Atlanta INtown’s managing editor Collin Kelley is an award-winning poet with three published collections, poetry in journals around the world and readings from Los Angeles to London. This month, his debut novel, Conquering Venus ($14.95, Vanilla Heart Publishing) makes a splash with a featured reading at the Decatur Book Festival. I asked Collin a few questions about his foray into fiction.
What is your book about?
It’s about young writer named Martin Paige, who is asked by his best friend, a schoolteacher, to help her chaperone a senior trip to London and Paris in the summer of 1995. He falls in love with one of the students on the trip, which I’m sure many will find controversial. He meets an older, mysterious widow in Paris named Irene Laureux, who has agoraphobia and spies on guests at the hotel across from her apartment. Martin’s lover committed suicide, Irene’s husband’s death is a mystery and they have logic-defying connections despite their age differences and backgrounds. There’s also a terrorist attack on the Metro, which is the hinge-point of the story. It’s a love story, a thriller and a mystery all rolled into one.
What inspired you to write it?
I actually chaperoned a group of students on a trip to Europe. That was the germ of the novel. Repeated trips to London and Paris and a love of New Wave cinema from France in the ‘60s also informed the writing. I’m a fan of actress Jeanne Moreau and she was the inspiration for Irene in the novel.
How did it get published?
The story began as a screenplay and I had an agent try to sell it to Hollywood back in the late ‘90s. When that didn’t pan out, he suggested that I turn it into a novel. I did that, got another agent in 2001 and the day she began sending out the manuscript to editors was Sept. 11, 2001. The terrorism subplot and other controversial themes made it a hot potato. Last year, poet and novelist Kate Evans read it and suggested I send it to her publisher, Vanilla Heart. They loved it.
What are you working on next?
Conquering Venus is the first book in trilogy that follows the same characters over a 10-year arc. I’m about 200 pages into the second one and have a rough outline for the third.
Collin Kelley will read from Conquering Venus, Saturday, Sept. 5, at 1:45 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Conference Center as part of the Decatur Book Festival. www.decaturbookfestival.com.
Local Authors at Decatur Book Festival
Here are four more local authors with debut books not to miss at the Decatur Book Festival Sept. 4-6.
The Confederate General Rides North by Amanda C. Gable ($26, Scribner) Debut novel by Decatur resident follows a precocious Civil War buff and her mother on a road trip searching for antiques in the racially charged ’60s. DBF Appearance: Saturday, 10 a.m. at City Hall Stage.
Demons in the Crawlspace by Gino Brogdon ($27.95, Total Recall Publications) Former Fulton County trial judge and frequent guest on Nancy Grace’s show, Brogdon’s debut thriller is about a former homocide cop who must go back on the beat when his child is murdered. DBF Appearance: Saturday, 1:15 p.m. at Eddie’s Attic.
This Pagan Heaven: Poems by Robin Kemp ($8, Pecan Grove Press) New Orleans native and Georgia State professor Robin Kemp’s debut collection of poetry features haunting and lyrical work about her hometown pre- and post-Katrina. DBF Appearance: Saturday, 11:15 a.m. at Java Monkey Coffee House.
Gorizia Notebook: Poems by Robert Wood ($12, Finishing Line Press) Georgia Tech professor’s debut chapbook of poetry features new and previously published work from Prairie Schooner, Blue Fifth Review, Quercus and more. DBF Appearance: Sunday, 2:15 p.m. at Java Monkey Coffee House.