LEWISTOWN - Kelley Bender has been writing all her life. She just never imagined it would go anywhere.
"I've been writing all my life but I never imagined I would actually be published. When I would write things my friends would read over it and they were all so impressed with it, and my friends encouraged me to pursue it a little further," she said.
Pursuing writing a little further led to Bender getting two of her works published, "Ryan Cruz-Jenny's Eyes" and its sequel, "Ryan Cruz-Ryan's Eyes." The Ryan Cruz series follows a love story between Ryan Cruz and Barbara Davis, who have been together since junior high school, and how they react when unforeseen circumstances tear them apart.
Photo submitted by KELLEY BENDER
Kelley Bender has published two novels, ‘Ryan Cruz-Jenny’s Dream’ and ‘Ryan Cruz-Ryan’s Eyes.’
Bender finds it slightly amusing that she chose to write a romance series.
"I never sat down and read a romance novel. I've read other books, not a romantic novel, and then I up and write one," she said.
Since she isn't an expert on romance novels, she turned to her mom and sister for help.
"When I wrote my first book- both my mom and my sister love to read-and I said, 'read this and tell me if this is how romance books are,'" she said.
Bender said the idea of the story started off with the name of the title character.
"I've always liked the name Ryan, and Cruz was suggested to me by a friend of mine and I liked it and went with it. I just kind of created all the characters and gave them their own personalities," she said.
"Ryan Cruz-Jenny's Dream" was the first book in the series, published on Sept. 3, 2013. The second novel, "Ryan Cruz- Ryan's Eyes" was published just a few months later, on Jan. 12. Bender said once she got the idea in her head she couldn't stop writing.
"The first one took me five months to write. The second one, three months later. Once I had (the idea) in my head, I couldn't shut it off. The story kept going. I was doing late nights because I couldn't sleep because I couldn't shut my head off," she said.
However, before she starts a book, Bender makes sure to create an outline of the major events she wants to occur.
"As I am writing a book, before I start it, I thought about all would I like to have happen. I like doing highlights of what I would like to have happen and as I type I just fill in the stuff in between," she said.
Bender also likes to keep a family tree of all the characters so she can remember how they are all related. Additionally, she has become attached to these characters, so sometimes writing the novels can become quite emotional for Bender.
"The other day I was writing a scene where two people were arguing. When I was done writing, my ears were beet red because I got that involved as I was typing. I've had parts that I've typed that I've cried while I was typing. I just become really attached. I feel like I'm there," she said.
In terms of taking the time to sit and write the books, she makes sure she gets a little bit done every day.
"I try to write something every day, even if it's just one paragraph. Making time to write some days is more challenging than others since I have other obligations. On days that I am not at one of my part time jobs, the time I spend writing is an average of 10 to 15 hours," she said.
Despite publishing two novels, Bender holds an office job, and the only post-secondary education she had remotely involving writing was an online course in medical transcription.
Bender was born in 1969, in Lewistown, and attended Juniata High School. Bender admits writing was nothing she shared with anyone during her school days.
"I liked to write back then, but I didn't publish anything. But I liked to write. I have short stories that I wrote when I was younger," she said.
Now Bender is devoted to writing her series and somehow trying to find the time to spend time with her husband, whom she married in 1997.
"He puts up with my writing because I spend a lot of time writing," she said.
However, writing isn't the only thing Bender enjoys.
"I spend a lot of time on the computer. I like to ride off-road motorcycles and play the drums. I play the guitar," she said.
For now, a lot of her time is spent writing more novels in the Ryan Cruz series. But sometimes Bender likes to think about other genres.
"I am just going to see where this series takes me. I've thought about it; even thought, you know, what other story lines I would like to do. It might be neat to write a mystery," she said.
"Ryan Cruz-Jenny's Dream" and "Ryan Cruz-Ryan's Eyes" are available for purchase in paperback format on Amazon. They can be found by searching for the title or by visiting Bender's author page at www.amazon.com/author/kelleybender.