Monday, March 21, 2011

Interview with New York Times Bestseller Kelley Armstrong

I had the amazing opportunity to interview Kelley at one of her readings of The Gathering. Thank you so much Kelley! I'm glad I get to share her wonderful thoughts with all of you. So without further adieu, I give the interview (read it out loud- that rhymed)

 K = Kelley Armstrong HG = Hayley Gillis

 HG: Was it hard for you to get Bitten published?
 K: Yes definitely, I mean I was writing Bitten for years every time I told someone what I was writing they said ‘O god Kelley if you have to write about that stuff at least write about vampires. People buy books on vampires’ so I was writing other stuff that I was told was more marketable and it was rejected. I was trying to send out query letters and it was... I think they probably heard the word werewolf and four rejection letters so after four years at it I asked my instructor to take a look at it and asked whether or not he thought I should pursue it. Whether I should take up knitting and sent me to an agent who you just met who is Helen Heller. He asked would you take a look at my student’s writing. She asked “what’s it about,” he said “werewolves” she said “no thanks” (laughing). So she continued to say no until she only said yes to get him off the phone (more laughing) then I sent it in and a week later she called and offered to represent me and it sold right after that. So it was a long time of getting no where and then getting a lot places really fast.

HG: You had released prequels on the web before Bitten came out right?
K: Not for Bitten. Because Bitten was sold in ’99, there wasn’t a lot of web presence going on then. After that I’ve done free online stuff.

HG: Ok so your prequel stories were written after?
K: Yes after, I had already written the background story for Bitten but I hadn’t written it out in prose form. I did that because I had a website and I wanted to give readers something so I wrote out the back-story in actual story form.

HG: Ok so you have three different series out now; your fantasy, your mystery and your young adult fiction. Would you say that you enjoy writing mystery over fantasy or is it harder?
K: I like a combination ideally it’s a combination of thrillers plus fantasy. So while I really like these, straight mystery because it’s a change of pace, my ideal would combine the both. So my adult series combines both mystery and fantasy, and my YA has more thriller action plus fantasy.

HG: Have you faced many struggles as a female Canadian author?
K: I don’t think so, I really don’t. I haven’t ever found that... there is certainly a bias against commercial writers, but you get that anywhere. There’s always that struggle between literary and genre commercial, but as a female I don’t think that I have ever felt that I was being categorized like that, especially YA where it is predominately female authors (laughing)

HG: Definitely. Your works are partly set in Toronto; do your U.S. readers ever have a problem relating?
K: No they don’t. They really don’t I mean I was told in Canada I was told “please change all that to the U.S. or you will never sell it or if you do sell it they will make you change it all” they never have. There’s always Toronto bits, my next young adult trilogy is set on Vancouver Island, so I am allowed to do that and nobody complains.

HG: That’s great and exciting. After listening to your first chapter I’m dying to read it (Kelley laughs in response). In your latest works you’ve been writing from duel perspectives- is it easier or harder to write from two perspectives?
K: It is I think both. I mean you can actually do less plot when you do it from multiple perspectives. Normally you are only following one person this way you’re following two and have two things going on at the same time that normally you wouldn’t see. So the more perspective the less plot you need to have- so it’s good and bad (laughing at her answer).

HG: Which genre do you enjoy reading more: mystery, fantasy or young adult?
K: Right now probably young adult but in general mystery. Thrillers are what I really love to read.

HG: In your opinion, young adult is really emerging right?
K: Young adult is really strong right now. I speak to a lot of adults who read YA and say you know what some of this stuff is better than the adult fiction. A lot are on the market now, so you almost have to be on your game for that.

HG: Would you categorize your works as fantasy?
K: I let anyone categorize it as anything they want. So when some people pull this out they will say ‘this is fantasy’ so they’ll shelve it in fantasy. Canada mainly shelves it in horror, which is fine as long as everything else is similar in the same place. In the U.S. it could be in fantasy it could be mystery it could be in romance, so it really depends, I think, on what people pull out of it.

HG: Yeah, I know it’s used to be shelved at Chapters in fiction and now it’s moved to horror with the new edition releases. Oops bee (we both laugh at the bee in my face). Do you have a favourite author?
K: O tons of favourites, but all time favourite is Stephen King.

HG: Really? So do you like reading from a male’s perspective or does it make a difference to you?
K:  It doesn’t at all, because I grew up with both and I think that’s important for any kids growing up to read from both perspectives especially for boys to read from a girls perspective which is a lot harder sell.

HG: I actually have a quote from a local librarian, she says that your young adult trilogy is easily assessable to both boys and girls in middle schools, grades 7 and 8, what would you say to that?
K: I would like to think that. It’s always told from a girl’s point of view but the romance is muted and the action is high we have zombies; we have strong female and strong male characters. So as long as the boys can get past those girlie covers (laughing) and the female narrator, I think that there easily accessible.

HG: Do you think you’d ever write from a young boy’s perspective?
K: I’ve done a lot in my online. So I do have two novellas online told from the main male’s point of view, my werewolf Derek, and the teens love it.

HG: Yes we all love Derek- the mystery (laughing). Ok so I saw that you were reading from an e-reader but my next question is would you ever buy an e-reader?
K: I have my I-pad. So I do have an e-reader which is great for travelling and then the I-pad which is an e-reader I can write on, I can send emails on it. When I travel I use an e-reader but when I’m home I read a book, but it’s good for travelling.

HG: Absolutely and it’s easily accessible for books that aren’t in the store. You live in Toronto correct. Do you have any favourite venues in Toronto?
K: I grew up in Southern Ontario so I was in sort of the London area, but yeah Toronto I love, love, love Queen’s Park, the museum. Queen’s Park is a great place to write and the museum is a great place to hang out.

HG: Is that where you’ve written a lot of your books?
K: I have sat in museum and written yeah.

HG: Really that’s interesting. Do you have any advice for someone entering the publishing industry?
K: Write, write, write. Don’t think about your novel for ten years. If you haven’t wrote it, write it because you cannot waste an idea. If you don’t like it you can always restart it and nobody ever has to see it, but if you just think about writing you don’t get any practice.

HG: Ok great thank you so much. I appreciate this I know you guys are very busy. I hope you guys have a great day.
K: O your welcome. Thank you and you as well.


  1. Great Interview, I didn't realize Kelley was Canadian *face-palm*. Why is it so difficult to publish books...and why is it harder to do so with werewolf books? Do you really have to wait for one important person to like before it can be published? if so that really sucks but I'm glad she didn't give up! I love her YA Darkest Powers Triology!! <3

  2. I agree with Kelley e-readers are great for traveling! Also, I need to get my hands on her other series, I've only read her YA stuff.