Please help us welcome author Kris Ripper to The Novel Approach today, on the tour for zir new novel, The Butch and the Beautiful.
Enjoy, and be sure to check out the giveaway details below!
When Characters Take Over
In my initial notes for The Butch and the Beautiful, I have, I think, three beats for “a troubled student.” This isn’t totally bizarre for me in plotting; some storylines I’ll know every nuance of before I ever put metaphorical pen to metaphorical paper, while others will be bare bones.
I expected this “troubled student” to essentially show up when I needed a little external conflict in the book, and recede when I was done with them. You know. Like any good secondary character.
I hadn’t reckoned on Merin.
Merin shows up in Jaq’s classroom, and is immediately offensive in a very specifically teenage way: trying to get a rise out of Jaq or other students, trying to throw up a wall of insults and brashness, giving nothing away. I knew immediately that something was going on there, and that Merin was probably gonna be a butthead about participating in my three beats as I’d laid them out to perfectly serve the book.
The more I wrote, the more I returned to Jaq’s troubled student(s), watching their story unfold in the background, playing with the themes of exposure and risk and trust. At first Jaq embraces high school drama as a distraction (as I’d more or less intended), but somewhere in the middle of the book she realizes that something a bit more serious is going on.
Somewhere in the middle of the book I realized something a bit more serious was going on, and Merin’s story wasn’t going to politely wrap by the end of The Butch and the Beautiful with just the right amount of tension and a neat resolution. Merin wasn’t interested in a neat resolution.
The thing about writing that I find it hard to explain to folks is that yeah, okay, I’m the author, I can technically do whatever I want. I can kill off the antagonist to clear the way for an easy happy ending. I can pave the hero’s path with gold and offer them a unicorn at every obstacle. I could have subtracted from Merin and forced the book to assume the shape I’d planned for it (and the folks who like a clear-cut plot without dangling threads would have probably preferred that).
But me? I swoon for open loops. I love a cast of characters with vibrancy, who hit the page and command the reader’s attention. Merin starts off a caricature and develops into a character I knew I needed to trace through the rest of the series.
I had no idea that my queer soap opera needed a younger person in the mix, someone who challenged the older generation’s assumptions (much as they challenged their own elders). Should I ever write a follow up series to Queers of La Vista, it would almost certainly be focused around this younger group of queers, and how they take certain things for granted, and spit in the face of others. The possibilities are endless!
Jaq Cummings is a high school teacher who really wants a committed relationship—as long as it doesn’t keep her out late on school nights or interrupt Sunday mass with her dad. She is absolutely not about to fall for the hot-mess divorcée she hooks up with even if said hot mess pushes all her buttons. Jaq’s white knight days are over.
But one hookup with Hannah becomes two, then coffee, then more incredibly hot sex. And unlike most of Jaq’s exes, Hannah’s not looking for someone to come on strong. In fact, Hannah comes on plenty strong enough for both of them. But she’s just out of a disastrous marriage, she’s in the process of moving across the state, and Jaq can’t take a chance on yet another relationship where she defaults to being a caregiver instead of a partner.
Just when Jaq decides her relationship with Hannah is far too precarious, a crisis with a student reminds her of her priorities and makes it clear that sometimes, you have to take big risks to get what you really want.
About the Author
Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Kris shares a converted garage with a toddler, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Kris is genderqueer and prefers the z-based pronouns because they’re freaking sweet. Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write, and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.
To celebrate the release of The Butch and the Beautiful, one lucky winner will receive their choice in ebook from Kris’s backlist. Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on August 27, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!