As part of a new ongoing project, we at M. N. Jolley Writing are going to be conducting weekly interviews with authors from around the country to talk about their stories and their writing process. First up, we’ve got Kelly Blanchard, a Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author from Texas!
M. N.: Tell me a little bit about yourself. What genres do you write in?
Kelly: My name is Kelly Blanchard. I live in Texas in the middle of nowhere with my husband (who’s also my co-writer), our Doberman, and our two cats. I write a blend of fantasy and science fiction. Currently I am publishing my series, The Chronicles of Lorrek, but I’ve already written it completely, so while I continue publishing the rest of that series, I am co-writing with my husband another series in my story universe called ‘The Ceralian Gambit’.
M. N.: What is co-writing like? Do you both write chapters, or does one of you do the writing while the other works on plotting and editing?
Kelly: Each of us have certain characters that we write although sometimes we share characters (depends on who all are in the scene). A lot of people have compared it to RolePlaying, which I suppose it may be. I’ve honestly never done any roleplaying, so I wouldn’t know the comparison. Sometimes there are chapters that involve only the characters that one of us write, so we’ll write it solo, but most of the time we co-write, writing our character’s response and then waiting for them to respond as well. It’s addictively fun!
M. N.: In my experience, roleplaying involves a lot more yelling at plastic cubes and begging the other players not to walk into obvious ambushes. That sounds like a wonderful process, but is it very time consuming to wait for your partner to respond like that?
Kelly: We don’t yell at each other about them walking into an obvious ambush or anything. It’s a bit more planned than that, and we agree on how things should unfold. What we don’t know is what exactly the character will say in response to what our own character says. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it’s hurtful, which can change the tone of the scene, but usually the scene progresses more or less how we imagined. As for waiting for my co-writer to reply, well, we only manage to write together on his days off (he works as an EMT in the ER of a Level 1 Trauma Center), and it’s a rather swift process when we do get to sit down and write. We tend to average 10k words a day. This is how we managed to finish our second book in less than two weeks!
M. N.: That’s an incredible average! And that’s a cool job for him, too. Do you handle the publishing business and marketing, or is that also a cooperative effort?
Kelly: I handle all the publishing and marketing. He’s far too busy!
M. N.: Do you ever disagree on where the story should go?
Kelly: How the story should go? No. How a scene should unfold, yes, but it’s rare. Once we had this one scene that we had to brainstorm for almost four hours until we came to an agreement because how it unfolded really affected major parts we wanted later on in the scene. We finally figured out a way to make it unfold with the results that we wanted, and it turned out great.
M. N.: Can you tell us what book that scene was in? I always enjoy getting a peek behind the curtain to see what was going on in the authors’ minds while they were working.
Kelly: I can’t say much without spoiling a major scene, but basically my husband’s character had to go in and slaughter a bunch of people. The character didn’t want to do it, but he had no choice because of different factors I can’t go into. We had to discuss how the scene would unfold. I had a specific idea, but my husband had another idea, and so we had to hammer away at both until we found a compromise that allowed the following scenes to unfold the way we needed them to. It worked out quite nicely.
M. N.: What do you feel are the biggest challenges you face when writing?
Kelly: Honestly, it’s not writing that gives me a challenge as it is marketing.
M. N.: On the subject of marketing, do you have any trouble selling a series that’s a fusion of multiple genres?
Kelly: Some people aren’t sure what to think when I say it’s a fusion of the two genres, but they tend to give them a chance without too much issue, and their concerns of the fusion of genres disappear. However, getting the books in front of people to discover it always a unique challenge!
M. N.: What about your books do you feel is the most special or unique?
Kelly: I believe my books are unique in how they are told. They flow like movies. There are subtle but powerful descriptions, strong characters with immersive stories, witty one-liners, and confident pacing. I take the usual fantasy and science fiction tropes, turn them on their heads, and make them different in a way that they stand out.
M. N.: Playing with tropes can be a lot of fun. Is there an especially interesting twist you’ve done on a trope, that you can tell us about without spoiling your book?
Kelly: In fantasy, there are often the idea of elves. However, I’ve created a new race called the ‘kelliphs’ that are roughly based off elves, but they are unique in that, in addition to their longevity, they have multiple lives. So, even if you manage to kill one, they won’t stay dead for very long. They are very difficult to kill permanently (which is actually a major plot point for Book 5). They also have a unique magical ability to change one material into another (like water into fire or stone into bread or flesh into dust, etc). There are shapeshifting dragons that prefer the shape of a human, and they are not evil and don’t hoard things. They also have magical abilities that are unique to them such as mind magic and magicking (teleporting with magic) to other worlds, and so forth. They usually stay within their own kingdom rather than trying to destroy the surrounding lands, but they tend to aid the humans actually as they are the only other race that has longevity–almost to the point of immortality. And then there’s the whole mix of magic and science too–that’s a lot of fun.
M. N.: Was there any particular book or author that made you want to write?
Kelly: Not really. Stories have been a part of my life since before I could even write.
M. N.: Do you have a favorite book, or a list of favorites?
Kelly: As a rule, I don’t do favorites. I hold Lewis and Tolkien in high regard, and I am friends with a ton of fellow authors, but I have no absolute favorite.
M. N.: Tell me about your current Work In Progress.
Kelly: My husband and I literally just finished the second book of our series the other day, and we are now plotting the next book and will begin writing it soon. Even though this series is in the same story universe as my other series, The Chronicles of Lorrek, it does not have the science fiction elements but is mainly fantasy. It all began with the assassinations of the king and prince of Ceraleo. For too long, Princess Ensula has been a pawn in a political game–being sent away to a strange land for her own safety and betrothed to a foreign prince–but no longer. Now, she returns to introduce a new element to the game and show those in power that she is not a pawn in this long game but rather a queen.
M. N.: I really enjoy stories that blend sci-fi and fantasy elements together. How does that work in your setting?
Kelly: It’s hard to explain how it works. It just does. On this one continent, most of the kingdoms are more medieval and have magic whereas another kingdom has highly advanced technology. Later in the series, there is even space travel, but it all really works together in a way that I am pleased with.
M. N.: Is the technology magic-based, then?
Kelly: On the surface, no. There was only one land that had magic-based technology, but what happened to that land is a long story. But when you pull back the curtain, you realize mathematics, equations, and calculations are a form of magic–just viewed, understood, and applied differently.
M. N.: Since this new book doesn’t have the sci-fi elements, is that because of where it’s set, or because of when it takes place?
Kelly: It’s because it’s on a different continent than the Chronicles of Lorrek. They actually have a different system of magic, and the LORE of magic is so much fun to explore, and it is greatly explored in the series ‘The Ceralian Gambit’. It shows how all different systems of magic and even math and science and really any inspiration all stem from the same magic realm. It’s so interesting.
M. N.: What does your writing process look like? Do you outline, do you invent the plot as you go, or do things land somewhere in the middle of that spectrum?
Kelly: Usually I plot out the most major parts of the story and then wing it from there.
M. N.: Have you ever been surprised by something that happened in your own story?
Kelly: Oh yes! Off the top of my head, I can’t think of an instance right now, but things have surprised me. It’s fantastic.
M. N.: If you could go back and give yourself any piece of advice when you first started writing, what would it be?
Kelly: I would tell my younger self that I might never get a mentor, but that’s okay. I’ll find a lot of support online in the writing community.
M. N.: Are there any specific people or groups you’d like to give a shout-out to?
Kelly: Well, there are J. E. Mueller, A. R Harlow, Nan Sampson, Megan Hay, Allen Cheesman, Katie Davis, Annie Twitchell, Jessica Kirkpatrick, Jacquie Tuck, J. R. O’Bryant, Daryl J. Ball, Sarah Elisabeth, and so many more! All of these are writers (not all published yet), and most are superfans of mine. Some are even reading the rough draft of the books my husband and I are writing because they are so enthusiastic about the story universe we’ve created. It is so much fun! So much support and encouragement.
M. N.: Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve written, or a recommended “starting point” for people looking to get into your work?
Kelly: I’d recommend the first book of my Chronicles of Lorrek series, ‘Someday I’ll Be Redeemed’, as a starting point. After my husband and I complete and publish The Ceralian Gambit, the first book of that series would be a good starting point since it takes place a few decades prior to the Chronicles of Lorrek.
M. N.: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Kelly: Not that I can think of. Thanks so much for interviewing me! It is a wonderful opportunity!