J. Perry Kelly [jperrykelly]
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
"The Odyssey" and "The Iliad" by Homer. Somewhere between third and fifth grade, I found translations of both books on a shelf in a back room. I've loved Mythology and everything connected to the Trojan War ever since.
Other than an attempt to forge my parent's signatures on a report card in first grade, my first stabs at creative writing occurred in ninth grade re "current events." Our history teacher expected us to bring news clips from home and read them aloud...or copy the text by hand. I invented mine in study hall the period before our class. My classmates, who knew my secret, snickered and laughed over my breathless news items, i.e., "Flash! Man grows eleventh finger from left eyeball!"
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
I love to weave romance, mystery and action into fiction while spicing it with humor. My view is that life is too colorful to paint from a limited palette...so I throw in paranormal and soft sci-fi highlights for effect. The following link presents the consequences of a sci-fi blunder by a regressive hypnotist.
What well known writers do you admire most?
As a young man, I loved and found inspiration in the works of Ayn Rand. Life, like it sometimes does, revised my points of view and caused me to search for the "rest of the story." Likewise, my wife, who was far more experienced than I as a reader, introduced me to British classics plus Tolkien, Pratchett, and others (I found Tom Clancy on my own;<). Through it all, I've developed a taste for third person, multi-thread adventures that use satire to expose the pitfalls of the human psyche.
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
I invent my characters, especially minor ones, as products of need and plot. For example, my protagonist is conducting an environmental protest at a remote goldmine and no one comes. In order to turn a mildly unusual situation into chaos and pandemonium, I imagined a security guard with a speech defect coupled with a situation where he needs to call 911. To make him believable, I painted him with traits one might expect given his situation and condition--but also dropping comments and taking actions that reveal there's more to the man than a stereotypical mold.
My main characters tend to be wedded to the process of my imagining the overall story, so they're still products of need and plot. The difference is 'something' tells me their voice and actions need to be part of the tale. When I envision the story, they're already in it. They seem like real people in my mind, so in the interest of 'doing them justice' I work to make them real in the minds of my readers. This can include imagining what their personal histories 'must' have been and painting their personalities with conflicting colors (since we so often harbor conflicts).
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
Probably my wife. After paralyzing myself in an auto accident (in 1997), she encouraged me to write as a therapy to reboot my psyche and also to help recover the use of my hands. I wrote the rough drafts of my novel by hand and only returned to it many years later when I had a computer.
By that time, I had ended several years of activism at the forefront of the stem cell debates. My environmental concerns (and stem cells experiences with politicians, scientists, worldview leaders, and the media) played a large part in my studying novel writing and finishing my novel. I hoped to have a positive effect socially concerning the environment and global warming via fiction and 'suspension of disbelief' [contrary to my "pro-cures" failures using scientific facts].
However, because I love to entertain my wife and I admire her lively mind, penetration, and humor, I often try to surprise her with plot twists or sudden humor to earn her smiles and laughs.
Does reader feed-back help you?
Well...I'm not sure. My wife's feedback definitely did. I'm still waiting for a verdict from the first pair of human eyes (other than hers) to actually read the book. I'm a bit nervous. You see...I DID belong to a critique group years ago as a member of Pikes Peak Writers. Then Colorado Springs cancelled evening bus service, and I'm not in good enough shape to push my wheelchair fourteen miles (round-trip) to the meetings. Wish me luck!
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
Yes, my wife. Big mistake...and at the same time a painful blessing. She is brutally honest, especially concerning anything that smacks as being ego driven. I've sulked for days over her 'gentle admonitions' before invariably doing exactly as she suggests. For me, marriage and writing are inseparable. They both involve admitting we're not perfect and caring enough to get 'over' ourselves.
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
Yes. I'd be surprised if my writers 'voice' in works of fiction changed significantly. I'm constantly trying to improve my writing, so the story unfolds in the readers mind without snags, or so a sense of being 'told' a story by an author doesn't detract from their experiencing the story. As rare notes of satire, I sometimes inject an omniscient comment...but only if my wife isn't looking. My non-fiction voice, however, can vary and often does depending on subject and mood.
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
I umm...write in a closet. No. Really. I do. It's not a Harry Potter thing. My wife doesn't lock me in like the Dursleys. In fact, I took the door off the closet, so I can park my wheelchair over the threshold while facing the computer [inside the closet]. It's a matter of space. Plus there's nothing to look at, so I can't be distracted. We live at the foot of Pikes Peak, and wildlife often crosses the courtyard outside my condo. I wouldn't get anything done if I could gawk outside our windows.
What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?
I tend to visit environmental websites and occasionally leave comments [on Grist, 350, Climate Progress, and It's Getting Hot in Here] and I blog at Quantum Fires on WordPress. As far as sharing experiences or information concerning writing, book marketing, the industry, etc., I sometimes use social media (Twitter and Facebook...or LinkedIn if it's professional]. These tweets or post can lead to conversations, which I usually find interesting, informative, and fun.
What are you working on now?
I'm about to self-publish my debut novel, "The Sibyl Reborn," which means I'm more involved in Kindle formatting, cover graphics, website building, creating a trailer, etc., than writing the sequel I've already mapped. I sure look forward to writing again.
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
LOL! Don't do what I did. The more you rewrite, the more highly attuned you become to your mistakes (which objectively might not be mistakes). Join a critique group; get feedback; study your craft. I can't say whether you should return to your former stories (poems, etc.) or move in new directions. It depends on what motivates you to write. However, if you are motivated to write, you probably should. Creativity represents a powerful force that psychologists say shouldn't be ignored or repressed.
J. Perry Kelly
Manitou Springs CO USA