It’s holiday romances all the way at the moment – anyone surprised? – and today it’s the turn of Ki Brightly and two characters who are Pining for Perfect. I’m sure we’ve all done that at one point or another, but Ki’s characters, who have built their lives without having ever been handed a thing, are especially deserving. A holiday romance with a touch of social justice? Right up my street. So let’s find out how Ki Brightly came up with the idea…
First off, many thanks to Jackie Keswick for having me on her blog today.
I hope the holidays season has been treating everyone well. I personally am in panic mode as I write this. Putting off those last few presents until it’s almost too late is a much vaunted holiday tradition I keep each year, so I’m not terribly surprised to find myself a wee tad stressed.
The writing call for Pining for Perfect, my newest novella with Dreamspinner Press, was originally this idea: Write a Christmas Story about two dudes exchanging presents. Make it romantic. 1…2…3…go! Well, a story like that is usually sweet, yes? Something cute and lighthearted. For anyone familiar with my work “lighthearted” is not a direction I tend to take, but I did try.
Honestly, I did.
I live in Erie, Pennsylvania and tend to write my stories here. Recently my city won a particularly horrid title. We are the worst city in the entire United States to be a black person. The statistics utilized to bestow this dubious honor are stark. Unfortunately, this isn’t new to anyone who lives here, and in particular anyone who has lived close to downtown. Parts of Erie are gentrified, but the majority of the downtown area is crumbling old buildings and poor people. The black people I know personally have had a harder time finding employment, even when equally or better qualified than others applying. I’ve heard stories of police following people who are out jogging (while wearing the gear for it), getting pulled over for no discernable reason while with their families, just generally getting harassed. I work with a gentleman who has told me several terrible stories, talked for nearly a half hour without taking a break, and that is one person. If you ask the right questions when talking with a group of black people in Erie the parade of awful news is endless. Talk to any person living below the Federal Poverty line in my city, regardless of color, and you will hear horror piled upon horror.
That’s my city.
Next to the shimmering jewel of the bay.
Million dollar yachts less than a mile from projects.
So, I decided to be true to my city, while writing an upbeat-ish holiday tale. I sat down and considered some of the rumors I had heard, some of the people I knew, and Stokely emerged as a character who wanted to have a holiday story. Stokely was a foster child. He’s together, but he had to fight uphill every step of the way to get there, and it shows in everything he does and says. Nothing was ever handed to him, and he is extremely careful with everything he does because he has no family to fall back on. He is weary and wary of the world.
Asher comes from a similar background, but we see the differences his privilege of skin color have brought him. He was a foster child as well, but instead of getting bounced around in the system, having to haul his meager possessions from place to place in a garbage bag, he was taken in by a family who wanted to keep him permanently. His foster family had meager resources, but he was never in fear or danger of not having a home or losing their support. Eventually, his foster family fell apart, but he had a much more stable environment.
Now, this is a light hearted Christmas story at it’s core. Asher and Stokely meet one another and holiday hijinks ensue, but Pining for Perfect was also a way for me to explore how privilege might shape two people who are very much the same in many ways, into completely different personalities, with different drives and motives.
At the end of it all, I used a little holiday magic to smooth the way for this couple who very much enjoy each other, because that’s what the holidays are for. In the real world things might not be so easy, but with a little love and hope, and a lot of grit and determination, I truly believe love is always possible. We can always work toward a better world.
Have a Happy Holidays and, as always, Happy Reading!
Pining for Perfect
Stokely leads a solitary life, trying to do all the right things. He has a solid, respectable job, a properly decorated, respectable apartment, and goes to work every single day, no matter what. But it’s Christmas, and he hates Christmas, especially since his one guilty pleasure, listening to Asher Banks on the radio, is ruined with upbeat, holiday garbage.
Asher is the polar opposite—he loves Christmas to a fault and schedules himself into the ground with fundraisers to help the local community. When Asher and Stokely meet during one of the holiday spectacles Asher has thrown together, sparks fly, but neither one of them has ever had a real Christmas—or a real home. Will they be able to make one with each other?
A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2017 Advent Calendar “Stocking Stuffers.”
About Ki Brightly
Ki grew up in small town nowhere pretending that meteor showers were aliens invading, turning wildflowers into magic potions, and reading more than was probably healthy. Ki had one amazing best friend, one endlessly out of grasp “true love”, and a personal vendetta against normalcy.
Now, as an adult, living in Erie, Pennsylvania, Ki enjoys the sandy beaches, frigid winters, and a wonderful fancy water addiction. Seriously, fancy waters…who knew there were so many different kinds? It’s just water…and yet…
Ki shares this life with a Muse, a Sugar Plum, and two wonderful children.
Where to find Ki Brightly
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