First, Kemberlee, thanks for being with us on Friday Friends.
Thank you for inviting me.
Tell us a bit about A Piece of My Heart and how you came up with the idea.
A Piece of My Heart is my first novel and is published with Highland Press, http://www.highlandpress.org. This is a girl/boy next door story told Irish style. Mick and Kate had been childhood friends and were quickly growing into sweethearts. A bully at school came between them, and after graduation, Mick went away to Dublin for college, becoming a researcher and historian with the National Museum of Antiquities. Kate stayed in the west and attended college in Galway City, becoming a palliative care nurse...one who looks after dying people. That there tells us she has a heart of gold. And Mick really does have a love of history, even as he denies his own family's history.
Kate left the work force to care for Mick's mother who was dying from cancer. Mick was just finishing his degree at university and struggled with getting home often and not missing coursework. After her death, Mick brought his father a Border Collie pup to keep him company, which he calls his Hairy Molly...an Irish term for one with a LOT of hair. When the father falls ill, Kate steps in to care for him as well, and raises the puppy to work small jobs around the farm.
The story opens in the solicitors office where Mick discovers Kate has been called in for the will reading. Since their 'break up' ten years before, and even though she's been caring for his parents, they really haven't spent much time together. There's too much personal pain between them. Mick understood his father had paid Kate for her services over the years, so her being at the will reading was confusing...until the will is read. Mick never liked life on the farm but he must now find a way to keep it or it goes to Kate. Kate doesn't want it. It's Mick's heritage. So she agrees to help him find a way to keep the farm while allowing him to return to Dublin. Even through the pain of the last ten years, and the heartache over Mick and what they'd lost, she still cares very deeply for him.
Chapter one is uploaded to my website at http://www.kemberlee.com/mybooks/apomh.htm
The story came about because of our rescued Border Collie, Daisie, who was found in similar circumstances as I wrote in the book. While I won't give away the subplot, I will say I'd hoped to write something no one else had. Readers have told me it was totally unexpected and they hadn't read a subplot like that before, so I guess I hit the mark there. Our Daisie will be eight this weekend, having been found as a newborn on 4 July. She's our Independence Baby! (our other rescued collie, Poppy, was born around Christmas Day. As newborns, she and her brother were put on someone's doorstep...ie dumped...the morning after Christmas, so she's our Christmas Baby)
Is this part of a series? If so, tell us about them.
Yes, A Piece of My Heart is part of the Irish Pride Series. The other two books are Rhythm of My Heart and Shape of My Heart.
Rhythm of My heart is about Dublin based blues guitarist called Kieran Vaughan and an artist's rep from Eireann Records called Eilis Kennedy. Kieran found himself playing in a seedy bar in Dublin's north side after his business partner embezzled all of their money from their joint business, a pub called the Blues Tavern. Kieran has to pay off all the debt before he can think about his career. Then Eilis discovers him by chance and believes he'll be the Garth Brooks of the blues. Eilis was a singer, but after suffering so much heartache from agents who would only hear her demo tapes if she got on the 'casting couch' she became an agent herself. She now hears those artists who would otherwise be turned away as she had. When Kieran and Eilis meet, sparks fly. Kieran is willing to throw away a career of a lifetime to have Eilis, and Eilis is scared because she's now forced to face her greatest fears. In the background, Eilis's boss Fergus is not the playboy he thinks he is. He's one of the worst agents who uses the 'casting couch' to his advantage. He's fixated on Eilis because she's the only woman to tell him 'no.' When Fergus learns of Eilis's intentions of taking Kieran on as a client, and more importantly how she reacts around him, Fergus does everything he can to dissuade her.
Shape of My Heart is about Grainne Vaughan, Kieran's little sister, and Dublin City detective John 'JD' Desmond. Grainne is starting her life over, ie: she's trying to grow up. She's moved back to Dublin with the intention of going back to school. But her job isn't quite cutting it with the expense, so she moonlights secretly as an exotic dancer called Jett. The money comes in fast and bountiful, so it's just a matter of time before she's saved enough and can quit. JD takes a job working beside Grainne in the hopes of gaining information from her about the goings on at her dance job at The Club!. This exotic club is a front for drug kingpin Taylor Wade, aka The Hunter. Grainne thought her identity was a secret, but JD uses this to his advantage to get Grainne to spy for him...or he'll tell Kieran what she's doing! Neither intended to fall in love. When Wade discovers what the two are up to, Grainne and JD find themselves in protective custody until Wade can be apprehended. It's then we learn why Wade is called The Hunter.
There is also a short story sequel to A Piece of My Heart, which tells Kate's and Mick's story a year later. This story is called Constant Craving and should be available soon.
While A Piece of My Heart appears to be a single title, there are connections in all of the books linking the characters together.
How do you plot your novel?
Plots are like roadmaps. You have a starting point and a destination. It's how you travel between the points that makes up the story. A lot of authors complain of writer's block. To me, this is simply nothing more than traveling on the wrong road or on a dead end road. When I get stuck, I back up to the last junction and explore other scenarios before continuing. That new route can be a good choice and lead to thickening the plot, or I could find myself in reverse again and trying the next road. Eventually, when I come to my destination (the end of the story), my characters will have had all sorts of adventures.
What have you learned being published that you wish you knew before you were published?
I think I'm still learning! I learned a lot through the editing process, but really, the whole industry is a daily learning process.
I will give readers two pieces of advice though. The first is this: Get with a really good critique partner (CP) --one who will give you honest critiques of your work and is not afraid to be burtal, but in a productive way. You don't want a CP who says everything you write is brilliant. It's counterproductive and you know it. If everything you write is brilliant, then you'd be published many times over by now.
And you don't want a CP who slams you at every turn because she's probably so unhappy that slamming someone else makes her feel better about her own work.
Also, you don't want a CP who, when you send her your chapters, comes back with "everything's fine" when you've put a lot of time and effort into combing her chapters and making suggestions.
Critiquing is a two way street, both giving equal measure. If you're not happy with a partner, change. It's fine to work with a friend, but friends have too much at stake if the critique thing goes south. Find a neutral CP. Your sole purpose in the relationship is your stories and helping each other with unemotional recommendations. Sometimes friendships can blossom through these kinds of relationships, which is great, but you must keep neutrality in your critiques. I'm lucky that I've had a couple great CPs, both of whom are great friends and we can still comment on each others work, or at least work through plots and bounce ideas off without worrying those ideas will be stolen by the other. There's a lot of trust in CPing so find the right person for you.
The second piece of advice is this: Don't keep saying "I want to be a writer." You ARE a writer. What you want to be is a published writer, and to do that take the time to hone your craft, learn from people willing to teach, listen to advice, develop a thick skin, and write what you know. If you don't know it, learn it.
As a writer, I'm always interested in any tips for revisions. Do you have any?
Irish novelist Dermot Bolger once said, "Write with passion in your heart; edit with ice in your veins." No truer words have ever been spoken. Stories should be told with passion. They should be told from the soul. But by the time we write the last words on the page the story is so close to us that the thought of removing one little word is like a dagger in the heart. That's fine if we're just writing for ourselves. But to make it appealing to a mass market, we have to learn to edit with a different kind of passion, ie: with ice in the veins.
I know I've cut big scenes from my story. It gutted me to do so. Every word on the page was the story I wanted to tell. But, the story I wanted to _sell_ needed editing, so passages went, scenes were shifted, dialog made clearer, etc.
But edits aren't all about slashing scenes. Here's an example from A Piece of My Heart where sentence restructuring and clarification can turn an OK passage into one with more punch --
Original: He figured it was probably for the best that Liam had shown up when he had. In reality, while he was sure they both would have found pleasure, Kate wasn’t the kind of woman to have sex so casually. Had't she said as much before she slapped him? Subconsciously, he reached up and rubbed his cheek, which still smarted.
Published: It was probably for the best Liam had arrived when he had. In reality, while he hoped they both would have found pleasure, Kate wasn't the kind of woman to have casual sex. Hadn't she said as much before she stormed out of the house? And she hadn't denied being a virgin. Had they slept together, he didn't know if he could live with the responsibility of having taken that from her and then return to Dublin.
The published version packs a bigger wallop than had Kate actually slapped Mick, don't you think?
Thanks so much for being with us, Kemberlee. Please come back when your next book comes out.
I'd love to come back. Thanks for the invitation. And thanks for asking me to join you today. It's been a lot of fun!
Okay, Kemberlee with be here all day so ask questions, leave a comment, and she will answer them. Don't forget to visit Kemberlee's website http://www.kemberlee.com for information on her up coming novels.