Our Interview with Charlene Keel

The LodestoneImage of Charlene Keel                                                                               
Ghost Crown: The Tracks, Book TwoCome Slowly, Eden     


Product DetailsDark Territory: The Tracks, Book One                   


I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I could hold a pencil and understood what a book was, and I never wanted to be anything else. I started getting paid to write when I was 21 and have written just about everything–press releases, short stories, novels, how-to books, dialogue, outlines and episodes for daytime and primetime TV, film treatments and screen adaptations of novels, magazine articles and celebrity interviews. I’ve ghostwritten screenplays, novelizations of screenplays and autobiographies for corporate moguls. One of my books, Rituals (Dell), became the basis of the first continuing dramatic TV series produced specifically for syndication and my TV credits include multiple episodes of Fantasy Island and Days of Our Lives.

I most enjoy writing novels (especially historicals), screenplay adaptations of novels, and most recently a new YA supernatural romance-adventure series, The Tracks, which includes Dark Territory (July, 2011) and Ghost Crown (January 2012) for HCI Teens.

I would like to do more YA supernatural series and more historical romances, and I’m intrigued by steampunk, string theory, UFOs and fringe science and would like to explore projects in those areas. My many years as a writer-for-hire have taught me that it’s really important, however, to write what people want to read, so I’m completely adaptable to whatever the market is currently dictating.

                                                            Bio provided by author’s site

We recently had the great opportunity to interview Charlene. She may be relatively new to the independent author but she isn’t new to the publishing industry. Charlene who has been in the business of writing and publishing for some time now.  Among her writings, she has written multiple episodes of two of my favorite shows, Fantasy Island and Days of Our lives! So sit back and and grab a nice mug of cocoa, (marshmallows please) and give a warm welcome to Charlene!

1. What makes for a good hook in your stories? Where does your inspiration come from?
The inspiration comes first, and it can come from anywhere. For the new YA series, The Tracks (Dark Territory is the first installment), it came from my co-author, J. Gabriel Gates. The hook we figured out together was the supernatural element. For my women’s mainstream novel, Come Slowly, Eden (which one reader compared to Catcher in the Rye), the inspiration came from rumors I heard circulating around the Florida State University campus when I worked there. The inspiration for my historical romance, The Lodestone, came from all the Catherine Cookson novels I read and loved. For the new UFO paranormal romance I’m working on, The Understanding, it came from a very detailed dream I had. As for the hook—sometimes I have to get to know my main characters a little before I figure it out. And other times I start with the hook. It just depends on the project.
2. Are you an organized writer? Do you do things like take notes and make lists of characters? Or do you free write and work it out as you go?
Stephen King is awesome—I read (I think it was in his autobiography/how-to, On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft) that he never outlines his books, but I’m not that confident. I need at least a loose outline when I’m working alone. When I’m writing with a partner, I find that a detailed outline saves us from conflict as we get deeper into the story. Of course, nothing in the outline is written in stone. You have to be flexible, especially if you have strong, fully developed characters. Mine simply won’t cooperate if I try to make them do something that goes completely against the personality, wishes, dreams, ability and integrity (or lack thereof) that I’ve instilled in them. I love it when they surprise me, or a plot point suddenly twists off in a direction I didn’t expect or plan.
3. What is your normal writing day like? Do you write when you are inspired or do you have a schedule?
I have a schedule (which is also not written in stone, due to family and pet responsibilities), and I write every day whether I’m inspired or not. In the mornings, I check my email and answer any questions from editors and/or ghostwriting clients. After lunch, I work on one of my own books or a book for a client. Sometimes I edit in the evenings. I used to also try to write on weekends but now that I’m putting so many books on Kindle Direct, I plan to reserve at least half the weekend for promotion and publicity and the other half for laundry and supermarket.
4. Who is your favorite author and how did they inspire you to write?
I have a few and they have all inspired me. Stephen King and Peter Straub for horror and supernatural, Catherine Cookson, Jude Devereaux, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Rebecca Brandewyne and Chelley Kitzmiller for historicals and Kat Martin and Peggy Webb for contemporary romance.
5. It’s easy to see that you have a passion for writing but is there any part of it you don’t like?
The absolute worst part is sitting down on the first day and staring at the empty page on the screen, and knowing that there are 200-plus behind it that I also have to fill up with brilliance. With my ghostwriting clients, whether they are celebrities, corporate moguls or just someone with a great story to tell, I do a lot of interviewing—days and days of interviewing. That’s the good part because I’m getting to know some fascinating people. The part I hate is transcribing the tapes. I’ve got to get one of those voice thingies for my laptop so it can all go directly into the machine and be instantly typed. One of these days.
6. Do you make time to read and if you do what are you reading right now?
Right now I’m working on a wonderful ghostwriting assignment about inspiration and self-improvement so I’m reading lots of Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra. Also still studying the Book of Enoch for all the fallen angel information I can gather. Fallen angels and nephilim (their offspring) play big parts in Ghost Crown, the sequel to Dark Territory.
7. What drew you to writing in this genre of fantasy/paranormal romance? Is there personal life experience in the writing?
Well, only if you count the fact that in the course of my life I’ve received a phone call from someone recently deceased, and I’ve seen the spirits of an entire family and three different cats—all among the dearly departed. For some reason, I also have some Ouija Board ability. My family and friends often ask me to do readings and we write everything down so we can see how much of it comes to pass. So far, it’s only about 60 percent—but it’s a lot of fun. I don’t see a Ouija Board as supernatural, in and of itself. It’s simply a switchboard by which you can plug into someone else’s subconscious. That’s why I always remind people that most of what comes out of one of these sessions is wishful thinking, or concern about some issue or another, and not a real prediction of the future.
8. Your books have been published with Amazon.com and Kindle Direct Publishing, Does this mean you see the publishing industry headed this way?
From what I’ve read and heard from acquaintances in the industry, ebooks are not making paper books go away. I can see why the brick-and-mortar bookstores are worried because it’s so much easier to order a book online than going out to shop. I think ebooks will help the sales of paper books, ultimately. But we have to do something. We’re running out of trees. I like the ease of publishing on Kindle, and the fact that I can control the price and the cover, and start to see sales right away without having to wait on a distribution schedule. And I get a bigger cut of the profits.
9. Do you have any online sites where others can read more of your writings?
The best way to read my writings is to go to Amazon.com, google my name and then click on “See Inside” of one of my books for a sample. I guess I should put some excerpts on my website. I hadn’t thought of that. It’s a great suggestion.
10. Do you have any more stories in the works? What kinds of stories do you plan to write next?
Having recently discovered the joys of becoming a Kindle author (and the ease with which it’s possible), I’m now preparing all my old titles to go on Amazon.com. First I contacted all the publishers, got the rights back and then edited and rewrote each and every one of them. I have four on Kindle so far, with another set to go up in about a week and four after that to edit and reformat. But I am working on new stuff, too—a Civil War historical romance and my UFO paranormal romance.
11. Who would be your first choice to play Ignacio Torrez from your book “Dark Territory“?
Bobby Soto, from Brothers & Sisters, A Better Life and Besties, would get my vote.
12. If you could meet anyone from any time who would it be and what would be your first question?
A couple of years ago someone asked me who I’d most like to sit next to at a dinner party, and I think my answer then also fits your question. I would like to sit between Stephen King and Stephen Hawking, and my first question to both of them would be (in all seriousness), “Do you believe there is intelligent life out there—on another planet, maybe in another galaxy somewhere? Why or why not?” As you can tell, I’m kind of a UFO freak. Well, I did see one when I was a kid, near the now infamous Gulf Breeze, FL. I’m a believer and I don’t care who knows it.