Author Interview with Kris Ripper00:00
ER: Hi, Kris and welcome!
I want to start this interview with some questions on your writing process and then dive in more detail about your latest series of queer romance.
So, let’s kick this off with the question how you became a romance writer. Was this your childhood dream? Are you a full-time writer or do you have another job as well?
KR: It was absolutely my childhood dream to be a writer, but I’m not a genre purist. I’m the kid who just wants all the fiction to be in one section at the bookstore because I never walk in thinking, “I’m so in the mood for a historical fantasy romance saga right now!”
I always wrote romantic themes in my fiction because, y’know, I write about people, and romance is sort of a thing when you write about people, but I didn’t start writing organized romance novels until five years ago or so. I always felt like Romance, the genre, didn’t have room for people like the characters I write: queer, kinky, poly, ace, not-traditionally-attractive, not-traditionally-charming. So these days I sort of…carve that room out of the genre, and hang out with other people—readers and writers—who are doing the same thing.
This is my only job, which is about the greatest thing on earth.
ER: Can you say what is the best and the worst thing about being a writer?
KR: It’s the same answer for both: there will never be enough time to write all the stories in my head. Which is rough, because I’ll die having not finished my work, but on the other hand…it’s a bit like having a personal fountain of youth, and knowing I can drink from it for the rest of my life.
Mind you, I’m superstitious as hell. Now that I’ve written that I’ll probably experience a ten year dry spell!
ER: I’m no writer myself but I’m curious how the writing happens with you? Do you have a specific strategy, a plan you follow or it’s more of a spontaneous thing?
KR: Oh, it’s different for every book. Since I started publishing I have more of a rhythm to it, constantly having a few books that are being plotted in my head, a few that are being obsessively researched, a few that are in stages of writing and revision. But every now and then (for me it’s about once a year on average), some story gets all tangled up in my head and I can’t not-write it. Usually that story becomes the “dessert” I get to write after, you know, writing the stuff that pays the bills. Because who needs to sleep, right?
ER: Which part of the writing process is the easiest and the most difficult for you?
KR: Depends on the book. For Gays of Our Lives, the initial jump into the book was the most difficult because I was worried about getting MS wrong. For the last book in the series, As La Vista Turns, revisions were tough because I wanted to end the series perfectly. Which, you know, doesn’t exist. SAD FACE.
Every now and then a book is bliss from the first word I set down on the page to the final copyedit. One Life to Lose, which is out in December, was one of those. I fell so hard for that book that I didn’t want to finish writing it.
ER: Taking lead from what you said about Emerson and his MS, I have to say I really like dthe way you presented his relationship with his illness. On that note, what kind of research did you do on MS? Did you use a sensitivity reader for it (they seem very popular atm)?
KR: Oh, metric tons of research and YouTube videos. I was less interested in the exact progression of the disease (which is all over the map, so it was actually more important to make the point that MS looks different in everyone), and more about how actual individuals dealt with their diagnoses and their daily lives.
No sensitivity readers. I’m really intrigued by the entire sensitivity reader movement. I think writers should always have a variety of readers read over their books—and that those readers should be from diverse backgrounds—but I do feel like there’s a vein of “Help white people get people of color right!” to the current sensitivity reader push that makes me really uncomfortable. (It’s not, of course, only about race. We’re also helping straight writers get queers right, and cis writers get trans folks right, and ablebodied writers get disabled people right. And everyone else.)
Ultimately, while I believe that there should always be a focus by writers and publishers to publish books that represent a depth and breadth of human experiences, I’m deeply suspicious of the way energy gets funneled into helping people with privilege write better books, instead of, you know, nurturing and promoting and honoring #ownvoices stories. Do straight, white, cis authors need to write diverse characters? Hell yes. And not as tokenism, not just to have “diversity” in their books, but real damn characters. HOWEVER. Way more important than that is to elevate the books written by people who have actually had the experiences they’re writing about.
Sorry. You asked a very simple question and I was all like Oh, thank you for providing this soap box for my use! *bashfully steps down*
ER: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
KR: I think the “plotter or pantser” dichotomy is misguided. Nearly everyone is doing a little of each. When I was a younger writer I didn’t outline anything because it killed my interest in the book. But then I had these massive books I had to don a scuba suit to get into, swimming about in the dark searching for what on earth I’d been trying to say.
Which was fine, when I was an apprentice to the form. But when I got serious, I knew I needed a better plan, so I revisited the loathed outline. And then I realized that, dammit, I’m not a kid in school anymore, and I can outline however I want! Mind maps, lists, snippets of dialogue, big blocks of free write. (I really am Cartman: “Whatever! I’ll do what I want!”)
The trick for me is to outline in such a way that I leave space for all the mad pantsing that totally turns me on. (Mur Lafferty calls it being a “discovery writer,” which I like better.) So I do both. Some books have massive written outlines. Some have a few notes in a Gmail draft. But I don’t start writing a book until I can hold the whole thing in my head at once. Just broad strokes, not necessarily details. That’s how I know I’m ready.
ER: And final question on your writing process before we move on to talk in more details about your books. What is your favourite subgenre to write in?
KR: Oh no, I have no idea. I’m terrible with genre. I, uh, literally have no idea how to answer that question…
ER: And just to sneak in a quick follow-up question – what is the most outrageous/crazy story you want to write (Please, ignore the practical aspects of who would publish and who would want to read it)?
KR: Okay. Okay. All right. So just…I’m just gonna say this. But I really want to write, um, a queer action adventure serial. With lots of action, lots of cliffhangers, and lots of sex. *ducks*
ER: Yay! That sounds fascinating and I hope you get to chance to write it.
ER: Now, it’s time to focus more on your upcoming series. I recently finished the first book, Gays of Our Lives, and it was my first book of yours and I absolutely loved it. What I’m curious to know is how did you come up with the idea of this series?
KR: Sometime last year I stumbled upon a podcast episode by EE Ottoman called “Six Things,” (https://acosmistmachine.com/2015/04/15/six-things/) about the six things they would like to see more of in romance. One of those was a sense of queer community, and I was like, “HELL YES.” But it just sort of lived in the back of my head for a few months while I did other things. When I sat down to plot out the book that became Gays of Our Lives, already having a feel for Emerson, I realized that his sense of isolation would be really fun to play with against a backdrop of community.
Then, because I have no self-control, I was like, “THIS SHOULD BE A SERIES.” I basically make everything into a series. I love reading series fiction, and I’m addicted to writing it. So Queers of La Vista comes out of a place of sincerely grappling with my community, and loving it, and being infuriated with it, and feeling isolated within it.
ER: Can you share what is coming up next in the series and when can we expect it?
KR: Heck yeah! I’m so excited for these releases. The Butch and the Beautiful (August 22) is about high school teacher Jaq falling for gorgeous, magnetic Hannah, and reconciling the desire for a relationship with the messy truths of what it means to be in one. The Queer and the Restless (October 31) features Ed, who’s still early on in his transition, wrestling with how he’s seen by others and how he sees himself. Until he falls for flighty Alisha, who’s unconstrained by all the things he feels holding him back. One Life to Lose (December 12) is the story of how an odd young man named Cameron falls in love with a couple he knows, and learns to trust his feelings (and theirs). As La Vista Turns (February 27) brings together Zane and Mildred in a somewhat unconventional romance that includes pregnancy tests and a lot of to-do lists.
ER: This is a bit of unfair question but who is your favourite character/book you have written? I admit that I haven’t read The Scientific Method series, so I can’t say objectively say which of all your characters is my favourite but I quite liked Emerson.
KR: Oh for goodness’ sake! Do you have any idea how many books I’ve written? How many characters? I can’t possibly choose!
I think this is all about mood. When I’m feeling dark and moody, I gravitate toward characters who draw that out of me (Hugh Reynolds or Lucy Martinez from the Scientific Method Universe; Mac from the Erotic Gym stories). When I’m feeling snarky, I go in for Emerson, or Frazier from the New Halliday series. If I’m in a lighthearted mood it’s all about Will Derrie (SMU) or Dillon Aldham (New Halliday). And for soulful yearning, I write Cameron, from One Life to Lose.
I’m so not choosing books. I’ve reread Surrender the Past more than any other book I’ve ever written. I’m pretty sure One Life to Lose will challenge the title.
ER: Which book of all you have written so far was the easiest to write and which the most difficult?
KR: Ha. Um. Well. There’s a sort of mental slip that happens once I’m done with a book that makes this a hard question to answer. The book I’m currently writing is almost always the easiest and hardest book I’ve ever written; it’s the hardest because there’s always a voice in the back of my head telling me this might be the one I just fail to finish, but it’s the easiest because it’s the one I’m currently getting my fix from, so I forgive it for being a beast.
Catalysts saw more entire redraftings than most of my books, but I loved that story so much I don’t remember how difficult it was viscerally. I just know that I must have struggled because that business took years. The hardest must necessarily be the small handful of stories I still believe in, but have never been able to satisfactorily revise.
ER: I know you are very good and often write stories on prompts people provide. How did this happen?
KR: Wish fulfillment! I wish I could ask my favorite authors to scribble a scene I want to read, so I love being able to do that for my readers! Having said that, I’m about fifteen prompts behind right now…
ER: I’m a big fan of cross over series and your Queers of La Vista features characters with different sexualities/identities. I was wondering do you have plans to write a het couple, in the series, or separately?
KR: I’ve written het folks! Close to Home’s primary relationship is a straight couple who fall for their non-committed lady friend. One of the main romantic relationships in the Scientific Method Universe is between Will and Molly, though neither of them would identify as het. And I’ve got a delightful het kinky romantic comedy up to be written in early fall that should be a blast!
ER: And my final question is what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
KR: Er, okay, first let me…pick apart your totally straightforward question, like a jerk.
First: I never give advice. And I always preface my non-advice by saying “I never give advice.”
Are we talking about writing or publishing? If you’re a writer, write. And then poof: you’re a writer. I wrote novels for nineteen years before I published a single word. A lot of novels. I was never an “aspiring” writer, because I always, always wrote. And don’t forget about revising. I know some folks are anti-revising. I was too young to know that when I first started, so I’ve always loved it. Revise, revise, revise until that book does what you meant for it to do.
But. If we’re talking about being an author, as in a writer who publishes and makes money at the game of writing, that’s a whole other show. You want to be smart? Read business books. Learn about the market. Learn everything about the market. If you want to self publish, learn about being an entrepreneur, get your paperwork in order, do your profit and loss statements. If you want to publish traditionally, find out which publishers have good reputations, which ones don’t pay their writers and artists. Want an agent? Ask around, find out who understands the kinds of characters you write. Big into short stories? Find out who’s always putting out submission calls and submit to them.
Find other writers who share your goals. This has been life altering for me. I think it comes easily to a lot of people, but I never had fiction writer friends until the last two years, and damn, I don’t know how I lived without people I could randomly message in the middle of the day to whine about editing or happy dance about having hit my word count goal and kicked ass doing it. Find people who inspire the hell out of you. Preferably, whose writing bowls you over and pushes you to greater heights in your own.
And, along with all that, be real with yourself about your values. If you want to make a living doing this job, you might have to write books that skew closer to what the market wants than you would otherwise write. That’s not “selling out.” That’s “paying the bills.” There’s nearly always a way to make “what the market wants” satisfying to your writer-brain. Use your imagination! It’s, y’know, kind of your job. And sometimes limitations are the things that free you to seek out the dark corners where you can wring the truth out of yourself and into your work.
ER: Thank you very much, Kris for doing this interview!a Rafflecopter giveaway
Kris Ripper's latest release, Gays of Our Lives (book 1 in zir new series, Queers of La Vista) comes out on July 11. Here is the blurb, a short excerpt and a giveaway!
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Kris Ripper's latest release, Gays of Our Lives (book 1 in zir new series, Queers of La Vista) comes out on July 11. Here is the blurb, a short excerpt and a giveaway!
Emerson Robinette only leaves his apartment to get laid and go to work. Having MS—and trying to pretend he doesn’t—makes everything more complicated, especially his fantasies of coming on strong and holding a guy down. Finding a partner who’ll explore that with him isn’t Emerson’s idea of a realistic goal.
Until a chance meeting with a hipster on a bus makes him reconsider. Obie is happy, open-hearted, and warm; what’s more, he gets his kicks being physically dominated, spanked, and teased until he’s begging. It would be perfect, except for one thing: Emerson isn’t made for happiness, and he doesn’t see how a guy like Obie would settle for a cynic like him.
But as far as Obie’s concerned, the only thing keeping them apart is Emerson. Can Emerson handle a boyfriend who’s more invested in his future than he is? Emerson’s barely convinced he has a future. But when Obie’s smiling at him, anything seems possible.
Pre-order links: Amazon (paperback) / Riptide
On the bus to work Monday morning, I contemplated my uselessness, which is always a good look on me. I’ve never seen it in a mirror, but I’m pretty sure my expression resembles a dog’s after being scolded and it’s staring at you with its head on its paws, but its eyes follow you pathetically wherever you go.
My eyes didn’t have anyone to follow. Until they did.
Damn. Look at him.
He was a little too hipster for my taste: cloud-pale skin, long brown hair, unnecessary layers of clothing, even for March. Tight jeans tucked inside heavy black boots.
The boots looked like the only real thing about him. The rest—red shirt, red flannel over it, black vest over that, battered brown suit coat over that—could have been a cardboard cutout of anyone.
Fuck. I have an eyes thing. He had this strong brow, but the hazel eyes underneath it were bright.
I didn’t really expect to see new people on the bus in the morning. There were always some, but I commute every day. The folks in my neighborhood and the folks on my bus line are pretty familiar, and this guy wasn’t one of them. And I noticed him because he was tall, and his boots looked like he lived in them. I don’t know how sometimes you can tell the difference between “bought worn out” and “worn until worn out” by looking at someone, but I would have bet money that even if his jacket had looked threadbare when he pulled it out of whatever thrift store he favored, those boots had only known his feet.
When I finally wrenched my eyes away from his boots, he was looking right at me. Of course he was.
I flushed hot and turned to the window, tightening my hands on my messenger bag. Then five seconds later I looked back. Because I’m weak.
He smiled. The partial hipster with the motorcycle boots smiled at me. I liked his smile as much as I liked his eyes.
That should have been it. I was in the first row of seats by the window. He was on one of the perpendicular sets. The bus wasn’t that full, and I had no idea where he was getting off.
Three old ladies boarded, each with a purple hat, and my cute booted hipster offered them the long bench he was sitting on. They fussed appropriately, and I mourned the loss of our slightly flirtatious glances across the bus.
Until he slid into the seat next to mine.
Listen, maybe people pick each other up on city buses all the fucking time, but I can tell you I’ve never done it. I looked into his damn eyes and said . . . okay, nothing. For at least thirty seconds.
He smiled again and held his hand out toward me. “I’m Obie.”
Yeah, that’s genius. Say the guy’s name like it’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever heard, I’m sure he’ll find you irresistible.
“Short for Obadiah Magovney. Cool, right?”
“Yeah.” I belatedly tried to shake his hand, but instead of shaking, he held mine. “I’m Emerson. Robinette.”
“Until right this minute I was really annoyed my bike broke down. Meeting you might make it worth it.”
“How do you figure that?” I’m an idiot.
He tapped his fingertips against my knuckles. “I don’t know. I just . . . like the look of you. Emerson’s a great name. Like the writer, right?”
“Like my great-grandfather, actually, but also the writer.”
“I think my parents read my name in a book, or maybe heard it in a song.”
My stop was fast approaching. I’d have to get around him. Should be fine. No problems with my leg since Friday.
Still, I felt for my cane.
“You getting off soon?”
I shrugged. “At Horizon and Second.”
“Enough time for me to get your phone number. Unless I’m, uh, barking up the wrong tree?” He arched one dark eyebrow at me. Up close I confirmed my theory about the jacket: it was worn the way something gets when you wear it every day, at the cuffs and elbows, but not quite at the right spots for his body. This had been previously owned by a man with shorter arms, I decided, as if it mattered.
“Um, no,” I said. Wait, what was I saying? “I mean, not the wrong tree, not no about the phone number thing. Yes about the phone number thing.”
He pulled out a phone and looked at me expectantly.
Right. I reeled off my numbers, and he entered them, then went through the “text you my number” ritual.
Then I had his number. Obadiah. Obie. I secretly liked his name.
My stop. “I need to get off here.”
He moved out of the way while the bus was still rolling, but I wasn’t about to risk my balance until it stopped, even though he was giving me a strange look because I didn’t immediately get up.
When I shifted out into the aisle in front of him, I gripped the bar hard so there was no chance I’d fall in front of the handsome hipster.
He squeezed my biceps. “Good to meet you, Em. Can I call you ‘Em’?”
I should have said Sure, but what I actually said was, “I kind of hate that.”
He grinned. “I’ll never do it again, promise.”
Damn. I got myself down the stairs and tried not to swoon against the bus shelter. We’d been sitting on the far side of the bus where there was no way for him to see me, so I shook out my cane for the walk to work. I don’t have big walking problems, but a little extra support for the quarter mile was a good idea after the weekend.
I looked back at the bus—of course I looked back at the bus—ready to mentally move on from Obie, since the likelihood of him ever calling was low, and the only thing lower was the likelihood of me calling him.
And there he was. His face. Up against the back window. Watching me limp with my fucking cane. It wasn’t exactly an “O” of comic horror, but he definitely looked shocked.
I turned and hobbled my ass away, probably trying too hard to look halfway dignified while I did.