By Jackie Dove-Miller
Did you know that there is a best-selling romance author living right here in Franklin County? Erin Knightley, who spent her formative years in Kentucky, lives with her husband at Lake Royale. Though she has a degree in Marine Science from the University of South Carolina, Ms. Knightley left her life as an Environmental Specialist in 2010 to become a full-time writer. Unlike many authors who struggle for years to get published, Knightley sold her first series the very next year.
A romance reader since the age of 17, her first novel, More Than a Stranger, published in 2012 and classified as both historical romance and romantic suspense, automatically fit that category. Knightley commented, “It was natural that I’d write what I love.” Over time, she has expanded to contemporary romance and is currently working on a women’s fiction project. Her writing goals even include a possible mystery novel.
When asked where ideas for stories come from, Knightley describes herself as very imaginative: “A single glimpse of an unusual situation can send my imagination soaring, building back-story around little more than a kernel of someone’s life story.” This trait revealed itself at a very young age when in second grade she wrote a story for Young Authors about an orphan who ends up being a half-mermaid princess. “I also ask a lot of ‘what ifs’, imagining what would happen if two unlikely people got together.” She adds, “The seeds of stories are all around us,” suggesting that she is not only imaginative but also extremely observant.
Despite the fact that Knightley uses her imagination to tell her stories, she adds an element of realism by doing extensive research. With most of her novels being set in Regency England (circa 1814-1820) lots of research must be done to set the stage. She confesses, “I’ve researched food, customs, military history, world trade, clothes, government, and so much more.” All that research pays off, transporting readers back in time and making them return again and again. At this point, she has 15 published books.
Another practice Knightley uses to get story ideas is to brainstorm with other authors. She calls it, “Teasing out a storyline between us.” She admits, “Some of my best books are the result of this type of collaborative plotting.” Whatever practice she uses it pays off as she won the Book Buyers Best Award for the Best Historical Romance for her novel, A Taste for Scandal. Early in her career, she was a finalist in the Golden Heart (the highest award given to unpublished romance authors). Knightley confides, “Though they were both very special, being a finalist in the Golden Heart was huge for me, and it ultimately did play a role in selling my first series.”
Though Knightley’s first love is romance, she selects reading material from several genres: science fiction, biographies, even cozy mysteries. She hopes that her novels appeal to readers from other genres as well. Donna Campbell Smith, a well established non-fiction author from Franklin County, attests to that fact. She says about Knightley’s work, “Erin Knightley puts the romance back in romance. She spins sweet stories that I read happily without embarrassment. Her books can be enjoyed by all ages who enjoy a good love story. She projects her fun-loving personality into her writing and her writing workshops. You come away feeling like she really enjoys what she does.” Campbell’s assessment of Knightley’s writing is right on target with her overall goal, “to write a story that makes people feel something. When all is said and done, I hope my readers close my book and sigh with happiness.” Knightley’s popularity suggests that her novels do just that.
One of Knightley’s most recent projects is with noted author, James Patterson’s BookShots. She describes Bookshots as “‘stories at the speed of life’ — short novels that read like a movie (lots of action with fast moving plots) and can be ‘devoured in hours.” She wrote two books for this line (Learning to Ride and The Return) and describes it as “a wonderful experience. It has stretched my writing skills and challenged me in new ways.” She admits that she had thought she’d have a reprieve from the extensive research that her former novels required, only to find that was not the case. For her BookShot novels, she had to research rodeos and horses.
Knightley’s advice to others who want to become published authors is to “Read, read, and read some more. Then pay attention to which publishers are looking for what kind of stories, and follow your favorite authors, publishers, and agents on Facebook and Twitter.” In line with her giving personality, Knightley advises, “Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and advice.” In the same vein, she invites readers to do just that: “I always love to hear from my readers, either on public forums like Facebook and Twitter, or directly through email or private messaging. Please feel free to reach out anytime!”
Based on her prolific published results, Erin Knightley appears to have a never-ending source of story ideas. You can find out about her series sets, novellas, and individual novels by going to her website, www.ErinKnightley.com, and for “buy” links from various retailers. And if you are as old fashioned as the settings of her stories, you can walk in to Barnes and Noble or your local libraries and pull something right off the shelf.
Jackie Dove-Miller is an area poet and spoken-word artist. She is a member of Franklin County Arts Council’s Writers Guild. Find her at www.booksbyjackiedove-miller.com.