Friday, August 27, 2010

Interview with Kemberlee Shortland

I’d like to welcome our guest today Kemberlee Shortland. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

I understand you have a new release out called A Piece of My Heart. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

A Piece of My Heart is mainly set in the west of Ireland in a region called Connemara (pronounced con-uh-mar-uh). It’s a very rural area of wide-open space that’s flanked on one side by the Twelve Pins Mountains, and a coastline that rushes headlong into the Atlantic Ocean. In between, blanket bog stretches for miles and where the hand cutting of turf is still performed. Traditions are alive and well in Connemara, and it’s a place where the native language is nurtured. It’s this place I chose to tell the love story of Mick Spillane and Kate Conneely.

Mick and Kate thought they were falling in love. Kate hadn't been just the girl next door. She'd been Mick's life, and he hers. When an unforeseen force draws them apart they're left with wounds that refuse to heal. Now, ten years on, Mick's father's will should have been straightforward, except his addendum was like ice water in Mick's face.

It's essential that Mick and Kate work together to save his family's farm. Mick doesn't count on his new manager being accused of murder, and Kate doesn't expect a dangerously seductive woman from Dublin to claim Mick is the father of her child.

Kate thought she was falling in love with Mick all over again; however this newest revelation is too much for her. She is determined to finally say goodbye to her childhood sweetheart forever, but Mick has other plans for Kate's future. And none of them involve goodbye.

A Piece of My Heart is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

I often name stories from song titles or lyrics, and Janis Joplin’s song A Piece of My Heart has always been a favorite. The lyrics start out, Didn't I make you feel like you were the only man, And didn't I give you nearly everything that a woman possibly can? And each time I tell myself that I, well I think I've had enough, But I'm gonna show you, baby, that a woman can be tough. Kate has loved Mick for as long as she can remember. In their teens, their childhood relationship was starting to mature as they were. She’d always made it clear that she was with Mick. After the breakup, she found it difficult to move on. But when they were thrown back together again, the roller coast that is their relationship makes Kate want to give up, but her love keeps her strong. She’s a very strong woman by nature. When she sees something she wants, she goes for it. Janis had it right!

The other two books in the Irish Pride series are also named for song titles: Rhythm of My Heart, the story of a musician, come from a Rod Stewart song, and Shape of My Heart, the story of a woman living between two identities, is from Sting.

What made you decide to write in this genre?

Good question. I’ve always written historicals. But midway through a WIP an idea came for Rhythm of My Heart. It was so present in me that I put aside my WIP and drafted Rhythm of My Heart in seven weeks! A Piece of My Heart is actually the second book in the Irish Pride series. It was drafted in 12 weeks. Shape of My Heart followed fairly rapidly. I had the whole series written and edited for submission inside 18 months. I’ve gone back to work on my historical, but I really enjoyed writing these contemporaries. There are some characters in each of the Irish Pride books who might get a story of their own one day.

Are you a plotter or a pantser and how did it affect the writing of this book?

I’m a bit of a bothster! Initially, I have an idea for a story and start plotting the major events in the story and how I want it to end. I have to have character names and what they look like, too, before I can start to write. Then I start writing as soon as I have a catchy opening scene, then write by the seat of my pants until it’s finished. Sometimes the rough plot gets changed along the way. Nothing is written in stone. But the rough plot is a great way to get started and give you direction. You wouldn’t set out on the road for an unknown destination. You want fuel in the tank, a snack in the car, and some idea of the route you’ll take to get there. It’s the same for me with writing. I have a point A to start from and a point Z as a destination. It’s all the stuff in the middle that makes the journey exciting.

In A Piece of My Heart, I had the characters down, the major plot points, and how I wanted it to end. Along this journey, other things came along that enlivened the story. I hadn’t really planned on Gobnait’s character, but I wanted both Mick and Kate to have their own issues to deal with. Kate had to learn to trust Mick again, and Gobnait really tried that trust. But for Mick, she only solidified that with Kate was where he really wanted to be. So Gobnait was a great addition to my secondary character list.

Did you have to do a lot of research for the book? What are your favorite research books or sites?

Writing contemporaries doesn’t really involve a lot of research for me. Living in Ireland and setting stories here sort of goes hand in hand. Research for me often means just stepping outside the door. We have Border Collies and worked them on sheep for a while when they were younger, so I have contacts in that field I can use for information when I need it. I’ve also lived in a few areas in Ireland, and traveled extensively around the country, so locations are at my fingertips, as are regional dialects and local traditions.

When I’m writing my historicals, then yes, research is invaluable. I’ve studied a lot of Irish history since I’ve been here (13 years now), gone on a lot of castle hunts, visited monastic ruins, etc., mostly just for fun. It’s nice when I can incorporate into my stories some of what I’ve learned over the years. For example, in A Piece of My Heart Mick became the historian I always wanted to be. And Shape of My Heart features an ancient burial mound, the story including the mound’s history. My current WIP is currently called The Diary which is set in 1014 Ireland. I’ve had to do a lot of added research on Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf, the use of souterrains and secret passages, lifestyle and clothing in the 11th century, etc. I love it all!

I admit I do like Wikipedia for basic information, but I always back up when I learn there with examples from other sites just to be sure the Wiki page is correct. But since I’m not writing historical fiction, the history doesn’t overshadow the story. I make sure all of my facts are correct, though. I don’t want glass panes in a window opening in an 11th century building. Stone castles didn’t exist until the 12th century in Ireland, and even then they were rare until the 14th century. Garderobes were where clothes were kept, not to use the toilet. And yes, sometimes ancient Irish warriors did fight in the nude! ;-)

I do have a host of historical texts in my own private library, but the internet is usually where I go first unless it’s something very specific that a book, like Mairead Dunlevy’s book Dress in Ireland in which she details what people wore through the centuries, right back to the oldest known garments fished out of Ireland’s bogs or found on bog mummies.

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

I’d just finished Rhythm of My Heart, which is mainly set in Dublin City. I really wanted to write a country story and was trying to think of something exciting that happens in the Irish countryside. Ireland is so laid back that unless it’s political or religious, you really have to dig. In the end, I had only to look under my own roof. Our dog Daisie was my inspiration for one of the subplots of A Piece of My Heart. She’s a rescue dog who was discovered in questionable circumstances. Molly in the story was modeled after Daisie.

The main plot of the story came about as a result of striving to write something different from everyone else. I’m always looking for a storyline that hasn’t been used before, or at least not very often. I wanted something that reflected life in Ireland, how it really is and not what Hollywood tells us. I didn’t want a pregnancy forcing a couple together, I didn’t want to write about the rich, and I didn’t want any convenience stories. In the end, we have Mick and Kate who grew up together on neighboring farms. Their fathers are best mates, and because they’re the same age they grew up in each other’s hip pockets. And as it happens in real life, relationships like that often bloom into something more as soon as the hormones kick in. Then something happens to pull them apart. Typical of Irishmen, they don’t wear their hearts on their sleeve. When Mick had the opportunity to attend college he went for it and didn’t look back. That left Kate with a hole in her life where Mick once was, budding love for the boy she grew up with, and frustration of how to get over him. Not easy when she was caring for his ailing parents and then the father’s will thrust them back together.

What I had in the end was a story as true to life as anything you or I have experienced.

Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

I’m not sure that’s a fair question. All my characters are individuals. Writing a book is like raising children. You can’t ask someone which is your favorite without hurting the others. I will say that Mick was a hard man to like. But I understand his motives. They’re typically Irish, even if an American audience doesn’t understand right up front. I like Kate because she’s a strong woman who knows her own mind. She’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and she doesn’t fear easily. Look how she deals with Flann. I enjoyed Flann’s character because he’s not what he seems. He’s definitely the baddie, but there’s more to him that meets the eye. Gobnait was interesting to write. She’s probably the most flamboyant character I’ve ever written. And I loved Molly as a character. Not many romances feature a dog as a strong secondary character. Without Molly, A Piece of My Heart wouldn’t exist. The story is as much hers as Mick’s and Kate’s.

Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research affect your character development?

My methods are a bit haphazard. I’m not very good at making paper trails, but I do my best. I generally start out with how characters look, then I add pictures to use as guidelines. I sometimes use index cards if I want something on the desk in front of me as I’m working, but generally I just keep a file in the story folder on my computer. Each character profile includes basic information on their personality, background, work, personal goals, favorite music or music I’ll use while writing certain scenes, etc. I got the idea for Gobnait’s character out of a fashion supplement in one of the Sunday papers. There was a woman dressed all in red, some of her blonde hair had been gelled into prominent horns and colored red, and her make up was drastic to the point of almost being absurd, even for the catwalk. She was perfect for Gobnait. There wasn’t much to write on her character card other than putting the picture on it. Attitude screamed off this picture. She’s a bit of an airhead at the best of times, but she sure is a spitfire. Add in the accent and writing her was very enjoyable.

Often when I’m researching, I’ll get ideas for other stories. I have to put those into an idea folder and move on. The same thing happens when I’m looking for photos to use as guidelines. Like with Bognait, I’ll see a picture of someone and think they’d make a great character. Could be the look on their face, what they’re wearing or just the context of the picture. If they don’t fit into the story I’m working on at the moment, they go into a file for later. I have a really had time staying focused on one story when I’m researching. So many great stories out there! So much history.

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

One author who inspires me is Linda Howard. I love her romantic suspense. I think the big push for me to hitch up my trousers was when I read Mr. Perfect. At the end of the story I said, “THAT is how I want to write.” There was action, romance, suspense, mystery, humor...all in one book. I wanted to do that, but in my own voice. I know I’ll never been as good as Linda, but she gives me something to aspire to.

What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?

Definitely interviewing anywhere I can. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising. I’m also using club newsletters, newsgroups, and Facebook to spread the word. I have a website and blogs that I actively post on. My blogs are networked with other online sites so updates automatically post to Facebook and Twitter, and followers get RSS feed updates. There’s also, Shelfari and GoodReads. I pretty much talk about my work to anyone who will listen.

What do we have to look forward next?

The next release is called Constant Craving. This is the short story sequel to A Piece of My Heart.

The perfect life Mick and Kate thought they had was slowly dissolving. With Mick obsessing about the farm and Kate thrown into a life of domesticity, both lose some of what they'd fought so hard to regain.

It all comes to a head when Kate suspects Mick of having an affair. Kate’s parents step in to give each of them advice from their own years of marriage.

Now, both Mick and Kate have set their own romantic plans in motion, but it could all fall through when Kate nearly blows up the kitchen.

And as above, there are two other novels in the Irish Pride series, Rhythm of My Heart and Shape of My Heart. Constant Craving is now available through Smashwords and Kindle, and purchase details can be found on my website on the story's page,

In my in between time, I’m publishing author and industry articles at:

Thanks, Kemberlee!

Thank you for inviting me. It’s been great. I hope you’ll let me return one day.

Absolutely! :)

To celebrate her book release, Kemberlee is offering a free PDFof A Piece of My Heart to one lucky commenter on today's blog. (please check the blog Monday night to see if you won. Chances of winning determined by the number of entries.)

Kemberlee will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...


Kemberlee is a native Northern Californian who was raised in a community dominated by well-known literary figures, such as John Steinbeck, Jack London, Dean Koontz, Robert Campbell, Robert Louis Stevenson, George Sterling, Robinson Jeffers, just to name a few.

In 1997, she couldn't pass up the opportunity to spend six months in Ireland, where she met a man who eventually became her husband. Upon permanently relocating to Ireland, Kemberlee established an Irish travel consultancy, building a reputation as one of Ireland's foremost Irish travel experts. And since that time, Kemberlee has had the opportunity to study Ireland's history and culture first hand, and has even picked up a cúpla focal . . . a few Irish words.

Over the years, Kemberlee’s love of Ireland has inspired a number of Irish set stories, including Moondance and The Power of Love.

A Piece of My Heart is Kemberlee’s first published novel. She invites readers to also look for the short story sequel, Constant Craving, which is now available. Check it out on her website.

Check Kemberlee's website for excerpts, reviews, awards, and order and discount information. She loves hearing from her readers, so stop by her website and drop her an e-mail.


Kim Watters said...

Good morning Kemberlee. Thanks for joining us today. Your chocolate will be ready in a few minutes. I love the story of how you met your husband and the opportunity to live in another country is awesome. Ireland is on my bucket list. Until then, I'll have to live vicariously through books like yours. I love your knew word bothster. :) I can relate. Good luck with your sales on both releases. Enjoy yourself today.

Kemberlee said...

Hi Kim,

Thanks for the opportunity to talk about A Piece of My Heart, and other things.

It's been a wonderful experience living in Ireland. I've extensively traveled in 31 of the 32 counties and looking forward to exploring the 32nd in the near future. If there's just one thing I've learned from my explorations is that the more I find to see and do, the more there is I'll never get to in my lifetime. How could I with a county steeped in thousands of years of history?

I love to share my experiences from traveling around Ireland -- meeting the people, experiencing the culture, eating the food, etc -- and I hope my readers enjoy some of what I've experienced.

So, bring on the questions. I can talk about Ireland all day! ;-)

Rebekah E. said...

I just love stories set in Ireland. I hope to someday be able to visit. Thnaks for the great post.

Kemberlee said...

Thanks for your comments, Rebekah. I hope you do make it to Ireland one day. You'll love it.

Be sure to bookmark my website address, as I'll be announcing a contest next week :-D

Elizabeth Delisi said...

Hi, Kemberlee. Your book sounds lovely, and I like the Irish setting. A place I don't know much about but would like to know more. Not sure about Mick...he reminds me of Rhett Butler. I guess that makes Kate, Scarlett! She's have to be, to deal with him...


Kemberlee said...

Hi Liz,

Thanks for your comments. Yes, Mick seems to be a bit of a Rhett, doesn't he? Kate is definitely Scarlett, as far as inner strength goes. She doesn't want to think about her problems tomorrow. She wants them done and dusted as soon as possible. But she'll put up with a lot if it means she gets what she wants in the end.

And hey, anything you want to know about Ireland, just ask!

Estella said...

You are a new to me author. I look forward to reading A Piece of My Heart.

Carolyn Matkowsky said...

Wow, what an interesting life you've had Kemberlee. Even your name is interesting. It must be wonderful living in Ireland. Your book sounds very intriguing. I wish I could write half as fast as you. Good luck and congratulations!

Carolyn/Cara Marsi

Shelley Mosley said...

I love books set in Ireland! Thanks so much for choosing this setting.

Kemberlee said...


Love your name! You can read excerpts of my stories on my website. If you decide to invest in one or both of the stories, I'd love to hear your comments when you've read them.

Kemberlee said...


I thank my parents for choosing an interesting spelling for my name. I'm actually named after my father, whose middle name is Lee. Dad wanted me to be called Kimberly, as his best friend and wife had had a daughter just before I was born with that name.

As for writing fast, I don't always write so fast. I go through weeks and sometimes months when I'm just doing research or messing around. Then when I sit down and finally have all my story elements together, I get the story out in one go. I just wish I could have more of those 'one go' sessions! ;-)

Thanks for your comments.

Kemberlee said...


Before I came to Ireland, I struggled with settings. Once I settled here, it just seemed to work to use Ireland. There's so much history and culture here crying out to be told.

Thanks for your comments.

Carolyn Hughey said...

Hi Kemberlee. Your book sounds intriguing, and I love the title. As strung out as Janis Joplin was most of her career, she had some awesome songs that will always be classics.

It isn't often books are written based in Ireland. It's a refreshing change. :-)

I'm sure it will do well.

Kemberlee said...


A love of Janis was sort of forced on me when I was young. I have young parents and my dad collected records and would play them full blast in the middle of the night. The acknowledgments in A Piece of My Heart thank my father for giving me a love of music...even if it was at 2am!;-) This would have gone back to the late 60s, early 70s, especially just after Janis died.

I grew up on the Monterey Peninsula, part of the Central Coast of CA. Monterey is probably most musically famous for the Monterey Pop Festival of 1967. We saw a lot of performers from that festival in our family business, many of whom lived in the area. Janis's best friend and clothing designer, Linda Gravenites, frequented our business, and dad being the chatter box he is (guess where I got it from) made friends with her so got a lot of insider info on his favorite singer.

I was just a kid then so didn't appreciate the significance of that time in our business. But as an adult and going back and listening to those same records, I realized my father has a really good taste in music. And that he has a LOT of stories in his head I'd love to hear. It was just ironic that my story fit with Janis's song.

Drugs are a horrible thing. While they were great at releasing the creativity of so many of our 60s icons, it also took them from us very early. I sometimes wonder what we'd be listening to on the radio if Janis was still alive...or Jimi or even Elvis!

Thanks for your comments!

Kemberlee said...

Thanks to everyone who left their comments, and thanks to Much Cheaper Than Therapy for having me here. It was fun. Hopefully they'll ask me back again one day!

In advance, congratulations to the winner of a copy of A Piece of My Heart. I hope you enjoy it! I'd love to hear from anyone who's read my work. Visit my website, , this week, as I'll be announcing my September contest!