Read Meet Author: Collin Kelley
Promoting, touring, tweeting, handing out books for hugs, and so on... I always thought being a writer was all about coffee shops and roll top desks, typewriters and subtle jazz floating in the background. However, the modern small press writer may spend just as much time promoting the published work as they spent crafting their future work.
Collin Kelley recently released a novel, the first in a trilogy, called Conquering Venus. He has been using several different tools and methods to spread the word. He was recently kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Orange Alert (OA): Tell us about your new novel, Conquering Venus.
Collin Kelley (CK): In the summer of 1995, Parisian widow Irène Laureux has been unable to leave her apartment on rue Rampon for almost 30 years due to crippling agoraphobia. When American writer Martin Paige, acting as chaperone for a group of high school students on their senior trip, checks into the hotel across the street, Irène discovers that she and the young man have logic-defying connections, including similar tattoos and unresolved mysteries about the deaths of their partners. Irène's husband, Jean-Louis, was mysteriously killed during the chaotic 1968 student/worker riots and Martin harbors a dark secret about the suicide of his lover, Peter. As the story unfolds, Martin's attraction to one of the students on the trip and a devastating terrorist attack at Notre-Dame become part of a synchronous chain of events that will release the characters, literally and figuratively, from self-imposed prisons.
OA: I've found one of the most challenging aspects of the small press is promotion. What are you doing to promote this book, and do you feel promotion should fall more onto the plate of the press?
CK: Many writers – even those who land a deal with a big publishing house – are stunned when they find out they are going to have to do their own promotion work. Publishers just don’t have the budget for it. Most of the Conquering Venus promotion is online. There’s a blog for the book at www.conqueringvenus.blogspot.com, a Facebook fan page, I Twitter at @CollinKelley and have been doing a blog tour. Since September, I’ve been doing interviews, podcasts and interviews on other blogger’s sites. It helps diversify and spread the word to a larger audience. Physical books have been sent to magazines and journals, and I have fingers crossed for some reviews, but the majority has been online. The Internet is where book promotion is these days, not to mention that many people are downloading books and reading them online, on e-readers and iPhones,
OA: What has your experience been like with Conquering Venus?
CK: The economy is affecting book sales – unless you’re Dan Brown or get your book on Oprah. Every author I know is hustling to get their books before an audience, which has less time and less money than ever. Conquering Venus has received good reviews so far, but sales have been just so-so. Finding a niche online isn’t easy either, but I know I have a fan base that is familiar with my poetry, so I’m hoping they will take the leap and read the novel as well.
OA: A book tour on a budget seems to be a relevant topic these days, are you planning to tour and do you feel like the tour is a value tool to get your book out there?
CK: I do have readings and signings set up through the Spring of 2010. I just did two readings in New York and I’ll be featured at the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival in November. In December, I head to Nashville and then after the first of the year, there are readings in Savannah, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles and Denver. Most of these gigs are only partially funded or totally on my own dime. Luckily, I have frequent flyer miles and friends in these cities with guest rooms and couches. That’s the only way I’d be able to afford it. I think it is invaluable to meet readers face to face, although many authors think it’s impractical (not to mention unaffordable) with so many opportunities to market online. I’m a travel junky anyway, so having a book out is a good excuse, too.
OA: How long did you spend writing and editing this book?
CK: Conquering Venus actually began as a screenplay in 1995. I had an agent who shopped the script around to Hollywood and it never went anywhere. He suggested turning it into a novel. That was around 1997. I worked on the novel for three years, got a literary agent in New York in 2001 and she was unable to place it. It went back in a drawer for a couple of years, but then I pulled it back out and sent it to some contests, had a couple of nibbles from LGBT presses that never panned out and finally got it into the hands of poet and novelist Kate Evans, who is a Vanilla Heart author. She sent it to her editor and Vanilla Heart snapped it up. Persistence and patience is key if you believe in the work.
OA: What's next for Colin Kelley?
CK: Conquering Venus is the first book in a trilogy, so I’m about 200 pages into the second book and have started a rough outline of book three. The second book will probably be out in late 2011. I’ve also got a collection of poetry I plan to start shopping around in 2010, so my plate is full for the foreseeable future.
OA: If you could sit down to coffee with anyone (alive or dead) who would it be?
Anne Sexton. I owe my writing life to her poetry and fearless writing. I’d just like to thank her. If she were alive today, I’d hope we could sit down for some drinks and cigarettes and gossip about other writers.
OA: What type of music do you enjoy and who are a few of you favorites?
CK: Kate Bush is at the very top of my list. I’ve loved her since I was a kid and her music and lyrics have informed my writing from the very beginning. Laurie Anderson, Bjork, Peter Gabriel, Massive Attack, Vanessa Daou, Roisin Murphy, Stevie Nicks, Cocteau Twins, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone and Miles Davis are some others. Eclectic, yes, but they are (or were) all fearless when it comes to experimenting with their sound and image. I’m a big music buff, and always have something playing when I’m writing.
For more information on Collin Kelley please visit his website.ShareThis