Kelly Irvin has worked in journalism—writing everything from hard news to editorials to columns—and public relations for two decades. A graduate of the University of Kansas William Allen White School of Journalism, she studied for three semesters at the University of Costa Rica, learning the Spanish language. As a journalist, she worked six years in the border towns of Laredo and El Paso, where she was exposed to culture and language that serves as fodder for her fiction writing.
She is also the author of two romantic suspense books, published in 2010 and 2011, and an Amish fiction series. A Heart Made New, from the Bliss Creek Amish series, releases this month. Love’s Journey Home, a third book in the series, releases in January. Kelly also recently signed a contract with Harvest House Publishing for a three-book spin-off.
Kelly and her husband, Tim, make their home in Texas.
Journalism and fiction writing have different skill sets, and sometimes even contradictory rules of craft. What was the most difficult part of that learning curve for you?
Part of the learning curve involved attitude. As a journalist who’d been writing for years, I was sure I knew how to write a novel. Surely, I knew how to do snappy dialogue and organize a plot. I found out I actually didn’t know what I was doing. It took several years of workshops and conferences and critique groups to actually produce a manuscript worthy of publication.
I still struggle some with description and narrative. It doesn’t come naturally to me. One place where it really helps, though, is in being able to sit down and write at the drop of the hat. I never have writer’s block or wait around for the muse. When you produce stories day after day on deadline, you don’t have the luxury of “getting in the mood to write.” With a full-time job, kids, and a husband, I still don’t have time to mess around. If I have thirty minutes in my schedule, I sit down, put my fingers on the keyboard, and go. That comes from a journalism background.
Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?
When I graduated from college, I didn’t want to leave Lawrence, KS, home of the University of Kansas, so I messed around and didn’t apply for jobs until the only thing I could get was a reporter position at the paper in Leavenworth, KS. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that—it just wasn’t what I envisioned for myself.) At the time it seemed like some sort of punishment for not wanting to grow up. I only worked there a year but I covered city government and got the hands-on experience I needed to put on a resume to get a job where I wanted to go—which was the Mexican border.
It was a lonely year, my first experience living alone, in a town where I didn’t know anyone. Looking back I realize it was a great life experience. I found I could live on my own and that striking out into the unknown—even if it’s only a small town known for its prisons—is an adventure. I went from Leavenworth to Laredo, TX, and then on to El Paso, TX, both towns where I didn’t know a soul. In El Paso, I met my husband. Everything does happen for a reason and God does have a plan.
How does your faith play into your writing?
For me, writing is an act of faith. I believe God gives me the stories I write. Since I’m totally an organic writer, I don’t know what the spiritual take away will be when I start my story. I don’t even know what the story is. Every time the spiritual theme becomes clear to me, I’m blown away. It happens every time. I think: so that’s what this is all about. Characters come on to stage, events occur, and scripture appears. That’s God’s doing, not mine. It’s also an act of faith to sign a contract and accept an advance for a book I haven’t written yet. I take it on faith that God will not forsake me and together, we’ll get it done.
A Heart Made New is a story close to my heart. Annie Shirack is in love with David Plank, whose cancer has returned for a second time. He doesn’t want to take a chance on love for fear he’ll die and leave her to pick up the pieces. Annie is a strong woman. She’s survived the death of both of her parents. She helps Sadie Plank run her bakery. She takes a pregnant homeless woman and her little girl into her family’s home and helps them make a new start. The one thing she can’t seem to do is reach David. A Heart Made New is the story of how these two people learn to take love and their future on faith.
Besides entertainment, what do you hope readers will take away from it?
Take that leap of faith, whatever it is in your life. Like David and Annie, let God be your guide. Step out in faith, not knowing what awaits you at the end of the journey, only knowing God will be there with you as you step off that precipice.
God often uses our stories to teach us when we’re writing them. What did you learn (about life, faith, and/or even yourself) in the process of writing this book?
I’m a worry wart. I admit it and as much as I claim to have faith, I have difficulty setting aside my fears and my worries. I’m working to let go and let God in all things in my life. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting better.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
I almost never have a problem with words not flowing—usually I have too many of them. I lost fifty pounds about seven years ago and I’ve struggled ever since to keep them off so all food sounds great to me. If I had to pick one thing, it’d probably be my husband’s chicken and cheese enchiladas in green sauce. He also makes an incredible pizza from scratch.
This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
I have no musical talent whatsoever. I confine my singing to church where the good Lord enjoys a joyful noise.
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
Somewhere between jazz and blues with a lot of improv and plenty of saxophone.
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
Definitely not the little girl trying to walk in high heels. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a professional baseball player when I grew up. I’d love to say I’m the super heroine, but mostly I’m the sidekick who writes the story down later. I started out as the wallflower who tripped over her size ten feet in high school. As I grow older I become more comfortable in my own skin and less concerned with what other people think of me.
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
We have three cats, Jasmine, Angel (more aptly nicknamed Demon Kitty) and Barry. Jasmine and Angel are black cats and sisters. Barry is a fluffy tabby cat from the Humane Society. We also have a tank full of fish that the cats try to attack on a regular basis.
Thanks, Kelly! It’s nice to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
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For more information about Kelly, visit her website at www.kellyirvin.com.
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