Welcome to Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. Today I’m pleased to welcome Kelley Bennett Seiler, writer of Contemporary Women’s Fiction.
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Kelly Bennett Seiler is the author of The Plan and Shifting Time. A former high school English teacher and school counselor, she has written articles for such websites as eHow and Livestrong, in addition to creating questions for nationally standardized exams. She’s been featured by Woman’s Day magazine, NPR and PBS and was on the cover of Military Spouse magazine. Kelly has edited numerous books, including a New York Times bestseller. She received both her Bachelor’s degree and her Master’s degree in English from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. A native of New Jersey, Kelly currently lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and three children.
What is your book’s genre?
I believe the ‘official’ category is “Contempory Woman’s Fiction.”
Please describe what The Plan is about.
Claire Matthews’ entire world shatters into a million pieces the night she’s the only survivor of a brutal car that claims the lives of her husband and three children. Irishman Callum Fitzgerald, a tri-lateral amputee, has built a life and a career around encouraging others to find a purpose for their pain, with the reassurance there’s always a greater plan. Claire and Callum – two individuals with seemingly little in common – yet, their lives will unexpectedly converge, thus beginning a love story so profound and enduring, it could turn the darkest tragedies into spectacular triumphs.
How did you come up with the title?
It was the easiest of my titles to decide upon. The entire book is about how there is a larger plan for one’s life – one we, very likely, will not see or understand as it is unfolding. The Plan was the natural title choice for this book.
Kelly, what inspired you to write this book?
This book began as a screenplay. My agent signed me based on that screenplay, with the agreement I’d turn it into a book. So, although it is my second novel, THE PLAN is actually the beginning of my writing journey.
What is your favorite part of writing?
I enjoy “having written,” but not necessarily the process of writing. I’m proud of myself once I have written during the day, however, forcing myself to actually sit and write is often a struggle. I am easily distracted. Having said that, once I begin writing, I get lost in the work and the story and I find it to be therapeutic.
I feel the same way about distractions and getting lost in the story once I’m writing. Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?
Claire is similar to me in that she is a wife and a mom of three children. The struggles she encounters, however, are well beyond anything I have ever had to experience. I hope I could say I’m as strong as she is, but I don’t think any of us would know what kind of strength we have until we are faced with such huge adversity.
What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?
As I mentioned earlier, sitting and actually writing is my greatest challenge. I am easily distracted – by the dishes, the laundry, the TV, my kids, etc. Once I’m writing, I’m good to go, but getting myself seated in that chair is always quite an accomplishment in and of itself.
What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?
The last book I read was “Mrs. Perregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” I read it with my children. I enjoyed it, though, not quite as much as I’d hoped – that might be because my kids complained a lot during the reading! I’m excited to see the movie, though!
The movie is on my list! Who are some of your favorite authors?
Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, John Grisham, Jennifer Weiner
What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?
Stephen King says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” I believe that’s true, and along those same lines, each book you read is bound to influence you and your writing in some way – be it for the better or not. Many books I read introduce me to new concepts and ideas and even vocabulary. Some just remind me of what I do not want to do as a writer! Thus, I wouldn’t say there is one particular author, but all the authors I’ve read ‘as a whole’ are the ones who have influenced me.
Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?
I tend to “read” by audiobook, thus that occurs a great deal while I’m driving. As for writing, I write in a variety of places – my home office, Starbucks, Panera – but my favorite (and most productive) place is the local community college library because it is so much more quiet in there than in a restaurant or even the public library.
Kelly, tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I was on the synchronized swim team in college.
Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?
The greatest surprise for me, during the writing process, was that I am capable of writing a 450-page novel in six months! I would have never thought I could accomplish such a task, but when Simon and Schuster gives you a deadline, you meet it! Regarding publishing, I was surprised that, though the book may have only taken me six months to write, it then could take over two years to get into print!
What do you hope readers will gain from your book?
I hope the readers will gain actual hope. THE PLAN is a story with great sadness, but it is also a story about how there is a purpose to the pain we experience in life, though we might not be able to see it as we are trudging through it.
I agree. Pain can be a great teacher. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?
I networked! I rarely ever lose touch with the people I meet. Many of my book sales came from friends and acquaintances and their friends and their acquaintances. I also used social media to the greatest extent to publicize my novels.
What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?
I have passed out fliers to some of my book signings in the past and I don’t believe I ever really got very many guests based on those notices.
Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?
I wrote an article for The Muse that might come in handy for aspiring writers. It’s called “How I Networked my Way to a Book Deal.” https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-i-networked-my-way-to-a-book-deal
Thanks for sharing your great tips with us. Website and social media links?
www.kellybennettseiler.com; @kbennettseiler (Twitter); Kelly Bennett Seiler (Facebook)
Where can we find your book?
Hopefully, wherever books are sold! Specifically, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Walmart. Also, many public libraries and local independent bookstores have it.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on the screenplay for my first novel, Shifting Time, and working on a new adult novel.
Thank you for chatting with me, Kelly. I wish you all the best with your books and screenplays!
Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.