Award-winning author Carla Kelly was a speaker at the Oneida County Library on Wednesday, October 19. Carla described how she became a writer, starting with her mild stutter as a child. Because she knew she didn’t speak like her classmates, she listened to how they said things and focused on the differences in voice inflection and vocabulary. Later in high school, her journalism teacher, whom Carla was terribly intimidated by, told her that she could become a writer when she made a perfect article. Throughout her life, Carla has been a people watcher as she has lived in many places across the United States, now including Idaho Falls.
Carla’s college degree is in history, which has influenced her writing over 40 books and more short stories than she can count. Although she’s probably best known for her romance novels, Carla’s first love is historical fiction. Carla said that to write historical fiction, the author must make the fictional characters “collide” with historical people and events so that the fictional people seem as real as the historical people and places. Using her own books as examples, Carla recounted the creation of Sergeant Major Ramsey Stiles and had him meet President Theodore Roosevelt at the dedication of the entrance arch on the north side of Yellowstone National Park in 1903. Courting Carrie in Wonderland tells the story of the military overseeing Yellowstone through the eyes of Sergeant Major Stiles and other fictional characters who interact with the Wylie Camping Company, a real business that provided an experience of outdoor camping to early visitors to Yellowstone.
She also used her two historical fiction novels about the mine explosion disaster at Scofield, Utah on May 1, 1900, which killed over 200 Welsh and Finnish miners to further explain how she used the real Jesse Knight to create her fictional characters. Della Anders and Welsh miner Owen Davis look real.
Carla’s latest work is two shorter stories combined into one World War II book. Until We Meet Again is based on real-life stories that Carla solicited via Facebook from people who told her how their parents met during World War II. Carla was able to take some of these stories and turn them into fictional accounts of the war and its impact on lives.
Refreshments were served while Carla signed copies of her books for attendees. Carla has won two Rita Awards from Romance Writers of America, two Spur Awards from Western Writers of America, three Whitney Awards and a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times. His books are available through Deseret Book, Seagull Books and online.