Kathleen Brooks changed it up a little on her way to success as a novelist.
Self-published, the Centre College graduate and former lawyer made use of a thriving social media presence, networked with other authors and kept her in-house business support close to home — her husband, Chris Counts.
Fans of Brooks PG-13 fiction with a down-home Kentucky flavor can interact with her on Facebook and Twitter, where she makes observations and runs contests, book groups and other promotions. Her website features links to buy the books everywhere from Amazon to Barnes & Noble to all the e-reader programs as well as on Audible.
Having spent time around the small towns that ring Lexington — Paris, Nicholasville, Versailles and Danville — helps make for a spot-on depiction of Keeneston, Brooks' fictional Kentucky town where pretty good but not perfect people get involved in some messy business.
Or, as Brooks' website, describes the books: "Her books feature quirky small town characters you'll feel like you've known forever, romance, humor, and mystery all mixed into one perfect glass of sweet tea."
Her Facebook followers — she has 8,879 "likes" — are especially excitable about all the fictional news from the Bluegrass.
When Brooks announced on Facebook on Oct. 17 that she had made both The New York Times and USA Today best-seller lists, Julie Jenkins of Austin wrote, "That's awesome, congratulations!!!!! You will forevermore be introduced as 'New York Times Bestselling Author, Kathleeeeen Brooks,' how does that sound???!!!!!!"
In Brooks' novels, she also gives a nod to the small businesses that give those towns both personal service and local color. She also has the social patter down: A ticked-off local lovely confronts her faithless boyfriend by noting that now she knows the real reason he didn't apply to Vandy.
Outside of Rupp Arena and a Keeneland meet, there is no more quintessentially Central Kentucky kind of place than inside a Kathleen Brooks novel. There's also that elusive quality: true love.
The books themselves are like settling down with a warm mug and a soft blanket. In the Bluegrass Brothers series, the covers feature a male-and-female couple who would probably be right pretty if you saw their faces, embracing enthusiastically yet somewhat chastely. You never see the characters' faces on the covers, so you are left to imagine how the characters look.
Brooks' fans cannot get enough of them. They even do fantasy casting of movie actors for their favorite characters: Rachelle Lefevre of TV's Under The Dome as Annie, Megan Fox as Mo.
Brooks works in the creamy brown study by her home's front door, usually with one or more of her three Viszlas lounging nearby. An animal lover who is active in the charity Friends and Vets Helping Pets, Brooks and Counts also have a cat who, according to Brooks, thinks he's a dog.
The two are parents to a 4-year-old daughter, Lauren. Brooks began writing after she gave birth to Lauren; eventually she was able to make it her full-time job and hire her husband, who had previously worked at Locknet in Nicholasville.
"You finally find that job you are passionate about," Brook said. "I was able to make it work."Kathleen Brooks
Books by Kathleen Brooks: Bluegrass Series: Bluegrass State of Mind, Risky Shot, Dead Heat. Bluegrass Brothers Series: Bluegrass Undercover, Rising Storm, Secret Santa, A Bluegrass Series Novella, Acquiring Trouble, Relentless Pursuit, Secrets Collide.Book excerpt
From Risky Shot, in which the beautiful Dani comes to Kentucky to meet, and possibly also beat, her destiny, a description of a sweaty Kentucky summer's day:
"The heat was oppressive. She couldn't believe that air could feel heavy this early in the morning. She had grown up in the cool mountains of Northern Italy and then spent her teenage years in Milo, Maine. Neither place had prepared her for the humidity of Kentucky near the end of June.
"Even though Kentucky was hot, she did have to admit it was pretty. The field the cows were in had gently rolling hills outlined by black four-board fences and sprinkled with a wide range of big leafy trees, not the fir trees she was used to in Maine. The grass gave the impression that it was an ocean of blue-green color dancing in the wind while the cows lazily enjoyed it."