Hey y’all! We are Johnell Kelley and Robbyn Hill, co-authors of Getaway Girlz, our debut novel, written under pen name Joan Rylen. We grew up together in Pasa “Get Down” dena, Texas, famous for the John Travolta movie, Urban Cowboy and the mechanical bull at Gilley’s. We lived five short streets from each other, and were side-by-side in all the same stuff: Brownies, dance, band, house-wrapping, boy-chasing. We stayed in touch after attending different colleges, both eventually landing in Fort Worth, which we still call home.
All of this togetherness has culminated into a series based (loosely) on the annual girls’ trips we take with two other longtime friends. The first trip was intended to rally around Johnell during her double-whammy life-changing events: her four-kids-under-four divorce in conjunction with the big 3-0. The trip was so fun we’ve kept up the tradition and have had as many of 11 girlz on the trips, but always the ‘core four.’
The novels are roughly-based on our trips because thankfully, we’ve never had a murder or other mysterious situation happen while on vaca. Good grief, no one would travel with us if we did! But we do go on location for “research” and always write some of our experiences into the books. Bucket dancing on a beautiful Playa del Carmen beach, white water rafting through the Royal Gorge in Colorado, slamming giant syringe shots on Bourbon Street and entering a pumpkin-dropping contest the Adirondacks are just a few of the tidbits that find their way into our novels. We’re excited about our fall trip that will help us with the details of book five…Lone Star SOMETHING (we haven’t decided yet!). Check out our website and you’ll no doubt find pictures of us yee-hawing around a dude ranch in Bandera, Texas.
The initial idea for a book popped into Robbyn’s head and wouldn’t leave her alone. The first time we sat down to work, we worked our way through a 12-pack of Dos Equis and the idea for the series was born. We laughed and laughed, recounting our crazy adventures and were hooked, never looking back.
We knew we could do this, and do it right. Granted, there were a lot of things we didn’t know, like what a literary agent was (or that we might need one). We had no idea about writing conferences, critique groups, e-pub files, Publisher’s Marketplace and a whole slew of other things that writers need to know about, but we jumped in laptop first, nonetheless.
We’ve learned a lot during the past three and a half years which improved our writing and lead us to the ginormous decision to self-publish. After attending a conference in NYC and pitching to four editors with the Big Six (three out of four requested partials), we received an offer from an agent for representation of our first three books, but decided that wasn’t for us. We’re pretty strong-willed girlz and the thought of losing control over so much through a major publisher didn’t sit well. Because of the industry standard with newcomers, we’d have to market the heck out of ourselves anyway, so we went for it.
We launched our first book this past June and to date have sold close to 600. We’ve had numerous signings at Barnes and Noble and are working to get the word out!
We’re on a tight deadline for book two, Rocky Mountain Mayhem, being released in December. Then, it’s nose to the grindstone for book three, Big Easy X-capade, to be released in June 2013.
We write in restaurants and bars in downtown Fort Worth. We tried working in quieter spots, like at home, but Johnell falls asleep (mother of four!). We drink buckets of beer, margaritas, wine on occasion, and we’re productive (okay, up to a point), but it’s turned out to be great marketing for us. We get all set up with two laptops and “Old Bessie,” our external keyboard. People inquire as to what we’re working on or who our employer is since they let us work in bars. Often, after chatting and showing them what we’re working on they’ll buy a book. One of our favorite writing spots, Chuy’s, is framing a copy of the book and hanging it right by the front door. Woo hoo, love Chuy’s!
Our approach to writing and publishing may not work for everyone but it was the best decision for us. Y’all watch out, we may be
vacationing researching at a destination near you soon, and you never know what we’ll use for inspiration in the next book!
Johnell & Robbyn