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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Author Interview: KAYELLE ALLEN

Author Interview by A.J. Llewellyn

1. Hi Kayelle, welcome to the Dark Divas…my first question to you is how do you manage to be SO prolific? You have so many intriguing and varied books out…do you write every single day?
Thanks for inviting me! Do I write every single day? Yes, I do. There are rare days when I take time off, but few full days when I don't write or discuss plotting or marketing with someone online, in person, or on the phone. If you do something fifteen minutes a day for five years you become an expert and develop skills you'd never have thought you'd possess. That applies to almost anything.
Researching a medical field, reading poetry, writing letters, studying the Bible, writing the history of a future people... it adds up! Every day at lunch for about six months, I had nothing to do but relieve a receptionist. Four days a week all I did was smile at the rare visitor, or answer two-three phone calls.
So I used my PDA and wrote an entire language for the feline Kin people, called Felis. I developed the sound (lots of breathy pauses and hisses, plus hard k sounds), studied the way the mouth forms words, and tried to figure out how a mouth with fangs would say words. I eliminated the letter B from their language, which led to having to watch every word to ensure I hadn't used it.
Once a Kin learns Etymis (essentially English), they learn to make the B sound with little difficulty, but at first, asking someone where the BarBeQue is can be a trial! Probably the reason I have so many books is that I don't have to reinvent the world each time. It's all there, laid out, ready to write. I have a short history of every world in the empire, a background for each character, and even the immortal empress has a list of all the hot young men she will eventually bring to her harem (her "Jades"). Each has a name and many other details. If I need a blonde with brown eyes between the ages of 25-35, it's easy to find one in my Jade database. It's a hard job being a writer but someone has to do it. *grins*

2. Your new Surrender series has an immortal lead character Luc Saint-Cyr (love that name) and immortality is a recurring them in your work. What was your inspiration for the Tarthian nation?
Thank you! I love Luc. He's easily my favorite since he's been in every book set in the Tarthian Empire. Someone asked me since substituting the T in Tarth with an E made it Earth, was that saying Tarth is really an alternate Earth? It was a darned good question, but in the book Jawk, Tales of the Chosen, Luc Saint-Cyr takes Jawk to Earth, so that pretty much showed it wasn't. Tarth is a world and the capitol of an empire on the other side of the galaxy from us.
The books are set about ten thousand years in the future, long after a series of genocidal wars wiped out much of mankind and caused those who survived to erect a barrier across one arm of the galaxy to prevent the genetically enhanced "non-humans" from coming over into human space, and vice versa.
Thousands of years later, the barrier is failing, and there are huge holes that permit anyone to pass through. The immortals that had been created as warriors and were isolated on a world they called Sempervia (Latin for ever living) have now developed space travel and are free to roam the galaxy they once sought to subdue. The difference is, the homeworld wants no part of mankind, and shields itself from any type of probe. They value their privacy and peace. However, a hundred exiles were ejected thirty-four hundred years ago and they have an agenda. "Make mankind pay."
My inspiration was reading ongoing science information about the Human Genome Project, clones, genetic tampering, and extending life. I thought, what if all of that worked? What would happen next? So I curled up and jotted down a basic timeline, which I've since developed into a ten thousand year history with as much detail as I need for my current series of books set in the Tarthian Empire. I have separate timelines for other parts of the galaxy as well, and books planned for those areas. I will never run out of stories. My imagination has never known how to shut down.

3. What is especially appealing to you about the paranormal realm as a writer?
The fact that we can make up our own worlds with our own rules. Yes, a vampire survives on blood, but one author says it's a curse; another swears it's genetic. Some fear garlic and crosses, yet others are unaffected by them. The sheer unique possibilities of each vampire world-view fascinates me. I'm a world builder at heart. I've never written a vampire tale or a time travel, but I want to do both. And I will. Someday. Just ... not yet.

4. What are your favorite immortal characters in other books and/or movies? Do you read paranormals in your private time?
My favorite immortal characters in other books and/or movies ... wow! I have many. I like Hellboy because I'm a huge Ron Perlman fan, and fell head over heels for Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) in Hellboy II The Golden Army. I even follow His Evil-but-Sexy Majesty on Twitter (no lie). I also have a thing for Anne Rice's vampires (all of them but Armand is my favorite). I read all sorts of things and I read every day of the world. I love anything by Kiernan Kelly and Michael Barnette.
I have every book by Lynn Viehl, Raven Hart, and they are on my see-it-buy-it list. So is Medieval period author Helen Kirkman. I love the Dark series by Christine Feehan. Who could miss Acheron and the Dark Hunters by Sherrilyn Kenyon?
I also love her books written as Kinley MacGregor. I have a young character named Talyn MacGregor who is half Kin and half human, so when I saw that name, I grabbed the book out of pure curiosity and have bought them ever since. Karen Marie Moning is a must have. Chris Owens and Jodi Payne write wonderful gay erotica, and I have countless -- seriously countless favorite authors in this genre. Vampires are my favorites but I also love sweet to spicy Regency period books, anything by Dara Joy, and now Kiernan has gotten me hooked on gay cowboys and I will never give them up. I'm an addict when it comes to hot man sex.
5. Your motto seems to be that Romance Lives Forever…does it live forever in your personal life?
It sure does. I don't talk about age much online, because I don't think it has anything to do with what our lives are really about. It's a limit most of us put on ourselves. I remember a friend saying she was 55 and if she went back to college then in four years she'd be graduating at age 59.
I asked her how old she'd be in four years if she didn't graduate. After a surprised look, she went ahead and registered, and got her degree. People tell me that I write like I'm in my twenties, which I take to mean that I sound like I write for today, and I think I do. However, I've been married for 34 years to one man, and I'm more in love now than I was the day we married. He feels the same way.
I was fortunate -- no, make that blessed -- to have found a man who truly cherishes me and treats me like a queen. I adore him and do everything I can to make his life easier and stressfree. My parents had been married for fifty years when they passed away, and my husbands folks have been married more than sixty-five. We had good examples.
For us, the romance is still there. We work at providing that for the other. Whether it's saying "I love you" every day, or making a special dinner, or simply saying, "You were right," romance is the heart of a love relationship. Romance lives forever in my world, as well as the world of my books. Does that mean that all my romances are happy-ever-afters? No, sorry to say, it does not. But my main characters are immortals, and when they finally find their true loves, their "forever loves", then for them Romance Lives Forever. It's also the name of my yahoo group, myspace page, and blog. (Links below)

6. You hold online seminars for romance writers to help them market their books. What, in your opinion are the fundamental mistakes authors make in their marketing and/or promotion?
1) Don't give away a book once it's been released. Only have drawings for a new book before it's out and don't give away one single copy for at least six months, or until the next book is released. No one will buy if they think they can get it for free. This is most important in the first month of your new book's release.
2) Don't depend on your publisher to send out review requests. Though many send out books automatically, most review sites have a policy (unofficial and unnanounced) of always reviewing a book requested by the author. They may pass over the book your publisher sends because of a rush from many others, but they will usually review one you personally request.
3) Don't expect everyone to hear about your books and rush to find you. Plan as far ahead as you can and start promoting the day you sell the book. It's never too early. Announcing you've just scored a contract for ________ is big news. Tell everyone.
4) Try to imagine a modern business that doesn't have a phone. How many orders will they get, or how many people will they be able to contact? A website is today's phone. It's a must have. Pay for a domain name (godaddy.com will sell you one for $1.99 if you also host your site on their servers.) It's not that expensive. If you don't have a website you are commiting literary suicide. How is anyone going to find out anything about you? If I can learn to do it, so can you. Hire someone if you can, if not, google "how do you" and your question.
The answer is out there and you *can* do it. No excuses. Are you serious about writing? Get a website first thing, before you submit to editors. They can look you up online and learn a ton about you, including whether you know how to present yourself. Study this.
Look at twenty sites a day for a week and paste the sites into a document. Write notes about what you did / didn't like. Figure out your colors, your must-have pages, and then get to work. I knew nothing about websites, but today, mine has over 130 pages. You can do this. If you can write a book and submit it for publication, you have the brains to create a website.

7. Wow Kayelle, this is fabulous and generous information. Thank you!! Let me ask you, do you think the advent of the new crop of online PR companies flooding Yahoo groups has helped or hurt authors?
I use one myself -- Heartfelt Promos, and I think the answer to the question depends on how the promo group actually operates. Heartfelt has a warm/fuzzy feel to its promos and is very personal in the way it approaches readers. I've used others in the past, but this one has been the most helpful to me.
Overall, I think authors should take great care in what they spend and what they get in return. Keep this acronym in mind: ROI - Return on Investment. If you are paying $45 for a book launch party and only end up selling three books, your royalties won't even cover the cost. However, if you have one for your new book the night before release, have special guests such as your editor and publisher (and give them prearranged questions so they can prepare) then you are likely to have a huge hit. Your promo group will do most of the promo for you, but you should also be planning ahead.
If I know a book is coming out mid fall, around spring time I start asking for interviews, blog time, author chats, and co-contests with other authors in my genre to be held during that time period. If you see an author offer blog time, or offer to "interview" your characters, try to set up the date far ahead - ideally to right after your book's release, or right before. The buzz this generates will help you create sales and interest your readers in the book.
8. What are the three most important things an author can do to promote their work?
1) Perform regular "vanity searches". This means Google your name in quotations often. Add +review, or +"book title" to find specific info on your book. You may also find pirates this way. Handling those is another entire subject. Personally send thank you letters to the review department of each place that reviewed your book, no matter what they said. Copy the link, paste it into a document and then copy the entire review and add it. Note the reviewer etc. Then choose a line or two you can quote and add them to the bottom of the document.
Personally, I save mine in a Reviews folder and name them with the book title first followed by Review. This way, all reviews for the same book sort together, making them easy to reference. When you open it, the blurb you want to quote is next to the link and reviewer, ready to post in a promo.
2) Create a Marketing folder and keep anything there that you use for marketing rather than with the specific book. Reviews, Interviews, Promo material such as headshots, your logo, contests you run, specific things for your group, etc. Try to keep it focused and small enough to back up on a CD.
3) If you have a trilogy, which I do, give away the middle book. If you give them the first book, they may not be curious enough to seek the other two. If you give them the last book, it will wrap up what the other books said. The middle book, however, will entice them to buy the other two.
9. I know you live in Atlanta, GA. Can you give me an idea of what your life is like there? Do you hang out at coffee houses? Any special places you like to go and absorb local color?
Favorite places in Atlanta... well, I don't miss DragonCon which is Labor Day weekend right in the heart of downtown. I take the MARTA train from the northenmost station and get off at Peachtree Center, then walk one block to reach one of the four hotels (D*C hosted about 95k people last year).
Other than that, I detest going downtown. It's a maze of one way streets all going the wrong way and all of them are named Peachtree something or other. Locally, I like to curl up at Waffle House (yes, WAHO) and drink diet Coke with vanilla while I make notes for my next book. One of my local friends who's like a sister to me will often meet me there and we spend an hour chit chatting over coffee. I only go to Starbucks if she treats. I can't see paying that much for coffee. My favorite cup is decaf with about 3/4 c hot water to dilute it and a huge spoonful of chocolate creamer, so Starbucks just doesn't do it for me. I walk at least three days a week in a local park, putting in two miles each time.
It's an easy course with only three hills, but it gets your blood pumping. I was invited to attend a play downtown at the Fox with my friend, and it was one I'd never heard of before, called Wicked, which turned out to be one of the best plays I'd ever seen.
Now I know that the understudy for one of the main parts was Adam Lambert - who's my favorite hottie! I have no idea where I put the program from that night, and since I keep everything I know it's here somewhere... Imagine being in the audience that night - two understudies performed; I remember that. But which ones? ACK! It's an amazing theater and I've also seen David Copperfield there.
In my hometown, way up north about 45 miles outside the city, there's not much to do but we have almost any restaurant you'd ever want, plus a new mall with all the biggest chain stores, so I no longer need to drive any distance to go shopping. The weather here is usually hot and wet; in summer we swelter and in winter it gets down to 40 or so and only freezes a handful of days. Spring is glorious. The colors are splendid, with vibrant golds, yellows, reds, fuschia, and every shade of green. Fall is when we drive up into the north Georgia mountains to see the colors change.
We just broke a seven-year drought, so it's good to know the trees will survive. We lost seven on our property during the last three years. At the height of the drought, the colors were magnificent due to the quick release of sap into the ground, revealing an early bloom of every shade of gold, red, and yellow under the sun. I love living here. It's beautiful in every season.
10. I know you grew up in the southwest and apparently moved around a lot. You even lived in Central America. What was that like?
My parents joked that they had itchy feet and were always looking for treasure beyond the next rainbow. I've lived in almost every state, and in one year I changed schools five times. My dad was a mechanic, and he went where the business was. My mother homeschooled me most of my first seven years, and I was always the new kid in school, until I hit junior high and my folks settled down.
So I say my hometown is Henderson NV, right outside Las Vegas. That's where I spent my teen years and eventually ended up joining the Navy, where I met my husband. I still have three sisters in the general area, and Vegas is my favorite place to vacation, though I never gamble and haven't even dropped a dime in a slot machine in at least 30 years. There are plenty of other things to do and see, especially in the desert.
Wild mustangs and burros still roam there and you can see them from the road. When they come out on the highway everyone has to stop; they walk right up to your car and look in the windows. It's an amazing sight.
11. And now a couple of tough questions. You ready? What was your favorite toy growing up?
Probably the thing I remember best and used the most was a small telescope that my parents bought me. I was outside with it every night. Imagine how cool it was to discover that the drive-in movie several miles away came in clear as could be -- without sound, of course, but I could figure out the story line pretty well. And I was always stargazing. In the desert, the stars look close enough to touch. Small wonder I ended up writing Science Fiction Romance!
12. Favorite TV show?
I budget TV so I'll have time to write, but I don't miss "24" for anything. My next favorite was the Unit, starring Dennis Haysbert (also known as President David Palmer on the first four seasons of "24") canceled this year *sniff*.
He was the model for my character Luc Saint-Cyr. He's also the Allstate Spokesman. I'll watch anything he's in. Recently at a convention where Allstate had a booth, I managed to grab a poster of him sitting in a sports car. It's right over my desk for inspiration. He has a voice like buttered velvet. OMG I could listen to him all day.
Ron Perlman's voice is the same way. If either of these guys were to read their laundry lists, I'd go buy a copy. When I can, I also like House, Castle, Mental, the Mentalist, Bones, DollHouse (I miss the Terminator series - *sniff*) and CSI Las Vegas because it's my hometown. I rarely get to see all these though, due to prior commitments on line and deadlines. So I look them up on HULU or iTunes if they're keepers. My dh is studying to be a nurse so he actually has homework taken from episodes of House and Bones. No kidding. If it's a medical show, we watch it.
13. Did your parents encourage your writing? Do they know about your work now?
My mother always wanted to write and had a poem published. She was also an artist and sent a portrait to President and Mrs. Kennedy and received a thank you note from the White House. Later, the painting was featured in the film 1000 Days, about JFK's life. My father hand made frames for her and cut up masonite to use for her canvases. Sadly they both died years ago but I know they'd have been very proud.

14. How old were you when you learned to tie your shoelaces?
About four or five, I think. I remember everyone trying to help me and me being frustrated that I couldn't do it right. Finally it all clicked into place. It was exciting - especially for a little kid!
On behalf of Dark Diva Reviews, I'd like to thank the amazing Kayelle Allen for her talent and her wisdom. To learn more about this gorgeous author's work, please check out her links:
Email kayelle@kayelleallen.com
Homepage http://kayelleallen.com
Booklist http://kayelleallen.com/Books.html Romance Lives Forever – Yahoo http://groups.yahoo.com/group/romancelivesforever Marketing for Romance Writershttp://groups.yahoo.com/group/MarketingForRomanceWriters/
Twitter http://twitter.com/kayelleallen Romance Lives Forever – MySpace http://myspace.com/romancelivesforever
Kayelle's Coffee Corner http://coffeetimeromance.com/board/ Manloveromancehttp://manloveromance.com
Romance Lives Forever – Blog http://romancelivesforever.blogspot.com/
The Romance Studio - Blog http://trsblue.blogspot.com/ The NaughtyTruth Newsletter http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/board/forumdisplay.php?f=987 Linked In http://www.linkedin.com/in/kayelleallen
Wiki Romance – Kayelle http://www.romancewiki.com/Kayelle_Allen
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