USA Today bestselling romance author Kelly Jamieson talks to us about her newest series with Penguin Random House, Bears Hockey. She also discusses why self care is vital for authors, and why celebrity heroes are so popular among readers!
- Kelly tells us about her writing career and what she has learned about the publishing industry so far, what it’s like working with a digital-first publisher, and why she decided to become a hybrid author
- She explains why indie publishers excel at marketing when compared to their traditional counterparts, she tells us about her social media strategy, and she discusses the collaborative nature of the indie author community when it comes to sharing marketing tips
- Kelly tells us about her writing process and why she finds starting with the characters essential to creating the roadmap of the story she wants to tell, and she explains how her process has changed throughout her career and why taking more time to write a book isn’t necessarily a bad thing
- She talks about how the events of 2020 have challenged her creatively, and how she has practiced self-care and patience throughout the pandemic
- Kelly tells us about her newest series, Bears Hockey, and she explains why she thinks sports romances are so popular, how she fell in love with hockey, and she gives us some predictions as to what romance genre will emerge next
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Heller Brothers Hockey
Aces Hockey Series
Rule of Three
Humboldt Broncos tragedy
Hockey Night in Canada
Kelly Jamieson is a USA Today bestselling author of over 50 romance novels and novellas.
Her writing has been described as “emotionally complex”, “sweet and satisfying” and “blisteringly sexy”. She likes black coffee, white wine and high heels…and of course cheering on her Winnipeg Jets during hockey season!
Transcription provided by SpeechPad
Stephanie: Hey, writers, you’re listening to “The Kobo Writing Life” podcast where I bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts, I’m Stephanie.
Joni: And I’m Joni. So, in this week’s episode, we talk to Kelly Jamieson, who is a hybrid author from Canada. She writes the kind of books that she loves to read: sexy romance with heat, humor, and emotion. Her writing has been described as emotionally complex, sweet and satisfying, and blisteringly sexy. She also loves to watch hockey. She’s the author of the popular “Heller Brothers Hockey” series, “Aces Hockey Series,” and the “Rule of Three” trilogy.
Stephanie: So, we talked to her about her latest series called “Bears Hockey,” which is loosely based on the Humboldt Broncos tragedy. And particularly during COVID times, we talked to her about self-care and how she manages to do that while also having a writing career. And we also had a really great conversation about what is so appealing about celebrities or athletes, particularly in the romance genre, and why so many people enjoy those kinds of stories. So, it was a great conversation. And here’s the interview.
Joni: We’re here with Kelly Jamieson today. Thank you so much for coming on today, Kelly.
Kelly: Thank you so much for having me. This is super fun.
Joni: For anyone that is unfamiliar with your work, can you give us a little bit of information about yourself?
Kelly: I have been writing romance for… Well, for a long time. I’ve been published since 2009. My books are on the steamy side of romance. And I write in a lot of different sub-genres. I’ve written erotic romance, I’ve written a little bit of romantic suspense. And lately, my books are more in the rom-com vein. So, a lot lighter and more humor I think.
Stephanie: Can you tell us a bit about your publishing journey and like how you started? Was your aim… Are you a hybrid author? I believe you are.
Kelly: I am a hybrid author now. When I started, I mean, it wasn’t that long ago, it was 2009 when I was first published, but it seems like a million years in publishing. Things have changed so much since then. So, when I started, I was like probably a lot of other authors, the goal was to find an agent and then get a deal with a traditional Big Five publisher. So, that was, you know, years of querying and rejections and that kind of thing. And then I discovered the digital-first publishers at that time, Samhain Publishing and the Ellora’s Cave were really growing fast. And I submitted to them and got published with both of them. So, that was how I started.
And although those publishers ended up both going out of business, it was really a positive experience for me being published with a smaller digital-first publisher. It was a great experience to learn the editing process and the publishing business and a little bit about marketing. The nice thing at that time was that all I had to do was write books. I didn’t have to do a lot of marketing, I didn’t have to do, find the editor, find the cover designer, do all the things, the uploading, the formatting, all that stuff. All I had to do was write books. I look back on those days fondly. But as I said, both of those publishers ended up going out of business.
And right around that time, I got a contract with Loveswept, which is an imprint of Penguin Random House, the biggest publisher in the world. So, I was happy about that. I got the rights back to all my other books that I had published with Samhain and Ellora’s Cave, and I published those myself. So, that’s how I became a hybrid. Most of it is my backlist, although I have put out a few new releases on my own as well. But I’m still publishing with Loveswept now, and into the future I’m not sure what that’s gonna look like.
Joni: So, you said it was 2009 when you first published?
Joni: How did you feel at the time about a digital-only publisher? Was that something that seemed kind of scary at the time? Or it seemed like it was gonna be the way forward?
Kelly: To be honest at first, to me, it felt like, that wasn’t my real goal. But I could quickly see that that was going to be the way of the future when Amazon and the Kindle came out, and more and more people were reading digitally, things just took off. I think 2000, what year was it that things were amazing, 2013, 2014 maybe? I was like, whoa, the money was just flowing in and it was wonderful.
And so, I mean, a lot of people still didn’t consider digital-first publishers to be a real publisher, like a Big Five traditional publisher where your books are actually in bookstores. And that’s a little hard to do sometimes when people are asking when you’re going to, you know, “When will I be able to buy your book in the bookstore? When are going to write a real book? When will you like…” Those kinds of things. And now, like romance, the romance genre in particular is probably about 80% digital. So, it’s so different now.
Joni: Do you find that also with your traditionally published books, which I guess are most of them, are they still mainly digital?
Kelly: They are only digital. Loveswept is digital-only line. I mean, there are business reasons for it, which I understand. But again, it would be nice to have that print copy in my hands. It’s nice. Readers like those. But that’s the way that is. And honestly, it does very well.
Joni: Honestly, I think you were probably ahead of the curve at that point, then, because I think you’re right. I think people do…like people like to consume romance fast and in bulk, right? So, digital way to do that you can carry it all with you and power through it really quickly. So, it sounds like yeah, you were quite forward-thinking.
Stephanie: When you sell rights to a digital-only publisher, do they include your print rights too or how does that work?
Kelly: They do include rights.
Stephanie: Oh, no.
Joni: That’s annoying.
Kelly: Yeah, my agent. We’ve talked about that. And we’ve tried that. But no, they want the print rights. I have kept audio rights. So, I’ve been doing that on my own. But they keep the print rights, even though they have no intention of ever publishing it in print.
Stephanie: Oh, I didn’t know that. Do you find there’s a big difference from like indie and traditional publishing for yourself, or like anything that surprises you is that, let’s say indie publishing does that traditional publishing doesn’t even consider?
Kelly: Indie publishers are much better at the whole marketing thing. I’m very fortunate Loveswept does do marketing for my books, marketing and PR, and they’re really good. It’s not like the stories I hear about some publishers who do nothing, they just put the book out and that’s it. So, I’m fortunate that way. But this is what I hear about a lot of other publishers is that, you know, they don’t know…they can’t react quickly enough to changes in the market and trends. And they just, they don’t have the ability to quickly experiment or test different kinds of strategies, whereas indie authors who are publishing their own books are constantly trying new things and sharing them with each other and pivoting and that’s a big difference.
Joni: Are you quite involved in the indie author community?
Kelly: I guess so, yeah, you know, there’s a ton of Facebook groups where indie authors all support each other and share information and give each other advice. So, I belong to a bunch of those. And there’s a lot of it. That’s another wonderful thing about the indie author community is how supportive everybody is of each other. You can go into one of those groups and ask a question about anything and somebody’s gonna know the answer. So, it’s a tremendous resource. And plus, it’s good to have people just to bounce ideas off of and vent to sometimes.
Joni: This is something we hear over and over from authors on this podcast is that the indie community is so supportive, and particularly the romance community. But I’m curious to know, when you’re hybrid like you are and you’ve done a lot of work with traditional publishers, is it really just you and your editor and maybe the marketing team at PRH, or is there any kind of contact with other authors?
Kelly: Initially, there was a lot of contact with other authors. So, like, again, back in the days of Samhain, wow, that was a really close-knit group of authors. Some of my best author friends are still from that group of authors. And when I started with Loveswept, there was a group of us again that were, you know, sharing information and advice. And I don’t know if you’re familiar with Loveswept and what’s happened with them. They did say they were going out of business or closing down that imprint, so a lot of authors have moved on to other mostly indie publishing ventures. So, we’ve kind of lost that. I don’t know how many authors are actually still left at Loveswept besides me. So, we don’t have that kind of group there anymore.
Stephanie: What’s your kind of approach to social media? Do you kind of be on everything or do you kind of keep it minimal to like one or two specific platforms that you feel like you can connect the best with both authors and readers?
Kelly: I probably try to do too much. But Facebook is where a majority of my readers are. So, I’m on Facebook. I’m not heavily into Facebook. Twitter is my love. And I probably spend too much time on Twitter. And some people don’t like it, because they figure you can’t sell books there. But I have sold books there. I know I have, and I’ve sold books for other authors there too. There’s a lot of word of mouth if you build a sort of a community or build relationships with other authors and readers there. And I’m trying to be better at Instagram because I know that there are younger readers there. And I would love to get my books in the hands of younger readers. I know my demographic is a more a slightly older group, but I’m trying to use Instagram for that. So, getting better at that I hope.
Stephanie: I do find that Twitter kind of gives the best romance recommendations when you’re like on the thread, and then you see everyone chiming in. So, I will say that I do like books from Twitter.
Joni: I think the thing is, you can’t be shouting about, “Hey, my book is out now and it’s $4.99 wherever,” like, people scroll past that. But when they see authors engaging and recommending books to each other or talking about the writing process…
Stephanie: The really specific, “I want this in a book”.
Joni: Romance Twitter is great.
Kelly: Yeah, I think so.
Stephanie: So, let’s switch a little gears. I’m interested in your writing process. Does it differ per book? Or do you kind of have the same like, this is how I write a book every time?
Kelly: Pretty much the same every time. I’m not a plotter. But I do have a sort of a roadmap of where I want to go. For me, it all starts with the characters. That’s what I have to figure out before I start anything else. I have to figure out my characters. I don’t do like a big detailed character kind of sketch thing with, you know, down to their favorite kind of soap or toothpaste. So, for me, I start at a bigger picture level. And basically, I want to know, what’s the wound or the thing that happened in their past that they’re trying to, or that they will have to try to overcome? What’s preventing them from being their best person and finding love? And once I have that figured out, I kind of know what some turning points are going to be in the story, what’s going to have to challenge that, and that’s all I really plan. So, after that, I get into their heads, and I just let them kind of take over the plot.
Joni: And you’ve written over 50 books, is that right?
Joni: Amazing. Has your process changed over time? Have you gotten faster?
Kelly: I’ve gotten a lot slower.
Joni: Oh, really.
Kelly: And sometimes it’s hard to know why. I think I just, when I first started writing, I didn’t know anything about editing, I didn’t know anything about turning points, I didn’t know anything about beats, I just wrote the story. And, I mean, for the most part, luckily, they kind of turned out. But as I learned more, now I self edit in a lot more as they go along, which I think slows me down. And sometimes that’s okay. But sometimes it can get in the way of, like, I can spend like 10 minutes searching for the perfect synonym for something.
I’ve learned to try to, when that happens, just, you know, stick in a placeholder and keep going. And I think that also focusing more on getting deeper into the characters and their motivations, and it slows me down as well. So, I love thinking about the days when I just sat down and, you know, write for hours and just go wherever I felt like going and that doesn’t really happen anymore. But that’s okay. I think the books are better. So, I’m okay with being slower if I’m turning out a product that’s, I think, better quality.
Joni: That sounds like a fair trade-off. Something we’ve been asking more authors about this year, particularly because it has been so challenging, is how do you balance like the rest of your life with your work? Or how do you take care of yourself and your writing and maybe spending a lot of time on your own as we all are now?
Kelly: Yeah, I wish I knew. The last year has been rough. Like it’s been, for me, it’s been really rough. I talk to a lot of author friends. And I think we’re all experiencing it differently. But for some of us, for me, it’s been really not a productive year, like I’ve had a hard time concentrating, I’ve had a hard time making myself sit down and actually write. I’m just distracted by so many other things that are going on in the world.
So, I don’t know what the answer is. I’ve spent way too much time laying on my couch thinking about writing and not actually writing. And yet I have other author friends who say, “Well, if I’m stuck at home, I’m gonna use this time” and they’re just writing like crazy and I’m envious of that. But that wasn’t my experience. I feel like it’s getting better lately. But this year has definitely been hard, and yeah, hard for lots of people.
Joni: I think it has to be okay. Like I know some people were really productive this year. But it’s been crazy that so many terrible things have happened, like it has to be okay if some people did not manage to churn out a ton of books this year.
Kelly: I have to remind myself of that too. Like, we can’t, yeah, I’d like to be productive all the time every day. But this is, we’re going through terrible things right now. And I have to remind myself like survival is pretty important too. So, we’re doing that we’re doing ok.
Joni: And NaNoWriMo, we all tried to do at Kobo, and that was, you know, the U.S. election took out a full week. Like I know I didn’t do anything other than scroll through the news that week. And it’s just been, 2020 has just been 12 months of that pretty much.
Stephanie: But you did have a book come out in December?
Stephanie: So, the “Bear Hockey Series,” can you tell us a little bit about this new series that you had released.
Kelly: So, it’s going to be a three-book series, standalone novels but connected. And the premise behind all of the three stories is loosely based on, I don’t know if you’ll recall the Humboldt Broncos tragedy that happened back in 2018, where the hockey bus crashed. And I think it was 16 people died in that accident, which it’s a terrible tragedy to base light and fun romcom on. But the premise is that the three hockey heroes of these stories were all on that bus. All of them were pegged to get drafted and make it into the NHL. But then because of the crash, it impacted their lives in different ways. They all do make it into the NHL. And they all end up playing on the same team, but they all take different paths to get there, and have a lot of things to overcome as they do that.
Stephanie: So now we have our sports romance questions. As a romance reader, I don’t follow sports at all, but like, I love to read a sports romance. Why do you think people are so interested in reading about sports and romance basically?
Kelly: I think that, I have thought about this and I think that a sports hero, like an athlete hero, has the potential to embody a lot of the kinds of characteristics and qualities that we want to see in a romance hero. They always are someone who is very determined, who perseveres, they all often have, you know, set a high goal for themselves and have worked hard for that. Like I said, there is potential for it, because we all read about athletes who kind of don’t fit into that model. Athletes who feel rich and entitled and abuse their spouses. And obviously, those are not romance hero athletes. But the ones that we write about in our books are the ones who are honorable, who play a sport honorably and fairly, and like I said, they’re just strong and good people.
Stephanie: And then you kind of have like the celebrity side, which to me, like, I think anyone is like, would you date a celebrity? No. I don’t think anyone would really wanna do that. But it’s kind of like what do you think draws so like the celebrity romance that are so popular?
Kelly: I think that a lot of readers have maybe these sort of secret fantasies. Like in real life, we would never want to date a celebrity, I wouldn’t either. I don’t like that kind of attention. But there is something sort of secretly appealing about that, about being the object of attention and the object of love of somebody who’s rich and famous and muscular.
Stephanie: Yeah, 100%. Joni is laughing at me.
Joni: So, Steph’s question to me earlier was that she finds sports romance sexy, but she also finds the idea of actually dating a professional player… What did you say? Not appealing?
Stephanie: It’s like unappealing on a rational level. But it’s like, yeah, I mean, romance plays into everyone’s fantasy. So, I understand. It’s really interesting to see like how romance takes a fantasy and like can spin it on its head, which is kind of related to our next question, is, you’ve seen like romantic comedies kind of like explode in the last couple of years, at least that’s what I’ve noticed myself. Where do you see… Do you see like anything coming up for the romance genre as a whole in the next couple of years, like a new genre that’s really gonna explode inside of romance? It’s kind of hard to say, obviously.
Kelly: Yeah, it’s super hard to predict that kind of stuff. I don’t know. But I kind of, I had a feeling about four years ago, when things got kind of dark politically, especially down in the U.S. that more lighthearted and fantasy kinds of stories would be appealing to people. And fantasy I’m saying like paranormal kinds of stories where you’re not even in this world, but also romcoms, or people it’s lighter and you smile and laugh and feel really good at the end. I kind of thought that might happen. So, I mean, going forward, who knows? But I still am hearing that paranormal stuff might be still going strong, and people still want to read those kinds of different worlds, real fantasy stuff.
Joni: We’re hearing that too. Yeah, it’s definitely true for Kobo. Would you consider branching out into that kind of area? Paranormal?
Kelly: Yes. I mean, I don’t read a lot of paranormal, and it’s never been my thing. But I have this idea that I’ve been playing around with, so I’m like, I might give it a shot.
Stephanie: Why not, right?
Stephanie: What are your favorite romances? If someone had to ask you to recommend a few to some people, what would you pick?
Kelly: Like actual titles?
Stephanie: Yeah, or like even like it could be like this author is really good or anything.
Kelly: Yeah. Because I have like so many, it would be so hard. I write romance but I’m a voracious romance reader too. And it kind of changes over time, like I get really kind of hooked. Right now I’m just stalling on Christina Lauren. Just I…
Joni: She’s good in Instagram. She has a very good Instagram. I always notice her.
Kelly: I just discovered their books like this year and I don’t know why because they’ve been around for a while. And oh my gosh, I’ve just been grabbing everything in their backlist and reading that. I love the humor but I also love the emotion that they bring to the story. And I really love those books. I still I’m reading lots of still Lauren Blakely, Vi Keeland. Those are a few that I’m reading right now. I love Elle Kennedy.
Stephanie: Big fan of her at the office.
Kelly: Yeah. Another hockey author. But I like her books too. Sarina Bowen also are good. Gosh, I mean, there’s so many…
Stephanie: I think that’s a good list. It’s a good list to start with
Joni: Are you a big sports fan yourself?
Kelly: Only hockey. I can watch a football game, but I don’t really understand what’s going on. And baseball is kinda, no offense to baseball lovers. But hockey is… And it’s, I don’t know why, it’s just always been a part of my life growing up in Canada. Hockey is just everywhere. So, I grew up sitting in front of the TV on Saturday nights watching Hockey Night in Canada and loved hockey as a teenager, my boyfriend played hockey, so I went to his games. It’s just always been there. So, I am a big hockey fan.
Joni: And I know you’ve just had a book come out, but what can readers expect from you next?
Kelly: So, next, I’m hoping will be the third book in the “Bears Hockey Series,” which is tentatively called “Talk Hockey To Me.” I do not know a release date or anything yet. But it is done and is with my editor. And after that, I have a few other things. I might go back to my erotic romance roots. I have a story idea that I have been wanting to work on for that. And like I said, this other possibly paranormal idea. So, hopefully, that’s what will be coming in 2021.
Joni: I don’t know if this is something that is more handled by your publisher, but I’m interested to know, do you find that it’s different marketing erotic romance versus your other stuff? I know this is something that comes up quite a lot.
Kelly: Well, I don’t know if I can actually answer that question. Because a lot of my erotic romances originally came out years ago, and then I rereleased them on my own but not as a new release. So, you know, occasionally I promote them a little bit or I do a sale and I, you know, like the one on for free or 99 cent sale and try to get a BookBub, which is great. Then they have an erotic romance category that works. But I haven’t released an erotic romance for so long. I don’t know if it would be different.
Stephanie: Do you find that your readers…
Joni: I think it has something to do with Facebook. Yeah.
Stephanie: Do you find that your readers overlap between your different like erotic and contemporaries?
Kelly: Some of them do, yeah.
Stephanie: Yeah. I guess that’s hard to track. But I’m always curious if you’re able to see into that kind of thing.
Kelly: Yeah. So, yeah, you can’t and sometimes I know that some do for sure. Because while and even, it goes both ways, like I started off, that’s when a lot of my diehard core readers, that’s how they found me and followed me to my hockey romance, and contemporary romance. And I’ve heard, you know, as I’m putting one of my old erotic books on sale, people saying, “I didn’t know you wrote menage a trois, I gotta go get this.” So, there’s gotta be some overlap.
Joni: This is kind of a big question, but what do you think is the best thing that you’ve done for your writing career?
Kelly: Hmm, that’s hard, hard, hard question. I guess I think just writing. And it sounds so simple and obvious. But just writing and writing and writing, even when I started off, I wrote a lot of books that didn’t get published. But I don’t ever see those as a waste of time, because you learn and you improve every time that you write something. So, just keep writing and learning. I try to learn from everything, like I try to learn from the editing process that I go through, which has gotten easier over the years. I try to learn from other authors. When I read other books that I love, I try to learn from how they write, or, you know, a metaphor that they’ve used and I think, “Oh, that’s beautiful.” I just, I’m always trying to learn and make my writing better and keep writing.
Joni: That’s great advice.
Stephanie: And then where can listeners find you online?
Kelly: Well, I’m pretty much everywhere online. Now, obviously, we talked about social media, I’m on Facebook, I’m on Twitter, I’m on Instagram, I’m on Pinterest. I kind of like Pinterest.
Stephanie: I love Pinterest.
Kelly: Yeah, a little too much. But I like using Pinterest for inspiration boards for my stories. So, you know, readers can always check out those for… Because kind of to see what inspired me for characters or settings and whatever. I blog infrequently, but I try to blog because I know that not everybody is on Facebook and Twitter. So, I do have a blog at my website that I blog there sometimes about what’s happening with me. And, of course, I have a newsletter.
Joni: Then we’ll make sure we share all those links when we post the episode.
Stephanie: Thanks for joining us today, Kelly.
Kelly: Thank you so much. This has been fun talking about writing and books. Thank you.
Joni: We love it too. It’s one of the fun parts of the job.
Kelly: Yeah, no doubt. Awesome.
Stephanie: Thank you for listening to “The Kobo Writing Life” podcast. If you’re looking for Kelly’s books, we will have a link to them on our blog. Or if you’re interested in learning how to grow your sales, visit kobowritinglife.com. And also, if you enjoyed listening to our podcast, don’t forget to rate, review, and subscribe because it helps other listeners find our podcast.
Joni: This podcast was produced by Joni Di Placido and Stephanie McGrath with help from Rachel Wharton. Editing is done by Kelly Rowbotham. Music is provided by Tearjerker and big thanks to Kelly Jamieson for being a guest today.
Stephanie: If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey today, sign up for free at kobo.com/writing life. Until next time, happy writing.