Join us as we discuss Becoming Kerry with author Lynn Kelling. This is Kelling’s 15th novel and were were interested in hearing mor about where Becoming Kerry fit the world she has built through her stories.
- Kerry isn’t your first character to include both kilts and shifting gender–Liam in Whatever the Cost has a bit of character arc, regarding his drag persona Leah, and what became of her. Are these characters part of a theme you’ve been developing in your work?
I always write what I feel a yearning to see in stories, and as a writer I’ve always been drawn to characters that skirt the gender boundaries. I feel they aren’t represented as often as they should, and that by giving them the spotlight it illuminates a whole range of struggles that everyone in our society grapples with, no matter what their gender identity. There are tons of expectations for people who are born female, and those born male, and a lot of them aren’t fair or kind. Men are judged if they don’t look and behave “manly” enough. Same goes for the women. When someone deliberately goes against those expectations in dramatic ways, it draws a lot of attention. Personally, I’ve always been magnetically drawn to people who listen to their own instincts in how they define themselves. There’s a lot of bravery in being defiant that way, and I think it can be incredibly sexy. Liam in Whatever the Cost was the first character I really allowed to break out of the typical male gender box in a big way. He has always had a special place in my heart because of his vulnerable side, and I definitely wanted to keep exploring that, pushing it much farther with Kerry. And yeah, it’s something I will keep developing, because there’s still a lot of story to be told there and I think it’s really exciting.
- During the editing process, there was a good deal of adjusting the time spent on developing supporting characters and figuring out how prominent they should be in the story. How do you go about balancing this sort of thing, so that the main pair do not seem like they’re alone in the world, and are not upstaged by their supporting cast?
It’s kind of hard to describe, but I see the balancing of characters and narrative threads a lot like painting. You have to use a range of colors to capture the complete vision of the piece and will get a feel if one is too pronounced in the overall composition. My secondary characters are one of my great weaknesses though, which is why I’ve spun some off into their own story when I’ve been unable to focus on them as much as I wanted to in the original book. Song of the Lonesome Cowboy came from Whatever the Cost. Loving the Master came from Bound by Lies. And right now I’m working on a spinoff of Bare with three of the secondary characters (Rune, Oliver, and Jackson). In Becoming Kerry, I kept wanting to show more of Jamie, because there was so much going on between him and Kerry that was really emotionally rich and interesting, but the balance was way off until I cut a lot of that out and shifted the timeline back a bit. And I was really happy at the urging to include more of Ewyn’s mother, Erin, which I did really late in the game. The overall composition finally worked once I trimmed and expanded here and there.
- One might assume that it took a lot of thought and research to get Kerry just right. How much work went into Kerry, compared to some of your other leading characters?
Strangely enough, I always knew exactly who Kerry was. It didn’t take much thought or research at all. The vision was really clear of Kerry on stage, stripping down and dancing for a crowd of women in a sweaty club where he/she was living so much in his/her own head and just trying to express a really repressed sexuality through that outlet, and the stark frustration that it wasn’t working. And at the same time, I always saw Kerry in a dress, stripped down in more important and much scarier ways, hesitating to take that step out through the doorway to be seen by someone else the way he/she always was inside. The lack of trust and the level of fear really drove and led the story along. Sometimes it is more of a process to unearth who a character is deep down, but Kerry came together so easily, I never doubted it.
- Ewyn could easily be perceived as stalkerish and controlling, and Kerry as overly dependent. Was this something that concerned you when writing their relationship, and how did you address any concerns you had?
Because I relate so strongly to Kerry’s character, and the stark lack of understanding and interest in his/her truth encountered in family and romantic relationships, I also really relate to the desire for someone like Ewyn, who has no lack of understanding and cares almost too much. It’s a really decadent kind of pairing, where on one hand you have Kerry needing so much and fearing he/she may never find it, and on the other you have Ewyn wanting to devote so much of his energy to caretaking and safeguarding, in order to make up for shortcomings in his past. And yes, there is a real possibility for that to become toxic or unhealthy. I did pull Ewyn back here and there during editing to keep him from going over the line, because it was up to him to keep things balanced. He’s physically and emotionally so much stronger than Kerry, there is more danger in Ewyn going too far than in Kerry doing the same. But at the same time, these are very real personality types and I really enjoyed finding a way to make it work so that both of them could have their fantasies brought to life.
- Kerry goes through some hard changes over the course of the novel. Were any of those sequences particularly challenging to you as a writer?
I think the biggest challenge posed was due to an injury Kerry suffers, and just practically figuring out how to keep the story unfolding in dramatic and sensual ways when the main character is physically limited in their mobility and can’t really leave the house or have their clothing seen by most of the guests stopping by. There was a lot of research involved in getting everything technically correct, and plenty of brainstorming on my part in figuring out the least awkward or painful ways Kerry and Ewyn could interact as lovers. It was actually a lot like choreographing another sort of dance for Kerry. I thoroughly enjoyed it and plan to keep portraying characters that are differently-abled wherever I can, going forward.
- You experienced a great personal loss in your life in the time period between first and final drafts of this book. Will you tell us how the themes of loss and grief in your life influenced those in Becoming Kerry?
When you lose someone very close to you, as I did in losing my brother in 2015 (especially when it’s untimely and unexpected, as it was then with him), it’s a very emotionally informative process. You become even closer to your loved one after losing them. You learn more than you’d ever want to about who in your life is capable of being there for you through the grieving process, and your loss is something that’s simply on your mind all the time. Most people around you will stop asking about your grieving process shortly after the funeral, but it doesn’t just stop–It goes on for a long time. Writing about Kerry and Ewyn’s experiences of loss was really cathartic to me, to the point where I actually had to go back and remove most of the emotion I’d originally poured into the book. I’m really grateful I was able to have this book to showcase the beauty to be found in death—the ways it shows us to never take anything for granted and how it magnifies the love that binds us all together.