Q&A with Leslie Kelly, Watching You


Who are some of your favorite authors?

My reading tastes are just as varied as my writing ones, so I have favorite authors in several genres. Stephen King is my go-to horror guy. For meaty, quirky, heart-wrenching drama, I love John Irving. Historical fiction? Hilary Mantle (I’ve been panting for the last Wolf Hall book!) I love Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan when it comes to historical romance. For romantic suspense—Karen Rose is a huge favorite. For paranormal—I am not a vampire or shifter fan, so paranormal is a bit limited for me. But I do love Alyssa Day’s Atlantis series. And for contemporary romance, you just can’t beat my good friends Carly Phillips, Erika Wilde, and Jill Shalvis. 
Who are some authors in your genre that inspire you?

Karen Rose inspires me to write smart suspense that makes you gasp as you read, and I love the really sexy contemporary romances by HelenKay Dimon.  
What sort of research did you do to write this book?

I actually read a lot of Hollywood gossip magazines, which I don’t usually do. The big stories about the abuse in the movie industry broke when I was working on this series, which was both heartbreaking and fascinating, considering that plays a part in the world I’ve created. 
I also found it interesting to do some research on script writing, something I’ve dabbled in, because that’s what my heroine, Jessica Jensen, wants to do. 
What are you working on now? Any chance of a sequel?

Actually, yes. The Hollywood Heat series will contain three books, one for each of the Winchester brothers. Each one is sexier than the last, and I really can’t wait to get to bad-boy, gruff youngest brother, bodyguard Raine Winchester. 
What started you on the path to writing for a living?  

My husband did! I always liked to write, but had never actually tried to get published. In the late 1990’s, I was a stay at home mom with three little girls under the age of seven. I was going a little stir crazy. My wonderful hubby came home one day with an article he had clipped out of the local paper about a class called How To Write a Romance Novel being offered at a local bookstore. He had already signed me up, and pushed me out the door so I could do something just for myself one night a week. 

During that class, I started the book which eventually became my first published work, Night Whispers, published by Harlequin Temptation in 1999. 
How did you break into the publishing world?

After finishing Night Whispers, I sent it, unsolicited, to an editor at Harlequin, who I’d heard speak at an RWA conference. I broke all the rules (you’re supposed to query!) but she liked it enough to buy the book. 
What are the upsides and downsides to being an author?

Funny, one big upside is also a downside. It’s awesome to get to work at home in your pajamas and not have to get up and put on work clothes and go to some office. 

That, however, can also be a downside. When I’m really deep into a project, I sometimes forget to bathe, much less get dressed. Lol! 

It can also be a bit lonely, especially now that I’ve moved to a new city where I know nobody. Without that job interaction, and without having young kids involved in activities, it can be a rather lonely profession. I’m so very grateful for my writing friends, who pump me up every day, even if only through emails, texts, and phone calls.
How did you come up with the idea for your book?

I think I’ve always played a mental what-if game about what it would be like to draw the unfocused attention of a super-sexy, super-rich, super-famous Hollywood movie star. I just needed to find the right kind of heroine and the right kind of story. When I came up with Jessica Jensen, an extremely snarky, sassy, fun and funny young woman, I realized she might be exactly the type who would catch a movie star’s eye.
What is the main thing you want readers to take away from your book?

That they like it? Lol! 

No, seriously, I hope they put the book down feeling really satisfied with the romantic relationship, and the plotline of Watching You. But I also hope they’re really curious about the Winchester family and want to know more about the secrets that they’ve kept and the dark mysteries of their past. 
How do you deal with writer’s block?

Like a lot of authors I know, I’ve had real battles with depression. A few years ago I went through a really bad patch that cost me about two years of writing. It essentially destroyed my career, which had been going pretty steadily until then. But in this day and age, with readers wanting books from their favorite authors every couple of months, it just killed my name recognition and cost me readers. 

I can’t kick myself too much for that, though. I was battling something I had struggled with for my entire life, and finally, with some professional help, was able to wrangle that beast on my back (and in my brain) and find some balance and contentment…not to mention my muse. 
Do you outline books ahead of time or are you more of a by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer?

Definitely seat of your pants! I try to plot, I really do, but the stories inevitably veer off into new directions as I get to know the characters and what’s happening to them. 
What do you do in your free time when you aren’t writing?

Honestly, I most love being with my husband, Bruce, and my children. Living in Denver as we do now, we’ve really gotten into the lifestyle here, and Bruce and I love going for long drives, picnics, hikes, kayaking…and then there’s always the awesome cities of Denver and Boulder just a hop skip and a jump away. We really love it here. 
You write in several different genres, some of which aren’t usually associated with each other. How did you go from writing sexy romantic comedies to dark romantic suspense?
Honestly, I get bored if I do too much of the same thing in a row. Although I loved writing my many (MANY!) sexy contemporary romances for Harlequin Temptation, Blaze, and HQN, I really also love dark suspense, thrillers, and horror. So when I decided to try to branch out, romantic suspense seemed to be a good fit. That was my intention, anyway, but when I wrote my Black CATs series for NAL, I found myself going darker than I’d intended. I’d say those books verge almost on romantic thriller than romantic suspense. 

After that, I sold the Veronica Sloan series to a German publisher, and they wanted straight dark, futuristic thrillers. That series never really took off here, but I did love writing it, bloody and brutal though it was. 

If I had to name the books of my heart, that would be my Extrasensory Agents series. I’d gone from contemporary romance, to romantic thrillers, to futuristic suspense…so why not throw in some psychics and ghosts into a new paranormal suspense series? I have written four of those books, and plan to continue self publishing them. 

Then came the Hollywood Heat series. It seemed weird that I’d never just gone for straight, sexy romantic suspense in an effort to really blend my light contemporaries with my dark thrillers. 

I hope I was successful…I guess readers will let me know. 
As for what I’ll write next? Well, who knows. I honestly might try for a cozy mystery one of these days! 
Your new series is about movie stars and Hollywood. Have you ever had any movie-star interactions of your own?

I am a huge Broadway nut, and fortunately, a lot of famous actors like to appear on Broadway every once in a while. Because most of them will come out the stage door and chat with fans after each performance, I always make a point of waiting for a quick chat or an autograph. That’s how I’ve met people from John Lithgow, to Kelsey Grammar, to Idina Menzel, to Bernadette Peters…and (wait for it) Hugh Jackman! (be still my heart)

I’ve never run across a star who wasn’t entirely gracious! 
Beyond the story blurb, what is WATCHING YOU all about?
I like to think of Watching You as a sort-of cross between a Cinderella story, Pretty Woman, and Psycho.

There’s definitely a Prince Charming-sweeps-the-normal-girl-off-her-feet element. Jessica Jensen is a Cinderella—a former foster kid and orphan who’s learned to take care of herself and takes no b.s. 

But there’s also a dark, dangerous mystery enveloping the passionate relationships she gets caught up in with director Reece Winchester. 

Somebody is stalking him—and she soon catches that someone’s eye. Things aren’t exactly what they seem, there are old family mysteries the Winchester brothers want to keep hidden that are being dragged out of the shadows and back into the light. There are murders, attacks, and high-stakes danger. 

And, I think, there’s a really fun, solid, sexy romance between two exciting and unique people.