Interview with Lyz Kelley, Author of Guarded

02 Mar 2022

What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write Guarded: A small town mature romance?

I believe no one is ordinary, that we are all extraordinary and can be everyday heroes. That hope, empathy, resilience, and optimism (HERO) are at the core of all unlikely heroes. Jack and Tandy, my heroes in Guarded, are perfect partners because, together, they find a way to take that leap of faith and embrace their everyday hero superpower.

Jack is a former Army medic who suffers from survivor’s guilt. The way he deals with memories from the past is by volunteering as an EMT, helping homeless veterans, creating a sense of community in the bar he owns, and compartmentalizing his emotions. By staying busy, he doesn’t have time to think, but that also means he has trouble opening his heart.

Tandy is a helper, but sometimes, lending a helping hand can get a person in trouble, like it has in this book. Tandy gets fired from her job and is uncertain about her future. Returning home, she must face all the reasons she left. The main reason is Jack’s inability to love.

The theme that kept coming up for me is that sometimes being an everyday hero means a person needs to see themselves through a friend’s eyes before believing they are worthy of love.

If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of Guarded: A small town mature romance, what would they be?

Tandy: Holding out for a Hero: Bonnie Tyler. Jack: A Soldier’s Memoir: Mitch Rossell.

What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?

Because I write everyday hero stories, I love anything small town that has hope, heart, humanity, healing, and heroes at its core. And if there are unique, quirky, make you laugh-out-loud characters—that’s even better.

What books are on your TBR pile right now?

That Summer- a small town, friends to lovers romance by Jullian Dodd and Feel Like Love – a brother’s best friend small town romance by Jenna Hartley.

What scene in your book was your favorite to write?

This may sound weird, but my favorite scenes are always the hardest ones to write and that make me reach for a box of tissues.

In Guarded, my favorite scene is when Jack arrives at Mad Jack’s (his bar) to find a man sitting at a table by himself. Tandy assumes the stranger is a homeless veteran, based on his clothing and actions. She wants to help but doesn’t know how. Jack is able to connect with the man, and this reveals a caring side to Jack that Tandy rarely sees.

According to the experts I talked to, humans like to fix problems in a manner that suites their needs. I wanted to show how Jack provides a homeless veteran suffering from PTSD the help he needs in a manner that’s best for the wounded soldier. It’s a truly heartfelt moment when the soldier realizes he’s been heard and is respected by Jack.

Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)

I suppose you could say my quirky writing habits stem from my dyslexia. My brain doesn’t work like everyone else’s, so my writing process is different.

First, I transcribe the character conversation playing out in my head, and then I go back to set the scene and action. To write, I work in complete silence with tea sitting to my left and mint M&Ms by my right for when I get stuck and can’t figure out what happens next. And yep, one of my three cats will wander through from time to time to give me some love and a break from the story reel continuously rolling on.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

Be an everyday hero, every day.

If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?

Guarded has so many layers and complex themes, I don’t think I can predict what each person will take away from the book. For me, the takeaway is wounds are not always visible. Sometimes it takes communication, understanding, and kindness to reveal the source of hurt and find common ground. And even then, love and patience are required. Because, after all, love heals.


Lyz Kelley is the author of the new book Guarded: A small town mature romance

Connect with Lyz Kelley

Author Site



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