Next Debutante Up to Bat: The Lovely Keli Gwyn

I met sweet Keli Gwyn when I first started blogging. She was the first person who ever interviewed me about writing.
Keli Gwyn writes stories that transport readers to the 1800s, where she brings historic towns to life, peoples them with colorful characters, and adds a hint of humor. A California native, she lives in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. When she emerges from her fictional world, she enjoys strolling past the stately Victorian houses in her hometown, drooling her way through the Coach factory outlet store, and fueling her creativity with frequent trips to Taco Bell.

Not only that, but she is a creative and generous person who sends out hand-written notes, gifts and has a real flair for scrapbooks. I won a First Sale scrapbook which I'm still working on, but it's incredible!
Keli's book sold last year and will be releasing in June. You can pre-order A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California HERE.
Publication can happen to you!

Here she is:

1. How many manuscripts have you written, and did the one that sold feel different?

I’ve completed six historical romance manuscripts and part of a contemporary. The latter is a sorry excuse of a story that proved my “old” voice lends itself to the historicals that were my first love. I get a kick out of using words like addlepated, gewgaws, and smitten.

After I’d been writing for two years and had five completed manuscripts, I spent a year studying craft. Armed with my newfound knowledge, I took a look at my stories to see which of them showed the most promise. I loved them all, but Miles and Elenora told me theirs was the story I should pick, and I listened. I’d rewritten it once, but I knew it needed more work, so I got busy.

That rewrite proved my characters were right. Miles and Ellie’s story won several contests, earned me requests from some editors and agents, and led to my offer of representation from Rachelle Gardner. I love the story and the characters and hope readers do, too.

2. How many years have you been writing?

I’d dreamed of being a writer since I was seven, but it wasn’t until 40 years later that I dusted off that dream. In January 2006 I plopped myself down in front of my computer, full of ideas but knowing next to nothing about fiction writing. My degree is in mass communication/journalism, but creative writing is much different, as I soon learned.

3. Tell us a little about the events leading up to your first sale.

I’d love to tell you I accepted Rachelle’s offer of representation and that she sold my story right away, but I still had more to learn. Rachelle made her offer on the eve of Christmas Eve in 2009. Talk about an amazing Christmas present! I soared in the stratosphere for six glorious weeks.

And then reality returned. Rachelle called to prepare me for my first set of Revision Notes and the shocking news they contained. While she loved the beginning of the story, I’d let out the tension a quarter of the way into it. In order to fix the story, I needed to delete the final three-quarters and start over.

I spent six months rewriting the story and sent it to my critique partners, who told me the beginning and end were good but the middle was slow. Two more months of work netted me a new middle that no longer sagged. I sent the story to Rachelle and held my breath. To my surprise and delight, she said she liked it and was ready to submit it, which she did. Six weeks later we had two offers, and I got a contract for Christmas.

4. What is your biggest piece of advice to writers wanting to get published?

If I were to offer a new writer advice, I’d say three things.

• Have fun writing your first story. There will be time to learn the rules later. A realistic goal when you’re getting starting is to reach The End.
• Realize that it takes time to learn craft. Just as a doctor spends years before practicing medicine, writers need to learn how to craft a marketable story.
• Be willing to rewrite and revise. First drafts are called rough drafts for a reason. In many cases they aren’t pretty, but with work, we can transform them into beautiful stories readers will enjoy.

Encouraging advice! Keli mentioned she started writing in 2006, just as I did. And now we both have our debuts releasing within months of each other. Do you remember when you started writing for publication? How long has it been? How long do you think it will take to see your book published? And if you don't know, since Keli loves unique words, what kind of words do you like to play with?


I love Keli!!!!! Sigh, she is one of the most awesome people I've met online. I cannot wait to read her book!!!!

Keli, I love hearing your journey and all the work you have put into writing. It always gives me hope to know that it is not always an easy road people take to get to their dream. :)
Julie Dao said…
What terrific Christmas presents - first an agent's offer then a book sold! :) What a happy and inspiring story. Thank you both for sharing!
Katie Ganshert said…
I agree with Sherrinda!!
Jessica Nelson said…
Sherrinda, Keli sows so much into writers. I completely agree and hope she reaps a bunch!

Julie, I thought it was funny that both happened at Christmas too. :-)
Lindsay Harrel said…
I love success stories, and Keli's is one of the most encouraging! It proves that hard work and attention to detail really do pay off.

And so happy to have you on my blog today, Jessica! :P
Sandra Orchard said…
So excited for you Keli! I think this is the first time I've heard your writing journey story. Wonderful advice.
Keli Gwyn said…
Wow! What a treat to crawl out from under the covers, fire up my laptop, and prepare to enjoy my special day here at Booking It.

Thanks for the lovely intro, Jessie. I'd forgotten you won one of those scrapbooks back in the early days when we were both dreaming of our First Sales--and I still had time to scrapbook. And now you're living that dream and filling those pages. I'm sooo happy for you.

Sherrinda, thanks for your kind words. You're one of the sweetest, most encouraging, and refreshingly real people I know. And you're a talented writer, too. I look forward to the day I'm dancing a jig at your First Sale party.

Julie, those Christmas presents were mighty special. Cute story: When Rachelle called to tell me she'd sold the book, she said she was sorry it wouldn't be coming out in December, making for yet another memorable Christmas present. I told her July was just fine because I was born that month, so I would be getting an amazing birthday present instead. :-) I'd love to see you get presents like those.

Love you to pieces, Katie!
Keli Gwyn said…
Hi, Lindsay, my fellow diva of details. I think it's way cool that you're an editor in your day job and a writer by night. What a great combo--one that will serve you well. I have a hunch you'll be one of those whose journey from first book to First Sale is remarkably short. When it happens, I'll be one of those grinning and saying, "I knew she'd do well."

I'll be singing praises when you sell, so brace yourself. My singing voice is not so hot, whereas yours is AMAZING! I love listening to the CDs you sent of you and your group performing.
Unknown said…
This is an awesome interview! It really encourages me to read about other authors going through the time of learning and growing as a writer. It assures me that where I am now in my writing journey is a good and necessary place... :)

To answer your questions, I've always wanted to be a writer and made attempts here and there to write fiction. But it wasn't until I attended the MBT Storycrafting Retreat in 2009 that I truly got serious about the craft. I don't know how long it will take, but I'm learning there's no rush. :)
Keli Gwyn said…
Sandra, I love hearing First Sale stories. Each is unique and special. Yours certainly is. It stands out in my mind because you shared it in my last interview at Romance Writers on the Journey. For those who want to relive your thrilling experience, here's the link.
Keli Gwyn said…
Melissa, I'm glad you found the post encouraging. Jessie asked great questions, didn't she?

You've got so much going for you that I expect great things coming your way. I'm ready to celebrate each and every one of them with you. And when you share your First Sale story, I'm prepared to laugh my head off because you exude fun. Love your blog, your awesome vlog interview intros, and you.
Jessica Nelson said…
Lindsay, that is so true about details. They can make a difference, from submissions to thank you cards.

Hi Sandra, isn't a good one? :-)

Good morning, Miss Keli! I'm so happy to finally have you over. You did such a lovely job on the scrapbook!!
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Melissa, I'm sorry to say, but there definitely is NO rush...except when a publisher needs the edits done. :-) But that's a fun rush!
Stacy Henrie said…
Great interview! Love your story of persevering, Kelli.
I loved reading Keli's blog at Romance Writers on the Journey. Some of the writers she interviewed there are now published authors. She took the time to send hand written notes with those giveaways she offered, too. Your journey to publication is an encouragement. Blessings on the release of your debut, Keli.
Loree Huebner said…
Love you, Keli!!

Fun interview, ladies!

I had Taco Bell last week and thought of you!?!?!? I mentioned to my hubz that "Keli loves Taco Bell" - his response was - "Who is Keli?" LOL!
Lindsay Harrel said…
Keli, you're making me blush! And I'd love to hear you sing. :) As long as we make a joyful noise, right?
Keli Gwyn said…
Stacy, I'm pretty sure every person brave enough to embark on the journey to publication possesses perseverance. We're a tough breed, we writers are. I heard some amazing tales when I interviewed not-yet-published and debut authors on my former blog, such as one writer who weathered 200+ rejections before selling and another who'd been at it over twenty years before she was contracted.

Pat, I was privileged to interview some 200+ writers in the early stages of their journeys, and, wow, did they have some amazing stories to share! It's been way cool to watch so many of my then-unpublished guests go on to receive contracts and to see some of the debut authors I interviewed hit the NYT and other bestseller lists. This can be a tough business, one that's experiencing a great deal of change, but dreams are still coming true.

Loree, I have a date with Taco Bell later today, and I'll think of you and your hubby. Wish we could meet to enjoy a meal. Wouldn't it be something if you and your guy walked in wearing your Civil War costumes and I donned my Victorian gown? We'd sure turn some heads. Of course, you and I could just smile and say we're writers. I've found that excuses all kinds of strange behaviors. :-)
Keli Gwyn said…
Lindsay, the day I sing in public is the day gas prices hit $1.00 a gallon. I make a joyful noise at church, but I rarely spread that joy elsewhere. OK, I serenade our cats all the time, but they've learned to ignore me--and to cover their heads with their paws.

For those who know Lindsay, she is an amazing singer. She and her band recorded a CD when she was in college, and she gave me a copy. She's the lead vocalist, and is she ever good! I could listen to her sing for hours. I invited her to perform at my launch party, but she's in Arizona while I'm out in California. I'll just have to sell some more books so I can afford to fly her out in the future. :-)
Keli Gwyn said…
Just so's ya know, I'd love to have you all (or y'all for my southern friends) join me at my launch party. Better yet, I'd love to come to YOUR launch parties, since I anticipate each of you having them when--not if--you sell. And I promise I wouldn't sing. :-)
Brandi Boddie said…
I love the interview, Jessica. Great advice on writing, Keli. I was surprised by how many edits my manuscript went through, but it helps make me a better storyteller.

Can't wait for your book to release!
Keli Gwyn said…
Howdy, Brandy! I reckon I can say that since you're a fellow historical writer. :-)

I hear you on rewrites. I loved watching my story get better and better as I input the changes my CPs, agent, and copyeditor suggested.

I'm looking forward to your debut! Love your cover.
Anne Payne said…
I loved learning more about you, Keli! You have truly been one of the most encouraging persons I have met online. I can't wait to read your book, especially knowing how much you went through to get it published.

I say it is a Christmas present...Christmas in July :)
Here in the south, we have events like that every July! Do you have them in CA?
Keli Gwyn said…
Anne, thanks heaps for your kind words. I'm delighted to have met you because you're a delight. I enjoyed having you as my guest and introducing you to some of my blogging buddies.

I love the idea of saying my release will be Christmas in July. That's so clever--and works so well. =)
Jessica Nelson said…
Pat, she has the nicest handwriting, doesn't she? :-)
Beth K. Vogt said…
I loved hearing more of Keli's story. She is truly one of the kindest, most caring people I've ever met. And her blog is fun and informative -- a must-read. I can't wait to read her debut novel. I've had it pre-ordered for months!
Keli Gwyn said…
Thanks for your kind words and unflagging support, Beth. I think you deserve a top cheerleader award--or maybe a bag of jellybeans. I hear they fuel your creativity nicely. =)
I can't imagine getting representation and then having to re-write most of the book. You inspire me to persevere, Keli!
Diane said…
Yeah and congrats to both of you!!! :O)
Keli Gwyn said…
Susan, the news that I needed to rewrite three-quarters of the book was a shock, but once it wore off, I realized Rachelle was right. I dug in, got the job done, and knew without a doubt that the new and improved version of my story was far better than what I'd had before.

Lest I sound like I'm being glib, it helps to remember that I like editing and revising as much as, if not more so than writing a first draft. Now that I've been through edits with my publishing house, I realize the rewrite for Rachelle was good training.

Thanks, Diane! I'm thrilled for Jessie and am eager to read her story.
Terri Tiffany said…
You stole what I wanted to say about Kelli! LOL She was the first person who interviewed me too and sent me such sweet notes! She is amazing and I wish her so much with her writing!!
Keli Gwyn said…
Thanks for your kind words, Terri! I can't wait for the day you have a book coming out and I have the opportunity to interview you again. =)
Karen Lange said…
Thanks ladies, for this wonderful interview and great advice! So excited for Keli and her upcoming book. Can't wait to read it! :)
Keli Gwyn said…
Karen, thanks for sharing in my excitement. I hope you enjoy Miles and Ellie's story. Yeah, I know it's really mine, but they seem to think it's theirs. Considering how often they talked to me during it's creation, I figure they're right. And I'd better not forget to mention Ellie's nine-year-old daughter, Tildy. She's convinced the story is all about her dream of getting a new papa and is so eager for her tale to get into readers' hands that she might pop, as she would say. =)
denise petrovich said…
I love Keli's books. I would like to thank her for adding so much enjoyment to my life thru her books. Keep on writing and congratulations to her for her new book.
Keli Gwyn said…
Denise, while I'd love to have a slew of books on the shelves already, the book Jessie mentioned is actually my debut novel. I'm glad you're looking forward to reading it and hope you enjoy the story. =)
Traci Kenworth said…
Awesome inspiring story.
Keli Gwyn said…
Traci, I'm glad you found the post inspiring. I'm amazed at how unique each writer's journey is, just as the stories we write are.
Carol J. Garvin said…
I'm so glad to have followed both Keli's and Katie's journeys via their blogs and to see them through to their debut novels. Congratulations to both of them, (and to you, Jessica!), and thanks for sharing their interviews.

I've had numerous non-fiction articles published, but only began writing novels in 2000. I've done more writing and learning than querying, so it's hard to say how long I think publication will take for me.
Anonymous said…
Hi, Jessica. I just met you via the A to Z Challenge via a comment on my post by Terri Tiffany. So nice to meet you! And congratulations on Love on the Range! And now I've also met Keli Gwyn. She IS lovely. I wish both of you much (and continued) success. Enjoy the journey!
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs
Keli Gwyn said…
Carol, I love sharing this journey with other writers like Katie, Jessie, and YOU. Kudos on all those published articles. I look forward to the day you sell your first novel. I'll whoop it up big time when that happens, you can be sure. =)

Ann, it's nice to meet you. Jessie and Terri are awesome women and talented writers. I'm sure you'll enjoy reading their blogs and getting to know them. I look forward to getting to know you.
Another lovely interview. Thank you for sharing.
Cathy said…
Jessica, I just bought YOUR book today and can't wait to read it.

I'm a huge fan of Love Inspired books and am getting to know their authors through their blogs.
Nancy said…
Keli has great suggestions for first time writers. Six years doesn't sound like a long time from beginning to getting a contract. I think there is lots more help out there now than there used to be.

Jessica - I tried to find your book at Family Christian Bookstores this weekend. They didn't have it on their list. Is it on Amazon?

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