We can't wait for you to hear from novelists Rhonda and Kaley Rhea at the SCWC Virtual Fiction Workshop on Dec. 5. The mother-daughter team has created award-winning novels together, and have also experienced great writing success individually. Rhonda is a well-known humor columnist and popular speaker; together, they've co-authored the romantic comedy novels Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated (which was a semifinalist for last year's SCWC Notable Book Award) andTurtles in the Road. They're also Christy Award and Selah Award finalists.
Their infectious personalities were on full display when I talked to them recently about their partnership, their plans for the Virtual Fiction Workshop, their faith (and a whole lot more).
Tell me a little bit about how you and Kaley came to write together. How does that process work?
Kaley: Well... We came together really naturally. You could say. Very much entirely naturally.
Rhonda: You know that's not what she means.
Kaley: Like I was in her womb at one point. We met formally after that.
Rhonda: Why are you like this?
Kaley: You can blame my mother.
Rhonda: I do! And actually, our co-writing journey did come together really naturally. While I'd previously only done nonfiction, I've always had a big heart for fiction. Practically from babyhood, Kaley had a crazy-amazing natural skill (ugh, why did I use the word “natural”) for dialogue and story. Our various and individual psychoses line up so perfectly for working together. We get each other. Even when she’s “like this.”
How did you both start in writing?
Rhonda: I started as a humor columnist and article freelancer and that opened doors for books and the rest. Close to 20 books later, I’m still wondering why people let me do this. Surely somebody will catch on and shut this thing down, right?
Kaley: And I've loved stories since before I could read. Started writing when I was little, and I'm sure having a writer-mom had no small influence on me there. I started writing in spec fic, actually, and that's still my first love. But I've been having a blast with these rom com projects we've been doing together.
Your session for the workshop will be on plotting. Tell me a little bit about how you and Kaley plot and plan together for your books.
Rhonda: We meet out on the playground.
Kaley: What is that? Are we fighting?
Rhonda: What? No. We're playing. That's what playgrounds... Oh, I see what happened.
Kaley: No, you're right. It's basically a playground. We start with an idea. Usually from my mom. She's basically our Idea Man.
Rhonda: Thank you?
Kaley: And we spend a lot of time together discussing characters and backgrounds and themes and how they fit with the concept of the story we're telling. The plot is usually the last thing we nail into place, and it becomes kind of the inevitable result of all those discussions and decisions we started making from the get go.
What advice did you wish you had received early in your fiction writing career?
Kaley: It's normal for things to take a long time in this business. Do your work and relax.
Rhonda: Give birth to your writing partner.
What are your writing plans for the future?
Rhonda: We have a nonfiction project releasing in January, the second in the Messy to Meaningful series. The two of us co-authored this one with Monica Schmelter, General Manager of Christian Television Network’s Nashville station. We’ll be doing some fun TV stuff to go with. I have another couple of nonfiction projects releasing as well. Fiction-wise, we have another delicious and layered humorous romance cooking. We’re cracking ourselves up over this one already.
Kaley: Yes! And I've been working on some solo novels, too. Considering branching out into that specific world (worlds?) I mentioned earlier.
How does faith play a part in your writing?
Kaley: For me, it plays the "This is your reason" part. The most fulfilling part of writing for me is getting to use storytelling to point to Jesus.
Rhonda: Dittos. No Jesus, no purpose. He is our reason and our fuel.
What else might SCWC members like to know about you?
Rhonda: My grandbabies/Kaley’s nieces and nephews are the grandest little hobbies ever. We love them and play with them and giggle with them and mine them for material weekly. It’s the best. We do all of that from the St. Louis area. My hubs/Kaley’s dad is a pastor here in the area. We do our best to get him in all kinds of trouble. You’re welcome, Richie Rhea.
Kaley: I've also got four siblings and four siblings-in-law—the begetters of those aforementioned most-fun lil niblings. They're all close by so we get to hang out often and watch their kids remind us how weird we were (are) when we were kids (and currently).
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Get to learn from--and laugh with--Rhonda and Kaley at the SCWC Virtual Fiction Workshop on Dec. 5. It will be a treat!