Monday, November 17, 2014

Author Interview - Kelly Risser

It's time for another Unofficial UtopYA author interview! Yay! I know you're all super excited to meet this next author and hear all about the awesomeness that's Kelly Risser. I first met Kelly when she sent me a sample of her work as an offer to be included in an anthology I was putting together. Holy mackerel, Batman! It grew to more than I ever could've imagined. We sat around the pool, sipping cocktails, chatting, and brainstorming. Behold, Fractured Glass was born! Pre-orders will be available in just two weeks (eek!), so keep your eyes open for that!

If you don't have tickets to the con yet, be sure and keep your eyes on the site so you can grab them when they go on sale. Enough jabbering! Let's go talk with Kelly!



Jo: Welcome to the blog, Kelly! I’m so excited to have you here I can barely stand myself. I did a ton of research on you, and I think I’ve come up with some deep questions my readers will go bananas over. Ready?

Kelly: Hi, Jo! *waves with mitten hands from Wisconsin* Wish I was hanging out in the warmer southern region of the US with you right now. I’ve loved reading your interviews of other UtopYA Con authors. I’m absolutely ready for your questions. Hit me!!

Jo: Brrrrrr. Mittens! *grin* Okay, let’s start with something light and fun before we get into the heavy stuff. Your fans and friends know about your “KellyMark” cards, but I’m dying to actually see one. Do you happen to have a little photo to share, and could you tell us about the process of making one of those cards?

Kelly: I don’t have any. Sadly, I think I made my last KellyMark in high school, and since I gave them to others, I don’t have copies. I can, however, share two other creative pieces from my youth. I made this Gizmo puppet from a paper lunch bag when I was in fourth grade, and I wrote and illustrated this children’s story, Tellevisella, when I was a junior in high school. It won a contest, and I was supposed to go to UW-Whitewater for a writing workshop, but the event was cancelled due to a snow storm. I was majorly bummed, but hey—that’s life in Wisconsin for you.

Jo: That stinks! But the art is just lovely. I adore Gizzy! How cute. You’re signed with Clean Teen Publishing (congratulations), and I’d like to know how you found them and what your application process felt like.

Kelly: I started to query for an agent and/or publisher in June, 2013. At first, I really wasn’t sure which route I wanted to go. The writer in me dreamed of signing with one of the big five houses and seeing my book EVERYWHERE, but the artist in me didn’t want to lose control of my story. I wanted say in the cover, the edits, how it was promoted—you name it. I found Clean Teen Publishing when I did a Google search on teen publishing companies. Can you believe it? It was total dumb luck! Once I researched their rating system and saw their current book listing, I knew that I wanted to sign with them. I queried them in January, 2014 and was signed with them by the end of the month. It’s been a thrill ride ever since! I love my publisher and fellow CTP authors. It’s like one big, crazy family!

Jo: That's awesome. I'm glad you got in with them, because they're the ones who hooked you up with UtopYA! I read the review over on Kirkus for your book. What prompted you to submit to them, and was it worth it? Did you like the review you got?

Kelly: Actually, Clean Teen submitted an ARC of my book to the review houses. Submitting does not mean that your book will be picked to review, so I was super thrilled when Kirkus Reviews chose to review mine. I had also been warned that Kirkus is a tough review house, so I was very pleased with the review of Never Forgotten. It is very complimentary. The only negative seemed to be that the reviewer didn’t care for the fantasy element, and that’s okay with me. Not everyone loves fantasy, but I do, which is why I write it.

Jo: Amen. Write what you want! I read that review, and hated that they didn't want mermaids. How’d that recent signing at the Library in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, go? Tell us a bit about the folks you met.

Kelly: We had a small turnout, but the YA librarian was absolutely fantastic, and now the Cedarburg Public Library has both of my books! A fun fact: Cedarburg is where Meara is living with her mom at the beginning of Never Forgotten. Meara finishes her junior year of high school there, and then they move to Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia. I chose it because I love Cedarburg. It’s a gorgeous little city with fun shops, great restaurants, and a winery. They have a strawberry festival in June and a harvest festival in September. Imagine the streets filled with colorful tents housing food vendors as well as beautiful crafts and baubles for sale. Both festivals are a blast to attend. Okay, sorry, that was a bit of a tangent, and I promise you I don’t work for the tourism department! I met some very nice people at the book signing, as well as four fabulous YA authors who are also from Wisconsin. We had a blast hanging out and getting to know each other.

Jo: I LOVE strawberry festivals! Yum! They're my favorite fruit. *grin* Sounds like a cool town to visit. Maybe in the summer? haha *shivers* Tell me how you felt when you found out Never Forgotten was chosen to be one of the Amazon Editors’ Favorite Books of the Year. What did you do to celebrate?

Kelly: Can I tell you that I almost died when I read this question? I was like…What? WHAT? and I had to go and check it out. Then I was super elated, until…*sigh*…I realized that it was a poor advertising choice on Amazon’s part and the 2014 Editors’ Pick seal was appearing on many, many book pages and did not mean the books had been chosen. They must’ve quickly realized their mistake, because the ad changed by mid-afternoon, making it clear that it was promoting the Amazon picks, not the book on the page. If I ever did get picked, I would scream from the rooftops. I can share that Never Forgotten did recently get picked as an Award-Winning Finalist in the “Fiction: Science Fiction” category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.

Jo: Well, it was there when I looked it up. Sorry to scare the crap out of you. *shamefaced* Excited about your USA BBA finalist! Congratulations! So, I think you might be one of the craftiest people I know. You also make bookmarks. Care to share a picture of one with us? What’s the process for those like?

Kelly: I find crafting to be very relaxing, and I come from several generations of handy women. My grandmother was the queen of sewing and baking. She made me an Easter dress every year with a matching bonnet and dress coat. She also made me custom Halloween costumes, my favorite being Batgirl. I have photographs of the beautiful cakes she made me, and I carry on the tradition of homemade cakes with my own kids and my nieces and nephews. My mom is also a great sewer and crafter.

The bookmarks are surprisingly easy to make, although they take a little time to put together. I usually do the assembly while watching TV with my husband. The charms I make ahead of time with tiny printouts of my book covers. They are placed in a silver frame and coated with resin. Then, I use velvet ribbon, ribbon crimps, eye pins, beads and charms to assemble the rest. I like that each one is a little unique because it’s homemade, and it’s fun to tell fans that I make them myself.


Jo: Those are flipping gorgeous! I know what you mean about coming from a long line of crafters. I have to stay OUT of Hobby Lobby. #brokegirlproblems *grin* Now for the time travel question of the interview. Since UtopYA Con 2015 is time travel themed, I’ve been asking all the authors I interview about disruption of the timeline. *grin* These questions tell me more about the authors than any others, I think. So, that being said… If you could go back and mentor your younger self, what would you endeavor to communicate that you think might have an impact on the way you are now? What do you think it would change?

Kelly: I was very insecure and shy when I was younger. I know that would surprise people who have known me my whole life, but I had tons of self-doubt. I worried constantly about what people thought of me. If I could go back, I’d tell myself that it doesn’t matter what everyone thinks of you, only what you think of you. I have wonderful friends who I have known since grade school and a very supportive family. I’d also tell myself to be thankful for what you have – you have more than most. Those words of advice would hopefully just help the younger me get to the state I am at now…hopefully a little sooner!:)

Jo: That's a wonderful message! Let's put it on t-shirts! Rapid fire question time! Syrup or honey?

Kelly: Honey

Jo: Oh, yeah! Fave fantasy novel of all time?

Kelly: You’re making me pick ONE? Not fair! I will tell you the most memorable to me, because I truly can’t pick one favorite. I love so many. The one that I remember making an impression on me for its haunting imagery is called Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassedy. It was published by Avon Camelot in 1983. A few years ago, I bought myself a copy from a used book website since I no longer had my own childhood copy. It is the story of a troubled girl living with her great-aunts in a stuffy old house, and she finds this magical world with dolls that come to life. It’s really a lovely, poignant book.

Jo: I did an author interview last year with someone who MET Sylvia Cassedy. If I can find it, I'll certainly link it for you. She was star struck! Now, high or low?

Kelly: High if I can overcome my fears. I love the panoramic view, but I also have slight aeroacrophobia. If I get too close to the edge of a high space, even if there is glass in between, I feel lightheaded and dizzy. The first time I remember experiencing this was in the St. Louis Arch. It hasn’t stopped me, though, from going into tall buildings with observation decks or, my favorite, the Eiffel Tower in Paris. But, don’t expect me to go mountain climbing with you. It’s not going to happen!

Jo: I've been in that arch. Yikes! If you can get over the claustrophobia, it's pretty cool. *grin* Talk to me about your section of our upcoming release Fractured Glass. I have to say, I love the lighthearted feeling in your part. Adorable creatures. Please share with my readers: What’s your genre? How long did it take you to write it? What’s your favorite aspect of the novel?

Kelly: My genre is magic, which I love. I have long been a fan of Walt Disney. To me, he was the king of magic—making dreams come true, and he inspired so many others to follow that same path. It doesn’t get much better than that. That said, I’m thrilled you loved my section. I really had fun writing it. I have to tell you, I freaked out a smidge when we decided each section would be written in two weeks. I thought, how am I going to do that with a full time job, plus my second job known as “Mom”? But you know what? It flowed so perfectly from my head to the page! I wrote 20,000 in one week, and that is the fastest that I have ever written anything! I loved bringing my part of the story to life, and these characters were a blast to write. This novel is so unique, and that is what makes it special. We brought five genres and five different voices into a story, but it flows and just works. I can’t wait to hear what our readers think!

Jo: I can't believe we pulled it off either. I was so behind when my section came up. haha! I think I took three weeks. *frowns* But we got 'er done! We're breaking new ground! So excited. I know you’re an advocate for anti-bullying. Why? What happened in your life (one moment) that made the biggest impression on you? Feel free to share links to your story.

Kelly: All of the moments I shared made an impression on me, but let me start by saying, I don’t live in a glass house. I know I did things as a child that hurt others, sometimes even my friends, and I’m sorry for that. We learn as we grow. Hopefully, we learn to be kinder to others as we learn to be less hard on ourselves. I also don’t hold grudges. While I remember certain moments, I don’t have hard feelings towards those individuals. So, with that said, let me share a story that was not in my anti-bullying blog post, which you can find here on Clean Teen Publishing’s blog if you want to read it: http://cleanteenpublishing.blogspot.com/2014/10/invisible-scars-my-experience-with.html

I was a chunky kid. Not obese, but I naturally have larger bones and a body with a tendency to hold onto a few pounds. Eighth grade was my toughest year. It’s an awkward time for most of us, but I was pudgy and self-conscious about it. I was also teased by classmates. One boy in particular was rather persistent about it. I held my own against him, but it hurt. Over the summer, I vowed that I would not be teased for my weight. I counted every calorie that went into my mouth. I obsessed over the scale and every pound that I dropped. By the time I started ninth grade, I lost over twenty pounds. I dropped from a size 12 to a size 5. I was, for the first time in my life, skinny. The boy that teased me the year before spent that year apologizing to me. His words were sincere, and he became a friend of mine. That experience sticks out because I think, we all can be mean, we all can be bullies, but it takes courage to apologize and admit you were wrong.

We are not always going to be nice to each other, but we need to try. As a human race, the more we seek to understand or at least empathize with others, the better off we will be as a whole. Hatred gets us nowhere.

Jo: Agreed. Kindness will pull us through. *huge smile* Well, we’re out of time for today. Is there anything I didn’t ask that you wish I had? Any little juicy tid-bits you’d like to share?

Kelly: Current Impressions, the second book in the Never Forgotten series, leaves the reader hanging just a little. I love those kinds of endings, but I know they can be frustrating to others. I have many readers anxiously awaiting book three, Always Remembered. I’m happy to share that I’m working on revisions, and it will be out in 2015, although I don’t have a date or even a release month yet. Thank you all for your patience…it’s coming!

Jo: How exciting! I have a copy of Never Forgotten, and it's on my UtopYA TBR. *grin* It was awesome having you on the blog, Kelly! I can’t wait to see you in June at UtopYA. Hugs!

Now, it’s time to reveal the featured book of the week!

Title: Never Forgotten
Author: Kelly Risser
Genre: YA Fantasy
Length (print): 314 pages
Price: FREE
Buy links:
Amazon Kindle  ~  Barnes and Noble Nook  ~  Smashwords  ~  iTunes


Synopsis:
How can one day go so very wrong? One minute Meara Quinn is making plans for how she will spend the summer before her senior year and the next she's finding out that her mother's cancer has returned and they are moving away from the only home she's ever known.

Now every day is a struggle as Meara tries to cope with her mother's illness, being forced to move to another country to live with grandparents—whom she thought disowned her mother—and having weird visions of a father who was absent her entire life. Top it all off with one whopping secret that everyone seems bent on keeping from her, and Meara has the perfect ingredients for a major melt down.

The only things keeping her from coming unglued are some new friends and Evan—the son of her mother's childhood friend—who seems to know Meara almost better than she knows herself.

Together with Evan and her friends, Meara embarks on a journey to unlock the secrets that will not only tell Meara who she is, but what she is.

While your fingers are in the clicking mode, why not give this lovely lady a follow on every social media platform I could think of when writing up the template for these interviews (plus some)?

Twitter: @Kar2b
Facebook: Author Kelly Risser
Pinterest: kar2b
Website: Kelly Risser
Blog: Kelly Risser Blog
Goodreads: Kelly Risser
Google +: https://google.com/+KellyRisser/
LinkedIN: Krisser

If you have any questions for Kelly, pop them into the comments below. She’ll be around to answer what you ask.

Well, that’s all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

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