A big THANK YOU to author, ValkyrieKerry Kelly for taking the time to answer our questions for today's guest author interview!
RE Horror collection: Trigger Warning: Twisted Tales
1. What inspired you to write this book?
Answer: The book is a compilation of writing over the past 10 years. I am a bipolar survivor and started writing as a form of therapy to deal with my emotional roller-coaster. My best work arose from the darkest recesses and over time I accumulated a large selection of horror and dark fiction and this book is the result.
2. Can you tell me about the book?
Answer: Trigger Warning: Twisted Tales is an eclectic mix of dark verse and tales ranging from gothic vampire fiction to dark psychological and cult stories. It is not only a reflection of classical horror monsters, but of the monster in man. It delves into the darkest recesses of the human condition and explores terrible social and political evils.
3. What is your writing process like?
Answer: Very varied! Sometimes I will plan a story or poems and I will work meticulously on it, but most of the time when my emotions are swinging on the pendulum of bipolar the words form in my head like a dream and I scribble them down as they flood into my mind.
4. Was the character inspired by a real person? If so, who?
Answer: there are several characters in this collection. A lot of them are based on personal observations and my deep empathy towards others. It could be a personal encounter or something on the news that I find very troubling and I will write as an emotional response. Of course some of my characters are based on what I would concede as a darkly attractive person. I have a lengthy poem called ‘Sanguine Fervor’ that tells the story of a cruel immortal and his treatment of the object of his affection. The end is very dark and heart wrenching.
5. What do you think happened to the characters after the book ended?
It is a horror collection, and I am a lover of dark and twist endings. One of my stories ‘Anomaly’ is about a woman who believes that she can time-travel across her gene pool. She is institutionalized and diagnosed with a form of schizophrenia. One word changes the whole story, one name subtly mentioned for the attentive reader. I want the reader not only to read the tale but to interpret it and find those hidden outcomes.
6. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Answer: Editing wears me out a bit, it is not so creative and quite time consuming. I am currently editing an erotic romance called, ‘Emerald Chains’ my first full length novel. It is tiring, but when I can expand on the emotion and add in passion that energizes me just as writing the original draft and creating this whole new world teeming with passion and emotion energizes me.
7. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Answer: I would say vanity publishers. You pay them to publish your book and basically do exactly what you could do on KDP or Lulu. You should never pay a publisher! You are paying them for your own work. They are making money from you, not from readers, so what motivation do they have to market?
8. What is your writing Kryptonite?
Answer: The first word, always the first word or sentence. Once I have written that first sentence momentum builds and I find myself in flying form.
9. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Answer: My writing comes from personal emotions and passions, so I write from my heart and mind. None the less I hope that my words are accessible and equally enthralling to the reader. I hope that they connect with me on a sort of psychological level and are inspired to continue reading.
10. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Answer: I have a mixture of varied works from spiritual and critical non-fiction to several bipolar and related meditative collections. Trigger Warning is set apart because it focuses wholly on dark and psychological horror, and as said my first novel is an erotic romance.
11. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Answer: I have nearly completed ‘Emerald Chains’ and an untitled erotic horror. I also have plans to write a literary novel. I have the characters and the general narrative worked out, so in total I have three outstanding books that require completion.
12. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Answer: For my non-fiction pieces I do a lot of background reading and research. This can take a long time as I research and record my findings and then put them into some form of an order. My non-fiction pieces have been published by Moods Magazine, Soul Searchers and NDERF. Most of my fiction is based on experience. I am very lucky in that I have had a good education and I have traveled well, and in addition I base a lot of my work on emotions, so I make a point of staying in touch with my feelings.
13. How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
Answer: Writing is never part-time. You just cannot keep the momentum going. Between writing, editing, designing, submissions and marketing I would say that the process can take 50+ hours a week easily. My laptop is my office and I am very protective over it.
14. How many hours a day do you write?
Answer: This varies. Writing involves so much more than actual writing. There have been days when I have worked 24-36 hours on the trot and then I am wired before hitting the tiredness wall. Other days may be less, but I work at home and have 5 children and although they are grown children I still have to juggle home, work and a social life. My children have all published in various journals and I sometimes work on projects with them. It can be hard to find a balance.
15. What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
Answer: Now, it took a long time to have the confidence to share my work as to me that work is a piece of my soul. I started to submit for publication in 2015 and it has sort of taken off since then. The last four years have been one phenomenal learning curve and a stream of production.
16. What did you edit out of this book?
Answer: Nothing! I actually added additional pieces and I am now adding additional work to my novel. I find the passion and I share it!
17. How do you select the names of your characters?
Answer: Some are taken from people I know and others are taken from characters that I find appealing in films or other books, or anagrams of them.
18. If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Answer: Probably photography. I do a bit of photography now and I have had collections published.
19. What was your hardest scene to write?
Answer: Its cliched, but my first sex scene! I kept thinking my mum will read this. I am very close to my mum. Now I think nothing of sharing any work with her.
20. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Answer: There is no average. Some have taken years, others a short time. It depends on research, editing and what other commitments I have at the time.
21. Do you believe in writer’s block?
Answer: I believe in procrastination, does that count? All the time I have dreams then I have inspiration. My dreams are nuts!
22. What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
Answer: My laptop. I always use my laptop. I have to clean up the desk top quite often. It gets a bit crowded.
23. When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
Answer: When I was a child. I have always put pen to paper (see additional interview)
24. How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?
Answer: I have always written, so it is like second nature now.
25. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
Answer: Nope! I aim to progress and move forward.
26. Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
Answer: The emotional responses or the tales based on dreams tend to wander where they will. My novel has some level of direction to ensure that it flows, keeps momentum and is full of passion. The basic plot and chapter structure is planned, but the spark between the two key characters, well that is developed as I go along.
27. Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors?
Answer: I read in the bath. My favorite authors are Joseph Heller and Anne Rice. Satire is highly entertaining. I am also an ardent admirer of Coleridge’s ‘Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.’
28. What is the most important thing about a book, in your opinion?
Answer: That its meaning is universal and stands the test of time.
29. Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?
Answer: I learned to read with ‘Peter and Jane’ then I went on to read mythology and folk tales followed closer by Jane Austen and Bram Stoker.
30. How much of yourself do you put into your books?
Answer: A significant part of my writing is the conversion of my own feelings and emotions into something tangible, so that the reader will feel what I feel through the narratvie and how the characters are affected.
31. Who are your books mostly dedicated to?
Answer: My brother David who died at 19 years old and my daughter Mary Jane who died as a baby. I have just lost my Dad and my recent non-fiction piece on Alien 3 was published thanks to my dad who kept a copy. I had lost mine.
32. Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?
Answer: My mum, she reads through my work and makes sure that I haven’t missed any errors and that the flow is strong.
33. Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?
Answer: I think a lot of people that I love have appeared in my work in one form or another. Write what you know! And you know what you see everyday.
34. Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?
Answer: It is possible. I am getting better at that since I have got to grips with formatting the page for publication. The problem with poetry and verse is that it requires a lot more formatting. My novel was fine, but I wanted to add to it to build up the spark between the two main characters.
35. Did any of your books get rejected by publishers?
Answer: Most of the works that I have submitted have been accepted, I have worked with over ten publishers and feel more confident in my approach now. I believe that my novel has a publisher waiting.
36. What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any?
Answer: I have worked on several joint projects and have not found any problems so far.
37. Is writing book series more challenging?
Answer: I think there needs to be a direction from the start. It’s like some TV shows, they start with a good idea but it seems to amount to nothing because the long term direction of the story has not been planned.
38. Does it get frustrating if you are unable to recall an idea you had in your mind some time earlier?
Answer: If I have an idea then I write it down on whatever is to hand. I planned one book on a betting slip and I don’t even gamble.
39. Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts?
Answer: I am trying to retrieve a draft I wrote several years ago. I believe I shared it in messenger and I have to go through tons and tons of messages until I find it. I won’t give up!
40. Can you tell us about your current projects?
Answer: I think I already have. I have ‘Emerald Chains,’ which is an erotic-romance with a ghost story secondary to the main plot. It is set in Mayo, Ireland where I live. There is an element of power-play so a lot of passion is involved. I have planned a literary piece called ‘The Bartender’ which tells the story of some lively characters trapped in a bar in rural Ireland. I also have a gothic-erotic horror. I don’t want to say too much about that, but it involves an attraction to an evil, but delicious immortal.
41. Had any of your literary teachers ever tell you growing up that you were going to become a published writer one day?
Answer: Yes (see interview attached)
42. Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid?
Answer: My parents encouraged me to read. I was born deaf and my headteacher was not very tolerant, so my mum took on the role of a wonderful teacher. My parents have been the greatest advocates of my work.
43. Do you enjoy discussing upcoming ideas with your partner? If yes, how much do you value their inputs?
Answer: We worked on a book together for the Irish National Museums. I usually tell Declan what I am writing and what I intend to write. We planned ‘The Bartender’ together.
44. Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece?
Answer: Many times. The best one was ‘Dreams after Film Night’ a longish poem in Trigger Warning. It recounts a very bizarre dream that I had one night after watching a bit of horror.
45. How can readers find out more info about you and your books?
Answer: Instagram @valkyriekerry Twitter @valkyriekerryke and www.duchessofdarkness.com
Mayo mum and multi-graduate Kerry ‘Valkyrie’ Kelly started writing at an early age, but did not submit any work for publishing until 2015 following the production of 100 poems in the International Poetry Marathon. Thereafter Kerry’s work was rapidly accepted for publication by ‘Voices Ireland,’ ‘Short Fiction Break’ and ‘Some Poets.’ By the end of 2015 Kerry had drafted several works. To date her fiction has been featured across the globe by a number of publishers including ‘Soft Cartel,’ ‘Tiger Shark Magazine,’ ‘Grotesque,’ ‘Plum Tree Tavern,’ ‘Eskimo Pie,’ ‘Peeking Cat’ and more. Her non-fiction books have been published by ‘NDERF’ and her numerous chapbooks have peaked at the top of the charts. Kerry’s ‘Tackling the Bear,’ a creative coaching and poetry hybrid received five star reviews as did her horror anthology ‘Trigger Warning: Twisted Tales.’ Kerry is now negotiating with the major American romance publisher ‘Blushing Books’ for her debut novel ‘Emerald Chains.’ I met Kerry at her home in Ballinrobe to discuss the finer points of her work.
1. As a writer, what literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
My life has been one long pilgrimage. I started writing as a child, my first piece was an episode of ‘Stingray’ the Gerry Anderson program. I absolutely love the sea, and Stingray had heroes, mermaids and villains. There are hints of Stingray in some of my later poems. I then created a long prose piece for school when I was thirteen, but my English teacher thought that it was plagiarised as she felt the vocabulary was too sophisticated for my age. Luckily I changed schools and had a wonderful teacher, Mrs March, who really believed in my work. At that time I produced a small piece based on the vampire investigations of Montague Summers and this was published by a journal called ‘For the Blood is the Life.’ This was a very small press however, later I had a non-fiction piece published by the NCT, but I did not really have the confidence to publish until more recently. A lot of my writing between the ages of maybe 19 and my late 30s was therapeutic. I have bipolar disroder and this was a way of expressing myself and dealing with the vast array of emotions that comes from that particular illness.
I also travelled for many years before settling in Ireland and one of my chapbooks ‘Meditations: Beautiful World’ is a reflection of these travels and positive experiences exploring both the natural environment and heritage. After coming to Ireland I expanded on this theme and produced the Irish chapbook and latterly Declan (my husband) and I produced a major book for the ‘National Museums’ and ‘Our Irish Heritage’ which was a family project. All of my children contributed art, photography and fiction as did my mum. It is the second family project, and I think working with those closest to you is a journey in itself. The first family project was ‘Stan and Ellen’s Grand Opus’ which was an anthology of fiction dedicated to my grand parents and 15 family members across 4 generations contributed. It was hugely successful and something which we all shared. It hit number one. I did not realise until my ‘Some Poets’ editor in America, Alicia Sophia (best-selling LGBT author) text me and told me. That was an amazing feeling.
I am also an ardent horror fan and my pride and joy is ‘Trigger Warning: Twisted Tales’ it is a hybrid prose and poetry collection of both traditional and psychological horror. Years of watching and reading horror, and of course the news, really paid off.
2. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Once I start work writing seriously energises me, but I need to be in the zone. Once I am in the zone I can write for 36 hours solid, then I am exhausted. Editing is probably the hardest part of writing and I tend to do long stints of editing because if I stop I may lose track of what I am doing. I also ask friends and family to read over my work to make sure that it is attractive and that there are no errors that I may have overlooked. Bayley (my son, 10) and Emily (my daughter, 18) also write and I edit their work, as I did everyone’s work for ‘Stan and Ellen’s Grand Opus.’ I do always show them what I have done to make sure that they are happy with the layout and format. Again, editing is exhausting. Each piece has to be edited twice because e-book formats and print formats operate very differently. Anthologies are harder to edit than prose as the contents and hyperlinks can become quite complicated. I had to relearn word processing with regards to the e-book formats.
3. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I use the name Valkyrie Kerry, but this is not really a pseudonym. Valkyrie is a mash of Kerry and my middle name Valerie. This affords me some level of privacy, but I do sometimes meet people who know me from my web-site, recognise me and shout ‘Hey Valkyrie!’
4. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Most of what i write comes from my dreams and my own ideas. I do not write for other people, although I do hope other people enjoy my writing, I write for myself. That is how it started. When I began writing my novel I did read many other romances and looked at what created tension, but I have adopted my own path in that field according to what I think works. At present I am re-reading my own work ‘Emerald Chains’ and adding to it where I think the narrative can benefit from a deeper emotional and passionate connection. Essentially I use the extreme emotions inside and pour them onto the page in such a way that I anticipate readers will connect with the characters and their turmoil and elation.
5. Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
From my perspective, without the emotions the writing becomes hollow and the characters two dimensional. People are not two dimensional, every human being has multiple aspects. One of the contradictions in my own work is that I have written some deeply spiritual non-fiction on the one hand, and what I call horrotica on the other. I don’t think that this is necessarily hypocritical, it is simply a reflection of two aspects of my own mind.
6. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
My editing was appalling, I had no idea about the various publication processes and was very much fumbling around in the dark. Fortunately I had a lot of guidance from Alicia and Tracey Plath (descendant of Sylvia) in terms of submitting work, formatting, publishing, cover design and marketing. I then took that advice and spent a lot of time experimenting, launching pilots, revising them, playing around with design and so forth. It took time, a lot of time, and now I try to set the correct format from the outset.
7. What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?
The most important for me has definitely been Caitlin Jan’s ‘Authors Publish’ which is an e-magazine, it is free and offers ongoing publishing leads and details of magazines seeking submissions. It is very detailed, but clear and provides links and in doing so makes publishers very accessible.
8. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I usually have two or three major projects running at any one time, and in addition I will continue to submit new works to various publishers. I have to do regular laptop tidy-ups as a result otherwise my desktop looks like a disaster.
9. What’s the best way to market your books?
I recently enrolled on an intensive digital marketing course and I am applying my learning as I go along. I recently gave my web-site a complete overhaul, this meant hosting and purchasing a domain name. Linking one site to a server. I am still getting lost in the construction process, but I am getting there. A lot of the publishers do their own marketing for the anthologies, journals and books. Blushing Books has a huge marketing department, but for the books that I have kept control of I have to engage the audience. I am getting there, like editing it’s a ton of extra work. I do actually enjoy this aspect though because it gives me creative scope. It’s great fun!
10. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Sometimes. In my science fiction story ‘Anomaly’ there is one single word close to the end of the narrative that literally changes your reading of the entire story including the validity of the words of one of the key players. Anomaly is a time-travel story in Twisted Tales. The same is true of another story in the same book ‘The Pride’ in which the reader has to discern what is real and what is imagined. I love twist endings, I am a huge ‘Twilight Zone’ fan.
11. Does your family support your career as a writer?
100%! As I have said we often work together. I probably work with my daughter Emily the most. We are both regular contributors to ‘Tiger Shark’ a horror magazine. I write the fiction and Emily produces photography. All of my children contributed to ‘Stan and Ellen’s Grand Opus’ and Declan and I worked together on ‘Ireland’s Scrapbook’ the project for Irish Heritage. This was published by Irish Heritage and the National Museums this year. My wider family are all wonderfully supportive and have been since day one. It can be a juggling act to manage the family, social and working aspects of my life. People assume that because I am my own boss I can just abandon my projects to go here or there, but this is not the case. I have to set myself targets otherwise it would all be a bit haphazard.
12. To conclude this interview, what can we expect in the future?
‘Emerald Chains’ will hopefully be out by the summer. I also have another non-fiction book in the pipeline, a half written gothic fiction book and a literary novel which is sort of a modern day combination of Chaucer and James Joyce set in rural Ireland. I don’t want to say too much yet!
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