This week at The Pink Heart Society we are proud to bring you HQN and Blaze author Leslie Kelly, whose book Don't Open Til Christmas won both the eharlequin Readers Choice Award of 2005 for Favourite Steamy Romance and Book Of The Year!!!
"Leslie Kelly is a stay-at-home mother of three who started writing as a creative outlet after one too many games of Chutes & Ladders."
Okay, that's the honest-to-goodness opening sentence of my official bio, and believe me, it's true! But the Chutes and Ladders days have faded away...thank heaven. Have you ever played that game? I think it was invented by Spanish Inquisitors.
Anyway, my three daughters are older now, and they're more into Yahtzee, Sorry, and Clue. That's a good thing, since they have such a game-playing, competitive mother (which, by the way, is the reason they refuse to play RISK with me...I'm not raising any stupid kids!)
I'm still a stay-at-home mom. I still live in Florida with my girls and my wonderful, real-life romantic hero, Bruce plus our woefully spoiled puppy, Cassie .
I still like Dorito's and ice cream when I should be eating carrots and oatmeal. I still make a wicked Pina Colada. And I still much prefer writing on my AlphaSmart--risking it drowning in my pool--to working in some office where I'd actually have to wear big girl shoes and pantyhose. I've been incredibly fortunate since lucking out and selling my first book off the slush pile to an editor at Harlequin Temptation. I've sold a bunch of books, and won a bunch of awards (go figure!?) And somehow still always sit down at my computer and every single day fall in love all over again with this wonderful, fictional world in which I often find myself.
But, you know what? The non-fiction one is pretty darn good, too.
Where do you get the inspiration for your books from?
My books are primarily character-based, so I am often inspired by people watching! I love to just keep my eyes open when I’m out and about, and quite often, when I hear a snippet of conversation or witness some people in a conversation, I am spinning a story about who they are and what’s going on. In the same way, my stories generally start out with two people--I figure out who they are, and then I figure out what’s going on.
What makes you mad?
Intolerance in all its ugly forms. Religious, sexual, political, social…I just cannot abide people, countries, governments, religions, sexes, races who will not respect the rights of others to be different than they are.
What’s the most romantic thing that has ever happened to you?
I happen to be married to the most romantic man on the planet--he is so much more considerate, thoughtful and romantic than me, and he loves to come up with ways to surprise and delight me. A few standouts include the Valentine’s day when I was doing an appearance at a bookstore and he showed up, dressed head to toe as a pirate, and handed me a long-stemmed red rose. Or when I opened my Christmas present one morning and found a beautiful porcelain bottle filled with massage oil that he had made himself. Bath & Body Works had stopped selling our favorite scent, Plumeria, so he found the essence, bought the oils, squeezed individual caplets of vitamin E, and created his own signature stuff. It was fabulous!
What characteristics in a hero makes you drool?
Physically: I love a hero with a fabulous smile, strong jaw, broad shoulders. In terms of personality, I really like guys who can laugh, who are a little cocky and know how to work around a woman’s defenses. Those are the kinds of guys I like to read about, and the ones I write about.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
A Broadway star.
What do you do to relax and wind down?
I am terribly addicted to my nightly glass of crisp, cold Chardonnay. And my favorite way to spend an evening is with my family--either all of us watching movies or playing games. Or else curled up with my hubby, sometimes talking, sometimes reading, sometimes just enjoying the silence.
How do you get out of a writing rut?
Look at my checkbook and see the balance…or look at the calendar, and see my deadline.
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Hmm…that’s a real tossup. I have two distinct sides to my personality--I love the frenetic energy of a big city like New York or Chicago. But I also adore quiet, tranquil beauty found in smaller places. I think my dream would be to have a fabulous Manhattan penthouse for part of the year, and spend the rest of it in a cottage by the sea in County Cork, Ireland. (Hubby and I took the kids to Ireland last year and absolutely fell in love with it!)
Who would you most like to give a hug to for a fabulous book you’ve read?
I have so many favorite authors and “comfort reads” that I will pull off the shelf and read year after year, the two most constant ones being John Irving and Stephen King. I think I’d be a little scared to hug Stephen King, so I’ll say John Irving. A man who could create brilliant, unforgettable characters such as T.S. Garp and Owen Meany is someone I’d very much like to know.
What music do you listen to when writing?
Usually Broadway. I can often found a score that matches my mood or the mood of the book/scene I’m writing. When I am working on a frenetic, pulsing love scene, I might put on La Vie Boheme from Rent. When the suspense is building, I’ll put in Jeckyll and Hyde. When digging deep into characters emotions, you just can’t beat Miss Saigon.
Lately, however, I’ve been sticking to Christmas music.
Tell us a secret nobody knows about you?
Despite what I do, I am probably the least romantic person on the planet. My hubby and I joke that in our last lives, he was the chick and I was the guy because he’s so much more sensual and romantic than me.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
There have been far too many to enumerate.
Okay, wait, I have one that I’ve never forgotten: In 4th grade, I really started getting my kicks out of fiction writing. I used to write these long, detailed, in-depth stories with chapters and multiple characters. And my teacher loved them--except she constantly rode me about my spelling, punctuation, etc. So one day I turned in this story, the longest I’d ever done. I was out sick for two days afterward and when I came back, I learned that my teacher had mimeographed copies of my story for the entire class and had everyone correct my errors. I was mortified…but definitely never forgot the lesson about editing your work. (I still have the smeary mimeograph in a scrapbook…and I’ve never forgotten the name of the teacher. Mrs. Bitch…lol!)
What have you had to celebrate in the last year?
Well, after living apart from my husband for a year because of a job change, we are finally together again, living under the same roof. Wahoo! And while it was wonderful and exciting to watch my oldest daughter graduate from high school, that joy was a bit overshadowed by the knowledge that we would be leaving her behind to attend college when we moved away from Florida. I still miss her SO much.
What’s beside your computer when you’re writing?
I typically write on my laptop, in a recliner, because I have a very bad back. And beside me, without fail, is Cassie, my fuzzy little Shih-tzu/Poodle, who likes to curl up so close, every inch of her body is touching my leg. She’s such good company!
If you could kiss anyone in the world who would it be?
Romantically, I get all the kisses I need from my hubby. But if I could exchange a warm kiss of love and well wishes with one person this holiday season, it would be with my mother, who passed away 17 years ago. I miss her every single day, and at this time of year, the ache is even worse. I’d love one more hug, one more I Love You, one more kiss on a bright Christmas morning.
What are you working on now?
I’m finishing up my next mainstream contemporary romance, SHE’S NO ANGEL, which comes out from HQN in July 2007 in the U.S. Then I leap into my next category book, a Blaze for the “Bad Girls Club” miniseries with fabulous authors and great friends Julie Elizabeth Leto and Tori Carrington (aka Lori & Tony Karayianni.) That book comes out in September 2007.
Leslie's latest release is in the UK - Don't Open Till Christmas is a Blaze release and is available to buy now!!!
To learn more why not visit Leslie's super website and don't forget to come back at the end of the month for The Pink Heart Society's December Hamper - where Leslie is giving away a copy of her October Blaze title: Asking For Trouble!