We’d like to welcome Kris Ripper to From Top to Bottom Reviews! Ze kindly agreed to answer a few questions about writing and about zir newest release The Queer and the Restless. Read on to see zir answers to Laura’s questions!
First of all, thank you, Kris, for coming over and answering my questions! I’m going to ask you a few things about writing and then we’ll get a bit more specific. I hope you’re ready!
I’m so ready! Yay!
What’s your writing process like? Do you outline everything, or do you just let the characters tell their own story? I think the classic question is “are you a planner or a pantser”?
I’ve written so many books, and they all require different things from me. I used to hate outlines, but these days I prefer to spend time outlining that I used to spend in revisions. (I can write a book without an outline, but if I want it to turn out the way I intend, it will usually demand some serious revisions after the first draft.) But I don’t outline down to the chapter level; I have a fair idea of what’s going on and when (timelines bog me down more than anything else in revisions: Character B references something that happened “two weeks ago”, but DID IT?).
I’ve never had a book that stuck exactly to how I thought it would go. Some books are off course in the first day of writing, and I have a good enough feel for it by now to go with the flow. My outlines are sort of wire frames of what I think is going to happen, but I’m often wrong, and trying to force a book to do what I want it to do has absolutely never worked for me yet, so it’s always a mix.
Your backlist is pretty long. Is there something you’d like to write but never had the opportunity to?
ALL THE THINGS. I mean, I self publish as well as traditionally publish, so I have the opportunity to write whatever I like. But at the moment I do need to spare some thoughts for things folks want to read, since publishing is a hundred percent of my income (and my kid keeps growing out of her shoes).
For the future? I plan to write absolutely everything that inspires me enough to get written. Hopefully including the queer action adventure serial that lives in the back of my head!
What about co-writing? Have you ever thought about it? If you have, is there someone you’d like to co-write with?
I can’t imagine how people co-write, so I definitely don’t see that firmly in my future. If a friend had a great idea and wanted to work on it with me, I’d probably discuss it, but I’m a really terrible human. I definitely wouldn’t want to co-write with me! Like, I don’t even like sharing my M&Ms, let alone a book! That said, if I ever did it, I’d want to do it the way Peter Straub and Stephen King did it back in the day, and intentionally mash up styles and try to throw readers off. I had a lot of fun as a reader trying to work out who’d done what!
I know writing is different for everyone; some people write to music, while some need complete silence to focus. What about you? Do you have playlists for your books?
I write to everything. I wrote in the backs of classrooms during school when I was a teenager, I wrote to white noise when my kid was little, I write to playlists mostly created by other people (I have one for Queers of La Vista, but I’m not a playlist creator as a rule). Right now I almost exclusively write to the soundtrack for In the Heights. Totally depends on what’s going on around me/what’s convenient at the time.
Let’s get more focused now. Where did the idea for Queers of La Vista come from?
The brilliant EE Ottoman did a podcast episode where they discussed things they’d like to see in romance, and one of those things was a deeper sense of community in queer romance. Like EE, I’ve been a member of queer community forever, and it’s definitely something I don’t often see in novels, even when they’re nominally about queer people. So I basically owe it all to EE firing off that little spark in my brain that was like I WANT TO DO THIS. (Here, if you’re interested: https://acosmistmachine.com/2015/04/15/six-things/)
Is there a character in the series that was more difficult to write than the others? Maybe one that just refused to go with your plan?
Oh yes. Merin. Merin, Merin, Merin. In my notes for The Butch and the Beautiful, Merin shows up as “troubled teenager in Jaq’s class”. I thought I could control how that played out, use it for external tension, show a little bit of what it’s like to be a queer kid.
But man, Merin just did not give a bleep about what I thought. Nope. So folks who read the rest of the series will note that Merin shows up in every other book after TBatB. I regularly get requests for a Merin book. And you never know. That kid lingers…
Was there something particularly difficult about writing The Queer and the Restless?
Writing The Queer and the Restless wasn’t difficult, but I found some of the considerations regarding writing a trans character and writing a queer story that hinges on the murder of queer people really difficult. I’ve talked more in length about this on Just Love Romance and Binge on Books.
Deciding how much to go into the details of transitioning when writing a trans character is particularly challenging, because a lot of readers expect a sort of Trans 101 course. And I…am not so much interested in that. Ed is trans, but Ed doesn’t spend his whole life thinking about his transness, any more than I do, or presumably any more than most people with gender (which is everyone) think about their gender all day every day.
Which is to say, if I’d been writing a character who was just thinking about transition, or who wasn’t out yet, or who was very early in transition, it would have been natural to talk about it more. I wanted Ed and Alisha to have normal relationship talks—normal early sex “how do you like that, is this good for you” talks—without everything being focused on What It Means To Be Trans. Because that’s not a thing. I can’t say what it means to be trans. No one can. So I veered as far away from that as possible.
Likewise, I wrote a series in which queer people are targeted and killed. And I’m so uncomfortable with the idea that people will take this as “queer stories are necessarily about violence”, but on the other hand, queer people face a lot of freaking violence. So there’s a whole huge queer cast (and some non-queer folks) to balance out the very real dangers of living in a community that has a target on its back.
Asking this to an author may be a bit cruel, but I want to give it a try: do you have a favorite character in the Queers of La Vista series?
Okay. Under normal circs I’d cry foul, but this is actually easy.
Do not tell any of my other characters. PROMISE?
My favorite character in QLV is definitely Cameron. I adore Cameron. He tells the story in One Life to Lose, and I would gladly live in his head forever. Don’t tell anyone!
There are two books left to be released in the series, can you tell us a bit about what we can expect from them?
Hm, well, broad strokes: in One Life to Lose we find out who the killer is (and we see Cam fall in love with two kinky, delightful young men), and in As La Vista Turns, the community tries to heal from the very serious riffs left by living under constant threat of dying (and we watch Zane fall in love with a prickly lady readers of the rest of the books will already know).
And what can we expect from you next? Any future plans?
A lot more books, of course!
Finally, when you agreed to doing this interview, I asked around to see if someone had any questions to ask you. I got one I loved, and I hope you don’t mind answering it for us, so here we go: how did you get to be so awesome?
Ha ha ha ha ha, ARE YOU TROLLING ME?
That’s a lovely compliment! Thank you! I’m trying not to do the thing where I insult everyone by immediately contradicting the compliment (TRYING REALLY HARD NOT TO DO THAT). I suspect “awesome” is defined individually, so I definitely look around at people I admire and try to see what they’re doing that works, and how I can adapt that to fit my goals. And I also try to hang out with folks who are creating amazing work in the world. There’s nothing more inspiring than looking around at your friends and admiring the hell out of them!
And that’s all for today. Thank you so much, Kris, for visiting us!
Thank you for having me! These questions were excellent!
If you want to know more about the Queers of La Vista series you can check our reviews here in the blog:
- Gays of Our Lives (Review by Annie)
- The Butch and the Beautiful (Review by Laura)
- The Queer and the Restless (Review by Laura)
About Kris Ripper: