Introducing: FB Kelly

F.B. Kelly is the pen name under which this married couple and writing team work their magic.  The pair live in Seattle, Washington.  With each partner published individually before they joined forces, they found even more pleasure in working together on crafting stories of magic, whimsy and romance.

We spoke with this pair about how they write together and why:

How long have you both been writing?

Ben:  I think I seriously started dabbling with writing stories since high school.  I was a highly imaginative child and I always told myself stories but it was in high school that I started writing them down.

Fiona:  I think I was telling stories at a very young age, usually walking around and enacting them in the back yard.  I was writing a full-fledged ‘novel’ about a space station at the age of nine.  I’m sure it was at least ten pages long.


When did you decide to co-write?

Fiona:  We’ve been co-writers for nine years now.  It just sort of happened on a whim one day.

Ben:  It started by accident really.

Fiona:  But we realized it was really funny and entertaining so we kept doing it.  And then we got married which was pretty serious and then we ended up wondering what to do about our first anniversary present.

Ben:  She told me it was paper for year one.

Fiona:  So I asked him, ‘You know we have all these stories that we’ve told over the years.  Why don’t we pick the one that seems the most like us and actually put it into print?’

Ben: Having studied design and book layout, I thought ‘Why not?’ It’s something we could do ourselves and I’d discovered in art school, so I knew where to go.  In some ways it was going back to the old in-house printing process of the early nineteen hundreds.  Many authors got printed because they had direct access to a printer.

Fiona:  I think Virginia Woolf and her husband were printers and collaborated like that, actually.

Ben:  So with the publication of our first novel, we got official.  But it still remains a privately published novel because it was our first anniversary present to each other.


What is the title of the novel and what else have you written?

Ben:  Steel Butterfly.  It’s a love story during war when East meets West.

Fiona:  We’ve written a three-volume novel of personal development, too.  That’s called The Rose of Vales.  The first volume is already out, and the second and third volume will come out each year afterward.


How do you work together to make these?

Fiona: People ask me that a lot, and usually with the addition of ‘without fighting or getting a divorce’ thrown in there.  From conception to print run, we each have our own roles which came about naturally.  I’ve always thought that you don’t have to be J.K. Rowling to want to tell your family a story.  The human urge to craft a tale for someone else is ubiquitous.

I think a lot of people feel that if they write a story, say for their child, that if they are not published and highly successful like J.K. Rowling or someone that there’s no point in doing it.  But the whole point was to tell your child a story in the first place.  The magic is in making that story happen even if it’s only with words at a child’s bed time.  So we sit down together to write the story line by line in a shared file.  We do this for maybe an hour or two a day when we have time.  It’s our version of television.

Ben:  As we continued to work we realized that our own unique strengths started to compliment the other person.  I’m a world-builder and I will get lost in see also sections for hours in the attempt to build a playground for our characters.  And Fiona really loves the character moments and takes my playgrounds and brings character to life.

Fiona:  And I love to edit and play with copy-editing and proof-reading.  I spend a lot of time going over the text of our finished work.

Ben:  And I use my graphic design experience to make the whole shell of the novel from cover, to page numbers, and small graphics.


Have you ever hit a point where you disagreed?

Ben:  The way we tell a story is a lot like how an artist establishes a line.  The artist will go over a line three or four times, gently changing the arc or trajectory of it with each pass, several times.  And that is how our work develops.

Fiona:  We aren’t outliners so there’s not a lot of argument on where to go.  And we have re-written a scene sometimes three times before the sudden direction clicks into place.  There have been times in co-creating where that happens and after a third pass we look up at each other across the table and go ‘Yeah, that’s it!’  It helps that we work on several projects at once.  So the pressure is low.  No market is waiting for them; no story feels like it’s our crown jewel.  They’re just fun.

Ben:  I think that’s the big trick to it.  Arguments can arise from a feeling of pressure, but if there’s no pressure behind telling the story, then you can just concentrate on what the story needs and it becomes a work of love.

Fiona:  Sometimes we put things aside for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes.  I guess it’s like an artist who wants to walk away from a sketch or painting for a while.  The characters are very obliging and will always wait for us.  We also communicate a lot.

Ben:  We kind of lucked out.

Fiona:  Yeah.  I think we were supposed to do this together and that’s part of why it works.


Where do you see yourselves in ten years?

Fiona:  I think we might need a bigger bookshelf!

Ben:  Other than that, probably not much else will change.  The desire to tell stories together hasn’t waned in nine years.

Fiona:  Life is busy sometimes, and we’re often doing a lot of other things.  Knitting, art, music, and school work, or jobs.  But at the end of the day …

Ben:  We do love to tell stories.