Kelle Z. Riley is in the Steam Seat! In this episode, we talk about how she’s a sucker for a Cinderella story, how her writing process includes interviewing her characters, and how she battles the beauty standards society sets on women in her writing. We also get into the similarities between cozy mysteries and romance, and why she loves writing women-centered stories. And we get into writing sexual tension vs. just writing sex. And I read a steamy scene from book one in her Riches and Royals series, Read My Lips.
Kelle has some wild career and life experiences that inform her writing and talking to her all about it was such a treat! Pour a glass of wine or a cup of tea and settle in for a great convo!
Grab a copy of Read My Lips on Amazon.
Hang out with Kelle online:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/kellezriley
Kelle Riley writer speaker, a Global Traveler, PhD chemist and safety martial arts expert has been featured in public forums that range from local newspapers to national television. In addition to her works of fiction, a personal story was included in Chicken Soup for the Soul living with Alzheimer's and other dementias. Her fiction publications include cozy mysteries and contemporary romance. In the undercover cat mysteries, a cupcake baking scientists turn sleuth, and much more. The Cupcake caper shaken not perd I love that the tiger's tail and studying Scarlet the gray as well as free short stories set in the undercover cat world are available on Amazon or wherever books are sold. In the riches and Royals series modern career women fall for princes in disguise only to discover that happily ever after isn't guaranteed. Can love turn their cautionary tale into a glittering fairy tale or will their heart shatter like glass slippers, a former Golden Heart finalist Kelly resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She's a popular speaker for the Chattanooga Writers Guild Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and other venues. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America and various local chapters. When not writing she can be found pursuing passions such as being a self defense instructor, a master gardener, and a full time chemist with numerous professional publications and US patents. Few Welcome to STEM students. Kelly, thank you so much for taking time to be here because you're busy.
Well, thank you for inviting me to be here with your readers. It's great. I'm glad that I can join you today.
Yeah, this is I mean, you have like such wild experience in terms of like everything that you do, um, chemist, Master Gardener, all of that. What? Okay, so I think I want to just start with the sort of most obvious questions, when did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
That's a wonderful question. And I got to tell you that I started wanting to be a writer really early on. And I think it happened when I was a little girl still in grade school. And I would read a story. And I didn't like the ending. And so I would tell myself, what happened after that ending, and I would fix the story so that I enjoyed the ending. In fifth grade, I actually wrote a play that my teachers let me put on in the auditorium. And so I really got a lot of encouragement in those early days. And I fell in love with storytelling.
That's so cool. I love that you're like, I hate the sound thing. So I'm just giving it a new one. Do you still have that play?
Up? No, I don't. It's tucked away in my memory. It was a was a little time machine play. And I don't know where it is now.
Oh, it's such a bummer. I know, I always ask people if they have like, the original stuff that they wrote, you know, when they were kids, because we all have something that we sort of did is like as young kids and you know, there's always last to time.
There was the seventh grade teacher that helped me I've got to share some of the English teacher stories here so that the English teachers among your listeners know how huge their impact is on us. And she read aloud a story where I remember writing about my dog and the dog had been in an accident and the dog was okay, spoiler alert. But I said in that line, I pulled the covers over my head in horror. And she said, This is so great. Because you're not saying I was horrified, or I was scared. And she read that as an example, which was pretty cool. Oh, I
love that. I love that I got Yeah, my teachers were weird. I got a lot of encouragement from my theater teacher through high school. That's what I did all through high school was theater. That was my flying and went to college for it. But then I really, my high school English teacher, senior year, hated me the first couple of months because I was a difficult kid. And then we got into the part that I really loved, which was reading and writing, creative writing, short of like, you know, analyzing, picking apart the books that we were reading, and, and she and we just like our relationship, like completely blossomed, and I can't remember her name, which drives me crazy that I can't remember. But yeah, teachers are huge and can have a huge impact on us.
There was a high school English teacher who taught me more about writing than anybody until I joined Romance Writers of America and was in a professional writing organization. And I think her to this day, at the time, her name was Gail glorious, but I think she's since remarried. So I don't know her current name. Boy, did she have an impact? So
it was okay, so the play was time traveling. It wasn't or was it the time traveling romance?
I think it was just a time traveling something something I was only in fifth grade. I wasn't I don't get into it.
Yeah, okay, cuz I was gonna Some people were like in their mom's you know, Harlequin stashes reading things and going, Oh, I like this. I have no idea what it means. So were you one of the ones sort of like, you know, stealing books from your mom's bookshelf or something, or, you know,
I definitely did. Okay, my mother didn't know about Harlequin. So I didn't get those delights until later in my development. But she did have some books that were rather steamy and a bit ahead of perhaps my age, and my teachers were worried. But my mother wasn't worried and we were all fine.
Nobody was hurt. Would you remember that? No one
Do you remember the first romance that you read?
I started reading historical romances. And so I remember there were a number of those. But I will tell you that the first contemporary romance I read is very clear in my mind, because I wanted to think about writing contemporary. And that was kissing Angel, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. And I just, I loved that book. I adored everything about it.
What did you What did you love about it in particular,
it had a larger than life world. So the hero in this particular book was some exiled Russian minor royalty, but he was working in the circus. And it was a big week in the circus. And it was one of those marriage of conveniences where the dad had married her to this man, and she had it was a rich girl that was out of her element. And just all of those tropes taking place in in somewhere where I would never be in real life. I will never work at a circus. I'm pretty sure of that anyway. And I loved being a part of that world. Oh, that's so
cool. I actually really love that. Do you remember? How old were you when you read that? Do remember?
Oh, I was I was adult. I was
okay. All right. Yeah, you were, it wasn't like, Oh, I was 16 or whatever. Okay,
no, I read things from Reader's Digest condensed books, back before I was an adult and started my romance reading after I was in college.
Okay, cool. So why did you pick it up? The row that's reading,
the thing I like about romance reading. And I have to confess to everybody, I'm an addict for every Cinderella story version there is out there. There's just something about that particular fairy tale or trope that speaks to me. And it can be the the Disney versions or the grim versions, or even the the Greek and Roman mythological versions of Cupid and Psyche, that's still that same thing. And I found that in romance novels, you could relive that and other fantasies over and over again. And it was always a good escape from the real world.
Right, right. So I'm kind of curious, like, what is it about the Cinderella story in particular, that sort of like that you love.
I think it is taking a good, strong woman who finds the love of somebody that you think they're never going to get together. And because of that love, this powerful person suddenly finds himself in love. And all of a sudden those power differences shift and they're on equal footing. So there's something wonderful about that.
That sounds a lot like your Riches and Royals series.
And in fact, that's probably what informed me when I started doing that series.
That's excellent. Um, I kind of dig this because I you know, I think, I think as writers we're always, or I'm, I'm, let's not say weak because I don't know. Like, I'm always worried about making sure that my soils, my stories are original, I play with a lot of tropes. Um, you know, like, I always have like, Okay, right now, I have Rockstar romance, but there'll be stepbrother, there'll be enemies to lovers, they'll be you know, there'll be the different tropes within them. Because I want to be really like, I just want to make each book super different. So I'm really fascinated with the idea of taking the Cinderella trope and just retelling it all of these different ways. And I think that that's really kind of cool. And in a way I think it's better because I feel like I feel like readers don't respond as much to mine, because I'm a little all over the place.
I don't want to go so far as to say that about yours. I don't. I feel like I'm the one that's a little weird because I don't see a lot of people writing the same tropes that I do outside of the historical romance area. Right. I will put that caveat in there. But what I find makes it unique is not the trope so much as twisting that and making it more realistic. So in the Read My Lips book, I had to come up with a career that this mighty billionaire has Add. And since I came up with a conflict for him as well, and I wanted him to be not stereotypical, I gave him this huge vulnerability, which is that he has a severe dyslexia, and he has trouble with written words. And that made him feel like a fraud. And so he's got this imposter syndrome thing going on in his head. Even though he has all this money and claim, he's always afraid somebody is going to find what's wrong with him. And so that takes him from that ivory tower, perfect prince into a vulnerable human being in this power position. And then I like just twisting things over and over and over again that way and building characters that have layers and what I think of is depth in their backstories at least, and I think that's what gets us out of the simple trope, if you will, without flesh on that skeleton.
I mean, to go into backstory, because I love that you brought this up. And by the way, this is read my lips, this is the latest, your your most recent book September released on September 7, and this is part of the riches and Royals series, correct? Correct? No, it is. Okay. Alright, just double checking that. So what, how far? How in depth? Do you go with your backstory, Wendy? And when do you come up with it? Is it? Is it something that you're sort of constantly going back to? And as you're writing the book? Or do you have this completely their backstory completely down on paper before you begin?
So my process is, and for all the writers out there while I talk about my process, honor your own process, because it may or may not work like mine. So with that caveat, my process is that I like to sit down and I actually, in my mind, interview each of my characters. Ooh. And I take notes at this interview. And sometimes I even get visual clues from something that the characters are saying or doing it again, in my imagination. And a really important question to ask the characters is, what do you want from life? What do you want most of all? And when they answer you say, oh, yeah, yeah, you want that? But what do you really want? And then what do you really, really, really want, and as you keep digging down, they keep giving you more real answers, right. And I take notes on all of these things. And that's how I begin to craft my characters. Now, putting a little bit of an analytical spin on that, I know that there have to be certain turning points in the book and certain events, and that comes from where those characters are so so the hero have read my lips is afraid of having his what he feels his disability or weakness or vulnerability exposed. And so I know that in the black moment, I need to expose that vulnerability. Right? So I have two or three turning points like that. In the sequel to this book, which is royally scandalized. I have a heroine who you'll meet her in this book. She's the heroines best friend, but she believes her full value to the world is her physical beauty. She doesn't think she has anything else to offer. And there's reasons for this. And so I know at her black moment, I have to take away that physical beauty, at least temporarily.
Whoo, whoo. Okay, um, I'm totally intrigued on this next book, because I kind of think that that's fascinating that you have crafted a character who sort of feels like her worth is wrapped up in her appearance and her beauty. Because I think that I think as women, that's something that we struggle with, for sure, just in terms of what society sort of feeds, young girls, really that your worth is wrapped up in this certain physic certain physical attributes.
And that is a theme because I know for myself, and all writers find that they write the same themes over and over again, I think, and there is a desire for me to fight that mythological idea that our physical beauty or perfection is the be all and end all for us. That's not realistic. And it's really unhealthy.
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And so yeah, God, sorry,
is it so with Jill, as I said, she has this deep backstory where she feels like she has to help her family, she has to take care of them. And the way she thinks she can do it is by marrying the wealthiest man around and she realizes that's not true to what she wants or needs, through the course of her journey. And then she finds the right match. And we have to take away that physical beauty and make her realize that she has intelligence and spirit and other things underneath it, which is what her hero has been trying to tell her all along that he sees in her.
Right, right. Oh my gosh, I'm looking forward to that one. When's that coming out?
That is anticipated in January.
Oh, okay, great. Well, perfect timing, because this is probably around when this podcast is going to make it out to the world. So
excellent. So we'll have two books to read in the series at that point.
Yeah, exactly, exactly. Okay, so, so you have your romance books, you have your cozies Yeah. What's the undercover cat mysteries? Oh, I love it. shaken up heard.
My readers gave me that title. I love to.
Can you tell me is this? Or is this why? Because I don't really read cozies I've read like a few and I really enjoy them. But for some reason I don't. They're just never on my TBR pile. Are these the cozies where the cats the main character and the solving the crimes? No, no. Okay. All right. Okay, okay,
this cozy actually has its roots in a romance writing. Okay. And it turns out many cozy mystery writers that succeed very well and have large readerships were trained in the romance writing area. And what we do is we sneak as much relationship stuff in there as we think we can. In cozies. It's all closed door things. And so you don't get to get to the juicy bits there. But years ago, I attended a talk and again, it was Susan Elizabeth Phillips, who I mentioned started me on the journey to contemporary romance writing. And she went into a talk and she said, I want you to imagine a woman who is totally defined by her career. Now, how are we going to put meat on the skeleton? What can we do to throw her life into chaos? And we went around the room and people said things like, have her lose her job, have her get pregnant and all kinds of things. They got to me and I just said have her find her boss dead and be accused of the murder.
Oh, that's a good one up the entire
room looked at me and they said, Have you been having a bad day at work?
Like everybody's fantasy right there, right.
And so I played with this idea forever and ever and I couldn't figure out what the hero was or how to make it a romance. And and then my friend and another mentor. Her name is Denise Swanson, who writes a long range best selling cozy mystery series. She said, I challenge you to do a cozy mystery. And I realized that the plotline actually belong to a mystery. And the fun difference there is I get to work with two heroes, I get two gentlemen, that I can play sexual tension with and, and bounce off with the heroine and, of course being me. I wrote a chemist heroine with the dead boss. And I had to write a spy as one of her co workers, but she didn't know it at the time. And I had to have him recruit her. And it's been an interesting journey. The three main characters in this book work together. The cat comes into play when She adopts her dead boss's cat. Oh, okay. Well, when she goes undercover, she becomes Catherine homes instead of brie Watts and, and so cat home. But the cat is instrumental in solving the mystery. About without prescients or something like that there's a much different way the cat becomes instrumental. And in fact, all of the animal characters, they all have different animal characters, which somehow feed into important clues for the mysteries.
This is so while I'm cozy is absolutely fascinated me. I need to read more of them. I'm going to totally grab a couple of these undercover cats because I love I absolutely love that premise.
In the mystery mailer, one of the other things that readers adore are mysteries with recipes. Yes. So I'm married to a professional baker, you know, recipes much easier.
Are you going to do are you going to do a cookbook?
What we're doing I'm working with a friend who is also a retired chemist, we went to graduate school together, but he has done videography for us and we're putting together a series called cooking the books where my husband does the recipes that are in the books and and three or four episodes that we have recorded are just fun.
That's excellent. So are so does he come up with the recipes that are going in your books? Are Did I screw that up?
Oh, yes, he does. I'm sorry. Okay. I was talking to dead air for a minute. So everybody out there you missed something good.
I was like, Oh crap. I totally was like I totally screwed this up. And she's like, I don't know what to say. She just fucked the whole thing
up. No, no, not at all. I would tell him say shaken not heard was set in borrowed, I said I went, they had a, a contest for drink mixing and stuff. I said, I want a pina colada cupcake recipe and a margarita cupcake recipe. And then my sister came along and she said, You're you're a scientist and your characters a scientist? Can you make a treat for every element on the periodic table? Oh,
did he killed her?
He did not. But we started working on it. And somewhere. I don't think it's up on the revised website. But I have a periodic table of treats. Where we're color coding the the treats by the same color as the cover of the book.
So oh, that's excellent. I love irons in the
fire. But some of them just haven't hit primetime yet.
Yeah, and you have a lot of irons in the fire, and you have a lot sort of going on, you have a day job as a chemist, you do self defense in instruction. There's a lot here that seems to inform your writing, which I also find very, very fascinating. And I'm kind of curious how, how you I don't know if it's exactly I don't know what my question is exactly about, like blending everything? Or like how does that it all seems to inform like everything that you do in your life here informs your writing life.
The more life experience we have, the more we can bring to the writing table, right? So in all of those different activities that I do in different interests, I meet a wide variety of people. And because of that, I can bring in more bits and pieces from people to create characters, I come up with different sets of scenes because of it. It prevents brings challenges as well. So for example, and if I talk a little bit about the chemistry side, that takes us back to the mysteries primarily, in, in the cupcake caper book, one of the mystery books, I wanted to hide a particular poison inside a baked treat. And I had my science colleagues read this and they said, oh, there's a scientific inaccuracy to what I said, I was hoping you would be so intrigued in the story, you wouldn't see that. But now that I know that I can't get it past an astute reader. I have to work around it. And so I made a workaround. And to make a long story short, I ended up bringing in, excuse me, just one second here. Sure, sure, sure. I ended up bringing in various treats to the laboratory and one treat had enough table salt that it would have been the same amount of the poison that I would have used in the book. And I had people taste test these cupcakes. And though, the scientist who had been involved with reading for me before he walked by, and he said, That's a very good experiment you're running. When I later revealed what I was doing, none of my colleagues would ever again, eat anything I brought in. Oh, that's
So yes, I blend my careers and my writing.
Your co workers now like give me the side eye down the hall.
So I once had a boss who said to me, why are you writing romance and women's fiction? Why don't you write science fiction? This actually is the boss that I killed in the first book,
I looked at him and I said, Why do you really want to wonder if my research reports are made up? Ah, I don't think he like
you're no longer working for him, right?
No, actually, when I switched jobs, he suddenly a few months afterwards found a new position as well. And I tend to think those two instances were somehow related. But I don't know and I don't care.
Okay, so it sounds like the romance writing came before the cozy writing, which is so interesting, because for some reason I had it reversed in my head.
You had it reversed because the cozy mysteries were published first. Writing started first. Okay, got it. Got it. Actually, there's an old now out of print book called Dangerous affairs. And when I was beginning to write, one thing that I noticed about myself and other agents and editors and people noticed is that I tended to have a humorous voice, right? Or dangerous affairs was more of a suspenseful voice. And you talk about how my other activities inform writing. This really came about from my teaching martial arts classes. Okay, and one of my best friends and a co worker at the studio where we taught was Working at a women's shelter, we taught some safety and self defense classes at the shelter. She was a social worker who explained to me the intricacies of how domestic violence works. And the light bulb moment for me was realizing that one of the people I had dated in my past, had been laying all of the mental and psychological groundwork that all of the abusive spouses lay down. And there was a scary instance there. And I'll go into this because I think that the readers out there might need to hear this or learn from this. Yes, please do. He had taken me on a date somewhere. And in the town where I lived. There are not street signs between different towns, but there are fields and industrial complexes and things. And something had happened during the day in which he felt I was not paying the right kind of attention to him. And as we went on this date, he pulled aside into a deserted parking lot. And he said to me, Do you know why I've stopped? And I said, No. And I was mentally naive at this point. And he said, Because I'm going to beat the shit out of you. Oh, my God. The first words out of my mouth, were you try it and knock your teeth down your throat? I did not know any martial arts. Yeah, my brother had tried to teach me one single punch. Oh, my God. It was not until a good 10 or 15 years later, when I was teaching self defense, that I realized, if I had said the words, please don't hurt me, we would have had a very, very different ending to that. As, as it was, the ending was, oh, no, no, I'm kidding. We need to talk. We're angry. But if I had said, Please don't hurt me, I think he would have lived up to his promise.
That's fascinating. Can you unpack that a little bit? Why would what? Because you kind of stood up and you said, or I bet that backed him down. Because ultimately, like they're bullies,
I believe that ultimately, they're bullies. And if you stand up early enough in the process, and you let them know, you're not someone to be messed with, that is really an essence of self defense, which is stopping something before it starts to happen.
And where did that response come from? Was that just something in you and you're like, I'm not fond
of this show. I as I was growing up, my parents divorced, and my mother was becoming a feminist, if you will, a single mother and she was a tough cookie anyway. And I think I just saw this from an early age and I saw, I can be responsible for myself, I need to be responsible for myself. I can't let people push me around. And although I'm the nice girl and the peacemaker, I think when push comes to shove, something inside me just came out with the right words.
Because there's that there's a level of bravery there that is really kind of extraordinary when you're sort of thinking about, you're in a field or in a car with somebody who probably can physically overpower you. And you're just like, I'll kick your, I'll kick your teeth. And if you touch me, and like that's kind of that's, that's, that's brave. And
it was a knee jerk reaction born of a burst of anger. Wow. Okay. And I am so grateful for it. Yeah. But what I then wanted to do is I very deliberately veered off of my my humorous writing voice. And I wrote this book called Dangerous affairs, because I wanted women to know that it's not the stereotype of a weak willed woman that becomes a victim of domestic violence. But it is someone that's been systematically torn down, and I wanted them to see a smart heroine have this kind of a problem, and I wanted her to get out of it and escape, and I wanted to give them hope that, that they too, could escape and, and my thought was, you know, maybe this book will save a life, perhaps, is presumptuous. But in one of my early book signings when there were actual bookstores and actual malls, some people have bought a copy of this book, and then they turned around, and a few hours later, I saw them again. And I thought, oh, no, they're gonna bring it back. They don't like it. And the woman said to me, I started reading this to my sister, and I told her, you need this book, and you need to read this. And she told me, she thought she saw her sister going into an unhealthy relationship. And she hoped that this would help her move away from that. Wow. And so I the press that published that book, it came out in 2005, the same year that what eventually became read my lips was the golden heart finalist. That publisher is gone now. And so I want to recover this and even though it's a little bit different voice, I want to bring dangerous affairs back out for the reasons that we've talked about.
Yeah, I was gonna ask that that was what I was gonna ask you actually, if you do have plans to bring it back out, because I think that it's important. I had a writer on I'll just say it's Bethany Bennett because she was very open to it, she was in an abusive marriage and got out. And she sort of credits, romance books for, you know, helping her get out of a bad situation, and then also being able to finally find a relationship that was healthy and secure for her. And so I just think that there is something very special about our relationship with our readers, first of all, is feels very intimate. Um, for some reason, and I don't know if other genres feel this way with their readers, but I know with me and my readers, you know, whether I'm responding to them via email or social media, or what have you, it does feel very close. And I think I don't, I'm not quite sure, you know, I think maybe it's because we are writing intimate moments between characters. But I also think that there is, oh, I have no idea what there is, I'm just throwing this out.
I just think that we, we do specialize in relationships. And one of the beauties about books in general, but romance in particular is that the woman is the center of this story. And we celebrate our strengths and our independence and our vulnerabilities and, and as writers who play matchmaker to 10s, or hundreds or sometimes 1000s. If you're Nora Roberts of characters, we we kind of become relationship experts. And we write an idealized relationship as it ought to be not necessarily as it is. And I think that helps us reach for stronger and better and, and gives people a safe place to be vulnerable.
Yeah, I would agree with that. So let's talk about STEAM. Let's do it. When you are writing your first book, okay, well, when you're writing your first romance, did it have a steamy scene in it? Or were you like closing the door? Or just not, you know, being a little bit more sweet about it? Or did you just go for it right away?
The romances that I have done to date all end up with steamy scenes in them.
Okay. Okay, so you're writing your first one. When you got to that point, when you were like, Okay, I'm gonna write my steamy scene now. Like, what was that like to read it? Did it? Were you like, Did you freeze? Were you comfortable with it? Like, was it just sort of like an any other day at the in front of the computer, you know.
So I think all writers have a very different take on this. I felt comfortable with it. And I think I was comfortable because I had read so many steamy scenes in the various novels. And when I write, I tend to close my eyes and put myself into the skin of my characters, and try to experience the world that they're experiencing. And so as you write the steamy scenes, you're kind of also experiencing it yourself. And saying, you know, what makes me comfortable? What makes me excited, what makes me vulnerable? What makes me empowered, and you bring all of those bits to the scenes.
Right? Okay, cool. Cool. So, you had I mean, one of the things that you had mentioned that you wanted to talk about, and I think this is a great spot to sort of drop it in is the idea of sexual tension versus steamy scenes. And, like, I kind of loved your example, that you had given me, Can you can you can you like, share that one? out loud?
Oh, the the bit of
writing that I gave you? Yeah. Well, no, no, when you, um, when when we were communicating about doing this and and you had, you'd mentioned you talked about the role of sexual tension, and how you were on a panel discussing sex. You see, when
I know the story you're asking, that actually was really interesting. So the the first unpublished book that I wrote how to bake or hero like my brand new husband at the time. And oh, yes, I wrote him. And someday, that book will see the light of day. But I was on a panel at a group where people were talking about writing steamy scenes. And on this panel, were three or four people that went into all kinds of physical, steamy scenes that were in their books. And we were all asked to read a portion of ours and I had worked with some of my writing colleagues and friends to prepare for this. One of my writing colleagues and friends actually was very active in movies and theater and production and acting and such, which I think is something you're very familiar with. And she coached me on how to read my scene. So here I am on this panel. I'm the last person and we had people reading full on physical sexual scenes, including One where we talked about a nursing home and how oral six is better when the dentures are out.
Oh my God, that's kind of fabulous.
So it turned from me. And I read this scene, which was a prelude to a single kiss, which I think I ended the scene with a kiss it did. I won't go into the details of what made that scene. But as I read this scene and read it the way I was coached, at the end, the entire room just side had been this, you know, very satisfying scene. And yet, it was just the kiss. And I think it almost ended with a heroine licking her lips, because she had touched something in the bakery and then licked her fingers in the hero's trying to raise her awareness that in a professional food setting, you don't do that, right? It turned into this really, scene fraught with sexual tension. And you know, looking at the lips, and just, it worked. Oh,
I do love it. I love that sort of the tension, the build, and that sort of so when you do finally get to the steamy moment, it's like, Thank God, like it's a relief, right, that they finally gotten there. So I'm curious, how do you how do you know, is it something that you're able to build in consciously with the sexual tension? Because I know sometimes writers just do these things naturally. It's just what comes out. And I'm kind of curious, how you approach?
Well, one thing that I think it's important to bring up in terms of my process is that early on, let's let's go back to when I started discovering or reading the harlequin steamier. romances, it was, it was kind of funny, I would read a section and I said, Well, I know this is supposed to be sexual tension. And I know this is supposed to be describing orgasm. But it could just as easily be describing skydiving, because it's got all these evocative words with sounds that have emotional context to them. And so I think, early on, I fell in love with the sound of the words that went into those scenes. And so there's a rhythm that I use for that. Because I think that the writing should be as beautiful as what the experience is in real life. And so I tend to use evocative words. And as you build tension, you really start thinking about eye to eye contact, eye to lip contact, maybe a single touch, and you're building that sense of anticipation, so that the payoff may be a full on the physical romance scene, or it may be a simple touch. In the book series that's coming out in the third riches in Royals book, I have a scholarly marine biologist and her prints and their sexual tension and awareness begins by being built when they are underwater doing a scuba dive. And as they become more and more aware of each other, I don't have the ability to use language, or anything else, I really have only visual cues. But by the time they start to ascend, I've got my heroine rattled and hot and bothered so much so that when he simply reaches out in touches her hand to tell her she's going out of the water too fast. That's the sexual payoff in that scene, and everybody gets that. Wow, feeling again,
poof, actually just got that little Wow feeling just now just to scrub that out. Excellent. That's amazing. I'm like really looking forward to actually having like, more time with your books. Because I'm, I'm intrigued by what you do and how you do it, which is, which is pretty amazing. Um, so I picked a scene. Okay, so you sent me this is from read my lips, um, I picked a scene that you had sent. And it's, I'm pretty much reading the whole thing with like, sort of, like stops in between. But it's going to be chapter 12. And this is where the relationship is developing. I think. I think maybe there was one intimate scene before this one. Um, and I'd love for you to set it up, because I love this this moment between them.
So, so chapter 12 The role placing edible paint edible paint. So the characters have you had a deepening relationship in I will say that in my mind, the whole point of as as the clothing comes off, the vulnerabilities come out. And so there's always in my thought, a direct parallel between vulnerability and physical nakedness, right? So it becomes about more than just, I always hate the ones where it's fit, tab P and dislike V. If you right, those never make me feel valued. So in this particular one that the hero is getting to the point where he has been revealing more and more of himself to the hero when he first meets her to help with the dyslexia, and he pretends to be just a worker at the factory that he owns. And he's slowly peeling back the layers to say, Well, I'm not a, a factory worker anymore, I actually own my own business. And and, and she's saying, that's fine, and I understand why you hit it, and cetera, et cetera. So at this point, he's starting to reveal more and more about himself, but he hasn't let on that. He's the owner of the company that funds her literary clinic and that she works for. And he's trying to share himself with her and other ways. And so he's made these edible paints as a gift for her. Now, remember, he's dyslexic. And one of the things that she has done prior to this is helped find the key that that helped him learn, and that was tactile sensation. And so she used die cut letters where he could feel the shape of the letter, as well as hear the sounds and things. And that seemed to turn the key for him. So she had transitioned through several phases of that. So you'll see echoes of that teaching in this scene.
Before we get into it, I have a question about the research that you did, in terms of, you know, knowing that the tactile, different ways of learning for people with dyslexia and all that, where did you sort of, you know, what, where did you do this research.
I did a lot of research for this online course. And the colonel that started it was a friend of mine at work who had younger children. And she said, as she was helping them with their spelling lessons, what she would do would be take long sheets of paper, like cut out paper bags, or something, and thick, heavy crayons, and write the spelling words there and have her children feel along that as well as read the words and she said that that helped her children do better in their spelling tests. And so I started learning about what's called kinesthetic learning, which is where the sense of touch is engaged, and help certain people learn. And I decided to make that a pivotal point in the learning from my dyslexic but the rest of the research for dyslexia and the number of people have had the issues and how they develop coping skills, how they hide their struggles from people that was all pretty much online research and research from stories that people told about their own lives
okay, this is you must go down so many research rabbit holes,
and it's fun that's that's where being a research chemist helps.
Alright, I'm going to start reading lies still woman I'm trying to write something here. Claire fisted her hands and the sheets and tried to Stop squirming as RDS fingers trace to smooth cool line of body pain across her belly. The sweep of his fingers and the erotic scent of the sweet pants tickled their way along her senses. This is my favorite letter. He dipped his fingers in one of the pink paint cans. Raspberry she thought and dragged it in a soft swirl near her belly button. See for Claire, who's so very sexy. He dipped his fingers again and slowly drew another set of swirls below the first S for sexy Claire. The figure trailed near the apex of her thighs stopping when she wished it would swirl lower. s she replied, for swirling senses slippery, sliding satisfaction and Oh, his tongue trace the s breaking her concentration. Slowly curve by curve he licked his way back to her belly sliding his naked body against hers, his chest and belly rasping against the sensitive spot between her legs as his tongue swept higher and higher. Oh is a different letter altogether. Claire he teased it's more like this. He traced a circle around her nipple tees and close to the tip but never touching it. Oh yeah, she's she threaded her fingers through his hair writhing despite his protests. Your body makes a lovely Canvas my sweet sticky beauty. Now I wonder what letters I should draw in this tight little space. He worked his fingers too tight opening sliding his fingers along the slippery cleft. It feels like the lowercase item me long straight with a little something special. to.it Clear shifted and moaned as he flicked his finger across the throbbing center of sensation. Definitely an eye he said. Dragging flicking again and until she couldn't lie still. I wonder what it tastes like? He moved down his tongue tracing the path his fingers had primed. she moaned again deep and throaty. Oh, oh, oh, what he asked wicked. tracing her needy ones as he spoke. Do you want an O like this? He drew circles around the sensitive mom mound, turning her throaty mon into an urgent whimper. Cool. Let's stop for a second there. And really yourself a bit. Yeah, having a little fan drink a little water. I love the idea of working with Audible. I gotta tell you, when I saw when I saw this scene, I was like, Oh, we're reading this. We're reading this. Um, I've always wanted to include some sort of toy play on my steamy scenes, but I have yet to do it. I do not know why. It just feels like there hasn't been an opportunity, you know, a good opportunity for it.
It helps when you write a chocolate here, and he deals with food. So that yeah, express love. Yeah.
So yeah, I'm kind of curious. Like, I mean, I mean, I honestly, you've kind of already answered my question about, like, you know, what added to the scene and the character growth because like the idea of the tactile learning for him and, and feeling the letters. And this is sort of an extension of that. I think it's so amazing to sort of now put that all together and say, Oh, my God, that's what's happening in this really intimate, very sexy scene.
And what I like about doing this, and what I enjoyed was to bring a sense of playfulness, as well. So it's not all super serious, right? They're playing with words. They're playing with letters, they're playing with paints, they're, they're having fun.
Yeah, yeah. Within this sort of, like intimate mode. Now, I just want to have they had sex before. Yes, they are. Okay, so this is sort of the second time third time.
I think it's second or third. Let me check my notes because I wrote probably third, maybe fourth. It's it's a wow, you sort of stopped and that that's fine. But I will say that one of the things that I liked about this scene, if you move a little further down is
we will be
okay. I mentioned it, the time is appropriate.
I read the whole thing. I think the only line I've left out so we'll just like throw it in there now is more she whispered. That's the only line
so I'll just read this next little bit before we really go go further. He This was after more, she whispered. He opened her thighs wider, strong palms pushing her until she like opened before him. He licked her again a long slow stroke that tease her already sensitive flash. He varied the pressure on length of his strokes, but he never never varied. His intense focus never gave her relief or release. Nip flick, swirl slide. She was drowning in a sea of his kisses. Each stroke made her more helpless to the onslaught until at last we had the pleasure broke over her. She resurfaced in a sea of passion, her body still pulsing with aftershocks of delight as already slid into her. Instead of slow, purposeful pace. Passion turns you golden he whispered his words poring over her as he moved inside her. It makes you shine even brighter than you already do. You are wonderful. Oh, I was really struck by the word use here. Like absolutely gorgeous. Passion turns you golden. I mean, like, wow, oh my god, you know, the, and also the varying. So we have longer sentences than we have your than we have a little bit more short, staccato Netflix world slide. In your writing, are you? Do you kind of do a lot of like layering where you're going over and over and over again in the scene? Or are you able to get to this point kind of in one go, this is just how this is, this might just be how you get it down on paper.
It's it's more the latter than the former, for for some reason, when I'm in the character's head, things tend to flow for me. And and I'm glad they do. I don't do numerous drafts of my work. What I do is each day when I finish work, the next day, I'll come back and I'll reread over what I've done the day before. And I'll start fiddling with it and fixing it and editing slightly and massaging and whatever. Right. And that gets me into the next scene. And I think that gives me a cohesiveness. And so I'm constantly editing as I write, which is not good for every writer to do. Yeah, for me. And so when I end up with my first draft, it's a pretty polished first draft. And in the intimate scenes, I know things Think to yourself in your own intimate interactions with people. Nothing happens at the same pace, the pace always changes and so should the pace of the sentences to mimic that sort of Changing pace in real life. Right? And you do the same for an action scene.
Right? Right, exactly. Sort of like, as, you know, my, my original, I started writing with urban fantasy. And so there were a lot of fight scenes. And you know, as the fights got faster and more intense, the words would get faster and more until you know, you would mimic that speed of the fight scenes.
And that gives your reader that adrenaline rush that you would get if you were watching the fight scene in a movie, the music would do that for you, you would hear the background music speeding up and, and your words have to take on that function.
Right, right. Oh, okay. Keep going, oh, you know what, before we go, I don't? Are you a plotter or a pantser? I know you do a lot of the character work. But do you plot to? Or do you just kind of have like, little like,
I usually have two or three turning points that I know about. And I'm really more of a pantser than a plotter. I tell myself this story at night over and over when I'm writing, I actually don't read within the genre that I'm working in. And I usually tend to read more nonfiction when I'm writing because I feel like I can only live in one story world at a time. And so my my movie and TV consumption will drop and I will live and breathe in the story world I'm creating. Wow.
How long does it usually take? Because you do have a lot like happening in your life? How long did it take you to get a book done?
That has changed over time. If I'm being very good, and not turning on the TV and sitting with my husband, if if I use my my, when I do goals, I basically put a little post it note on my computer and I'll say, today, this week, you have to reach to page 25. Then each week, I will add 20 or 25 pages to the account that I want to get. And that turns on my internal competition with myself and makes me work at these things. If I'm doing it that way, and I'm working five days a week trying to bring out three to five pages. I can finish the first draft in a month. I not a month, three months. Sorry.
Okay. Okay. I was like a month Oh my god.
But then that the caveat at that point, the twist is, I'm tired. And they're all the other hats that authors have to wear today, the marketing hat, the production hat and a million other things. And so I stopped the writing and I start doing the other things. So all told, it's about a year between books for me and I am trying to get faster with that, as I get more experienced with some of the other non writing chores. But the physical writing part takes about three months. Yeah, I
know we were talking in the green room that you had. You had written a bunch, you sort of like banked your books, you know, so that you could do a release that sort of made sense, which I had done. With my rock star series, I had a few books banked and kind of ready to go or just about ready to go and then I kind of ran out of books. So here we are here.
And honestly, the banking the books worked really well because when I wrote read my lips in its first iterations, it was targeted to one of the super short Harlequin lines, and I decided that I would write a book that was shorter than I normally did. Okay, when I then got an agent, she said that she thought the depth of the characters and the actions in the plotline were more consistent with single title books than with category books. And I finally understood why am I trying to sell books to Harlequin wasn't working, it was just my voice didn't fit the voices they were looking for. And so I added subplots. And then I had to take out subplots. And when I when I sent this series to the editor that I've been working with for a number of years now, she suggested I take out one of the subplots that was in the book. And then the length got really short. And so I added a subplot to introduce the prints that will become the hero of the next book. And so it was fun. But one of the hardest writer chores I've ever had is to take a book where you've, you've got it meticulously crafted so that each scene flows into the next to the next. And then breaking that open and adding a subplot and fitting that in. Yeah, and then yanking it out and putting another one in. Yeah, those were challenging times.
Yeah, I've actually had to do that on a couple of books, recent books, I'm not quite sure why I ended up having to do them, but it just ended up. That was just what happened and sort of I had a book done and then I had to rip it apart and sort of not start all over again. But you really do have to go back and redo a lot.
And then you need fresh BETA readers and fresh eyes from critique partners who haven't seen it or haven't seen it for a long time. Who can catch when you ripped out too much?
Yeah, yeah. So yeah, it's a it's a complicated that can be a complicated process. Okay. Last bit to finish. Her body responded to his strokes already begging to be taken to a new high. Each stroke brought a new layer of pleasure until he stopped. an itchy quivering need ravaged her body and she shifted rising up to meet him. He pushed her hips down stilling the moment she craved. Claire, look at me. You are wonderful, say it. His eyes commanded even as his body held her in thrall. I am wonderful, she repeated in a shaky voice. Good. Believe it. He rewarded her with a few more thrusts, ratcheting the tension higher with each one, just as she was shivering on the edge of release he stills again, Claire, your phenomenal, say it. Unable to resist she obeyed. I am phenomenal. That's right. Say it again. Believe it. He moved giving her the touch she craved as she repeated his words. To keep him moving. She chanted them like a mantra. I am wonderful. I am phenomenal. She began to believe him. You are sensational. Yes. sinsational SEN. The word ended on a scream as the second orgasm ripped through her shuttering and shivering from her fingertips to her toes and back. Everything pulse light shimmered behind her eyes bathing already in a glow as he moved above her, his face twisted in passion. You are mine, he shouted passion turning into a warm release that flooded her senses. I am your she repeated cradling him as he collapsed against her wonderful, phenomenal sinsational When I'm with you. And if you forget it, he murmured, baring his face in her neck. We'll have to start this lesson all over from the beginning. We're going to practice till you get it right. tyrant. She snuggled deeper into his embrace, daring to believe the things he'd said, at least for tonight. I loved that I loved what happened there that he was such giving her something that she needed, like more than the orgasm, which felt super intimate, almost more so than the sex itself. You know, there's a vulnerable spot here. You know,
to me, that is the key. And it's all about accepting a whole person and all the vulnerabilities. I think the sex part is a reflection of that deeper connection. Right? And to really satisfy it should be, I mean, who doesn't want a man who's going to find any way he can to tell you that you're wonderful and your insecurities are mistaken?
Right, right now, so she, I'm guessing that she is that she has these insecurities? What are her? What are her wounds.
So this, this goes to her backstory. And it's set up so that when she first started working for this company, she fell in love with a man that she was reporting to when they started a relationship. And they were intimate. And she thought that this was her future. And what he really was doing was milking her for her ideas. And when he found that she had this, this wonderful advertising idea that became the key to the company's new ad program, he stole it from her. And he had her arranged to have her caught in a position that felt shameful to her and made her leave working for him in the marketing department and go to this obscure literacy clinic where she could finish out our contract with the company. Okay, so it was someone who, who wounded her in terms of her self confidence, but also stole from her intellectual property. That's a fancy word for saying her ideas. But I took from her something that was really part of her work and her ideas. And in fact, what it became, was the key to an advertising campaign that is built on selling chocolate by tapping into women's romantic fantasies. And so what you see is on some of the the love scenes that we have early on, where they're doing a little roleplay, and play acting, unconsciously, they're both acting out the fantasy that she created for this advertising campaign. Neither one quite realizes it. And when they do, that clicks, and that makes a big difference in how he moves forward and sees what happened to her and discovers her.
Amazing. That's, that's really fun. It's It's so interesting to sort of talk to you and see this sort of, I don't know, it kind of fits together like a Jenga puzzle, like, I don't know, it's like, layer upon layer upon layer, and then it all sort of fits together. And there is a real sense of discovery as we're moving through this conversation. Like there's just Oh, but one more thing. And that ties in here. And I just I absolutely love how you were able to do that.
Well, I hope I didn't give away too many spoilers. But if you still want to know how we got there from here,
no, for sure, for sure. So, um, so you've got next book coming out in January, and I'm sorry, remind me the title of again, that will be royally scandalized. royally scandalized. Great for
your for your readers. It used to be royally screwed. But I decided that didn't work as well as I wanted. It was meant as a double entendre. But we moved to scandalized. Yeah.
So that's coming out in January. And so where can readers connect with you online? What's your favorite place to be?
The best place I can give them would be to start if you want to find me start at my website, because it has all of my social media links there, as well as descriptions of the book and buy links for the various retailers. So you're not boxed into a single retailer. And that would be WWW dot Kellie z riley.net. And it's k e l l e. Z as in Zebra, Riley, r i l e y dotnet.
PR. Perfect. And I will also have links to the website as well as all of your socials in the show notes. So people can grab them there too. Okay.
And I try. I'm mostly active on Facebook, although I'm learning to Instagram. If you try to reach me in Instagram, and it takes me a long time to answer it's because I don't know what I'm doing yet. I'm working on all of those things. But But I know how to do Facebook so you can always find me there. So you're not on Tik Tok? I'm not on tick tock yet. Although my book is on tick tock. Somebody didn't open a box opening thing about it. A couple others. So I will learn tic tock eventually. Oh, very cool. Take it in little bites with the social media.
Yeah, I'm on tick tock, I still don't get up. I've been on since like, I don't know, March, maybe I don't remember June, I don't remember what I did my I'd started my ticket. And I just sort of, I have a few videos up. But really, I just stare out and go, I really don't get what I'm supposed to be doing here.
I can get easily overwhelmed. And so once I get something and I try a new process, and I learn it, it becomes fairly easy. But when I'm in the process of learning it, it sometimes seems so overwhelming that I just say I don't want to do that today, maybe tomorrow. And six months later, we're still in that phase. Actually, I have a class that we're going to be teaching on that down the road at some of the writers groups about how to find mentors that you need when you're learning new, new, new tasks.
Oh, very cool. Keep me posted on that. I might, I might, I might need that. I'm sort of fascinated a number of writers that I've had on talk about having mentors, and I'm like, Oh, how does one get one of those. I've done that before.
And, and here again, it comes back to what you mentioned way early in our podcast is that I have these different areas of expertise in areas of interest. And throughout my corporate science training and working in major corporations, they taught things like situational leadership and and other such things. Were the name of the programs. And I realized that these could be adapted for writers. And so career self mentoring, take some general principles that you may not know. But they make a lot of sense when you talk about them. And it says when you learn a new task, here are the four distinct phases you go through. And at each phase, you need a different kind of mentor. So here's what you look for in a person. So if you're learning to do tick tock in the beginning, and you know nothing, you look for someone who's going to give you step by step instructions, right? And then you look for somebody who gives you instructions and encouragement. And then you have to move to encouragement only and do it on your own with the instructions. And then you're an expert. And so there are these phases and knowing that you go through them, helps you find what you need in a mentor.
that's really mentorship can be short. It can be half an hour conversation with someone who does this for a living and gives you a few tips.
Oh my gosh, this is super helpful. I love it. Thank you so much.
Hopefully I can come back and we can talk about it more someday. Oh, I
would love that. Um, Kelly, thank you so much for being here. This was really great. I feel like I've gotten a lot. I learned so much.
I have had so much fun talking with you. It's been really really enjoyable.
Oh, good. Good. That's what I hoped for. So yeah, it would kill me if somebody was like, God, that was painful. I feel like I'm so sorry. So I'm glad that you enjoyed
it. No, it's been fun chatting with you and talking about process and books and all of the segways that we've gone into and the rabbit holes we've gone down. been delightful.
Thank you. We'll definitely come back.
I will gladly do so.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai