Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Carla Kelly And Brave New Frontiers

Author Kate Rothwell popped up in the comments of a previous blog post to tell me that Carla Kelly (a fan favorite around the online romance community), has what looks like a western coming out in February 2011.  Looking at the cover art for Borrowed Light was the first thing that tipped me off.  The very brief cover blurb over at Amazon?  Yeah, that clinched it.  Inspirational ahoy!

Julia Darling never expected to cook for some cowboys in Wyoming, but when she breaks off her engagement in Salt Lake City, it s the perfect opportunity for her to escape. Determined to stick the job out, Julia faces her biggest challenge yet letting go of borrowed light to find her own testimony. Set in the early 1900s, this is one romantic adventure you ll never forget!
But actually, this discovery is even more interesting than just another mainstream writer going inspy.  As a librarian, I buy inspirationals for work.  Enough of them, that I'm pretty savvy when it comes to publishers.  And this publisher is Cedar Fort, Inc.  Yeah, never heard of 'em.  Turns out they specialize in LDS titles.  In other words, Mormon.

This got me wondering if Borrowed Light Carla Kelly was the same Carla Kelly from Romancelandia.  Digging around online?  Yeah, 100% convinced it is.  First, a brief bio I turned up indicated that Kelly is a BYU (Brigham Young University) graduate.  Then there's her author page over at the eHarlequin site that features this tasty tidbit:
Carla recently sold a novel that reflects her years in southeast Wyoming and her Mormon background to a Utah publishing company. She anticipates more books in this vein, partly because she has always been a bit squeamish about bodice ripping, and she's always up for new ventures.
As a librarian, I find this whole development rather interesting.  One of the common gripes I hear about the inspirational market, in general, is that it's so...well...Protestant Christian.  Like Catholics, Mormons and Jews don't want to read the occasional faith-based fiction novel about their own religions?  So yeah, I'm very intrigued by this upcoming endeavor by Kelly.

The question is, will her secular romance fans follow her into this brave new frontier?  I'll admit, I'm curious enough that I just might give it a whirl....


LoriK said...

The question is, will her secular romance fans follow her into this brave new frontier?

The answer for me is no. I guess I'm just a big ol' heathen, but I feel about inspirationals the same way many inspy readers feel about erotics---I'm happy for it to exist for other people, but I don't enjoy reading it.

The thing that's starting to really bug me is that inspirational publishers are the only ones putting out historicals in time periods that I want to read.

Anonymous said...

Janet W: And for me the answer is, "It depends". I can guarantee I'll probably read it -- because I'm crazy for Carla -- but I like her older Signets even more than her more recent HHs. I'd want to read a couple reader reviews. There's a book of hers that's heavily western historical -- short stories I think -- and it costs the earth online and my library system doesn't have it. That's the one I'd like to get my hands on.

Phyllis said...

well..... I'll look for it at the library.

and did she really say "bodice ripping"? Or did the reporter put that word in her mouth?

Because that always makes me say: "Oh no she di'int!"

I liked her work. We'll just have to see because I am so far from Mormon.

Phyl said...

@Janet W: Her "Here's to the Ladies" is expensive and I was able to read a library copy. It's a wonderful collection, but bittersweet. Some of the stories do not end happily. Fortunately, most do. I imagine, based on Kelly's day job, that the stories reflect real life of the day. Keep your eye out--if you can ever get it, do.

And as I just said on Twitter, the Mormon aspect has me curious and I will definitely read this, although it will probably be a library copy. I love the way CK writes and I'll try almost anything of hers.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Carla Kelly understands that she can write a great romance without the bodice ripping. I may read these books because I do love her writing. (Like Janet W, I'm a big fan of her older books). However, I'm not inclined toward reading romances with the inclusion of Protestant
Christian themes.

@Janet W: Are you referring to Here's to the Ladies? I bought that when Suzanne Brockmann recommended it way back in the day on her board. I remember liking it. It's buried somewhere in my pile of books. I'll be sure to send it to you if I come across it again.

Wendy said...

LoriK: I can read inspys as long as I'm not beat over the head with the "religious stuff." Which is probably why when I do read them, I tend to go with authors who also write for the secular market.

Janet: You might want to try asking your library if they can ILL it? Depends on how many copies are floating around "out there" and if any of the owning libraries will loan it out. But it doesn't hurt to ask, and that way you could at least read it, if not own it :)

Phyllis: Well it's right there on her eHarlequin bio, so I figure she either wrote it herself, or approved it. I don't mind the term bodice-ripper, as long as it's used in the right context. And here? Yeah, it kinda annoys me. Sex in romance novels does not automatically equal "bodice ripping." Especially in today's genre. The BR term, IMHO, should be reserved for those Old Skool historicals that...well...were bodice-rippers.

But that's me.

Wendy said...

Phyl: I'm curious enough about it to *maybe* try it. I promise nothing though since I'm always so insanely behind on my reading. Kelly always does a nice job with history, so that would be why I'd try it, along with the curiosity about the "Mormon stuff."

Vi: I wonder, is there a perception by authors that they HAVE to write sex? I wouldn't know (uh, since I'm not a writer), but I hope not. Certainly I know some readers who HAVE to have the naughty bits in there, but I'm an across-the-board reader. As long as the story is well-written, the characters interesting, and the elements feel "organic" - I don't need the sex. Says the girl who will read everything from the Harlequin Romance line to erotica. Could just be I'm a freak.

Gail Dayton said...

I grew up as a non-Mormon in "Mormon country"--where they asked what ward you were in, rather than what church you attended. Hence, I'm a bit prejudiced against the LDS religion. However, I have known and loved many Mormons (including a son). I'd be willing to read this book, because I will read inspirational, if it's not too preachy (and I am a member of and regularly attend a protestant church). I just hope she honestly addresses the history of the Mormon church of the time. Yes, they were persecuted--but I personally know people whose grandmother starved to death because grandpa had more wives and children than he could support.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I almost wish I hadn't read this post. That quote about bodice ripping bugs me. What does she mean by that? Because often I see that term used to mean historicals with sex in them, and I don't want to think she's uncomfortable writing about sex. I liked how she handed the sex in her most recent two HH books, but if I thought she was uncomfortable writing those scenes, that would really undermine my enjoyment.

Wendy said...

Gail: It'll be interesting to see/hear how she handles all that. It's a tricky tight-rope historical authors have to walk. No time period is all sunshine happiness or total misery - although I've seen plenty of readers and authors say otherwise ;)

(But that could just be me being bitter since I LOVE the Edwardian period and I hear all too often how "depressing" it is since WWI is right around the corner *sigh*)

SonomaLass: Yeah, sorta bugged me too. I'm not unsympathetic over the demise of the traditional Regency lines, but really? I have to disagree vehemently that their ONLY major selling point was "no sex." It's a bit more complex than that me thinks. Just as why I like to read books in the Harlequin Romance line are more numerous than the "no sex" or "sex behind closed doors" thing.

But again, I'm no writer. Hence, I'm not submitting to publishers trying to get published. Are writers hearing, "You need to sex up this story or else nobody will ever want to buy/read it!"?

Wendy said...

Just to clarify earlier ramblings I've made in the comments here - do historical romance writers feel (or have they actually heard) that they need to have sex in the story or else it won't find an audience in the secular market place? That if they write "no sex" then they have to go the inspiratioal route?

I'm generally curious about that. Uh, mostly because I think it's wrong - but then I'm an odd duck who thinks good secular westerns will sell if publishers would just catch a clue and actually (oh I don't know) put some effot into marketing them. (As I sit here watching so many of western writers decamp to other sub genres or go inspy.....::sigh::)

Now with traditional Regencies being "dead" - is it now an unwritten "rule" that all historical romances have to have sexy time?

ANudge said...

As a long time reader of Carla Kelly's works, this western is not a new venture for her. I believe she first wrote western short stories and even won the coveted Spur Award from The Western Writers of America twice. My first book I read by her was Summer Campaign and I loved it. Looking around I found her Daughter of Fortune, Published in 1985 by Donald Fine - a long book described on Shelfari thus: Born into Old-World elegance, beautiful Maria Espinosa lost her parents and her fortune when plague ravaged Mexico City. Now she lay in the blazing heat of the Santa Fe trail, sole survivor of a brutal Apache raid. Rescued by Diego Masferrer, Maria came to love the bold young rancher -- and the harsh beauty of life on his hacienda. But a savage feud smoldered in the American Southwest, between the Spanish conquerors and the Indians they enslaved -- a conflict that burned in her own uneasy heart. For even as she adored Diego, she was drawn to his fierce half-breed brother Cristobal, who vowed himself to possess her. Soon a bloody Indian uprising would set brother against brother -- and force Maria to choose the one proud man who would forever share her destiny.

Then I discovered her story in Unbridled Spirits - Short Fiction about Women in the Old West - published in the mag, Roundup, in 1984. So, no, I do not think this is a new venture for her.

As to it being an inspirational, it may be that the publisher she found was the only one wishing to try a western (inspirational or not). This Catholic girl won't mind reading it even if it does have a Mormon slant - she writes such good romances (in the true sense of the word - remember most of Zane Grey's novels were considered westerns but really were romances)that I have already ordered my copy from Amazon.

As to the bodice ripping, yes, the reader wants more sex - just look at the current batch and see that some are just a little bit story written in between the sex scenes.

Give me story and history along with a touching and intimate relationship.

Wendy said...

ANudge: More the inspirational aspect being new-for-her than westerns - since I know she's an expert in that area, and had that short story collection out a few years back (altho I had forgotten about Summer Campaign! I think that's one of hers I don't have....).

My experience with all-sex-no-story books is that it's all about perception. What one reader thinks is "not a lot of sex" another reader thinks "OMG - TONS OF SEX!!!!" I think historicals light on the naughty bits can still be found. The problem today, I think, is that they're harder to find. There doesn't seem to be any "shorthand" for the casual browser. Book covers in general are sexier, regardless of the actual content - and specific publisher lines that readers "knew" featured "no sex" or "behind closed doors" have ended. So it requires a mess of research on the part of readers (and librarians helping said readers!) to try and ferret out these types of stories.

Can't tell you how many readers I see at work who read inspirationals NOT for the message but because they want a "clean" read. A common occurence.

ANudge said...

As a 25 year veteran of the reference desk, I know just what you mean, Wendy, of those who ask us for recommendations. I keep looking for authors with good reads. My solution to the "sex scenes"is I just skip over them and get on with the story. And yes, it is hard to find the good ones, if we only go with the cover and the blurb on the back. Take the description of Daughter of Fortune I quoted from Shelfari - it makes it sound as if there is a great love triangle, but there's not (at least in the physical sense). And she is a lot more independent than many earlier heroines. I was really amazed at all the history I learned about the United States from this book set in the 1500s, way before the Pilgrims came to America. This book is a prime example of story and history and a developing romance.
PS: It's hard to find - mine was in a university library and I had to interlibrary loan it - a great way to borrow books.

jmc said...

Chiming in rather late, although it may not have been widely known, Ms. Kelly has mentioned her LDS background and potential LDS characters as long ago as 1998 in an interview at AAR. I can recall a later interview, which I have not been able to locate online, after Harlequin canceled the publication of an upcoming book when the HH line was on the block; she mentioned that she would consider moving to an LDS publisher and also that she was contemplating a contemporary Western series centering around the border patrol.

Kristie (J) said...

I haven't read any of her other books - though I have quite a few of them. I just haven't gotten around to pulling them out of the TBR pile. But if I do read them and enjoy them, then yes, I would indeed follow her to this 'new frontier'.

Marie-Thérèse said...

For months now on AAR, Kelly has been very open about her upcoming books being LDS oriented and inspirational. As an atheist and also as someone who grew up with LDS friends of both sexes who worked very hard to make a break as adults from a religion they ultimately felt was misogynist, racist, oppressive, and coercive, I have no desire to read her new books, but she's certainly entitled to write them and I imagine a lot of her fans, particularly those who like her more sentimental recent work (which, despite my fondness for her older novels, I strongly dislike) will follow her regardless of their religious beliefs.

I don't mind inspys, despite my own lack of belief in a deity of any kind, because they often deal with time periods standard mainstream historical romances won't touch and because the best inspy authors weave the religious element seamlessly into their stories, capitalising on the real religious sentiment of the era to get their message across (in fact, as a social scientist by trade, I often find the lack of any mention of personal religious devotion in mainstream romances weird and ahistorical-religion was enormously important for women in past times and often provided them with very real social and emotional benefits, a network beyond the family that could sustain them when domestic life proved disappointing or worse).

As for sex, I'd really like to see less in mainstream romance. When I want erotica, I read erotica and I have no hang-ups about doing so (Kristina Lloyd's 'Asking for Trouble' has served me well!). But I don't look to romances for my erotic fix. When I read a romance, I want a story, I want a relationship, I want deeply limned, truly lovable characters I can invest in. I don't want a pointless, page-filling sex scene between the heroine's sister-in-law and her new husband who were already featured as main characters in the author's last book published six months ago. I do think there is some sort of publisher expectation that mainstream authors will write "sex" even if the book isn't in a sexy line and I've noticed certain authors online who seem disbelieving to the point of contempt when readers mention they could honestly do with fewer sex scenes (it's kind of sad when even romance authors seem to believe romance is really just chick porn). I'm not sure when precisely this demand for a certain amount of sex per book came into play but I do know that I find myself buying fewer and fewer new historical romances because of this overload on sexytimes and enjoying the older ones I order used and electronically more and more.

And I'm done! Really! I promise! (Blame the rambling on the Albariño!)

Marie-Thérèse said...

Oh, how odd! It told me my first comment couldn't be published because it was too long (I really can't blame it for that) so I broke it into pieces and republished the first part and then it published the whole thing anyway. Damn! Sorry about that Wendy. Delete as you see fit.

Marie-Thérèse said...

Wendy, could you delete the rogue commas in my posts too?!? LOL!

Carla Kelly author said...

First, let me say that the very few inspirational books I have read were a total turn off, because it seemed that religion was slapped on with a trowel. Please believe me when I say that I would never do that. I wrote "Borrowed Light" because I like cowboys, and have never quite gotten over living in SE Wyoming, where this story is set. In Mr. Otto, I have a wonderful hero. I was also intrigued by the rise of so-called domestic science; hence my heroine who is a grad of the Fannie Farmer School of Cookery. Cedar Fort is a wonderful little publisher. Why I'm doing this is because I'm tired of stupid book titles, and I want to write things other than Regencies. I have a series idea set in 1750 south Texas involving a "juez de campo" (sort of an early detective/brand inspector). This is way too early for Mormons, obviously. Mostly I want to write other things. Give "Borrowed Light" a try. It's still my writing.

Carla Kelly

P.S. Incidentally, I have a blog, too.

Anonymous said...

If the religion is not "slapped on with a trowel", I'm sure I'll enjoy the story!

I want to know, though, if the book will be released as an ebook. That, more than anything, will determine if I read it.

Jane A

SandyH said...

I have every one of Carla's books except Daughter of Fortune and with my new Kindle my first download will be her new book for HH and if available the book from Cedar Fort. I just love her stories and cannot recommend her enough.

Carla Kelly author said...

Jane A, I've been told that "Borrowed Light" will also come out in Kindle format.

Marie-Thérèse said...

Based on Ms. Kelly's interesting (and gracious) comments here, I am now really intrigued by this book (she had me at Fannie Farmer grad!) and will likely buy it if a Kindle compatible version becomes available.

I feel like I should strongly support any author willing to take the risk of writing something other than Regencies, particularly one who has the good taste to eschew the grotesque titles (if I see one more "ravished", "taken" or "captive", I will scream) and the gumption to give her her heroine more to do than look pretty and alternately swoon or fret over the hero.

Wendy said...

OK, been offline all day and time to catch up on comments!

ANudge: I've utilized ILL in the past for htf romances, just not in a long time. I have to REALLY want to read the book, like RIGHT NOW in order to request it. And with the size of my TBR? Yeah, I generally just snag something else to read. Lord knows I have plenty to choose from.

JMC: I think the border patrol idea has tons of interesting possibilities! Of course, coming from my personal reading background I'm thinking "ooooh, mystery/suspense series idea!" LOL

Kristie: If I like and author's "secular" books, I will follow them to inspirational. And like you, I still have a number of Kelly's Regencies in the ol' TBR pile. I have to be in the right sort of "mood" for a trad. They're almost like a palate cleanser for me. I need to pull one out for the upcoming TBR Challenge next year!

Marie: I found your comments very interesting and want to chime in on the "weirdness" of lack of religion in mainstream historicals. Right there with you. I especially find it jarring in westerns that are set in towns. Frontier, I get. There wouldn't be a church down the street if you're living in the middle of nowhere. But if the story takes place in a town? Yeah, a church needs to be there. Or at least some mention of "worship." Period.

And I wish I could help you on rogue commas :) Blogger SO needs to put in an editing feature - can't tell you how many times I could have used one......

Wendy said...

Ms. Kelly: First of all, thank you for the link to your blog! I will link it to your name in this blog post so others can find it too :)

My opinion is that inspirational elements are like anything else in fiction - they need to feel "organic" to the story. Otherwise? Yeah, you get the trowel effect. This might be why when I do read inspy I follow authors who have also published secular fiction. I figure my chances are better in avoiding The Trowel :)

And it's official blog followers! I'm going to read this book. No maybe about it anymore. The mention of the Fannie Farmer school did me in.

Wendy said...

Jane A: Well, Ms. Kelly has already chimed in on the Kindle. We were chatting about this on Twitter yesterday and another author piped in that Cedar Fort has done some other releases in digital we'll just need to keep our eyes peeled.

SandyH: I'm a big HH reader, and I am really behind on them! I know I have her latest on my Sony....and I think the one before that? *sigh*

Marie: I know, right? That Fannie Farmer tidbit had me practically swooning out of my chair.

And hopefully I've responded back to everybody. No caffeine today makes Wendy....uh, less bright than usual. Scary.

ANudge said...

I've ordered my copy of Borrowed Light at Amazon.

Looking forward to it!

Anonymous said...

I'm a longtime Carla Kelly fan and have all of her books (even her short stories in all of those regency Christmas anthologies). I have never been a fan of inspy books but I will read anything Carla writes. Her characters and her story lines have such an authentic feel to them that it is a treat to read her books. I have pre-ordered this from Amazon, and I am sure I will continue to order her next ones as well!

Heidi said...

I adore Carla Kelly's regency romances and was sad when she stopped writing them for a while--I heard she favored "Indian", as in cowyboy and Indian, romances. Not sure what that meant. I just got the email from Amazon about Borrowed Light, too, and saw that and also wondered if she is LDS. There is no reason why she couldn't be or shouldn't be--what threw me was wondering how she got this book published through what I assumed was the usual "inspirational" routes. So I googled it and found this--glad to know that she published it through an LDS publisher because that tells me I'm not going to hate her for getting it all wrong. I can't wait to read this one!

Heidi said...

I have to also respond to LoriK--my publisher, Avalon Books, puts out clean historicals that are NOT inspirationals. My books are the good old traditional regency romances--so check out Avalon Books. You can find them in libraries and online. Their website is can see their entire 60 year backlist.

Heidi said...

For Wendy--yes! The reason why the traditional sweet romance died is because people stopped buying it and publishers insisted on sex being in the books. For a long time, you couldn't get published without it. Many of my favorite regency authors "jumped ship" to historicals for that reason. It also pays a whole heck of a lot more--simply because that's what readers were/are paying for. I was so grateful to find Avalon Books--again, they do not publish inspirational--just good old fashioned love stories (including contemporaries) that don't have sex in them. Anyway, I'm a total unknown here and don't mean to get on my soapbox--I was just wanting to share the little I know. Thanks!

Wendy said...

Hi Heidi! Man, I've gotten more traffic on this particular blog post. Anywho....yes, I know of Avalon books! We used to buy them all the time at my former job. They're also one of the very few publishers in town that routinely publishes westerns (I'm talking traditional westerns in the vein of Zane Grey, Louis L'Amour etc. not western romances).

For those of you interested in checking them out, they do publish in hard cover, but they cater to a large library market - so I would encourage you to check with your local library :)

Carla Kelly author said...

Oops. I had said "Borrowed Light" would be out on Kindle, but it will be out on Nook and have other ereader apps instead, according to the publisher. I received my first copies today, and it's almost as much fun as receiving the first book I ever wrote, or my still-favorite, "Here's to the Ladies."
And I signed on with Cedar Fort to write two more for them.

Anonymous said...

I just finished "Borrowed Light," and thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the research/history involved. I stayed involved and engrossed in the relationships among even the minor characters...Ms Kelly is a master of making characters resonate. I didn't enjoy the ending...thought it was a little to treacly that Paul seemed to fall in line with Mormon doctrine. I would have enjoyed the possibility of his remaining a "good" man without the dogma of the church. Just saying.