Welcome back to my Author Spotlight series, where I shine a bright light on the talented authors within the indie romance community. This series aims to celebrate authors who bring their unique voices to the romance genre, connecting them with readers who crave diverse and enthralling love stories.
In this edition of Author Spotlight, Kelsey Painter takes centre stage to share her writing journey, insights into her creative process, and a closer look into her latest book, “We’ll Meet Again”. This tantalizing masterpiece beckons you into a world where the beautiful game of soccer intertwines with the magic of love. A tale of fate, passion, and those inexplicable connections that transcend boundaries.
Dive into the heart of “We’ll Meet Again,” where we meet Ethan Knight, a Southern striker with a sweet charm, and Billie Axton, a determined legal assistant from the bustling city of London. Their journey through the pages of this novel is a blend of emotions, aspirations, and undeniable chemistry that’s bound to leave your heart racing and your soul yearning for more.
But enough of my introduction – let’s hear directly from Kelsey as she unravels the layers of her writing process, shares the inspiration behind “We’ll Meet Again,” and offers a glimpse into the world of indie romance creation.
What inspired you to write “We’ll Meet Again”? Can you tell us about the journey that led you to this particular story?
We’ll Meet Again was inspired by a desire to combine some of my favourite things: two shows – Ted Lasso and Band of Brothers; and two hobbies – soccer and romance novels. The idea came to me as I was driving (as most of my ideas do), about two people who didn’t get a happily ever after, getting another shot at it. I ran the basics behind the idea by my best friend (who I dedicated the book to) and she was so encouraging. I think I started writing it the next week!
The book revolves around the worlds of soccer and romance. How did you approach blending these two elements together, and what challenges did you face in creating an authentic portrayal of both?
Like any sports romance, I knew there were plenty of people fantasizing about footballers based on fanfic I was seeing. And during the World Cup when I was seeing all kinds of edits and fan pages on TikTok and Instagram. These guys are hot! People desire them! And I knew that was perfect material for a great romance novel. Also because I, personally, was looking for a soccer romance book and was struggling to find any that I actually enjoyed and the author knew enough about it. I am a MASSIVE football fan myself, so I knew I could create something that was as close to English football as we see on TV while stretching a few things for the sake of the story. I wanted a story that I’d believe if I read it, and other footy fans would buy into as well. So I relied on my knowledge from watching matches every weekend, but I also read three books on tactics and skills to make sure my portrayal was as authentic as it could be. As for an authentic romance, I stuck to characters that I’d like, and the kind of story I was eager to read.
The characters in your book, Ethan and Billie, seem to have a connection from the start. Can you delve into their dynamic and what makes their relationship compelling for readers?
Their dynamic kind of came as something that was reactionary to what I was reading at the time. I was still somewhat of a newbie to romance novels, and I was seeing hero after hero portrayed as a bit emotionally stunted, unable to tell the heroine what was on his mind and his heart. So I wanted to flip that. Ethan is the one who has done the work, and Billie is the one who has the most “healing” to do. Ethan’s leading character trait is kindness, which takes someone like Billie extremely off-guard. And she’s resistant to it. I think seeing her start to trust him, and believe in his dedication is what makes the story compelling. That, and all the mysterious dreams and visions they create for each other.
Setting plays an important role in many romance novels. How did you choose London and the soccer industry as the backdrop for your story, and how did you incorporate the city’s charm into the narrative?
I chose London because once I decided on soccer, I knew I wanted to have it in a professional league, and that had to be Premier League. Truly, it’s one of the best in the world, and Ethan is meant to be one of the best athletes in the world. I watch Premier League every weekend from August to June, and I’m a die-hard Chelsea supporter. London in particular because it’s a big city that I’m somewhat familiar with now that I’ve visited. And because there are so many EPL teams there, it meant Ethan wouldn’t be travelling every other week to matches. I chose Stanmore because a friend of mine lives there and suggested it as the place for my fictional club.
I think every indie author has a love/hate relationship with Kindle Unlimited. It’s wonderful exposure, but there are definitely drawbacks in regards to profit, piracy, and taking your book wider in an e-book format. My readers are kind of split between paperback and KU, so I think I’ll keep my books on there for now. It draws in a ton of new readers, which is my ultimate goal right now. I love the accessibility of it. A KU reader can come across my TikTok or IG, and go right to the download button. That’s pretty amazing!
As an indie author, how do you go about promoting your books and reaching your target audience? What strategies have you found to be the most effective in gaining visibility in the crowded romance genre?
I use TikTok and Instagram almost exclusively to promote my books. Each platform’s algorithm works differently, so it was tricky to figure out. But I saw what other authors were doing and jumped on trends, sounds, etc. Whatever was doing well. I’ve found memes are super effective in reaching a wide audience, and the interaction will come from people who are interested in your book in particular. I recently had a TikTok that has reached 53k views because I used a meme to compare my book to Ted Lasso. And fans of that show are likely to enjoy my book (if they like romance along with football, that is). And I think what’s helped me stand out is the sport I’m writing in. You see dozens of American football and baseball. And hockey is probably the most oversaturated market right now. You don’t get many soccer books, and you really have to dig to find the ones out there.
Are there any specific themes or messages you aimed to convey through “We’ll Meet Again”? What do you hope readers will take away from the story?
We’ll Meet Again, at its core, is about how powerful love is. That it can transcend lifetimes. It can bring you through moments of despair and moments of joy. And I want Ethan to be an example to men that you can be kind, vulnerable, even soft, and still be masculine. It’s more rewarding than you think.
Writing romance often involves creating compelling and emotionally resonant characters. How do you approach character development, and are there any particular traits or qualities you find important to include in your protagonists?
I’ve talked about Ethan a lot, and I’m gonna talk about him some more because he’s a character I really put a lot into. Kindness was the big thing for him. But where his kindness comes from is what makes it such a strong trait for him. Ethan’s been through a lot – extreme poverty, violent assault, loss of a parent to addiction. Those things didn’t make him angry (well, they did for some time, but he’s been through plenty of therapy). They made him want to make the world a better place. They gave him true empathy.
Billie I wanted to be a little more relatable. She’s a bit prickly, but only to cover up the true softness in her heart. She’s afraid of getting hurt, so she never lets anyone close. Not men, anyway. We get to see her be quite vulnerable with her best friend, Tessa (who is getting her own book), and with her sister, Stevie. It’s something I think a lot of people (especially women) struggle with. Especially after an initial hurt, we aren’t likely to let just anyone into our lives after that. And Billie’s story opens with her fresh off a breakup.
The essential to characters that readers remember (in my opinion) is relatability.
And at their core, I want all my main characters to be good people. Whatever that means to them.
Many readers enjoy the spicy elements in romance novels. How do you strike a balance between sensuality and emotional depth in your writing, ensuring both aspects contribute to the overall story?
Spice is one of my favorite things to read, and weirdly one of the hardest things to write. Because that balance is tricky to get right. When I’m writing a spicy scene, I keep a few things in mind: 1) Follow their hands. Knowing where they are touching each other is going to be immensely helpful in choreographing this scene. 2) What are they feeling? Not just between their legs, but what’s going on in their hearts and minds? And 3) What does this encounter mean for them? Is it just sex or is this a progression in their relationship?
All of those things keep me on track to striking that balance and making sure the scene has an impact outside of it just being sexy.
What advice would you give to aspiring indie romance authors who are just starting their writing journey? What lessons have you learned along the way that you believe are crucial for success in this genre?
Read, read, read! In the genre and subgenre, you’re writing in. That means reading books by authors in that same niche, or watching movies/TV shows that have the themes you’re after as well. Seeing how other writers made those ideas work can be hugely inspirational. And this is me being particular, but if your protagonist(s) has a job you aren’t familiar with, do your research on that. If it’s sports, get familiar with the league they play in, what division the team is in, where they fall in the rankings, what numbers mean for different positions, etc. If they run a farm or a ranch, find out the logistics, costs, and everyday schedule of that lifestyle. If they’re a celebrity, know their industry like the back of your hand. Have the information. Even if you don’t use all of it, it will help you make their life more believable (especially for potential readers who ARE in the demographic you’re writing about).
I’m also a huge believer in the sh*tty first draft. Get your words out before you try and make them good. Whether that’s dialogue dumps or random scenes that pop into your head that you put in your notes app. Just write. You can work with material that is on the page, but a blank one with a blinking cursor is just going to drive you crazy.
And finally, once your book is out, don’t read the Goodreads reviews. If you can’t help yourself, and the lower ratings get you down, go to the listing for your favorite books and read their one-star reviews. That reminds me that even the writers I think are brilliant and flawless get haters. It’s part of the deal. But seriously. Don’t read them.
To keep up with Kelsey’s literary endeavors, don’t hesitate to explore her Amazon Author Page. For deeper insights into her writing journey and to be in the know about her upcoming releases, be sure to visit her charming website at kelseypainterbooks.com. And if you’re active on social media, join her on Instagram at @authorkelseypainter.
For fellow indie romance authors who are eager to make their mark in the spotlight, this is your chance. Author Spotlight awaits you. If you’d like to join the ranks of talented authors like Kelsey Painter, don’t hesitate to complete the Author Spotlight Submission Form on our website: Author Spotlight Submission Form. It’s your chance to shine among the stars of the indie romance galaxy.
If you’re an indie romance author seeking a spotlight for your own writing journey, I invite you to fill in the form found on my Author Spotlight page. I look forward to hearing from you and exploring the wonderful world of indie romance together.