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Interview with Kelly Irvin

Kelly, what a pleasure it is to get to know you. Let’s jump right in and let the readers know about your prolific and successful writing career. You write in three separate Christian genres (Amish romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction). Is the writing process different for them? If so, how?
Regardless of genre, all my books feature strong women and real issues they face in their daily lives. For all three genres, I employ the seat-of-the-pants process. However, I write Amish romances more quickly, partly because I’ve written so many (more than 20 and 10 novellas).

Romantic suspense novels take longer because I usually start out only knowing who the protagonist and the villain are and what crime has been committed. I still have to figure out the clues and decide how the protagonist will sleuth out the bad guy. I draw on my experiences as a reporter and proofreading court transcripts for authentic detail, but quite a bit of research can still be necessary.

My women’s fiction stories are the only ones I write in first person. These stories are more personal, and while not autobiographical, plumbed from my own experiences.

Tell us about most significant or pivotal decision you’ve made in your writing career? Why do you consider it momentous?
On my 45th birthday, I started writing a romantic suspense novel, but it was three years before I signed with an agent. Four more years went by with no contract. I’d written the rather gritty, but still Christian, suspense novel while working full-time, raising two middle-schoolers, and trying to be a good wife. Totally exhausted, I wondered if I couldn’t get a contract because my work was more suited to the mainstream (secular) market. I really considered switching genres.

I sat in church one Sunday and asked God for a sign. Should I quit altogether? Keep writing inspirational fiction? Go mainstream.? Two days later my agent called. A publisher had offered me a contract for an inspirational romantic suspense novel for their line of library-quality hardbacks. I had my answer!

Looking back, that was a fork in the road for me. Readers often tell me how they are touched by my books. That’s how I know I’m where God intended for me to be.

We’ve probably all asked God for some kind of sign! What an amazing way to get yours. You say readers are touched by your books. Based on the awards you’ve won, your writing also resonates with the contest judges. Tell us a little bit about some of your contest successes.
I’ve had two books final in the Carol Awards, Upon a Spring Breeze won an Inspirational Readers Choice Award, Love’s Dwelling won second place in the Selah Awards, and Trust Me is a finalist this year in the Silver Falchion Award contest. It’s a tremendous affirmation. I especially enjoy finaling in the Carol Awards because it’s so much fun to attend the gala, with all the glitz.

Doing well in contests helps spotlight books, but the contests aren’t the greatest moments. Every time I sign another contract, every time a new book debuts… those are great moments. If I had to narrow it down to one moment, I’d have to say when I held that first book in my hands and knew it was real—I’d accomplished my dream of being a published author. I still feel that joy every time I open a box of new released books.

What message do you hope readers take away from The Heart’s Bidding?
This story has two intertwined messages. First, finding a balance between our work lives and our families/relationships with loved ones is essential. Even for the Amish who value faith, family, and community above all else, this still holds true. We can miss some of life’s greatest joys if we don’t seek God’s guidance in this area. It can be difficult to juggle the demands of a job, the expectations of our community, and our willingness to yield to God’s will.

The second message centers around what we can learn from how the Amish treat their children with developmental disabilities. The female protagonist loves her job teaching developmentally challenged children. The Amish see these kids as gifts from God to be embraced in every way. The mainstream world can learn a great deal from their attitude of gratitude toward God for giving them what they call “special” children.

You say on your website that you desire to write about issues of “faith tested, joy lost and found, and the struggle to find meaning in difficult times.” What a lovely sentiment. Could you tell us what drives that longing to help others through your writing?
It’s driven by my own struggles to hang onto my faith in the midst of trials. I lost my mobility and became disabled because of a rare disorder caused by my cancer. I was heart-broken, hurt, bitter, and angry to learn that not only was I permanently disabled, but I would also be in treatment for Stage 4 ovarian cancer for the rest of my life—which might not be as long as I’d thought it would be.

My writing has helped me to work through those feelings and to try to find peace in my circumstances. I know what it’s like to hang onto faith by the tips of your fingernails. I hope these stories help readers in similar circumstances to hang onto their faith.

Where do your story and character ideas come from? What does “research” look like for you?
Many ideas come from the news. For my Amish stories I read a newspaper that is a collection of blurbs written by Amish “scribes” from communities all across the United States (and even some in other countries). With each series in a different Amish community, I’ve always visited that community to do research before writing the books. It’s good to get those authentic details correct.

Crime stories stir up my imagination for my romantic suspense novels. Also, I did some proofreading of U.S. District Court trial transcripts for court reporters for several years. That job gave me a ton of authentic details on things like crime scene investigations, autopsies, police procedures, and how trials are conducted. Research also includes reading books on the topics I’m writing about. Plus, I’ve interviewed leather makers, cattle farmers, fire jumpers, homicide detectives, and court reporters.

Of course, as you can imagine, the tabs on my internet search engine are pretty scary!

What a research process! But, now let’s learn a little bit more about you, Kelly. What do you consider to be the most fun part of being an author and why? What’s the least fun (even if it’s totally necessary)?
The most fun is when a character whom I’ve never “seen” before walks into a scene and takes over. When scenes come alive and pour out. I have no idea how that happens, but I love it. Some days writing can be like digging ditches, but other days stories take on a life of their own. That’s the best.

The least fun is keeping up with marketing stuff. I know how very necessary it is, especial social media, but there are days when I just want to write. I remind myself how blessed I am to be a published author with marketing and sales teams that do so much of this work for me. I just have to hold up my end of the deal. I’m blessed to need to do marketing. Even if it isn’t much fun. I think there are a lot of writers reading this right now who just shouted “Amen!”

So, since the actual writing is the fun part, what is your writing routine? Any quirky habits? How do you find your groove?
I do my best writing early in the morning. I start my day with crunchy peanut butter on toast and decaf coffee at the breakfast table, where I can watch the humming birds flitter around the feeder. Then it’s off to my office where I read the newspaper online, say my prayers, and get to work.

I prefer complete silence. Even if I had a play list, I wouldn’t hear the music once I started writing. I start by editing the last bit of writing from the previous day in order to get the wheels turning. I try not to snack while I’m writing, but I do like peppermint or butterscotch hard candies. (My dentist doesn’t appreciate them as much!)

You live in Texas. We always hear that everything’s bigger in Texas! I also know folks from your state who will defend its status as “the greatest state in the Union” without hesitation or quarrel. What do you love the most about Texas?
I’m a transplant from Kansas who originally moved to Texas to use my Spanish-speaking skills at a newspaper on the border, but I’ve stayed more than 40 years! I love that Texans love their state so much, that they’re so brazenly convinced that it is the best state in the union. They even love its imperfections (if they were to admit it has any). Everything is bigger in Texas, but especially their love of all things Texan!

Finish this statement: If I could go anywhere in the world, it would be_____________.
Europe, touring Spain, Italy and France. Up until February it would have been to go back to Costa Rica, but my husband and I crossed that off our bucket list in February for our 35th anniversary. It was monumentally wonderful.

Thank you, Kelly, for taking the time to let us get to know you. I hope The Heart’s Bidding reaches readers who need to hear your messages of work/life balance and valuing ALL children.
A life-long reader, LeighAnne Clifton decided to take the plunge into the writing world after more than 30 years as an engineer. Now, she writes Christian romance, upcycles junk, and teaches 3rd grade Sunday school. LeighAnne and her husband live in South Carolina with their spoiled cats (are there any other kind?). You can read her Christian living blog and find out more about her book series on her blog at

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