Kelly Moran, is an impressive literary achievements include being recognized as a RITA® Finalist, RONE Award-Winner, Catherine Award-Winner, Readers Choice Finalist, Holt Medallion Finalist, and earning spots on USA TODAY's Lifestyle blog's "Must Read" & "10 Best Reads" lists. Additionally, she was a finalist for the Romance Writers of America® Award of Excellence. Kelly's novels have been translated into various languages, including German, Czech, Romanian, and Dutch. When she's not writing, Kelly indulges in sentimental movies, all forms of art, and amusing herself by driving others insane. She also confesses to having a weakness for coffee and chocolate. Currently residing in South Carolina with her partner, three sons, mischievous dog, and sassy cats, Kelly welcomes feedback from her readers and is thrilled to hear from them.
Your novels often feature themes of family and relationships. What draws you to these topics, and how do you approach portraying them in your writing?
I think it’s vastly important to me in my books because it is in my personal life. My people are my everything. Without deep, personal connections, we’re existing and not thriving. Relationships, communities, and family come from everywhere, whether it’s neighbors next door, or friends in a club, or co-workers in an office space. Family, as well. Family can be whatever we choose it to be. Some we’re born into, and others we form along the way. DNA doesn’t always play a factor, nor should it. Often, I write about unconventional family dynamics since that’s realistic. Some of us grew up in foster care, some had their whole family pass away, some are divorced, some have hateful blood relatives, some get more love from friendship. The list is endless. Friendship has always played a key role in my books, too, because friends are the family you get to choose.
As humans, we’re not meant to be alone. We need connection, and my stories reflect that. My approach to writing them depends on the characters, their backstory, and their mindset. Like people, the characters are unique and don’t fit a specific mold. We are the accumulation of our experiences and our surroundings. Thus, actions and reactions are written with those factors in mind for authenticity.
Your books often feature strong, independent female characters. What do you hope readers take away from these characters, and how do you go about creating them?
I think strong, independent female leads or secondary characters are of utmost importance, especially in today’s world. Our ancestors fought hard to give us the rights we have, and it’s our duty to honor them. Whether they’re a single mother to an autistic child, or a sexual assault survivor, or homeless, or battling depression, or taking care of a mother with dementia, or floundering to find their place, they deserve to have their stories told.
I strive to create women that represent each of us, even if it’s in fragmented pieces. We all have doubts and insecurities, lose our way, or have setbacks, but the testament is in how we respond. Every single one of us is capable, even if we don’t know it or if it doesn’t feel that way. I think it’s important to show that strength doesn’t always come from having the right answers, making the correct decisions, or in doing what is expected. Sometimes, it’s just getting out of bed, leaning on someone for comfort, seeking help, or understanding that you need to allow yourself to cry.
I hope readers see their hidden talents, accomplishments, and strengths in my characters after they’ve closed the book. Not all heroes wear capes. Often, you’ll find ‘em in heels or flip-flops.
How do you approach writing a series, and what challenges does that present compared to writing a standalone book?
Each comes with their own set of challenges. For a single title, you only need to worry about the characters of that particular book. Secondary characters propel the plot and are of use, but there’s not as much focus required. There’s no concern for before or afterward since the manuscript is complete. A one and done, if you will. However, you have that sole book to convince an audience that the characters are interesting or that the story was compelling. Often, readers trying out a new author will pick a standalone to gauge the style to see if they want to invest in a series or other books. So, it’s not always about that solitary story.
For a series, every element is essential. From setting to secondary characters to the tone of book 1, it’ll need to resonate and ripple throughout the following books. The readers have to want to return to the place and the people. A hook is usually required, and one that fits the whole series. Somewhat simplistic things like adding a character to the backdrop can alter how other books are plotted, as anyone is fair game for their own ever-after. In saying that, I often find series’ easier to write. Could just be the way my brain works, but filtering in secondary characters makes me wonder what their story will be and how to approach, so I like adding them to the pages with their own quirks. Series’ are also like returning to a comfortable place or vacation spot because things are familiar.
Approach all depends on marketability and longevity. Is this setting somewhere I’d go back to? Are the people around the main characters interesting enough to get their own story? Is there a niche or hook that’ll carry through? If the answer is yes to all of those, then I’ll pursue a series. The only instance where that never happened was in my older backlist, the “Seasmoke Friends” series. Book 1, “Summer’s Road,” was first written in a notebook when I was 17 years old. Later, I typed and submitted it, where it got picked up by a small press. Once the contract ran out and rights were reverted, readers really wanted to know what happened to the main characters’ former love interests, since it was a group of friends. And they were vocal about it. Thus, I wrote a spin-off and it became a 2-book series.
What are some of your favorite books or authors, and how have they influenced your writing?
Ever since I was taught how to read, there’s been a book in my hand. Or a pen. There are countless authors who inspire me. Dr. Seuss for his relevance and whimsy. Poe for his abject romanticism and longing. Frost for his avid description of nature and heartbreak. I think the biggest inspiration for me is who most romance authors would pick, and that’s Nora Roberts. Besides being “the” name in romance, she’s a huge supporter of the underdog, stands up for what’s right, helps other authors, is humble, writes amazing love stories in quite a few sub-genres, creates beautifully flawed characters, has a poetic tone to her storytelling, and has a miraculous ability to put you right there in the setting.
Books that resonate with me are also endless. “It” by Stephen King because of the attribution to the necessity of friendship and facing your fears. “Withering Heights” by Charlotte Brontë due to the haunting portrayal of loss and suffering. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou because of the vivid depiction of loneliness, bigotry, and how literature can save you by way of escape. All of Jane Austen’s novels for their satire, feminism considering the times, comedy, angst of love, and the essence of human nature. I’m also incredibly fond of Kristin Higgins as a person. I’ve done a couple of author events with her in the past. She’s incredibly kind, funny, and relatable. Her books are outstanding. Every single title she’s penned is humorous, has imperfectly realistic characters, and plots that will have you bawling until you laugh and back again. It’s difficult to pick, but “The Next Best Thing” is probably my favorite.
Finally, if you could go back in time and give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be?
I don’t suppose winning lottery numbers counts as writing advice, eh? Alrighty, then.
My one piece of advice to my younger self would have to be to take my craft more seriously early on. Up until my mid-twenties, writing was a pastime. I listened to those telling me it would never go anywhere, that writing was a hobby, to get a real job, and to get my head out of the clouds with my feet on the ground. I spent so much time talking myself into reality that I wound up partly insane from the attempt. It went against my very nature. Which is why that’s always and forever my best piece of advice to newbie writers. Don’t quit. Without us creative types, there would be no books, movies, TV shows, video games, art, comics, jewelry, desserts, photographs, or, well…anything worthwhile.