Hey guys! As promised, singer-songwriter Kate Kelly’s book has arrived, “A Harsh and Private Beauty,” and I’m digging it, big time. It’s about the journey of Ruby Grace, now in her 89th year, on a train journey with her granddaughter back to Chicago, the city of Ruby’s birth. The novel traces Ruby’s grandparent’s immigration from Ireland to New York City, her father, Daniel Kenny’s life in 1920s Chicago. In a marriage that forced her to give up her music career, Ruby struggles with the conventions of the times. Now, on the train headed back to a city she cannot remember, Ruby tries to look honestly at herself and the choices she has made. While on route, Ruby suffers a stroke, leaving the untold story of her life in the hands of her granddaughter, Lisa. Lisa is compelled to reveal to her father, a secret that her grandmother guarded for a lifetime. Wow! Right!?! This is great storytelling! Kate’s novel takes us on an incredible journey. Ruby Grace is a modern-day thinker in an old conservative system. Her memories take her back to the crooked dealings of 1920s Chicago. Most of the story is told on a train. It’s compelling and captivating. Kate’s novel drips with raw emotion as she takes us on a journey of love and loss, loss of memory and a loss of time. While the clock ticks, the secrets unravel. I truly enjoyed this novel. If you guys follow my blog, you will know I have a favourite author of books, Jodi Picoult, but with Kate Kelly now on my list, I’m very excited to see what’s around the corner for this talented new author.
B.I.T.C: When did you first begin your fascination with writing?
Kate: Well, I wouldn’t call it a fascination, more like a calling. I was very young, maybe six or seven and I couldn’t sleep because of all the thoughts in my head like, what is infinity? Lol. My mom told me I should write down my thoughts and maybe after I got them out, I would be able to sleep. Still, to this day, when I can’t sleep, I often write.
B.I.T.C: That’s amazing because when I can’t sleep, it’s because I’m watching porn! I’m just kidding. I’m reading the Bible. No, not really. It’s porn.
B.I.T.C: What was the first book that made its biggest impact in your youth?
Kate: The biggest book? Well, actually there were two. The first one was A Wrinkle in Time, by Madelene L’Engle, and the second was, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Both these books have influenced my writing. I have a second novel coming out with Inanna Publication, and it is a young adult fantasy, The Meadowlands, and it is influenced by A Wrinkle in Time. I am currently working on my third novel, and I hope the character, Tara Hope is a modern-day Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird! lol
B.I.T.C: Well, I asked for one, but you go ahead and take over my interview. Oh, my goodness! I’m so pulling your leg. Just preach Lady Marmalade.
B.I.T.C: You are also a singer, guitar player, songwriter and accomplished poet. What do you enjoy the most?
Kate: I don’t think I can categorize which art form I enjoy the most. I’d have to say that when I am in the midst of singing or playing or writing poetry or prose, that is what I am enjoying the most. I suppose it is the creative process that I enjoy. I think when we create, we touch that spiritual part of us that goes beyond the every day, and we can become greater than ourselves. It can start to feel like channelling for me, when I am no longer aware of who I am and can go beyond, to something more. I think it’s something we can all do and I think that’s why the arts are so important to our society. Any form of artistic expression brings something bigger into the world.
B.I.T.C: Well, that’s just wonderful and true. I can concur. I mean, look at my blog, for example. I mean, there is so much light coming from it. It burns my eyes. I think it may burn my readers’ eyes too, although they have never shared that with me. I’m wondering if my blog is burning your eyes right now.
B.I.T.C: Would you consider yourself a feminist?
Kate: Yes, of course, because it simply means someone who supports equality. We all need to embrace both the male and female aspects of who we are, as individuals, and as a society.
B.I.T.C: Ya, I totally get it. For me, it can be as simple as the right bronzer. You know? You and I are so tight right now. Maybe even tighter than when I interviewed Rick Mercer. I understand you liked that interview? It’s ok we can move on.
B.I.T.C: What I really want to know is what inspired your character (Ruby Grace) in what marks your debut novel A Harsh and Private Beauty?
Kate: Ruby Grace is loosely based on a woman I briefly knew through the Peterborough Theatre Guild. She was a Blues and Jazz singer in the 50’s and made her movie debut when she was in her 70’s. I interviewed older women and studied the lives of older women I knew. I was looking at women who broke through the ceiling, women who were driven to be more than mothers and wives. Not that that’s a bad thing, but for some women, being confined to those roles was too restrictive, and those women struck out and forged paths for other women to follow. As an artist myself, I was interested in the women who had come before me and how they managed to embrace both their artistic drive along with marriage and motherhood.
B.I.T.C: Oh, my God! One time I was having a fabulous romp with this Italian stallion, and we almost broke through the ceiling! It’s crazy.
B.I.T.C: Do you feel your anything like her?
Kate: Yes. Ruby Grace is any woman who has struggled with motherhood and her artistic drive, like any woman who has felt confined or restricted in her marriage or station in life.
B I.T.C: I can’t relate to any of that, but it sounds intense!
B.I.T.C: Ok, so are you, Lisa?
Kate: That is a good question. I am Lisa in that I have looked to older women, like my mother or grandmother, for insight into who I am and how one can handle motherhood and marriage, or if not marriage, partnership, but I am not Lisa.
B.I.T. C: Oh my God, compliments from Author Kate Kelly. You can stay. And my vote in marriage, just say no!
B.I.T.C: If not, Lisa, then who are you in this story?
Kate: I suppose, like any author, I am all the characters, and I am none of the characters. The characters, in my novel, take on a life of their own, but it is a life that comes through me in a subconscious way.
B.I.T.C: I like that. So mystical. You know I sat up all night and read your book. I’m a fan. My favourite part was when it ended. I mean, when I got to the end. Well, because I wanted to know how this thing ends.
B.I T.C: Do you have a favourite line or scene in your book that really resonates with you?
Kate: I really like the club scenes, when Ruby is singing, and the smoke is rising, and the room is dark with shadow and Leland is so attractive, and the whole atmosphere is seductive. I also like the hospital scenes when Ruby’s children and granddaughter are around, and Ruby can’t speak, and they have to fill in the parts of her life she can’t. I think that is the essence of the book; our stories, how we tell them, and who tells them for us when we are no longer able. “Was it Maxwell who said, The storyteller tries to make life acceptable, and in talking about the past, we lie with every breath we draw? Oh well, you see Leland; we begin in larceny and end in larceny, stealing and debauching the truth, bending belief to our own ends. You would like that, my love, the joke in the end, our histories retold in lies.”
B.I.T.C: Stop my nerves. I could almost hear you reading it.
B.I.T.C: Kate! What is next for Kate Kelly?
Kate: Well, this novel is being put forward for a few competitions like Page to Screen Ontario. I’d love to see this novel as a movie! Also, Inanna Publications has sent me a contract for my next novel; a Young Adult Fantasy called, The Meadowlands which I’m pretty excited about. I am currently working on my third novel called Tara Hope. It’s about the conscious awakening and coming of age of a young girl, a metaphor for the earth and the symbiotic relationship we have with her. I am also working on a CD of original songs with my musical partner, Bobby Watson, that I hope to have out by next year. Other than that I’m just trying to enjoy where I am in my life, eating good food, drinking good wine and trying to bring my light into the world.
B.I.T.C: That is beautiful! I cannot wait until we meet again on November 6th for your signing and oral talents right there in front of us all. Congratulations on such a fabulous book and please sit down with me again so we can discuss your next la victoire.
Written by Bruce Christopher
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