Lifestyle & Culture

Meet the author (and Yak alum) whose latest release is inspired by the UON Love Letters

Ever wondered if anything becomes of those UON Love Letter entries? Keighley Bradford has. In fact they form the inspiration behind her new contemporary romance novel, ‘Love Anonymous’. Sophie Jaggers interviews Keighley on her latest novel, the contemporary romance genre and her self-publishing journey.

Keighley Bradford, a self-published contemporary romance author and 2020 President of Yak Media, is about to release her second novel, Love Anonymous. However, her entry into the contemporary romance scene was not as foreseeable as you might expect. 

Keighley won several awards for her short stories throughout high school, before her introduction to contemporary romance during her first semester at the University of Newcastle (UON).

Keighley challenged herself to participate in National Novel Writing Month in which she wrote 50,000 words of a novel during the 30 days of November. Having started reading contemporary romance, Keighley decided to experiment with the genre.

Contemporary romance defines novels which are set in the same era they were written; incorporating modern settings, zeitgeist-y plots, and of course, romantic relationships.

“I thought, ‘let’s give it a go, what’s the harm? It’s one month of writing one novel, that’s different to what I’ve been doing.’ So that’s how it started…I just kept falling in love with it.”

The ‘harm’ is that this would be the catalyst that unlocked Keighley’s passion for writing contemporary romance.

So what happened to those fateful 50,000 words? Well, they form her latest novel, to be released (aptly) this Valentines Day.

Love Anonymous is based on a quintessential university experience – anonymous online love letters. Joining the ‘UON Love Letters’ Facebook page as a student, Keighley was intrigued by the phenomenon, seeing it as an ideal setting for a captivating contemporary romance novel.

“With the UON love letters, I was thinking, ‘who wrote this? What inspired, who inspired someone to make this?’ Because it’s obviously such an important part of our culture here (at UON).”

Keighley was curious as to whether any of these digital love letters were successful, and what it might look like if they were, a concept that forms the basis of the novel.

Keighley is a perfectionist who isn’t afraid to break the rules. Her debut novel, Once We Were, launched in December 2020 and shamelessly challenges the conventions of traditional publishing and the romance genre.

“There’s still a lot of stigma around self-publishing,” Keighley says, undeterred.

Her readers aren’t picky about the method of publishing, as long as the writing is of quality.

“In romance writing, no one cares…they just want to read the book, which we love.”

It is this same desire to rewrite the narrative which compelled Keighley to morph from enthusiastic reader to avid writer.

“I was trying to predict what would happen next and I never got it right. So I was like, ‘what if I write a book?’ And that way I know what happens, but no one else does.”

Keighley Bradford pictured alongside her writing essentials, and holding her debut novel, Once We Were.

Keighley Bradford pictured alongside her writing essentials, and holding her debut novel, Once We Were.

Keighley’s writing is characterised by determined perfectionism. She began writing her first novel at age 13. As a Young Adult paranormal book, it is a world away from her current works.

She laughs as she confesses, “I scrapped the entire thing and rewrote it.”

As Keighley describes her ideal writing environment, she reveals, not even strangers are allowed to see an unfinished transcript.

“I don’t like the feeling of someone watching me over my shoulder as I write. Cause I’m like, ‘no, no, it’s not perfect. No one can see it yet!”

Keighley’s commitment to her craft is palpable as she explains the self-publishing process, a procedure she studied for five years (including a Master of Creative Industries, specialising in Writing, Publishing, and Marketing) before she had the confidence to execute it.

“I definitely recommend taking your time to research, make sure it’s the right avenue. Because you don’t have a backing of a publisher. It’s only you, you’re the only one marketing yourself.”

“I’m very lucky that I can self-publish and my readers won’t mind.”

Keighley has barely drawn breath since launching her contemporary romance career, and with her next novel about to hit shelves, she shows no sign of slowing down.

Meet the author and get your copy at the Newcastle Book Launch of ‘Love Anonymous’ on Friday 17th February, 6:30pm at Betty’s Books. RSVP here.

Feature image by Sophie Jaggers

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