Interview with Kelley Grealis

Published 2013-09-05.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and the surrounding suburbs. You can definitely see the Cleveland influence in my stories. I set The Descendant Vampire Series in the fictional town of Buzzard Hill which is loosely based on the real township of Hinckley. Growing up, I frequented the Hinckley Reservation where I swam in the lake, hiked Whipps Ledges, and walked around the park. I have fond memories of the area and decided there was no better place to set my book than home. Plus, Hinckley is known as the place where the buzzards return every March 15. This event, and the symbolism of the buzzard, fit perfectly with my vampire theme.

Other locations also appear in my books. Rattlesnake Island is an actual island in the Lake Erie Islands. I used the location fictitiously as a vampire hang out. There are lots of rumors about who inhabits the island and the only way you can get on the island is if you know someone. All the secrecy surrounding the real island played right into my vampire theme. Castle Adena is named after Adena, Ohio and the sportsmen lodge where my husband and I used to ATV. Book 2 has scenes from the annual Buzzards Day Festival. You'll also see scenes in Caverns Point Park which is loosely based on Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio.
When did you first start writing?
I wrote a lot when I was younger, mostly poetry and short stories. Somewhere around the 6th grade, I attempted my first novel, but never made it past the first 5 pages. I still think about that story and may eventually write it.

I started writing novels in 2009. I attribute my career mid-life crisis for reigniting my passion for writing. At that time, the company I had been working for was acquired and the status of my job uncertain. That event caused me to reflect on what I was doing for a living, and although nothing was wrong with it, I realized I was professionally unfulfilled. I felt there had to be something else out there for me. At that same time, I had finished reading a popular series of books, the premise of which was so simple I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it myself. As I stewed over these two events, I concluded that I was going to write a novel. And I haven't looked back since!
What's the story behind your latest book?
At the time of this writing, I just published The Search, Book 2 in The Descendant Vampire Series. I've started outlining the 3rd book in the series, temporarily title The Truth.

I wrote The Descendant, book 1 in the series, for one reason - it was the vampire story I had always wanted to read, but since I couldn't find the story, I decided to write it. I had noticed in all of the vampire movies I'd watch and books I'd read, the vampire was 'always just there.' I never heard how the first vampire was created. So I wanted to tell a story about the origin of the vampire, set in current day, that was believable, so that after you read the book, you wondered 'could that really have happened.'

The Search, book 2, is the continuation of Allison's (main character) journey. You see a very different Allison in this book!

The 3rd book will answers all of the questions that Allison has been trying to solve.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I'll be honest, when I was writing my first book, I had no idea how to go about publishing it. Once the book was written, polished and edited, I started digging into what I had to do to get published.

I attempted traditional publishing first. I spent many, many (many, many, many) nights preparing query packages and sending them to agents. Like most authors, I received a lot of rejections. I attended a writer's conference where I pitched my book to agents and had several request additional materials, but that didn't lead anywhere either. But I wasn't discouraged because of one thing that I had heard at that conference. One of the speakers said that the traditional publishing houses were only taking on 1-2 new authors per year. You heard me right: 1-2 new authors per year! I realized that finding an agent, who then had to find me a publisher, was like finding a proverbial needle in the haystack.

I knew I had a few choices. I could continue querying, but opted against this. It's extremely time consuming, and considering I still had a day job, I had no free time to write. Plus, based on that previous stat I mentioned, I knew my chances were slim, especially since I wasn't a celebrity with a built-in platform. Another option was to let the manuscript sit in a drawer and collect dust. After all the blood, sweat & tears I poured into the manuscript, I wasn't about to let that happened. So I turned to self-publishing - a way for me to share my art to the world.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has absolutely contributed to my success. By providing one stop shopping to get my books converted into virtually all e-book formats has saved me a ton of time from having to upload files to each of those platforms. This also saves money as you only need one file format in order to upload to Smashwords, and if you pay someone to format these files, you know how much money that can be. Additionally, I know I would have lost sales had I not been on Smashwords. Not everyone reads Kindle, and Smashwords has helped me reach all readers on all types of e-readers.

Smashwords also provides a no cost option to share your book with bloggers by offering a coupon code that the blogger can redeem to download the book for free while costing me no money. It can get quite pricey to have to gift copies of books at full retail price.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I've said before, writing (so far) doesn't provide a means to my life, but it gives me life.

I stated earlier that it was my 'career mid-life' crisis that reignited my passion for creative writing. What I love about writing is that it's something I do for me and nobody else, and something I do because I want to do it. I get such satisfaction from creating stories, developing plot lines and twists and turns, and creating characters. Writing is my creative outlet that keeps me sane.

I also find great satisfaction when I hear from fans who have read my work. Readers who say how much they loved the uniqueness of the story, or how they're team-this-character or team-that-character, or how they can't wait until the next book. Having created the stories I wanted to tell, I never envisioned first reaching readers, secondly meeting people I otherwise would have never met, and third that they're genuinely interested in my art. It's a great feeling.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Well, I have a day job, so 40 hours/week are spent in a corporate office setting. When I'm not working or writing, I'm at the gym, riding my motorcycle, walking or biking with my husband, reading, gardening, or watching a favorite TV show or movie with my husband. The hubby and I also like to travel, from Caribbean escapes, to local ATV adventures.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I recall writing was a short story in grade school. I had to write about something I did on my summer vacation. I wrote about a festival I had gone to with my parents. I begged my parents to let me play a game where you had to throw a ping pong ball into a glass container filled with water and a goldfish. If you made the shot, you won the fish. My parents eventually gave in. They really didn't want a pet fish, but they figured I wouldn't make the shot. I did! I was the happiest kid in the world as I carried my goldfish home in a plastic bag filled with water!

I still have that hand-written story. The one thing I love abut it is the comment my teacher wrote on it. She said I really had a knack for storytelling. I wish I would have paid more attention to that comment. Maybe I would have started my writing career sooner. But as the old saying goes, everything happens for a reason.
What is your writing process?
When I wrote The Descendant (my first book), I had no process. In fact, I'll admit, I had no idea what I was doing. I started writing the middle of the book first, and then went back and filled in the beginning, ending and everything in between.

After receiving literary agent rejection letters, I figured something was wrong. I had written a story that I loved but wasn't translating. I signed up for a writing clinic. Let's just say my eyes were opened because of that experience. Sitting there, I realized I was surrounded by people who were majoring in creative writing. I didn't major in creative writing! It dawned on me that there had to be a method to the writing madness.

I signed up for 2 on-line writing courses and am so glad that I did. The classes taught me a lot about story structure, dramatic elements, character building and so much more. But the biggest take away for me was the concept of outlining a book before writing it. I'm a structured person and appreciated this logic. So with book 2, I started with an outline and the process went so much more smoothly!

I now start the writing process by identifying my passion, theme, flaw and premise, and then I write out the 9 dramatic elements. From there, I outline each chapter. Once the outline is complete, I reread it, identify any gaps or questions I have, fill those in, and only start writing once the outline is complete. Once the story is written, I reread it several times before engaging beta readers. After incorporating beta reader feedback, I send the manuscript to my editor. I accept/reject her suggestions and send it back to her for a final read through. After that, I have one last person proofread the story before I publish it.

I applied this process to my first book. It was much more difficult to do after the fact since the story was written, but the exercise proved to me the value in following the structure process.
How do you approach cover design?
I read very early on to take cover design seriously and not attempt it yourself, unless you are a graphic designer. I am not. I'm also not gifted with great computer skills, so I knew there was no way I could create my own cover.

Lucky for me, I know a graphic designer. I had gone to high school with one of the owners of a local company, and though we hadn't talked since high school, we reconnected via Facebook. I asked him if he'd like to design my covers and he said yes. It was important to me to give the business to someone I knew and to keep the business local.

For both books, I gave the designer a synopsis of the story and some of the major plot elements. What I've learned is to not dictate precisely what I want the cover to be. I let the designer have free reign to design it and his concepts turned out better than anything I had imagined. Let the artist do what they're good at!
What do you read for pleasure?
My favorite stories to read are thrillers/action-adventure. I especially love stories that incorporate history or biblical elements. Some of my favorite books are The Ark (Boyd Morrison) which is a thriller about the search for Noah's Ark, The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown) which contains lots of biblical history in the search for the covenant, and although not a thriller, I absolutely love The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova) which ties in a lot of European history in telling the story about Vlad the Impaler.
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Books by This Author

The Descendant Vampire Series Box Set
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 214,900. Language: English. Published: September 1, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Supernatural, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
The Descendant Vampire Series books 1, 2 & 3. A Vampire Tale of Biblical Proportions!
The Truth - Book 3 in The Descendant Vampire Series
Series: The Descendant Vampire, Book 3. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 65,610. Language: English. Published: October 21, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal, Fiction » Horror » Undead
Join Allison in her quest to discover the truth in the third installment of the Descendant Vampire Series. Why was Allison the first descendant to exhibit signs of vampirism? Are there other secrets in Allison's lineage? Is it all fate or is something more sinister at play? Everything will be revealed in The Truth!
The Search - Book 2 in The Descendant Vampire Series
Series: The Descendant Vampire, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 64,890. Language: English. Published: August 27, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal, Fiction » Horror » Undead
Allison's journey continues in The Search, Book 2 in The Descendant Vampire Series. THE SEARCH is on for answers, but when answers are found, will they be what Allison was looking for?
The Descendant - Book 1 in The Descendant Vampire Series
Series: The Descendant Vampire, Book 1. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 85,600. Language: English. Published: September 28, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal, Fiction » Horror » Occult
(4.50 from 4 reviews)
The Descendant reveals the biblical origin of the vampire through the experiences of a woman who discovers she's a descendant of the first vampire.