Guest(s): Vanessa Kelly (aka V.K. Sykes)

It’s my pleasure to welcome Vanessa Kelly, also writing as V.K. Sykes) to Magical Musings today.  Vanessa writes Regency-set historicals for Kensington that are witty and sexy (and have some awesome cover art!).  V.K. is a pseudonym used by Vanessa and her husband Randy Sykes co-writing contemporary romances and romantic suspense (also with some dandy cover images!).  I asked Vanessa (or maybe it was V.K.) to share how she manages to keep the various plates spinning when she’s writing to fulfill contract deadlines and now self-publishing some new material and doing it all under the guise of two names.  Her answer taught me a thing or two about maintaining a happy marriage. 



By Vanessa Kelly

(also known as the other half of V.K Sykes)

Some days this writing gig can make me feel like Sisyphus, pushing that big old boulder up the hill only to see it slip from my grasp and roll back to the bottom.  I suspect many writers feel that way, especially those who write in multiple time periods, multiple genres, and with more than one pen name.  I look at authors like Christina Dodd, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Nora Roberts and I wonder how the heck they do it?  Well, in their cases I know – they’re all frigging superwomen!

I, sadly, am not a superwoman, although I do have a few pairs of stretched out tights in my socks drawer.  But I also write in multiple genres and with more than one pen name.  I write Regency-set historical romances for Kensington Zebra under my own name, and I also write contemporary romance and romantic suspense under the pen name of V.K. Sykes.  I have traditionally published books, digitally published books, and I’ve just recently branched out into indie publishing.

Not being superwoman, how do I manage to pull this off?

I have a secret weapon and his name is Randy.  He’s my husband, my critique partner (for my historicals) and my writing partner (for the contemporaries and romantic suspense).  He’s 80% of VK Sykes, he’s a top-notch researcher, he’s 100% the dude who manages our finances—keeping track of when money is coming in and going out (mostly out)—and constantly reminds me that the writing is supposed to improve the quality of our lives.  I can’t emphasize enough how important that last bit it.  At our, ahem, age, we’re not interested in diminishing the quality of our lives by subjecting ourselves to punishing schedules, or jeopardizing our security by blowing the bank on advertising or promotional crap that is most likely a waste of time.

For us, it’s about the writing—crafting books we love and which we hope our readers will love, too.  So how do we accomplish that without killing each other?

Two words:  we’re organized.  We talk about what we’re going to do and when, how long it’s going to take, and then we schedule accordingly.  We never work on the same book at the same time.  If he’s writing the first draft of a VK book, I’m working on a historical romance.  When those drafts are completed we switch out—he edits my manuscript while I revise his.  This is really important for me.  If I had to write two manuscripts at once—especially in different genres—my head would explode or I’d have a nervous breakdown.  Randy can probably compartmentalize better than I can, but he claims this strategy works for him too.  Establishing these boundaries helps, because each particular book belongs to only one of us as we’re working on it.  If we tried to work on the same manuscript at the same time, I fear very bad things would happen.  This way we have a bit of distance from each other’s heads and a whole lot more sanity.

Sanity’s important, especially for writing partners—especially for married writing partners.  If either one of us gets too freaky about our work or we’re fighting over the book, then chances are we’re going to start fighting about something else.  When that happens we step back, take a deep breath, and try to do something that adds to the quality of our life rather than detracting from it.  That, in turn, leads to happier writers and books we love to write.

And that, we hope, leads to happy readers.

Thanks, Vanessa!  She’ll be here on and off today to answer any questions you might have.  But we’d also love to hear from our readers–have any of you ever worked closely with a spouse or other family member?  How do you separate the “work life” from the “home life?”

Vanessa’s latest Regency-set historical romance is My Favorite Countess, which received a starred review from Booklist.  VK’s latest contemporary romance, Hardball, is now available on Amazon, at Smashwords, and at Barnes & Noble.   You can visit Vanessa on the web at and find VK at



About Amy Atwell

Amy Atwell is a storyteller at heart. After fifteen years in professional theater, she turned from the stage to the page to write contemporary capers and historical tales that combine romance and adventure. Her books are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. When not writing, she runs the online author communities WritingGIAM and Author E.M.S.
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26 Responses to Guest(s): Vanessa Kelly (aka V.K. Sykes)

  1. Vanessa/V.K.: You are wonderwoman! It takes a great deal of balance and superhuman powers to balance two writing careers but to also blend that into a marriage that is also a business partnership.

    How did you and Randy decide to write together and divide up the work?

    Robin Covington`s last blog was …Burning Up The Screen: Love and Other Drugs

    • Hi Robin! I actually pushed Randy in the direction of the writing – purely as a self-defense mechanism! He was taking early retirement and I knew he’d drive me crazy if he didn’t have something to do. I’d just been to my first romance writers conference, where I met the husband and wife writing team of Tori Carrington. That seemed like a fun model to me so I suggested it to Randy. Lo and behold, he loved the idea! He used to write fiction in high school and college (which he had never told me), so he got right to it. Since I was already involved in writing my Regencies, we decided that it made sense for him to “own” most of the VK Sykes books. It’s worked out really well and also saved my sanity. I sometimes wonder how published authors can produce three to four books a year and not completely trash their health.

  2. Morning Amy and Vanessa! So interesting to hear how you and Randy work together and make it work. I’m loving the results on both sides! I don’t work closely with any of my family on writing, or for work, and not sure I’d want to. :)

  3. Edie Ramer says:

    Vanessa, thanks for blogging with us today. Great covers, and good for you for working so well with your husband!

    If being organized is the secret, I am so doomed. I start off with good intentions, and then… It’s like eating an ice cream cone outside on a 90-degree day, and the ice cream melts faster than I can lick. I guess I’ll just have to learn to eat my ice cream indoors, and try to find a system that works.

    • Edie, my other secret is that Randy is WAY better organized that I am, and WAY more disciplined. I’ll be reading the paper, or surfing the internet or fooling around on YouTube, and Randy will be writing away or doing research. It can be very annoying to be married to someone that productive! Fortunately, I do reap the benefits of his productivity.

  4. Amy Atwell says:

    Thanks for joining us today Vanessa. I’ve been fortunate to have a good working relationship with my husband. But sometimes we find it difficult to “turn off” work and just enjoy being at home together. Do you find you have to set parameters on when (or when NOT) to discuss work?

    • Amy, we never have to set parameters when we’re just talking about the writing itself, because that seems like fun. But the business related elements? Yes. Sometimes I just stick my fingers in my ears and say: “I don’t want to talk about it!” He usually heaves a sigh and gets back to whatever he’s doing. My overload threshold is definitely more sensitive than Randy’s is.

  5. Sandy says:

    Once upon a point of time, my mentor tried to get my hubby interested in writing by having him write a short story. He wrote it, and he never heard back from her, so I suspect the spelling and grammar was really bad. lol

    We tried some other ways to get him involved with my writing, but it just didn’t hold his attention. He has an overactive adrenal gland, so he can’t sit still for long. lol

    You’re a lucky lady, Vanessa. Both you and Amy are very fortunate.

  6. Welcome to MM, Vanessa. My husband’s idea of torture would be to write a piece of fiction, so that is not an option for me, LOL. So glad you’ve found something that works so well, and produces more work. What a great situation!
    Michelle Diener`s last blog was …IN A TREACHEROUS COURT is released!

  7. Hi, Vanessa –

    I’m in awe of your working relationship with your husband. I find the logistics of our personal life alone is enough work partnership for my husband and me :).

    Can you share some of the ways you back off and decompress when works gets a little intense between the two of you?

    Thanks so much!
    Kelsey Browning`s last blog was …Test Post

    • Kelsey, the first thing we do is stop talking about it. It’s a bit like mentally going our separate ways for a while. And we never talk about it at dinner or after dinner, so the evening is reserved for reading or watching TV or movies. This actually wasn’t a conscious decision on our part – I think we just reach that time of day and we’ve had enough.

  8. Cynthia Eden says:

    Sounds like you have a fantastic secret weapon–and I also happen to think you’re a super woman, too. :) Congrats on all your success!
    Cynthia Eden`s last blog was …Entangled

  9. Jill James says:

    My husband isn’t a writer but we do lots of home improvement projects together. I read the instructions, figure out the diagrams, and he puts the stuff together. Sometimes I do get to pound a nail or two. LOL It seems to work really well for us. His mother is always surprised when we do stuff that we aren’t arguing. You have to have a system and stick to it.
    Jill James`s last blog was …Gemma Halliday – Blog The Writer

  10. Jane says:

    Hi Vanessa,
    I loved “Caddy Girls” and can’t wait to read “Hardball.” I haven’t work with any family members and I can imagine how hard it can be sometimes to do business with someone you’re close to.

  11. blodeuedd says:

    That is a negative, though I did try writing a story with a friend. And it worked but we just gave up. We need structure and that we did not have ;)
    blodeuedd`s last blog was …Novella Reviews: Friendly Fire – Megan Hart + JA variation

  12. Misty Evans says:

    Welcome, Vanessa, and thanks for sharing your story with us. I can certainly relate to filling like Sisyphus with that bolder. How do you know when you and hubby are getting too wound in work and not stopping to connect with each other. I have a hard time some days shifting between the stories I’m writing and real life.

    • Misty, we are pretty much attached at the hip, which has its advantages and disadvantages! But we live in a smallish condo most of the year, so there’s not really any way we can not notice each other’s moods. It’s apparent fairly quickly when one of us is feeling out of sorts. In my case, I’m pretty good at verbalizing when I’m not happy about something! But really, we’re very tuned into each other to an almost freakish degree. I can usually tell by looking at Randy that something is wrong, and vice versa.

  13. Wow! Those covers are beautiful! It’s so great that you have your husband to work with. I’m so excited for both of you!

  14. Isis Rushdan says:

    Hi Vanessa, I’m late, but I made it ;-) .

    Thanks for letting us into your life and showing us the special relationship you have with your husband. I love the way you’ve made it work successfully. My husband reads all of my work and is my first front of feedback. Although he’s not a writer, he’s pretty tough. It’s hard to hear him say, “This is good, but it could be better. Dig deeper. I expect more.” Fortunately, he has that “compartmentalization” gene that all men seem to be born with, so nothing professional ever gets in the way.

    Wishing you great success!

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