Friday, March 9, 2012

Indie Book of the Week and Author Interview: Delta Legend by Kelan O'Connell

I am so excited to be introducing my indie book of the week this week.

I had the privilege to read Delta Legend by Kelan O'Connell recently and I have to say, I adored this read. 

So unique and fun in every way possible. 

And not only do I get to tell you about this fabulous book but Kelan also graciously agreed to do an author interview with me as well. I am super excited to be interviewing her!!

She is extremely talented and I want to help spread the word about her book any way I can. 

I think this is a book that will really appeal to everyone who loves a little sci fi/fantasy. 

I am not a huge fan on this genre I will admit, but I found myself devouring her book all the same.

I asked Kelan and few questions about herself to start off with.

MGO: "Thank you so much for agreeing to come here today Kelan! I am so excited to have you here!!
I would love for you to start us off with first telling us a little bit about yourself." 

Kelan: "I live in Northern California with my partner Tom and our blended pet family; dog Rox, a Beta fish named Pinot, and two cats—both named Jack. One was mine, one was his. We attempted to rename mine “J” (like some hip DJ moniker) but it didn’t stick. So, we usually just refer to them as My Jack or Your Jack depending on who’s talking about which cat.

I’ll steal from my own Blogger description here which says I’m a: pathological storyteller, author, playwright, cartoneria Day of the Dead artist, publishing revolution activist, barbecue nag, Junkman's Daughter, and lover of good food, good wine, good books, and good people."

MGO: "Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer and how long have you been writing for?"

Kelan: "I didn’t really plan on being a writer, it just sort of happened. I was an actress when I was younger and have a degree in Theatre Arts. I began writing in college as a way to stand out in auditions. It worked, and I landed some pretty awesome lead roles. I was also in a comedy improv group called Whammo Lab and we cranked out a lot of sketch comedy that we performed in clubs along with our fake video commercials. Everyone in the group was wickedly funny and we had a blast. Later, one of the other Whammo Lab members and I wrote and performed a two woman show featuring some of our characters. The more I wrote, the more I loved it. The last time I actually acted was in a play I wrote and performed with another actress in San Francisco when I was in my early 30’s. I remember being onstage and thinking, I just don’t dig this as much as I used to. Even though I pulled it off and the play got decent reviews, if you’re not totally present and in the moment on stage, you shouldn’t be acting. I hung it up after that. All I really wanted to do was write and create memorable characters. I tried to break into writing for television and screen for several years while living in Los Angeles, but I only had minimal success. Something really wonderful came out of that time, however, as one of the screenplays I wrote ultimately became the novel, Delta Legend."

MGO: "Wow! I don't even know what to say, that is seriously awesome!
So what did you want to be when you were growing up? I want to know all your secrets! Come on, spill it!"

Kelan: "I wanted to be on Saturday Night Live or have my own sketch comedy show, ala Tracey Ullman. But I’ll settle for creating characters on the page and letting others bring them to life, either in their mind by reading something I’ve written, or by playing them on stage or on screen. I’m good with that. Besides, the whole being famous thing has become a bit too creepy for me. I’d much rather be known for my name than my face. I like being able to run to the corner store in sweats and no make-up, knowing I won’t end up on the cover of a tabloid. You never see the headline, “YA Author Caught Without Make-up, Buying Donuts” while you’re waiting in line at the check-out stand."

MGO: "LOL! Yeah, I don't think I could handle being famous, no thanks. I can pass on that front too.
I really enjoyed your book, it was such a fun read and was very well written. I loved how diverse it was. What made you decide to use so many different races and backgrounds for your main characters?"

Kelan: " Thanks! I love hearing that Delta Legend’s a fun read. While I enjoy an intense dystopian novel as much as the next reader, sometimes I just want to have a really fun read that makes me laugh. I’m happy Delta Legend does that for people. Even though the book touches on issues of racial and cultural differences, it mostly does so with humor and it’s not the main focus of the story.

As for the multiculturalism of Delta Legend, it’s not like I intentionally decided to create characters of different races and cultures, they just seem to develop naturally for me, especially within the context of this story. I can assure you I didn’t wake up one day and say, I wanted my main character to be a 16-year-old African American guy. The first character of Delta Legend was the Delta itself. Calvin Pierce came next and was born out the need for dramatic conflict. Who would feel like a fish-out-of-water in the heart of a predominately-white region known for agriculture and recreational boating? A black, inner-city teenager, that’s who. Mei Li Cheng was a natural choice when considering the history of the Chinese and Chinese-Americans in the California Delta.

I would like to see more multiculturalism in YA. As the United States and other countries become increasingly more diverse, we need our literature, especially our fiction, to reflect that. I feel like YA readers of color are somewhat ignored when it comes to protagonists they can relate to."

MGO: "And of course I have to know, where did you come up with the idea for doing Delta Legend? It is a pretty unique idea?" 

Kelan: "Originally a screenplay, Delta Legend was my last-ditch effort to break through as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Teen Horror was all the rage at that time and I was chasing the genre. In order to crank one out, I had to ask myself “What really scares me?” The answer came from my own young adulthood—swimming and water skiing in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. I was always more than a little freaked out about what might be lurking in those deep murky waters. So, thestory line, characters, and legend all grew out of that one fear, and the Delta itself.

The screenplay version ended up being this big-budget beast that would require shooting in and on water, not to mention tons of special effects. No production company or studio in their right mind would touch such a budget-busting behemoth, especially one from a previously un-produced screenwriter.

Thank god I was incredibly naive or I probably wouldn’t have finished the screenplay which ultimately became the blueprint for the book. Delta Legend sat on the shelf for about ten years before I finally sat down and began writing the novel version.

 MGO: "I loved the humor in Delta Legend and the sarcastic feel to it at times. Are you like that in real life? Were any of the characters like you at all? Were any of them based on real people in your life?" 
Kelan: "Yeah, I can be pretty sarcastic at times. I have to watch it, especially with email, text, Twitter, and Face Book. People who don’t know me well can think I’m being serious. But I do love dry, sarcastic wit—it’s a gene that runs in our family.

Every character I create possesses some element of me, be it a belief, a nervous tick, a bad habit, a food craving, a pet peeve, a fear, etc.. The list goes on and on. No matter how removed from my actual life they are, each and every character I create has some small element of me in them. While none of my characters are fashioned directly after any real person, they might possess some physical trait or character bit from someone I know or have known. Though I doubt most people would be able to recognize themselves in any of the crazier characters I create. We never see ourselves as the weirdos we all are."
MGO: "LOL! So true! So true!

Okay, last question and most importantly, since your fans want to know!, Do you have anything else in the works?"

Kelan: "I do. While I dearly love Calvin and the gang, I’m going to step away and let them live their lives for bit while I write a new “Legend” with different characters in a different setting. I’m creating a brand that’s a mix between a stand alone and series. The series aspect lies in the shared formula: a main character who gets thrown into a completely foreign environment, a mythical creature linked to historical fiction, a sprinkling of romance, action, and carnage. And of course, plenty of laughs with more whacko characters and unlikely heroes of different ages and races.

As much as I wish I could crank out a bunch of books in record time and have them all be available at once, because my “Legends” include historical fiction based on actual history, it takes me a bit longer to research and write one.

I promise to catch up with Calvin, Mei Li, Jess and the rest of the gang at some point down the line. In the meantime, I plan on writing two more Legends. The next one is going to be set in a snowy environment. And that’s all I’m going to say!

MGO: "As sad as it makes me that Calvin won't be a part of the next book, I am still super excited to know that there is another one in the works with him and the gang and I can't wait to read it along with your new book!

Once again, a huge thank you for stopping by today! I so look forward to reading more from you in the future!!" 


  1. Ok you have my attention, the cover alone is worth a second look but that interfiew was loads of fun. Who knew a screenplay would eventually become a novel. I loved the Two Jack cats. I am all about sarcastic humor sign me up. I am sure Kelan could write an epic guest post :)
    Thanks for another good recommendation Ali.
    Oh Btw Ali, I loved driving my Cadillac that car was awesome!

  2. The cover is great isn't it?

    Kelan is a wonderful person, truly great.

    I bet she would love to visit your blog as well Heidi!