Raising Cain, Kelli IrelandWhat is your favorite part about the writing process?

There is absolutely nothing better to me than the blank page. I know, I know—most writers I write with believe the blank page is the worst, that it’s the starting point that leaves them stumped. I’m the absolute opposite.

When I sit down to write, the blank page represents infinite options, unlimited characterization choices I can make, world building I get to do and plot intricacies that are in my head but not fully formed until I begin to see how the story takes shape from my (highly) rudimentary “outline.” And by “outline” I mean the character sketches, research and plot ideas I’ve accumulated via my own forms, my extremely strong Google-fu and an infinite number of sticky notes.

Once I get into the story, usually between chapters three and five, I stop and regroup, go to the beginning and massage the story a bit, find the right opening line (because it never shows up on request) and make sure character nuances are woven in to make the fictional voices in my head interesting. Now, I don’t claim a 100% success rate right off the bat, but that’s what revisions are for!

What are you most looking forward to at the Cruising Writers Writing Retreat?

Having been on several cruises in the past, I’m a total glutton for the whole experience. It sounds corny, but you’re likely to find me at specialty restaurants for the dining experience, trying the midnight buffet because they have amazing pastry chefs who keep guests plied with tempting treats, or sitting in front of the slot machine with a slightly dazed but decidedly happy look on my face as I hit “Spin” over and over. Talk about cathartic!

But for this cruise in particular? I’m all about the experience, but I’m most looking forward to interacting with other writers, talking craft, learning with Margie Lawson, hanging out with my awesome agent, Deidre Knight, and really getting the opportunity to write with like-minded people. There’s an incredible creative energy that’s exchanged when you get this many writers together. I can’t wait for our daily write-ins!

What are you currently working on?

The first thing that popped into my head with this question was, “Which project? And are you interested in what I’m editing, what I’m writing for a new proposal, or what I’m writing that’s already contracted?” (I just had a sudden image of myself that looks suspiciously like a hamster free-basing caffeine before getting on his Wheel of Glee.)

I’ll touch on All The Things, and you can buy me a drink when I start drooling under the lush Caribbean sun and whispering, “There are words to be made. There are words to be edited. All the words to find.” (I’m only sort of joking.)

First, I have a galley edit due on the second book in my Wild Western Heat trilogy for Harlequin Blaze. Those are due in eight days as of this writing. Fortunately, I have an amazing editor who ensures that by the time we reach the galley stage, the book is 99% clean and ready to rock. I’m looking for that last 1%—the missing period that formatting ate when conversion occurred, the backward quotation mark that no one understands, accidental double spaces that I totally own. You know, the kind of stuff that makes writers reach the point that the story, their once beloved story, has become a beast of epic proportions that must die by fire! Wait…that was my outside voice? (ahem) Sorry.

Next, I have the third book in that same series that I need to wrap and hand in to the same fabulous editor. This book is proving highly emotional for me to write, and it’s a far greater challenge than I expected it to be. Massive thanks to the esteemed Vivian Arend for keeping me plied with humor and Skype calls. I owe her a debt I’ll never have sufficient credit to repay.

After that, I have a contemporary romance proposal to finish up and send to my agent. I’m noodling over it at the moment, trying to decide exactly how broken the hero has to be before the ultimate redemption occurs. I’m leaning toward, “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men” broken. There will be tears. Probably mine.

In mid-fall I have book two of a contracted paranormal series, The Assassin’s Arcanum, to write. The book, working title THE IMMORTAL’S DARKNESS, will be finished and turned in time for the release of book one, THE IMMORTAL’S REDEMPTION, in October 2015. The series, based in Ireland, centers around immortal Druids charged with defending the Druidic order from all threats, ticked off Shadow Realm inhabitants, one Druid with a secret fetish for country music and, paired to each warrior, the heroine he simply can’t live without. Sometimes literally.

And to wrap the year, I’ll be finishing the second book in my urban fantasy series, The Key Guardians. The book, THE RUIN OF SOULS, is a favorite of mine because it seriously deviates from the traditional angels and demons trope and focuses on the hard choices that really define the concept of free will.

Super excited about all the happenings!

Most importantly – are you more of a beach bum or a shore excursion / adventurer?

YES! I love it all. I have to admit that I love checking out local markets and such when we dock at each port as well as participating in shore excursions that give me multiple opportunities for photography. Yet, for all that, you’re equally as likely to find me in my bathing suit, sunglasses firmly planted on my face and my bum planted on a lounge chair somewhere close enough to the ocean that my toes may get wet when the tide comes in. It all depends on my mood, the options for excursions and, ultimately, the draw of the beach.

However, if there is, by chance, a local shopping district on the way to the beach? Grab your wallet, your sunscreen and your beach towel, my friends. I’m totally there and hope you’ll join me!

Thanks for visiting with us today, Kelli!

Kelli Ireland will cruise with Cruising Writers on Dec. 13th, giving a workshop on Senses & Sensibilities: How to Incorporate the Five Senses to Enhance Your Writing.