The Senator's Youngest Daughter

i have a problem with chapters

Confessional time: I have a problem with chapters. Another writing friend of mine and I were talking today, and I confessed my hoarding: I collect chapters.  The Senator's Youngest Daughter may have ended up just shy of 70, but the next book I'm working on isn't wrapped yet and I just typed "Chapter 105." YIKES, Kelley. Self-control.

I seem to be unable to switch scenes, topics, or locations without starting a new chapter. I also like to start a new chapter after a startling moment. Not that I want commercials in my book, but I like that shock value on TV shows.

"Well, the thing is, Mr. Bauer, you're pregnant." 

[screen goes black and a Toyota ad starts screaming]

WHAT? So I guess that moment where my reader has to turn the page (or flick their finger to the left) is my equivalent of a Toyota commercial. It's the extra millisecond of anticipation... leaving them on edge.

I need to combine some of my chapters... thin the herd. It's too late for The Senator's Youngest Daughter, of course. But the next book still has hope for a reasonable number of chapters and a table of contents that isn't six pages long on the Kindle.  Finger cramp!

 



             

reading, writing, and social field hockey

I learned something about myself when I started my sophomore year of college at Millersville University.  I enjoyed being athletic and fit, and I enjoyed spending time with my friends, but I did not love field hockey.  **gasp** This was a big surprise, because I really thought I did.

I learned this as the fall progressed without me, for the first time in eight years, picking up a hockey stick.  I had so many good memories, but what I learned that season was that it wasn't the sport itself I enjoyed.  I loved being with my friends, working towards a common goal, fighting together, laughing (and sometimes suffering sunburn) as a team.  Oh, and winning. We were pretty awesome, you know...

Don't get me wrong, I LOVED watching the US Field Hockey team play their last game before the Rio Olympics.  It's a great sport.  But the game would have been weird to watch alone. I was there with my dad and my sisters, rehashing wonderful memories!  We could've been cheering for baseball (GO YANKS) or for a group of synchronized mamboing penguins.  My point is, what I thought I loved was not what I loved.

What I have learned now that I'm this wildly mature adult version of myself is that I love the social aspects of all things I do. Board games, sports, eating... I love the talking and the story-swapping and the laughing and the "you think that's bad wait until you hear what happened to me" one-up-man-ship of talking with interesting people.

Reading (and writing, I've learned) for me is also very social.  Like Stephen King taught me in On Writing, I write better dialogue because I'm an extrovert.  I want to talk about my book. I want to Book Club with other people and dialogue about the characters I created. (Yes, I used Book Club as a verb.)  I want to hear them laugh and watch them read the sad parts. 

Nothing has made me happier than hearing people's comments as they read The Senator's Youngest Daughter. I recently had the privilege of sharing a Facebook messenger dialogue with a friend as she read my novel.  She opened the book over a period of days, letting me know what she was thinking and experiencing as she read it.  What a glorious, encouraging, treasured experience for me.  

I love making people laugh, making people feel something, so to experience her trip through Brenna's story was fabulous.  Some of the comments would be enormous spoilers, so I can't relate them all here, but here's a sample of how she made my day:

  • I may or may not have neglected every chore I had today in exchange for more time with Brenna.
  • I can't stop.

  • Poor [husband] has only seen my forehead sticking out the top for two days lol

  • I just got goosebumps.

  • I'm sad it's over. Please write more books.

So no more field hockey for adult me, but hopefully more writing in the future.  And I want to talk to you about it: about what you're reading, about what I'm reading, and hopefully, about what you thought while reading what I'm writing.  



             

kelley rose, kelley rows

Two friends of mine were discussing my favorite exercise, and one commented, "Kelley rows." The other, having heard my name, Kelley Rose, asked, "What about her?"

[Crickets.]

I feel like I need to work on the delivery of that.  Maybe it's better verbally.  I also think perhaps it needs a little drum roll afterwards. Bah-duh-TSS. Yes, much better.

I like rowing.  Indoor rowing on the C2 rowers at the Y.  I started rowing at the Lancaster Family YMCA (a place I and my children love) about five years ago.  I've been hooked ever since.  Fun fact: one time, I competed at Lanco Field House in a rowing competition and I placed first (among the ladies) and won $100 and a t-shirt.  Does that make me a professional?  I think so, yes.  Their rowers are in-cred-i-ble.  Real water tanks.  (I think it was these.)

Indoor rowing works the entire body, and personally, does a wonder for my back.  I had back surgery for scoliosis as a kid, so I'm prone to backaches.  Rowing strengthens my muscles back there and somehow holds everything in place better.  It also works the legs, arms, and core (which I guess includes the aforementioned back muscles).

I rowed as long as I could when I was pregnant.  Somewhere around 25 weeks, it became too uncomfortable to hunch over.  Funny story, though, just when I was nearing the point where my Cam-Bam belly was too large, a new trainer started at the Y.  He watched me rowing from behind, I guess, then came up to give some helpful advice that I was arching my back and not leaning far enough forward.  #awkward when I sat up.

Strangely enough, that didn't cure him from offering unsolicited advice to me, because he's offered "assistance" at least two times since then.  I need to work on my blank stare.  Although, he's not alone.  Too many men at the gym try to talk to women and offer their "help."  I should wear a shirt that says "go away" because apparently my headphones, lack of eye contact, and Doctor Who tanks aren't enough of a signal that I'm not there to socialize.

My addiction to rowing made its way into The Senator's Youngest Daughter, although my protagonist Brenna is lucky enough to be able to row for real... like on water, not in a gym.  At least for a while (**spoilers**, said like River Song).

Working out for me, and for Brenna as a matter of fact, is about more than looking good or feeling good, or societal pressure or anything else.  It's about being ready to do the best you can do at whatever is asked of you. For Brenna, that might mean hand-to-hand combat.

For me, that means taking off at a moment's notice to grab a small child on a runaway bike, chasing down a slightly wild puppy, lifting two children at once because "mah legs aw tired," or helping my husband carry large and heavy items around our house because the urge to clean or organize has struck him.  So following the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared. Rowing works for me!

 



             

how long does it take to write a novel?

Since I have recently finished my first novel, it makes perfect sense that I should be able to answer this question without sounding precocious.  (Did anyone else just sing super-cali-fragilistic-expialidocious? If so, you're welcome.)

What I can answer is how long it took ME to write The Senator's Youngest Daughter.  Frankly, this it going to vary greatly depending on:

  • How long your novel is.  YA adults are going to be shorter than adult novels.  Also, certain genres are expected to be longer.  Sci-fi or fantasy, for example, require a lot of world-building description and therefore, the books tend to be longer.  (I do not have any alien appearances to describe in this book.)
  • How often and how much you write.  If you are like one of my writing friends, you will write at least 600 words, five days a week before work.  (Dedication!)  If you are like me or my sister, you will write in thirty second increments whenever you can, interrupted by children and laundry and dishes and lunchtime and playtime and Seuss-reading, then for like three hours twice a month from 11 pm until 2 am until you accidentally whack your head on the keyboard and take that as a sign to bail and go to bed.  (By the way, the next day when you re-read what you wrote, the last few sentences about enchilada pizza should be removed.)
  • How much editing you do.  Apparently, some people edit as they go.  This is not me.  I have no less then 29 versions of The Senator's Youngest Daughter.  Changing little things and big things, polishing the writing, fixing inconsistencies... so much to be done.  Then after your first person reads it (my husband, in my case), they'll give you a ton of new ideas, ask questions you hadn't thought of, and point out holes you thought you'd explained.  So, more editing.

Back to the original question, though, I first started taking myself seriously (after a conversation over grilled chicken with aforementioned dedicated writing friend) and believing I could write something novel-length in May 2014.  So, two years and three months for 94,710 words. That's my answer.  820 days.  19,680 hours.  Hmm... doing the math, that means I wrote just under five words an hour on average.  Although, I didn't account for sleeping or going to the bathroom or driving.  (Ahh, that's the reason it took so long.  Too much sleeping!)

Maybe my second novel won't take me as long?  I'm currently about 3/4 of the way into my next project (which, in case you're curious, is unrelated to The Senator's Youngest Daughter; it's not a sequel or something), and I already know it's going to need extensive editing.  I don't outline my writing explicitly, so there are a bunch of things that I've sort of "discovered" as I've gotten to know my characters, so they'll have to be seeded earlier in the story.

My writing style

+ my available time

+ extensive editing since I am a rookie

= 2 years, 3 months



             

What is Family?

My family has always been my world: my parents and sisters, then my husband, and now my sons, too. Growing up, my cousins were my best friends, and Matt and I hope our kids will someday say the same.  I am very close with my Pop-Pop (the last grandparent for me), my in-laws, and several of my aunts and uncles. 

Matt and I are also blessed to have friends that have become another level of family.  (We've already made zombie apocalypse plans with these guys, so look for the band of us in matching t-shirts should the worst happen.)  

All of these people love me, love Matt, and love my children.  They've walked awful roads with us, holding hands, holding me, praying.  They are a united front that keep me from ever thinking, "I'm alone in this."  They make me laugh harder than is really responsible, and trash talk me during board games.  

Family is the central focus of The Senator's Youngest Daughter.  I'm blessed to have written about a loving family, committed parents, and a faithful husband from personal experience.  The truth that many people may see this and wonder if families are still like that... but I assure you, by the grace of Jesus, mine is.  

To be honest, when people say something like, "My family fights, but any of them would take a bullet for me," I sort of cringe.  Is that what love looks like?  I might take a bullet for a stranger in a certain situation, but I wouldn't live in happy, cooperative, supportive relationship with someone I didn't like.  Family should be both -- the sudden, passionate, explosive love that calls you to action and the steady, mundane, just-another-Tuesday plodding love that fits and feels comfortable.



             

there's no place like home

It's amazing what home means to us.  Dorothy told us there's no place like it.  Home is familiar, comforting.  In our position as foster parents, Matt and I are confronted with the reality of what "home" means in an unusual way. 

Home is where you're comfortable.  In some ways, since my parents moved out of my childhood home for a lovely townhome that's free of the scars a house earns when it shelters young children (in our case, crayon stars covering an entire wall in the basement) -- I don't have that "going back home" nostalgic feeling anywhere like you see in movies when the city girl goes back to the farm.  

My childhood home actually came back on the market a few years ago, so my sister and I took a tour.  My parent's bedroom was full of exercise equipment, and on my mother's formerly pink living room wall hung an enormous Andy Warhol-style painting of a dog smoking a cigar.  The strangest thing was the traffic light in the corner.  

I wasn't home on that real estate tour, even though that pineapple wallpaper was still in the hallway.  Even though I could still open the doors without the hinges squeaking.  Even though I could still make it up and down the stairs seamlessly without even touching the landing.  

 

Home when you're writing fiction is that familiar place.  You're comfortable there, the boundaries are far away.  Maybe the character is based on someone you know, or on a part of you.  Maybe the dialogue is a conversation you've had, or better yet, one you wished you could have had!

As safe as home may be, it isn't always exciting.  The adventures are probably elsewhere.  Writing The Senator's Youngest Daughter was an adventure for me, and actually most of it did take place at home.  Writing the familiar parts might have been easy, but it wasn't the best.  

Writing the "home" parts where siblings are talking, where parents are joking easily, where communication happens in a loving marriage... those flowed naturally.  But writing the adventure parts, the scary parts, the dangerous parts? That's a rush.  

If I'm home, I'm happy.  But if this home doesn't exist in whatever setting, or if it's being threatened in XYZ fiction world, I can imagine other ways of being happy.  Defeating the aliens, questing successfully, collaring the bad guys, maybe even stealing the crown jewels.

I love my life.  I'm hugely blessed by my life.  But if there were another version of my life (for example, the fictional life of the protagonist in an awesome novel), I'm pretty sure I could rock it.