Friday, July 29, 2011

Author Spotlight: Of Cherry Stems & Connie Keller

Today marks the inaugural Author Spotlight post on my blog. I have some super-fabulous authors lined up for every Friday, so I'm so excited that I could start right away. Thanks to all the commenters for contributing some kick-ass and perfectly bizarre questions for the authors.

Interestingly, the questions lent themselves to a few obvious categories, so I've had the authors pick a question from each (yes, there is a food category, there were THAT many questions).

This week, I bring you the lovely Connie Keller! (*crowd cheers*)
Let's go straight to some Q & A, shall we?

The Writing Process: How do you develop a mental picture of your characters?

I’m a very visual person. When I read, books are movies in my head. When I write, it’s the same. The characters come into my head fully developed. And their physical attributes (height, weight, etc.) are set as well. However, since I am face-blind, I have no idea what my characters’ faces look like. To combat this, I either cut out a photograph from a magazine that fits my idea of the character, or I keep a detailed list of my characters’ facial characteristics.

The Publishing Process: If you decided to self-publish, what was the final push that allowed that decision?

I’m not a particularly brave person, so I wasn’t one who eagerly embraced independent e-publishing. And my previous writing experience has been more traditional. I have an English degree with a concentration in writing, and I worked as a writer for Harcourt, etc.

When my novel was finished, I went through all the traditional channels. And a lot of literary agents were interested. One of my dream agents sent me a glowing email, telling me how much she loved my book. I thought it was my big break, and I was euphoric. But a few days later, she declined to sign the book because another book with a similar plot element just sold. She explained that because of the market, publishers wouldn’t sign a book with an element similar to one that had already been sold. Apparently, she wasn’t the only agent who thought it would be a problem. I was so discouraged that I put my novel “on the shelf.”

Months later, my daughter and my writing friends began to push me to e-publish. Plus, more and more traditionally published writers that I know began to e-publish. Another friend who is a very successful author told me to do it. She said, “It’s the way of the future.” Still, I waffled. Then I bought a Kindle. I’d never thought that I could forget about paper. But I did. Quickly. I fell in love with Kindle and realized everyone was right. E-readers are the way of the future, and self-publishing gave me an entrance into that market.

Writing and Food: Does chocolate help with the writing process?

Chocolate, being one of the essential writing food groups, is a great boon to writing. I’m a firm believer in the tush-in-the-chair-for-at-least-fifteen-minutes-a-day school of writing. A square of Lindt dark chocolate (either sea salt, black currant or intense orange) is my bribe.

Weird or Random Questions: What is your stupid human trick?

I can take a cherry stem and tie it into a knot with my tongue. While this may not be an especially marketable talent, it will keep children occupied for hours as they try to do it themselves.

(I'm going to interject here and say DUUUUUDE! That was MY stupid human trick and Connie, you totally stole if from me (not really of course), but I forgive you. There is room in the world for all the gifted people who have achieved the cherry-stem-tying-in-the-mouth trick.)

Thanks Connie!

Her book, Screwing Up Time, is now available! (Isn't that an awesome cover, btw?)

Buy at Barnes and Noble and Amazon!

For more details on her book, check out her Screwing Up Time Blog. Connie's also on Twitter too. :)

Happy Friday everyone, and thanks for stopping by!


Clarissa Draper said...

Super interview!

I’m a very visual person as well and so I like your idea about cutting out faces. Also, I had to go read the article about face-blindness (so cool!)

I agree that e-readers and self-publishing are the ways of the future. Even though I'm going a more traditional route, I sure miss the control I had with self publishing.

Chocolate is so important!

I'll check out your blog.

Old Kitty said...

I am in awe at your tongue talent!! WOW!!!!!

Thanks for a fab interview Connie and Lydia!!! Good luck with your journey into self-publishing, Connie!! Take care x

Bee said...

Screwing Up Time is such a cool title! And self-publishing is really an awesome way to get your voice out there.

Thanks so much for the interview. It was a lot of fun. Books end up like movies in my head too, so I can identify very well.

Can't wait for more interviews!

Connie Keller said...

Clarissa-I hope you enjoy the blog. As for face-blindness, the sad thing is that I didn't realize I was face-blind until several years ago when I was put through a battery of tests and couldn't identify a single face correctly.

Kitty--Thanks for the well wishes. I was very nervous about self-publishing, but it has exceeded all my expectations.

Bee-I can't take credit for the title. I'm horrible with titles. It was my son who came up with the title. (I hope he can help me with a title for the sequel.)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Fun interview! I'm a visual person as well. But I can't tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue.

Angela Felsted said...

Awesome cover. Love the colors.

Theresa Milstein said...

That's a cool cover. I wouldn't know it was self-published by looking at it.

This is a hard business. How discouraging to have gotten interest only to be rejected.

I have a hard time with faces too. I remedy it by looking to people I know or people I've seen on screen. Definitely helps.

Connie Keller said...

Alex--I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. I'm not sure if tying the cherry stem is a genetic "gift," but it's always a popular party trick.

Angela & Theresa--I can't take credit for the cover. I have a friend who's an amazing graphic artist, and she designed it for me. Her website is:

Lydia K said...

I just bought my copy. Yay! Vacation reading for August, awesome...

Connie Keller said...

Lydia-Awesome!! Thanks! And thank you so much for being able to present myself and my book on your blog. It's a great opportunity.

Anonymous said...

I did not know there were people who could actually do that with a cherry. Learn something new every day.

Teresa aka Journaling Woman said...

Great interview. I too am visual.

Can't tie a cherry stem. But when I get dental work, my tongue goes crazy and will not stop seeking out the dental work. That's not as exciting as the cherry stem.

Jen Daiker said...

Some great questions and answers! I loved this interview. It was neat to hear about the visual end of an author. So many questions to ask and a gazillion different answers. Fabulous!

Suze said...

Does it ever feel to anyone else that asking a writer about their process is a bit like asking them about something too personal to share?

Just curious.

Heather said...

That's the frustrating part (one of them) about the traditional industry, they won't pick up your book if something even remotely similar sold. Consumers want more similarity, not less! But for publishers it's all about competition, they don't want it. Good for you for providing it anyway! :)

And oh yeah, chocolate TOTALLY helps. I'll be checking out Screwing Up Time!

Connie Keller said...

Rebecca--you should give it a try. Who knows, you might have a new trick to show off.

Teresa--I do the same thing after dental work. :)

Jen--I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview. Lydia had such a great selection of questions to choose from.

Suze--I used to feel very shy about talking about my writing process. And I still am, but it's easier to do it when I get to write it out. (Guess that's why I write.:)

Heather--What would we do without chocolate?! Thanks for checking out my book.

Krispy said...

LOL, love the interview! I can't do the cherry stem thing, so it is BAFFLING and IMPRESSIVE to me when people can do it. How?!

Good luck and congrats to Connie!

Len Lambert said...

Awesome interview, Lydia and Connie! :)

Connie Keller said...

Thanks, Krispy and Len! This journey has been great, and I really appreciate all the support of the on-line writing community.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Great interview, but from the lovely Connie, I expected nothing less.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Aa! I love the sea salt chocolate, too! I thought it would be weird, and would've never bought it on my own. When a friend offered, though, I COULDN'T BELIEVE HOW GOOD IT WAS. Hmm. A boon to writing, you say? I might have to get some to keep at my desk. :)

Mark Noce said...

Great post! I love the insights here, it really makes me think, which is always good on a Friday;)

Connie Keller said...

Susan--You are so sweet! Thanks.

Peggy--Sea salt chocolate. When I first saw it, I thought Euw. And when you try have to have another piece. I think I need a sign by my desk. "Will Write for Chocolate."

Mark--Are we supposed to think on Friday? No one told me.

LM Preston said...

Yay! Thanks for sharing your book with us. This is something right up my reading alley and I'm glad you didn't leave it in your closet somewhere.

M Pax said...

All success to Connie. Enjoyed reading your interview. I used photos for my characters. I keep a folder when I see something which speaks to me, "potential characters".

Linda Gray said...

Love your question technique, Lydia. Especially the Weird and Random category! Great that you're doing a regular author feature.
Connie, with your background and that kind of positive feedback on the book, it sounds like you made an excellent choice to self-pub. I'm going to check into 'screwing up time'

Connie Keller said...

LM--Thanks for the encouragement. I'm not a risk-taker, so this was scary for me.

MPax--I've never thought of finding photos beforehand. I'm so going to try that. Thanks for the idea.

Linda--Thanks for checking into the book. I love the weird and random category too. I can't wait to see what other writers have to say in the W&R category.

Carol Kilgore said...

Sorry I'm so late getting here, but it's been a crazy day. I loved this post because I've received some of those glowing rejections on a manuscript I'm considering self-publishing, too. It's scary.

Happy Weekend.

Connie Keller said...

Carol--if there are any questions I can answer about self-pubbing that might help, please feel free to contact me at connie.m.keller (at)

Jayne said...

Lydia and Connie- Fabulous interview! Carte blanche to stock up on chocolate! And very impressive with the cherry stem... but I like to keep the stems intact--so I can dip my cherries in chocolate. ;)

Thanks so much, ladies. :)

Jolene Perry said...

Aw cool!!

I love interviews :D

Beth said...

Thanks for the interview. It must have been such a disappointment, getting so close to having an interested agent, but I love the happy ending!

Laila Knight said...

This was great. I can't do the cherry thing. You guys must be gifted. There are so many books out there that are so similar I'm surprised that really plays an issue in getting published. And I love the cover. I hope you do really well. :)

DEZMOND said...

he he love the part about chocolate :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Connie, great to meet you! And I have yet to see one person who can do that with a cherry stem. I'm still hoping to see that some day. Why? Because I'm easily amused. Best wishes with Screwing Up Time!!!

Alleged Author said...

My hubby can tie a cherry stem with his tongue, too. I wish I could do it! :(

Clara said...

Ok, first: This interview was full of awesome! I loved Connie and I think her book has avery nice concept.
Second: *runs to Lydia*: I missed you so muuuuch!!!! I'm back though!! : D

Great post, both of you!

Jai Joshi said...

Cool! So excited to see about your new Author Spotlight, Lydia, and excited to meet Connie too!

That's an interesting talent for cherry stems you've got, Connie. What I want to know is how you discovered that talent in the first place.

Best wishes with the publishing venture!


Connie Keller said...

Jayne and Desmond-- Yes, buy lots of chocolate. I own stock in Lindt. (Just kidding.)

Jolene & Clara--I enjoyed doing the interview. Lydia made it fun. (Keep following these interviews, there are some great questions that I didn't answer, which I'm sure others will.)

Beth--The rejections were hard at first, but to quote The Sound of Music (which I watched way too many times as a child) when a door closes, you have to look for a window.

Laila--Thanks for all the well wishes!!

Connie Keller said...

Alleged Author & Stephen--Hmm. I'm tempted to vlog the cherry thing, but my kids would kill me.

Jai--How did I discover the stem tying talent? As a kid, I read about it in a book and thought, "Cool! I have to try it."

Susan said...

Hello Lydia...Thanks for the interview.

Also, thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. Loved having you.

Oh! I just became your newest Follower. Susan

L'Aussie said...

Hi Lydia! Hi Connie! I love the simplicity of this interview yet it tells so much. Interesting re the e-pub and I wish you all the best!


Talli Roland said...

What a great interview! I'm also a little bit face blind (I have a real problem recognising people!) and I have to force myself to picture my characters.

Good luck, Connie!

Munk said...

Great new series Lydia, good luck Connie.

Nas Dean said...

Hi Lydia, Hello Connie,

Loved reading this super interview!

All the best.

Connie Keller said...

Susan & L'Aussie--Thanks. E-pubbing has been awesome. I can't wait to see what it will be like in five years when e-readers are more common.

Talli--Yay! A kindred spirit. You're the first faceblind writer I've "met."

Munk & Nas Dean--Thanks!

Laura Barnes said...

Hi! I'm a new follower:) I found you through Lisa Marie who I found through QT.

Samantha Vérant said...

First, this is such an awesome idea, Lydia! Second, I love getting to know Connie better! Connie, it sounds like you should (maybe not now, but in the future), if you decide to go the traditional route, to seriously consider e-pubbing.

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