Author Q & A: Christie K. Kelly

Featured picture is from my Instagram: @ernest.bookingway

Today, we are going to learn a bit about the author of The Six Gifts series: Christie K. Kelly.

Born in Greeley, Colorado, Christie K. Kelly earned an accounting degree at Western International University in Phoenix. She and her family later moved to New Jersey where she utilized her education to start-up and manage her family material handling business. Though she has been instrumental in the business’s success, painting, writing and creative endeavors have always been her true callings.

In 2007, Kelly was nearly fatally poisoned by methane and hydrogen sulfide gases in her own home. Surviving, she was inspired to tell her story, thickening the plot through the guise of the fictional series, The Six Gifts.

After more than one brush with death in her lifetime, Kelly credits the fact that she is alive today to her abiding belief in paying attention to signs and listening to her intuition. Her storytelling is delightfully infused with characters who do the same.

Married, with two grown sons and five grandchildren, Christie K. Kelly and her husband, Michael, live in rural Vermont with their two goldendoodles, Charlie and Dylan.


Secrets (book 1 of The Six Gifts series) Synopsis:

Nearly killed by poisonous gases in their own home, Olivia Alfieri and her husband, Marco, survive their ordeal by fleeing to the mountains of Vermont. But a new, secluded life isn’t enough for Olivia, who knows in her heart that it isn’t where she’ll find the answer to a question that’s been burning inside her since she was a toddler, when she nearly drowned TWICE. As she coined it, she’s been searching all her life for “THE WHY” – why she was saved then, and now, remarkably, once again.

Q & A with Christie:

Q: Who are your favorite authors?

A: A couple of my all-time favorites are Ken Follett and Rosamunde Pilcher. But for magical realism, I love Yann Martel, William Paul Young, Gayle Forman and Sue Monk Kidd.

Q: What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?

A: Elizabeth Gilbert and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I wasn’t sure about either at first. Although, “Eat, Pray, Love is entertaining, it seemed too contrived and flighty. She went on a journey to find herself and found love. A theme repeated much too often. Though, I grew to love Gilbert after I read “The Signature of All Things.” Her detailed story of a life somewhat given up for others intertwined with an education on moss was thoroughly satisfying.

It took me a while to understand all the hype about “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” At first, I wasn’t sure I’d make it through. But with perseverance, I found that its haunting nature permeated my soul and left me wondering about fictional places where generations have lived their lives. It’s quite possible that this book influenced my own writing regarding the use of dreams and generations.

Q: What is the first book that made you cry?

A: Probably “Love Story.” It was a long time ago, but I remember my older sister giving it to me to read and I sobbed at the end.W

Q: Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

A: “The Six Gifts” story was somewhat “planted” in me. I’d been attempting to write a non-fiction novel about my near-death experience – with little success. I put my writing to the side and started to paint instead. One day while I was painting, the idea for the story just dropped into my consciousness, as if it had been funneled in through the top of my head. I know it sounds corny, but that’s what happened. I remember jumping up, paintbrush in hand, and calling my best friend to enthusiastically tell her about what had just happened.

I spent the next four years engrossed in getting the story on paper. The idea that I should think about it being commercial was not something I thought much about – until after I felt that I’d done the story justice.

Q: Tell us about your writing process and the way you brainstorm story ideas.

A: I’m a very structured person and my writing process is the same. I developed 40 to 50-page outlines for each of the books in this series, and I worked for months weaving the chapters so that the messages and events between present day and flashbacks were cohesive. I researched every detail of the history needed and knowledge of what objects and customs existed in various time periods. I even researched meanings of names and charted ancestral lineage of my characters. I did all this before beginning the writing process.

Q: Out of the protagonists you’ve written about so far, which one do you feel you relate to the most?

A: The protagonist in Part I: Secrets, Olivia Alfieri, is based loosely on my life. So, of course I relate to her the most. I worked quite a bit of truth into the story and I find it fun to get the questions about what’s true and what isn’t. Although, I rarely give an answer. Only those closest to me know what’s true and what isn’t – and even they don’t know everything.

Q: When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?

A: As I said before, I’m structured. I need to know these characters very well before I begin to write them. I not only develop physical characteristics ahead of time, I also spend a lot of time developing their history, baggage, emotional states, habits, etc. For instance, there’s a character named Brian in Secrets who always has a toothpick in his mouth. If I didn’t know that ahead of time, I wouldn’t have been able to cohesively write the habit into the storyline.

Q: What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

A: I guess I have to say “The Signature of All Things’ again. I thought it was better than Eat, Pray, Love, but it certainly didn’t attain the same level of notoriety or commercial success.

Q: What is your favorite childhood book?

A: I loved Robinson Crusoe. The idea of living in tree houses on an island with all kinds of intriguing inventions to make life easier was a magical dream. I also loved The Jungle Book and used to fantasize about living in the forest amongst the animals like Mowgli.

Q: Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

A: Sure. In periods where my work in our family business is demanding, I can’t seem to find the desire to read. These periods inevitably lead to burnout, as I get lost in the unbalance of it all. But when I’m able to take a breather and get back to feeding my soul, I vow to never let that happen again … and then it does. It’s an ongoing challenge, as I’m an achiever by nature.

Q: Where is your favorite place to write?

A: I tend to write sitting on my bed with my back against the headboard, papers spread out next to me, so I have quick access to my research, outline, etc. I write best when I’m comfortable, which means not leaning forward over a computer. Through the slider in our room, there is a view of our pond and the woods beyond. I find that the wildness of the woods sparks my imagination in a way that no other view can, not even the ocean. There’s something about the unknown of what’s beyond the tree-line that enhances my vision of the story and allows the words to flow.

Q: What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

A: I’m married with two grown sons, so I spent all my adult life around men. Even with all that exposure, it takes work to grasp onto their train of thought. I’m a talker and a thinker, so I’ve got to pull back on the dialogue when writing male characters. As my husband says, women speak 20,000 words a day to a man’s 7,000. He counters that means they can only take in 7,000, as well. I’m not sure I buy it.

Q: How do you select the names of your characters?

A: I put a lot of research and thought process into the names of the characters in “The Six Gifts” series. I had this penchant to find names that had similar meanings to the character’s personality or part they played in the story. Often, I tested the names in the outline, and if they didn’t flow, I’d search for a new one.

Q: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

A: Many. You’ve got to pay close attention to find the clues of how I wove secrets throughout the books. I remember my editor calling me after going through Part II for the first time and saying that he figured out some of my cryptic methods. I had to smile.

Q: What was your hardest scene to write (without giving spoilers of course)?

A: There were scenes from my childhood that brought back some painful memories and kind of forced me to relive them. But I have to say the second to last chapter was the hardest for me to write. I’ll let the reader figure out why.

Q: 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?

A: Most definitely a body of work with connections. “The Six Gifts” is a series, so they’re obviously connected. I have a few more book ideas in the pipeline, and they’re all similar in their style, substance and genre. I hope to build a brand that is recognizable.

Q: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

A: Definitely a black bear. I’ve always felt as if I’m a kindred spirit to the bear. My kids must have recognized that because they started buying them for me years ago. I now have a wonderful collection of little bear statues that I proudly display on an old black curio shelf.

Q: If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be?

A: I would tell myself to keep writing – all the way through life – from start to finish. I had a long dry spell where I didn’t have time (or so I thought) to do creative writing. I know differently now. It’s all about making the conscious choice rather than allowing life and responsibility to control your destiny.

Q: How many hours a day do you write?

A: When I’m in the thick of it, I tend to write 8-10 hours a day. When I’m going through the editing / rewrite process, not so much. I find it much easier to get lost in the storytelling than to pull back into the necessities.

Q: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?A: I have three books in “The Six Gifts” series complete, editing and all. I have outlines for Parts IV and V, and I’m in the beginning stages of writing Part IV. I also have an outline started for my first stand-alone book, and as I said above, a few other ideas in the pipeline.


Secrets Sneak Peek:

Olivia is slapped into consciousness—or more like punched—and comes to with her small, mystified face inches from the concrete, water erupting from her mouth in little spurts, like a fountain misfiring.
She senses no pain at all, just an overwhelming desire— an almost frantic need—to return to where she’d been just a moment before. She rolls her head toward the pool, her eyes darting from side to side, searching for the comforting blanket of light that, a second ago, had so lovingly enveloped her. The sun glints a harsh yellow off the pool’s surface, not the same mystical white light she’d just been surrounded by.
A cacophony of voices rises and falls around her. Her tiny body is lifted from the ground and positioned in a lounge chair. Many hands move over her, each frantic touch feeling like an interruption, an erasure of sorts, slowly washing away the sensation still fresh on her skin, the ecstatic feeling that she’d been drizzled with warm honey from head to toe. White honey, though, a kind so pure that it isn’t really honey at all, but something else entirely.
Later, Olivia cannot sleep. She can’t eat or drink or think of anything but the ecstasy of the white light. She holds vigil for it under her bed covers, behind her eyelids, inside her brain, just under her skin. She simply cannot let it go, can’t allow herself to have lost it. She attempts with all her might to retrieve it. But, like a wisp of smoke through a window screen, it had slipped away.


Upcoming Event:
Join us for the launch of local author, Christie K. Kelly’s debut novel, “The Six Gifts Part I: Secrets.”

About this Event

Christie K. Kelly teams up with local farm to table eatery, Roots the Restaurant, to support the Vermont Foodbank. Tickets include hors d’oeuvres plus one drink ticket (beer or wine).

The Vermont Foodbank distributes nearly 12 million pounds of food to over 150,000 Vermonters annually. You will make a difference, too, when you buy a ticket, purchase a book or participate in the silent auction.

“Secrets” is the first book in “The Six Gifts” series. An emotional ride inspired by a true story of survival, this fictional family saga is steeped in magical realism. “Secrets” will awaken your senses and leave you longing to know more.

To learn more about the series and the author, the Vermont Foodbank and Roots the Restaurant, go to: christiekkelly.com, vtfoodbank.org, and rootsrutland.com.


You can find more information on Christie Kelly through her social media accounts.

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Goodreads | Blog

You can purchase Christie Kelly’s books through the following links:

Paperback:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-million | BookBaby | Indie Bound

Digital:

Kindle | Nook | Ibooks | Google Play | Kobo

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