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Interview: Kelly McClymer

September 27th, 2006 (06:20 pm)

Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: We Are Mice by Azure Ray

Kelly McClymer keeps her head above water and a smile on her face even when chaos hits her household. With three children and nearly a dozen romance books to her name, she recently decided to dip her toe in the teen fiction waters. Swimming around, she came up with a comedic college tale about a girl who writes an advice column but is personally unlucky in love (GETTING TO THIRD DATE) and a funny fantasy about a cheerleader who is forced to exchange her rah-rah for bibbidi-bobbidi-boo (THE SALEM WITCH TRYOUTS).

Kelly described herself in a string of nouns: "Writer. Reader. Wife. Mom. Daughter. Sister. Aunt." Now she's also a subject. An interview subject, that is.

How long did it take for GETTING TO THIRD DATE to evolve from an idea to the finished manuscript?

That should be easy to answer, shouldn't it? Oh well. The funny thing is that GETTING TO THIRD DATE started as an idea for a chicklit book aimed at adults. It had a different premise (thinking about whether or not my protagonist may have been too picky and missed the right guy for her -- so she goes back to date the exes and double-check she made the right decision breaking up with them). After I sold THE SALEM WITCH TRYOUTS, my editor wanted to buy a straight-up romantic comedy for their YA line and so I adapted my adult idea for a college aged protagonist. I'd been working on the chick-lit idea for about a year. I adapted the idea and wrote GETTING TO THIRD DATE in four months (May - August). And that includes a big family trek south that took a three week chunk out of my summer.

Was your book written before or after you landed the book deal?

After (very quickly after, I might add). My editor was interested in having me pave the way for THE SALEM WITCH TRYOUTS and its sequel with a book in the romantic comedy line.

Did you title your book before, after, or while writing it?

I picked the title, but it was a bit of a title-fest for a little while before marketing approved GETTING TO THIRD DATE. My original manuscript had been titled THE EX-FILES, but someone had already used that recently. We considered several possibilities and I was relieved when Marketing decided GETTING TO THIRD DATE was their pick.

Congratulations on the release of THE SALEM WITCH TRYOUTS, a comedy that mixes BEWITCHED with BRING IT ON. What inspired this witchy tale?

So odd, the story of how this story was born. I wrote historical romance before, and was trying to market a chick-lit book. I happened to go to a writer's conference and was standing in the back of a packed workshop given by editors. The editors were reading various query letters they'd gotten and letting audience members give an opinion on whether, if they were an editor, they'd ask for the manuscript (the audience was much tougher than the editors on that). There was quite a bit of audience buzz and I misheard an editor read a query title as THE SALEM WITCH TRYOUTS. By the time I realized it had really been The Salem Witch Trials, I had already decided that was going to be one cute book. Since the query author hadn't actually tried to write it...I did. I wandered through the conference telling everyone that I'd gotten a fantastic idea (but not what). By the time the conference was over, I had a rough synopsis, a few great characters, and a book to write.

I suspected my idea would get a little attention. I didn't know whether it would even sell when I was writing it. I wrote the whole thing before I queried an agent (my then-agent didn't do YA) and we sold it. At that point, my editor bought it for a trade release. I didn't know it would go trade until we were engaging in the sales dance and that was on the table right away.

After I'd written it, and while my agent was marketing it, I heard about Sarah Mlynowski's BRAS AND BROOMSTICKS and thought for sure my book would be dead in the water. Happily, our books were different enough that my editor was willing to take a chance on it -- and she's the one who decided it would do well in trade.

What are your favorite romantic comedies?

Dating myself here, but I loved the TV show "Remington Steele" and, later, "Moonlighting." Just to keep on the oldies trail, I highly recommend "Bell, Book and Candle" an older film about the romance between a witch and a mortal.

What are your top ten books of all time?

They change, as do I. Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice for opening my eyes to the lives of women in the 19th century. To Kill A Mockingbird because I grew up with one foot in the south and one foot in the north in the sixties. Paradise Lost and The Great Gatsby (from my English major years). Frankenstein, which I love more every time I re-read it, especially after I learned Mary Shelley wrote it in truly unusual circumstances. Alice in Wonderland, for showing me that fiction doesn't have to stick to the possible.

Visit Kelly at her official website.