Each year, RWA recognizes excellence in romance writing through the RITAs, considered the top honor in the genre. Though awards are presented in a dozen categories, a writer has just one shot in her career to win the Best First Book award. This interview series focuses on the debut authors nominated in that category. Alyson H undertook to bring this idea to Dear Author and completed all the interviews. Alyson is a great interviewer and elicited some fun information. Alyson makes you, the reader, interested in the interviewee. It’s a great skill. Thanks Alyson and I hope the readers of Dear Author enjoy this six part series.
Originally, Kimberly Killion had chosen The Executioner’s Daughter as the title for her debut novel. Maybe not the sexiest title for a romance, but the concept itself is pretty irresistible. No wonder an editor at Kensington wanted to see the book before Killion had even finished it. The title became Her One Desire, but the story of what happens when an executioner’s daughter rescues a prisoner from the Tower of London remains as intense and intriguing as the original premise. It also manages to be funny and charming. All this, plus a Richard III cameo–pretty irresistible.
About Her One Desire…
First, give us a six-word memoir for your protagonist:
Executioner’s daughter rescues Scottish spy forever-
What were the original "triggers" or inspiration points for this story?
While in the midst of brainstorming ideas for my next book, I found myself looking in the mirror. I thought if I kept staring I might be able to find something in my brain to trigger an idea. Unfortunately, my reflection hollered, "What the hell are you looking at?"
I didn’t find what I was looking for there so I went outside and looked at the fields of corn, the gravel driveway, a blade of grass. Nothin’. So I looked up and said, "Give me an idea, pleeeeease."
Yes, I was asking for the supreme being of all creation to take time out of His busy day and give me an idea for my next book. That was selfish when you think about it. I mean, He has more important things to do, right? So, I thought long and hard and what did I come up with? Lunch. Yep. Lunch. So I fixed myself a sandwich and flipped on the TV. A documentary was on about the lives and families of the executioner. It was really quite fascinating. So then I started playing that game-you know the one-the "What if?’ game.
What if I wrote a story about the executioner? Oh, he started out as my villain, then I mixed it up a little and he became the hero. It still wasn’t right, so I said the word’s that practically wrote HER ONE DESIRE for itself-What if the heroine was the executioner’s daughter. And there is was. An idea was born.
You know how long it takes the Road Runner to sneak up on Wile E. Coyote? Well, that’s how long it took me to google a few keywords: executioner, occupation, medieval, torture – This went on and on, and before I knew it I had educated myself on every form of torture between hung, drawn, and quartered to peine forte et dure (Pressing to death)
Your favorite line, moment, or scene in the book:
Favorite line: Thwack!
Favorite snippet: Keep in mind, Laird Broderick Maxwell prides himself on being skilled at holding his breath….
"I am the son of a man who sired twelve bairns. ’Tis expected of me to do the same."
"Twelve?" Lizzy practically drooled. She would have given anything for just one sister.
"I can say all their names in one breath."
The tickle dancing in her throat snuck out between her lips in a sort of hoot.
His head turned, popping his neck in two snaps. "Think ye I cannae do it?" He took a deep breath, held it, for extra drama, no doubt, and then-"Magnus-‘named after Da, but died in infancy; Aiden-‘named after my grandda; Broderick-‘that would be me, named after my da’s brother; Muira-‘named after my mam; then Radella, Jean, Lindsay-‘named after my aunts on my mam’s side; Beth, Deirdre, Lilian, Mattie-‘named after my aunts on my da’s side; and Ian."
He inhaled and beamed a wide grin.
Regarding your favorite line: That is a good one. The lead-in to it was powerful, and I didn’t know where you could go after that point. Did you? You said in another interview you tend to plot as you go rather than working from an outline.
I’m a pantser. I don’t plot, but obviously I knew I wasn’t going to do THAT! I knew I wanted a big dramatic scene where the reader would be convinced there is no way there would be a HEA. I hope I succeeded in providing the drama, the "oh-no", along with a believable HEA.
You started at a rather risky place with Lizbeth’s character: She thinks of herself as weak and cowardly, while in her past, it seems she’s been fairly passive. Yet she turns out to be one of several strong female characters in the book. It’s so interesting how the women demonstrate their strengths in such diverse ways, from the militant leadership of Broc’s mother to Edlynn’s wisdom and Grandmum’s eccentricity. Was this theme important to you from the beginning, or did it gradually evolve?
I wanted Lizzy’s character arc to be huge. She had to overcome a lot and Broc, along with the other female characters they helped Lizzy grow into a strong woman. Broc helped Lizzy overcome her weaknesses and to me that is love. He was her perfect match.
I take it you side with scholars who think Richard III has been much maligned over the centuries?
I really didn’t have an opinion one way or the other until I started researching the time period and the nobility. I read RICHARD III by Paul Murray Kendall, well I should say I studied this book, thoroughly. Kendall certainly did his research. I won’t say King Richard didn’t kill his nephews, but I won’t say he did either. As a writer, my goal in creating this plot point was to challenge the reader. When they finish the book, I want them to sit back and say, hmmmm. To me, if that happens, then I have done my job. Call me crazy, but I thinks it’s fun.
The best or most unusual fan mail you received about Her One Desire?
I had a woman gushing over the book, and then just as she was finishing up the post, she asked, "Just one question; why did Broc always pop his neck?"
However, this is my favorite all time quote from a fan: "The book was intense and I had to put it down a few times because I was afraid of what would happen next."
HER ONE DESIRE is your first published book, but was it really your first book?
Her One Desire was my third book. I started out writing a Regency and that one is still collecting dust bunnies.
From the decision to write for publication to the "sold" call: How long?
How did you find your agent?
I called five agents after I got the offer from Kensington and asked if they wanted to represent me. I sent them my writing and within a 24-hour turnaround 4 of the 5 offered me representation. I would like to think it was the writing, but I had already got the deal right? However, I am so very fortunate to have Meredith Bernstein representing me. She is the "POO."
Your weirdest or most reliable writing ritual/habit:
Weirdest: I write in my camper.
Habit: I get up around 3:00 a.m. to write before I have to go to my "other" job.
Writing ritual: I listen to "Super Massive Black Hole" by Muse before I write the really hot love scenes.
Writing advice you’re glad you followed or ignored:
I’m glad I followed a friend’s advice to persevere.
Three items within arm’s reach when you write:
- Walkie Talkie (so I can communicate with the family who actually live in the house)
- The cat
Biggest distraction and how you deal with it:
My major vice is the internet, email, IM-I love the blogs, the networking communities, and chatting up friends. How do I deal?…I get up at 3:00 a.m. when no one is around to play.
What’s coming up next from you?
HIGHLAND DRAGON comes out in October. Here’s the elevator blurb:
Eighteen years after hiding the secret of his betrothed’s lineage, Laird Calin MacLeod is forced to choose between avenging his father’s death and surrendering to the passion he finds in the arms of his enemy’s daughter.
As a RITA Nominee-
How did you celebrate the nomination?
I got online and spread the news all over cyberspace!
Wearing or carrying any lucky charms to the awards ceremony?
Nope. However, I am hoping to have my karma clean by then.
The author who, despite your usual poise and eloquence, would reduce you a blathering fangirl if you found yourself sitting next to her/him at the ceremony:
First person you’ll hug/text/call if you win:
Hug: Megan Kelly
Text: My daughter
Call: The list is far too long-
A Little More Personal-
Your paying job(s) pre- and post-publication:
I’ve been a graphic/web design instructor at a business college in St. Louis for ten years.
An author or book you recommend again and again:
Heather & Velvet by Teresa Medeiros
Your own "best first":
Proving to my children that dreams do come true. It just takes a lot of wishing, a lot of work, and a hellova lot of luck!
RITA winners will be announced at the RWA national conference in July. You can enter Kimberly’s current contest and read her blog at www.kimberlykillion.com.