Keri Arthur Interview
Publication Date: March 1, 2007
Keri Arthur is author of the Riley Jenson Guardian series. Three titles in the series are already available (Full Moon Rising, Kissing Sin and Tempting Evil), and the fourth, Dangerous Games, is due out in later this month.
Visit Keri's Website
Visit Keri's Blog
Give us an update on yourself. What's your latest news?
My latest news is that Bantam have asked for another three books, so Embraced by Darkness will not be the last Riley Jenson novel.
What's your upcoming or latest book/story about?
My March and April titles (Tempting Evil and Dangerous Games) are both Riley Jenson novels. In Tempting Evil, Riley finally faces up to the man who hunted her throughout Full Moon Rising and Kissing Sin, and in Dangerous Games, she starts off life as a guardian – and faces her most deadly foes yet.
How did you come up with the title?
By examining the storyline, breaking it down to the very basics, and trying to find a couple of words that describe what the story is actually about.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer, and what inspired you to start writing?
I started writing when I was 12. I'd just read a book where one of my favorite characters was killed off in the end, so I rewrote the thing and made said favorite character live. I basically haven't stopped writing since, though it wasn't until I was around thirty that I got serious about trying to be published.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I actually had no idea. I was one of those kids who drifted through school, getting good marks but having no clear idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I loved horses and art, in that order, and had vague hopes of doing something in either of those fields. But my family couldn't afford to buy me a horse, and I failed art (or the history part of it, which was a large percentage of the marks). Given I also failed geography and Australian History (actually, the only thing I did pass was English. I was one of those kids who froze in exam conditions, and schools at that time based the majority of the marks on the end of year exams, not on work and marks achieved over the entire year), so university was out. I ended up working at the Weather Bureau as a clerk, then years later fell into life as a cook and chef.
What projects are you working on now?
I'm currently working on the sixth Riley Jenson novel, as well as the sequel to Destiny Kills – a new myth and magic series I have coming out next year with Bantam.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Reading books, watching TV, watching movies, going to craft markets on the weekends. Basically, anything that doesn't involve a whole lot of effort.
What does your family think of your writing?
Basically, they're all as proud as punch that I finally achieved my dreams.
How long does it take you to write a book?
That depends on the book – and whether I'm on a tight deadline or not. But basically, I can write a book in three months, and have it edited after another month. (Although I do prefer to leave a couple of months between the writing and editing, if time and deadlines allow)
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I try to write five pages a day, but life often intervenes. I do try to keep to a minimum of 30 pages a week, though, whether those pages are written in two days or seven.
Do you have an interesting writing quirk?
I love to play music loud when I'm writing, much to the annoyance of everyone else in the house.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Ideas come from everywhere and anywhere – something I've seen on TV, a news story I've read, a conversation I've overheard, even sometimes a dream I've had. (The start of Kissing Sin came from a dream.)
What do you think makes a good story?
Great characters, and a plot that hauls the reader along. You hear lots of how-tos talk about the importance of plot, but I think having a character readers can relate to, and cheer for, is just as important.
What was one of the most surprising things you've learned in creating your books?
That I didn't know as much about my hometown of Melbourne as I thought I did. I ended up having to go to various places to check them out, just so the book descriptions could be accurate.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I guess my style tends to be action orientated more than being emotionally orientated.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Actually sitting down and facing a blank page when I'm starting a new story. It's so daunting, sitting there knowing you have to fill a minimum of 400 blank pages, and you can't even get started on the first one. First chapters are always the toughest for me – I think Kissing Sin was the only one that rolled along without problems, and that was mainly because I'd dreamed about the whole thing.
How many books have you written? Do you have a favorite?
Well, if you include the ones that will never be published because they're so bad, then I'd have to have written close to twenty-five books. I couldn't pick one favorite, because there's actually several. The Riley Jenson series would be one, because she's such fun to write. The other would have to be Dancing with the Devil, the first book I ever had published (with ImaJinn Books). That book was the fourth book I ever wrote, and the first book I truly believed had a chance to be published. Of course, it took ten years, many rewritings, and lots of rejections before it was actually accepted by ImaJinn, but to this day, I'm I’m very proud of what I achieved with that book.
Who or what has influenced your writing?
I always wanted to write like Dick Francis. I just love the way his characters and their stories hook you from the very beginning. But I also love the way horror writer James Herbert drags you into the dark places, and keeps you reading even though you're rather grossed out by the whole thing. I guess if I had influences, then it would be those two – and I'm always trying to achieve what those gentleman achieved so well – a story and characters that hook, a
nd a story that's not afraid to go to the dark places.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
As you can probably guess from what I said before, my favorite writers would probably have to be Dick Francis and James Herbert. Close-run seconds would be Peter O'Donnell (an English writer who wrote the Modesty Blaise series – the very first, seriously kick-ass heroine), Stephen King, Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I actually don't think I've had any writers I'd consider mentors. I've relied on my crit groups to keep me on the straight and narrow, more than any one writer.
If I had to chose someone I'd love as a mentor, I think I'd have to go with James Herbert. That man can write some seriously creepy books, but every one of them has hooked me to the end.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I love Lilith Saintcrow's Dante Valentine series and, though she's not a new writer, I also love Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thomson series
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I get lots of emails, and it's always gratifying to read that people are enjoying what I've written. Of course, I also get emails from people who aren't so happy, but it's still always interesting to read what people didn't like as much as what people do. Keeps me on my toes as a writer.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you all for your wonderful support! I hope you all continue to enjoy Riley's series.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
To new writers, the best bit of advice anyone could give is to never give up. No matter what anyone says, or how many rejections you get, keep on writing. Dreams can come true, it just takes persistence.