Interviews / Novelists

Interview with Molly O’Keefe: “I’ve always worked best in a little bit of mess.”

Molly O’Keefe, who discovered her passion for writing early in life, has been a prolific author since publishing her first Harlequin romance at 25. Born near Chicago and a graduate of a university in St. Louis, where she met her husband, O’Keefe now resides in Toronto, Ontario, with their two children.

Her days are filled with writing, parenting, and daydreaming of peaceful coffee breaks. Her work includes the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award-winning Dishing It Out, the RT Reviewer’s Choice-winning Baby Makes Three, the RITA-winning novella The Christmas Eve Promise from The Night Before Christmas, and the RITA-winning novel Crazy Thing Called Love.

Hi Molly, welcome to Famous Writing Routines, great to have you here with us today! You published your first Harlequin romance at age 25, what was it like to see your work in print for the first time, and did you have any sense at that point of the career you wanted to build as a writer?

It was amazing! It’s amazing at any age and at any time in your career. It’s a thrill I never get over. That’s such an interesting question about what I envisioned as a young author. At that time, and being so young, I thought my career would be one smooth straight line up. But being an author for any length of time is getting used to an absolute roller coaster of success and setbacks. I had no idea when I got that first phone call. You learn to have a tough skin and to take everything good and everything bad in stride. 

You’ve won multiple Romantic Times Reviewers Choice awards and even a RITA award for your work. What do those honors mean to you, both personally and professionally?

It’s always so nice to be recognized by peers and by reviewers I respect. And it’s fun when those awards come during conferences with everyone dressed up and celebrating. While the luster of RITA wins is significantly tarnished due to the shameful ways RWA conducted business – at the time, professionally, it was a nice feather in my cap. 

You’ve written many different kinds of romance novels, from novellas to full-length contemporary romances. How do you approach each new project and decide what length or format will work best for the story you want to tell? 

That’s a great question! If I’m writing a novella – the world is small, the characters usually have a relationship already – past lovers, friends or colleagues. And the conflict is small – a misunderstanding or friends to lovers when they just need a little push towards each other.

For the longer romances it’s a bigger world, a bigger cast of characters – I’m usually thinking about families and subplots. And the conflict is bigger, each character has more to get over. For the book club fiction I try to think of big questions and themes I want to write about and the characters and world spring from that. 

Can you tell us about your writing routine? What does a typical day look like for you? 

Oh man, it’s been chaotic here for like a month! Which is just part of life. But in an ideal world, I wake up early and sit down with my coffee. Go through my email and try very hard not to get distracted. I find if I start the day with admin work, my creative brain throws up its hands and stomps off in a fit.

But I usually try to write – with lots of breaks – until about 1 in the afternoon. This can be anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 words. And then I take a very long walk with my dog who has been waiting patiently. And then the kids are home from school and evening hustle and bustle begins. But that is an ideal day. 

If you could have a conversation with any author throughout history about their writing routine and creative process, who would that person be?

Oh wow – I’ve been so lucky to be able to interview so many of my favorite authors. I do a podcast called Day Drinking With Authors – where I pick a book, the author picks a drink and we discuss both. I’d love to talk to Susan Elizabeth Phillips, JR Ward, Elizabeth Berg. But I’ve been so lucky to talk to Joshilyn Jackson who is one of my all time favorites. Cate C. Wells, who is my favorite romance writer right now. Tessa Bailey is another one!

I’d love to know about the books you’re reading at the moment. What have been some of your favorite recent reads?

Oh, I’m lucky enough to have an arc of Sarah Morgan’s next book – it’s delicious. I loved Lessons in Chemistry and I’m an absolute sucker for Julie Ann Long’s historical romances. 

What does your current writing workspace look like? 

Total chaos. Absolute mayhem. I’ve always worked best in a little bit of mess. I have no idea why, though I imagine my mother would say I’ve always been like this. 

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