Interview with Kelly L Tharp

When did you first start writing?
In junior high we had a pen-pal group writing each other as Star Trek characters, I was Scotty. I wish my English teachers had allowed me to write about stories that I wanted to write about, then I might have paid more attention in English class. As it was, I started a story based in the Star Trek universe, but was informed if I wanted to publish then it was best to write about my own characters and get a book published first, and then try to enter the over-populated world of Star Trek authors. So, I started the Protectorit about 20 years ago. Went to writing classes, audited English 101 to brush up my skills, and joined a critique group that met once a month. Half way there they said it would be a good exercise to try a short story in first person. So, I wrote "The Fate Winds" around 1995, about Darth Vader. My group liked it and gave me info for submission to a Fanzine out of Aurora Colorado. They liked my story and published it. One year later an all Star Wars Fanzine publisher contacted me and asked if I would write a short story on Darth for her Zine, so I wrote "Dark Memories" 1996. Finally got back to working on the Protectorit after a few years hiatus (was caring for my terminally ill mother, and just couldn't get to that spot in my brain that allows me to fantasize so did a lot of editing then.) And now have three E-books out and working on the third in the Protectorit series and hope to finish up a short sci fi romance.
What's the story behind your latest book?
"The Protectorit" and "For the Honor of Black Roses" are about a young doctor, Kathleen Mary O'Donnell who wakes up aboard a massive space-ship city and discovers that Earth's heroin is killing people in outer space and that she is telepathically linked to the High Lord General Tammaru Ki, the Protectorit. Tammaru Ki is the genetically engineered, celibate,supreme commander of the galactic military for the Councillorship of the Twelve Expanses, who did not want a woman in his life, never mind his head. When Kathleen is shot in the battle of Nuabi, he knows he can not let her go --- ever. Kathleen survives to discover she has been adopted by the Nuabiene Healer, the Great High Lord Shawimbre, which now makes her the last princess of this noble reptilian race, and to end the Edict against them she must marry into one of the royal galactic Houses, of which the Protectorit is the only eligible member. So, book three which I am working on now continues the story of these two characters, literally from opposite ends of the galaxy, and how they must learn to live together both mentally and in marriage. Kathleen is now a rare woman, one who is allowed into the inner circle of these elite alien warriors. But, the High Lady Desos Pinquad, who's father Tammaru killed in book two, is out for revenge and the Protectorit's weakness is his new wife. Kathleen, once again finds herself in the middle of ancient fueds, intergalactic war, and facing death. Tammaru must face his most terrible nightmare, being helpless to save his new wife from torture and death. But no one counts on what these two such different people can do when called upon to save the galaxy.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I must give credit where it is due --- Dean Wesley Smith and Katherine Kursch. I attended a writing seminar taught by Dean in Lincoln City on the coast of Oregon. I call the seminar "death by writing". It was the most intensive writing seminar I've ever been to, Dean probably thought I should never have picked up a pen to begin with as I couldn't write in active-voice to save my soul. However, that said --- I learned sooooo much. One of the things Dean spoke about was how New York publishing was in such a disarray that he recommended people skip paper publishing and go straight to Smashwords and publish there. He felt Smashwords was a place for all authors and said it allows people the time to gain a readership, something that traditional publishing does not. So, here I am an indie author, who would have guessed.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
First, it helped me to be published, as E-books are not dependent on what's selling on the market today (Werewolves and vampires). Then after reading Matt's book and having run out of friends who were nice enough to buy my book, I made book one free. Wow, things really took off and then came the reviews. Now I know why everyone in Dean's class kept talking about how do they get 'reviews" and how they are so important. (I had no idea what they were talking about at the time, which explains how much in the deep end I was). Now, after 11 review on book one I find my blurb and book cover popping up on page one when one hits the filters sci fi - highest rated - price .99. I had to take my book off of free as after I was on Smashwords for a year, I went and uploaded my book to the big Amaz and they not so politely informed me they don't do "free" except for 5 days at a time ever 90 days. I'm learning that Dean was correct, Smashworcs is really all about the authors.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Getting all these crazy stories out of my head. It's also like finding the pot at the end of the rainbow, finishing a story is a phenomenal plus to writing. I had always heard about people who started stories and never finished them. One of the people in my writer's group spent years on her 'book proposal', wrote individual chapters of her book, got some awards for one or two of those chapters, even got an agent, but never --- ever --- finished the book. So to get that sense of accomplishment is great. Now I am finding myself very surprised and pleased that people are writing that they like my books, like my characters, and like my writing (copy editing errors and all.)
What do your fans mean to you?
Having fans is a new phenomena for me. My reviewers have been very nice and all of them are anxiously waiting for me to get book three written. Having fans now means (to me anyway), that I have a certain responsibility to keep up my work, that my little hobby is growing into something where other people are becoming invested in what I have created. So I keep writing for all the nice people out there who have given me so much support and positive feedback that they want to read more about the characters I have created. What would any writer be without their fans? Not much I think.
What are you working on next?
I do have another romance that is almost finished, "Cioway" about a Greek God, Neron God of Learning, who is banished by his father Zeus from Olympus and condemned to live among mortals until he can learn to control his temper. The little nymph Cioway, who loves him, follows him through time until she finds the right mortal to inhabit, one Dr. Ci Way, veterinarian. Ci must attend a college class for her younger sister who was beaten up by her ex-boyfriend who just got out of prison and so returns home to attend a class on ancient history. Ci manages to reach the cold heart of Neron who is now the ancient history Professor Tikki Neropolis at a community college in California. And together they catch her sister's attacker, who's in for a real surprise when he tries to take on a Greek God. It's a story that is almost done, but I need to get back and finish it. I have been spending most of my time working on book three in my series as that is what my fans are waiting for. I do have many more stories in my head, some sketched out, and there are at least two more books in the Protectorit series, if I can get them written.
Who are your favorite authors?
Oh boy, not sure there's enough room here. Annie McCaffery, Katherine Kurtz, Greg Bear, Timothy Zahn, Piers Anthony, and of course the classics . . . Azimov, Bradbury, and highest on my list is James White's "Sector General" Series. His books so inspired me to write about sci fi medical characters, and Annie McCaffery's characterizations were so compelling that I could only hope to try and emulate her. There are so many more sci fi and fantasy authors that I've read in my life (I'm 61 ...ewww, that doesn't sound right at all), that I could take up this whole page. So the above are only a smattering of my favs.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My job and that my cats have grown accustom to being kept in their royal abodes and pampered, that I dare not disappoint them. I do love working as an Occupational Therapist. One has to love working with people and the older the better, for there is where the stories are, the characters we want to paint into our books. Old people are the deepest well of inspiration for developing characters. Listening the their lives, loves, and yes heartaches and how they survived to their ripe old age is a must if one really wants to create real people and characters. Otherwise, I would love to stay in bed everyday, read a good book and then plop my lap top on my lap and write. But, someone else keeps rudely winning my lottery!! So, I get up, get dressed, go to work, come home and wish I still had the energy to stay up and write.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Keeping my cats happy . . . gardening, painting, reading when I can, practicing my Chinese calligraphy, working, and the forever battle-of-the-bulge, so I try to walk, lift weights, and tell myself I don't need food. Of course that doesn't work for long. I love good sci fi movie, Every year I turn into Mrs Santa Claus for our small town Lion's Club Christmas parade with my cutie --- Santa. Way too many things to do and so little time.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Actually, I worked in a small bookstore that had a huge sci fi wall and when Boarders came to town the company that owned up decided to close us down. . . so, I came home with over four huge crates of books to read. I'll be lucky to finish them all before I die. I only am reading E-books that friends recommend, or those I have offered to help read for up and coming young authors. I discover new books via Smashwords as I like their filtering buttons better than any other site. I have no idea how people are finding my books on the big Amaz, I can hardly find them and I wrote them. So Smashword is my site of choice.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yeap, answered this in first question. It was a short story about how Scotty was now working on developing a new faster Federation ship in some shipyard on some planet, when people started dying. That was in junior high, so can't remember any more details due to my failing old age. When I think about my writing I am surprised that I actually started at an earlier age that I would have remembered.
What is your writing process?
I usually have the full story in my head. But to get it organized to get down on paper I start by giving each scene a title, and then write out the titles in the closest to proper sequence that I can (not always the whole book, but just the part I'm currently working on). Then I start writing. When I get to those spots where I have to "bridge" from one scene to another and I don't know where to go, I often find it helpful to go back and take my titled scenes and write out short descriptions of what is supposed to happen. If I get really stuck, I just skip ahead and keep writing. I usually will go back later and be able to make that bridging scene. I guess you call it outlining, to a certain degree. The action sequences are always fun to write, and so it is the more calm story arcs that I have to struggle with at times. I am always amazed at how easy it is for me to write out some scenes that have been in my head for years, it just kinda pours out. Then I have to go back and edit, tighten everything up and usually cut, cut, cut. Writing is hard!!!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
My grade school teacher read us the Narnia series. Loved them and I think they turned me to the sci fi/fantasy side of life. I am a firm believer in happy, or near happy endings. They gave me a sense of hope for the future, for my future, and the world's future in the 50s when we lived with the threat of nuclear war all the time. I still remember the duck under your desk drills (like that would help you if the bomb really did hit). I do feel today that if one looks at some of the big sellers, they give us that hope. However, that said, I see a lot of sad, apocalyptic, no happy endings going on in the sci fi world, which I think is too bad, as kids of all ages always need hope. But, that's me. I will always believe in the happy ending even if it's not "real life".
How do you approach cover design?
I worked very hard to do my covers and I like them. I did kinda pull a fast-one on the readers as I focused on my alien General and his really cool red irses, rather than my heroine Dr. Kathleen. But, it is not a typical book cover and so I will see if I can pick one of Mark's recommended cover artists to redo my covers more like real book-store covers. Also, it took way too much of my time to design my covers and I'd rather be writing.
What do you read for pleasure?
Sci fi, space opera mostly. But, also like reading Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson's astrophysics book for the lay public, and some favorites: "The Color Mauve" (about the first man-made color ever and how it was discovered), "The History of E-MC2" (how over the centuries all the individual scientific discoveries came together so that Einstein's could come up with his theory. Most of Jon Krakauer's books (grew up with his sisters, so nice to know a real author). And of course anything medical concerning neurological rehabilitation of people with strokes, Parkinsons, MS, ALS, etc.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Of choice? Ah . . . I guess the Kindle was the first e-reader all my friends had, so I followed suit and bought a Kindle Fire. Ready to get something lighter weight as the Fire is really very heavy to hold and read for very long with.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Read Mark Coker's book! Can't think of anything else I've bothered with. (think I wrote Matt earlier . . . sorry Mark)
Describe your desk
A mess. Old water bottles, a stuffed ghost and OSU beaver blocking all the light from my router/modem as it lights up my bedroom at night. Piles of writing notes, books, top is lined with my favorite sci fi writing books and thesauri, plus a whole bunch of really heavy medical books that will kill me when they fall during the giant earthquake that is coming to Oregon. (It will be a quick death!), Reams of paper for the printer, and a whole bunch of other junk...sorry, a neat nut I am not. And of course various cat toys that have found their way up on the desk through no fault of my own. Bad cat . . . bad cat. Here, go fetch . . . nope, okay, I'll leave it on the desk for when you want it.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
The wilds of Oregon. I have had a few folks say my Dr. Kathleen is way too talented. Well, folks most of what she's done I have done, or close friends of mine. I played musical instrauments my whole life, loves flowers, scuba dived along the west coast and Hawaii, flew a plane and just like kathleen, I never soloed as the only reason I learned to fly was to be able to emergency land the plane if my boyfriend (who was the real pilot), ever really pissed my off and I pushed him out of the pilots seat!. I have driven motorcycles and was and EMT, and spent 25 years on National Ski Patrol. So, yes we women of the Pacific NW are very independent. I have known female physician who put themselves through Med school, and are just tenacious enough to survive on an alien space city. There is no one person in my novels, so in that case I took from all my experiences and from a few friends and family and made my characters, good and bad.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
1.Dune - Frank Herbert. Just a really great read with well developed characters and story line. Met his son at a writers conference. Really nice guy who gave me much encouragment.
2.Camber of Culdi - Katherine Kurtz. (it's out of print now), The start of the Deryni series by Kathrine Kurthz. A super great series.
3.A Spell for Chameleon - the First of the Xanth series. Wonderful books if you like puns. Just fun adventure.
4.Sector General - James White sci fi medical series. I love these books so much I re-read them all the time.
5.The Dragon Riders of Pern - What can one say . . . it's Annie M's
These are only 5 of my fav's, there is a lot more if I just turn around and look at all the books stacked by my bed.
Published 2013-10-27.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

For A Brother's Honor
Series: The Protectorit. Price: $3.00 USD. Words: 184,490. Language: English. Published: February 7, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
Bk 3 - The Protectorit: Newly married, Dr. O’Donnell is left on the Protectorit's home world. Duty forces Tammaru to find Lady Deso's renegade fleet. Alone, Kathy must survive the hostile Great Lady Ki and the implanted Healer’s stone festering in her forehead. Her one chance for freedom will lead to certain death if Tammaru can’t find her in time to save her.
Time Isn't Enough
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 44,720. Language: English. Published: February 28, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Sci-fi
When the local landmark is bought by billionaire Jeffery Domain the whole town is enthralled, but not Julie McKennzie. To her, his appearance heralds a return of her vision of Earth’s destruction and the green lightning only she could see? Who is Jeffery Domain and why is she falling in love with him? Some love takes time, for Julie it took centuries --- and Jeffery Domain has waited long enough.
For The Honor of Black Roses
Series: The Protectorit, Book 2. Price: $3.00 USD. Words: 163,270. Language: English. Published: September 6, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » General
(5.00 from 5 reviews)
The sequel to The Protectorit: Dr. O'Donnell is on Nuabi finding a cure for dying race as war comes. Can a drug that kills heal a whole race? The Protectorit comes to Nuabi's aid against House Pinquad and in doing so defies what he was created for; to uphold the laws. War costs them both a loss that will bind their minds, and some say souls, together forever, and together they will become legends.
The Protectorit
Series: The Protectorit, Book 1. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 150,040. Language: English. Published: September 6, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » General
(5.00 from 12 reviews)
Heroin is wreaking havoc in the galaxy. Dr. Kathleen O’Donnell must survive light years from the planet she needs to save. But first she must escape from the most powerful man in the galaxy, the Lord General Tammaru Ki, the Protectorit, the one who kidnapped her off Earth. But how, when he can hear her every thought? War is coming to the galaxy and Dr. O'Donnell may be the key to saving it.