from Memphis Airport bound for London and her face and body finally synchronized in mid-flight slumber. Upon waking, her image remains sharp and clear, but her name slips into the ether of his subconscious.
She is older, but stunning, like a French movie star; her mouth down-turned at the corners, dark eyes, hair long and blonde. She has a place now, too, not just random locations in unrelated dreams, but a balcony over a street. She appears, a palm raised in what seems like greeting, until she begins tracing her life line, a delicate finger circling the pad under her thumb, the mound of Venus. I don’t know what you mean, -----, he says with frustration. She smiles and rests her hands on the railing, their whiteness shocking against the black metal, and on the back of her left hand, between the thumb and index finger, is a tattoo of small interlocking crosses. He knows this marking, knows it like the back of his own hand, because in the summer of 1995 as Martin Page stares at himself in the mirror of his London hotel room, he can see the same tattoo inked into his skin – a South American symbol meaning “equal but opposite” – and her name is on the tip of his tongue.