By Dharma Kelleher
I'm delighted to have Dharma Kelleher as a guest Femme today. Her debut novel, Iron Goddess, was released yesterday by Penguin Random House's Alibi imprint, so here's your chance to get in on something hot off the presses
Take it away, Dharma!
-- Toni / Leigh
I am frequently asked what inspired me to start writing. As a teenager, I wrote simply for the sheer joy of creation. But soon the complications of life (i.e. coming to terms with my being transgender and a lesbian) took center stage and I stopped writing for the better part of twenty-five years.
By the time I hit my forties, things had settled down for me. I had built a new life as a woman. I was married to an awesome lady. But one thing still troubled me: the lack of diversity in lesbian fiction.
The majority of lesbian fiction published is composed of coming out stories, romances, erotica, and cozy murder mystery. But there’s so much more to being a lesbian than coming out, falling in love, having sex, and stumbling over dead bodies.
I wanted something that depicted more of everyday life as a lesbian. At the same time, I wanted books that didn’t focus primarily on the main character’s sexual orientation.
About this same time, my wife introduced me to the wonderful world of motorcycles. For a few years, I was a member of a local all-women’s motorcycle group. Not surprisingly, about half the women in the club were gay. And this got me thinking about writing a story about a lesbian biker.
I began to flesh out this character, Shea Stevens, and her back story. She comes from a family of outlaw bikers, but she’s became estranged from them. She’s a misfit, an ex-con, trying to make a life for herself as a bike builder. The fact that she’s gay is the least interesting thing about her. This is the kind of story I had wanted to read.
This book became Iron Goddess and it’s really not lesbian fiction, per se. A similar story could be made by making Shea straight. But that’s not the story I wanted to tell. I wanted a story that showed a lesbian dealing with issues that had nothing to do with her sexuality.
At its heart, Iron Goddess is about family and the complications that brings up. Family of origin. Family of choice. The family of community.
When we first meet Shea, we see the bonds she has with her business partner Terrance and her employees. We get a glimpse of her relationship with her girlfriend. But when circumstances propel Shea to reconnect with her estranged outlaw biker family, she finds herself torn between her old, chaotic life and the new, more civilized life. It is the way in which Shea navigates these disparate worlds that gives the story its heart.
My critique group jokingly calls my writing “biker noir.” I simply like to write gritty stories about renegades, outlaws, and misfits, because these are the interesting people. These are the people I can relate to. And in writing their stories, I’m exploring, if metaphorically, my own journey of being a renegade, an outlaw, and a misfit.
Dharma Kelleher writes gritty tales about outlaws, renegades, and misfits. A descendant of playwright Eugene O’Neill, she started writing as a teenager.
A former radio news director, she now works as a freelance editor.
Her hobbies include riding motorcycles, getting inked, making snarky comments on Facebook and Twitter, and shocking people with her latest haircut.
She lives near Phoenix with her wife. Learn more about her and her writing at dharmakelleher.com.