Novelist Kerrelyn Sparks owes her success to two things: determination and the undead.
Sparks had toyed with the idea of writing for years but never actually put pen to paper. "I let my self-doubt get to me for years. Finally, I thought, 'Why do I keep putting this off?' I decided to at least try. If I didn't sell a book, I could still look back and say, 'I gave it my best shot' instead of 'Why didn't I ever do that?' I wrote a book the first year; it didn't sell. I wrote a book the second year [a historical romance], and that one sold."
Sparks's initial success was short-lived. Before the book was released, her editor left the publishing house, which then cut ties with Sparks. "It was a bittersweet debut. By the time my first book came out, I had already been dropped by my publisher, my agent had dropped me. Everything fell apart, and I was worried that my career was over before it even started. That was a really rough time for me. I had to take a hard look at myself. I realized if I wanted to do this, I'd have to reinvent myself."
Cue the vampires. Moving from historic to paranormal romance, Sparks wrote How to Marry a Vampire Millionaire and found a new agent. "Within a week, we had several offers and it went into auction. Avon bought it and from then on, it's been just one book after another."
The book coming out in August, Less than a Gentleman, is number 14.
"When I meet people, almost everyone says, 'Oh, I have an idea for a book.' The published authors are the ones that didn't give up. I don't know that I'm more skilled and talented than anyone, it's just that I'm able to sit down and do the work. "
What She Does: "If somebody asks me what I do, I tell people I write romantic comedy for HarperCollins. Women who read romance novels know what I mean. Men usually just hear HarperCollins and figure it has something to do with the publishing business, but they're not sure exactly what."
Why She Likes It: "I love falling in love with the hero along with the heroine. When you finish the book, that's a wonderful feeling. It's such a long journey, just knowing that you survived it and your characters survived it, that you left everyone happy and taken care of, that's a great feeling. The funnest part is connecting with readers at events. That's when you get your reward for all those long, long hours where you were alone in your writing cave and you were ripping words out of your gut.
"It's not always an easy process; there are parts that are hard. There are moments when the story gets dark. If you're a reader, you live in that moment for 30 minutes or so, but a writer lives in it for several weeks and it can be really painful because you feel for these characters that you've grown to love." What Inspires Her: "Usually the deadline that's coming up inspires me," Sparks laughs. "I don't have a choice but to sit down and write. You can think, 'Oh, that deadline's four months away,' and then the revisions come in for the last book and the page proofs and on and on. By the time you catch your breath, the four months are up. Creativity on a deadline is the hardest thing I do.
"Once I get into the story, I'm just another reader waiting for the next chapter. I really only see one or two scenes in advance. I tell people writing is like driving your car in the dark; you can only see as far your headlights show you. The further you go, the further you can see. I want to know what happens next so I write."
If Not This, Then What: "I don't know if I would want another career. I'd be more willing to retire than to switch professions. If I wasn't writing, I'd probably be reading all the books I've seen over the years and thought, 'Oh, I bet that's interesting.' I'd travel and visit friends and family."
If Not Here, Then Where: Sparks says she doesn't think another location would be any more conducive to her writing than Houston. "My characters and my sense of humor would be the same. What I think is heroic, what's romantic, all that would be the same. If I moved, I would probably want to be close to my children."
What's Next: Sparks's new historical romance, Less Than a Gentleman, is being released in August, so she'll be doing promotion and publicity. She wrote Gentleman more than ten years ago, but was unable to interest an agent or publisher at the time. It was then that she decided to switch from historical to paranormal stories. "It sat there for ten years and to finally get it out, there's a feeling of vindication. I'm happy to know I was on the right track, that it was a good book. It just wasn't the right time for it."
For the first time in a long while, Sparks will be promoting a non-vampire story. Asked if she'll miss her bloodthirsty characters, Sparks quickly says no. "It's been fun to get away from the vampires for a while. I love them, but I've been dealing with them since 2004. At this point, they're like family that came to visit and never left," she laughs.
More Creatives for 2013 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Lindsay Halpin, punk rock mad hatter Drake Simpson, actor Shelby Carter, Playboy model turned photographer David Matranga, actor Crystal Belcher, pole dancer Daniel Kramer, photographer Blue 130, pin-up explosion art Nina Godiwalla, author and TED speaker David Wilhem, light painter Tom Abrahams, author and newscaster Browncoat, pin-up pop artist Kris Becker, Nu-Classical composer and pianist Vincent Fink, science fashion Stephanie Saint Sanchez, Senorita Cinema founder Ned Gayle, thrift store painting defacer Sameera Faridi, fashion designer Greg Ruhe, The Human Puppet Sophia L. Torres, founder and co-artistic director of Psophonia Dance Company Maggie Lasher, dance professor and artistic director Jordan Jaffe, founder of Black Lab Theatre Outspoken Bean, performance poet Barry Moore, architect Josh Montoute, mobile gaming specialist Ty Doran, young actor Gwen Zepeda, Houston's first Poet Laureate Joseph Walsh, principal dancer at Houston Ballet Justin Garcia, artist Buck Ross, dilettante and director of Moores Opera Center Patrick Renner, sculptor of the abstract and the esoteric Tomas Glass, abstract artist and True Blood musician Ashley Stoker, painter, photographer and Tumblr muse Amy Llanes, artistic airector of Rednerrus Feil Dance Company Bevin Bering Dubrowski, executive director at the Houston Center for Photography Lydia Hance, founder and director of Frame Dance Productions Piyali Sen Dasgupta, mixed media artist and nature lover Dean James, New York Times bestselling mystery novelist Nicola Parente, abstract painter and photographer Cheryl Schulke, handmade leather pursemaker Anthony Rathbun, Alternative Lifestyle Photographer David Salinas, computer-less analog photographer Danielle Burns, art curator Alicia DiRago, Whimseybox founder Katia Zavistovski, contemporary art curator Ashley Horn, choreographer, filmmaker Amanda Stevens, scary book author Peter Lucas, film and video curator, music lover and self-described culture-slinger Ana MarÃa Otamendi, collaborative pianist and vocal coach Billy D. Washington, comedian Michele Brangwen, choreographer and dancer Kristin Warren, actress and choreographer Kelly Sears, animator and film maker Colton Berry, Bayou City Theatrics' artistic director jhon r. stronks,dance-maker Joe Grisaffi, actor, director, writer, cinematographer Jordan "Monster Mac" McMahon, artist, designer