Meet 2014 Golden Heart Finalist Suzanne Kaufman Kalb, writing as Erika Kelly!
Posted by Elisa Beatty Jun 2 2014, 12:01 am in 2014 Golden Heart finalist, Berkley, contemporary romance, Erika Kelly, New Adult romance, rocker romance, rwa, Suzanne Kalb
Today we’re thrilled to welcome 2014 Golden Heart Finalist in Contemporary Romance, Suzanne Kaufman Kalb, who writes as Erika Kelly.
Suzanne / Erika is already a Golden Heart WINNER: she took the big prize in 2011 in Young Adult Romance for IRRESISTIBLE. She’s a UCLA graduate in English Lit (which breaks our recent streak of finalists with science backgrounds), and has been writing for years—plays, screenplays, short stories, novellas, and was one of the contributors to the book A Cup of Comfort for Women in Love.
She found her true voice, though, in writing passionate contemporary romances. Just recently, she sold a contemporary series to Berkley. The first book, YOU REALLY GOT ME, comes out in January 2015.
Wow, she’s on a hot streak!!
What factors have fueled her writing and propelled her to the threshold of big success? To find out, grab a cup of coffee and sit down for a little chat with her right now!
Tell us a little about your 2014 Golden Heart book, TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.
In this New Adult story, Dylan, a freshman, has just left his troubled mother behind for the first time. Seeing himself as a white trash kid in a college full of prep and boarding school kids, he’s committed to avoiding friendships and relationships. He’s just going to keep his head down, do his work, and get back to his mom. But then he meets the irresistible and irrepressible force that is Nicole Everett. She shows him that he’s no different from anyone at the school–their families might have money, but the students don’t. Here’s his chance to become the man he wants to be. He resists her until he no longer can stay away.
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? How did you know? Was it always Romance you were interested in?
As far back as I can remember I’ve spun stories in my head before falling asleep. Never in my wildest imagination would I have considered sharing them with others, let alone selling them. It just wouldn’t have occurred to me. Until a friend of mine brought up the idea. Together, we wrote screenplays. But that just wasn’t my medium, so I decided to shake things up. One day I sat down to do a creative exercise—650 pages later I had a novel. I’d truly found my medium. But I’d never read romance before, so it wasn’t until an editor wrote on my manuscript, “Does this author know she writes romance?” that I sought it out in the bookstore. Once I did, I totally immersed myself in it. Turns out those stories I spun? Romance all the way. Wish I’d known a lot earlier!
LOL…at least you got it figured out! You’re clearly versatile AND prolific. What is your writing process like?
I usually wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning with ideas spilling out all over the place. I have to hurry downstairs and take notes before they drift away—and they drift quickly.
From the moment I decided to write professionally (and that took a very long time!), I blocked out school hours for my writing time. No appointments, no phone calls. So, other than exercise and lunch, I really try to stay focused on writing between 7 AM and 2:30, when my daughter (and the last of the 4) gets off the bus. It’s always been really important to me to put my family first. I feel like my time with them is fleeting, so I don’t want to miss a moment. It will be interesting to see how my habits change in the new world of the empty nest.
Pantser or plotter?
I would say I’m a plotser—I don’t write outlines or flesh anything out, but I definitely need to know GMC and plot points before I sit down to write. Usually, I’ve imagined loads of scenes by the time I start a book, so it tends to flow nicely. I’ve written by the seat of my pants before—when the story came out faster than I could write—but that was just way too hard to shape into a decent story.
Your soon-to-be debut book, YOU REALLY GOT ME, is a romance set in the world of rock music. Where did the inspiration for that come from?
After graduating UCLA, I truly had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I did, however, really love Jackson Browne, so I called up his record company and asked if they were hiring. Incredibly, someone had just quit. So I went from receptionist/secretary (and can I be perfectly honest and tell you I had zero skills?) to National Marketing Manager. And, strangely, in all the years since then, all the screenplays and books I’ve written (dozens), I never once set a book in the music industry. Until now.
Awesome! Being brave pays off! So how did you get from National Marketing Manager to spinner of romantic tales?
All during my time at the record company, my friend and I were writing screenplays, and I have to say we got really tired of working FOR creative people (they’re crazy!) when we were creative people ourselves (oh, wait, um…). Then I met my future husband…
Do tell!!! On your new website, you call him “the love of my life.” Was it a soul mate thing?
Interestingly, I wasn’t very woo-woo, but I always had this very strong sense that he was out there and that I should wait for him. A friend in Chicago had tried for ages to get me to come out and visit her, so on a whim one weekend I did. It was during the Old Town Art Fair. My friend had an invitation to a roof party, but others in our group didn’t want to go. I suggested we compromise. Let’s go, and if we don’t have fun, we bail. So I forged the way up those stairs, emerged onto the roof, and immediately my gaze landed on HIM. And a voice in my head said, So that’s what he looks like. I’m from LA, worked in the music industry, and dated actors and musicians (no wonder I couldn’t find anyone!). And this guy? He looked like he went to Yale (he didn’t). Very preppy. SO not my type. Together, we left the party, walked through the fair, talking, talking, talking, and then met up with our friends at the food court. As one, they all looked up from their meals with an expression that said, They’re together. And we were. We were together from that moment on. To my family’s utter shock, I moved to Chicago (he’d just started business school) three months later. 25 years and 4 kids later, we still prefer each other’s company over anyone else’s. So, yeah, I do believe in magic.
I love that story!! Good for you for talking your way up those stairs! You seem to have a knack for taking chances and ending up somewhere fabulous! One last question before we open up for comments: what’s the best tip you can give other writers?
The very best tip I could give is to write, write, write. Don’t let rejection slow you down, and don’t get all twisted up in the drive to become published. Know that it will happen—and it will happen—as long as you keep on writing and learning your craft. Rejection doesn’t mean you’re not talented or you don’t have the chops to sell, so don’t let it mess with your head. Just sit down, pull up a blank screen, and write another book.
What question would you like to ask our readers to get the conversation going today?
Do you believe in soul mates? Did you wait—or are you still waiting—for yours?
You can find Suzanne / Erika online at
Website is www.erikakellybooks.com
Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/erika.kelly.1293?ref=tn_tnmn
Twitter is https://twitter.com/