Wednesday, April 5, 2017

INTERVIEW: Kennedy Ryan

We've had a thing for Kennedy Ryan and her novels for years now and after we read Flow and Grip, we were thirsty for more information. No lie, as soon as I finished reading Bristol and Grip's story I got in touch with Kennedy and asked her if she'd be willing to answer a few questions; I couldn't get enough and had to know more about anything and everything involving the making of Flow and Grip.

1. When you first conceived of this novel, what was the first scene you envisioned?

I’ve been thinking about Grip and Bristol for a long time, so I have to sort through my creative process to see what was first and most clear. I think probably the scene on the roof early on in the book. It is their first scene together in the book, (not counting the prologue), and orients us to what the last six years have been like. It establishes the arms length Bristol needs to keep Grip at, and the fact that he still very much wants to be much closer. It also establishes a simmering sexual chemistry between them. I think my favorite thing about this chapter/scene is that it establishes that they are still friends. That the glimpse we had of their honest conversation and authentic connection in FLOW has carried over throughout the years.

2. What were the challenges in writing this novel--I'm thinking content related type challenges, if there were any?

Wow. Where do I begin? LOL! This was the hardest book I’ve ever written. I basically wrote FLOW, the prequel, and GRIP at the same time. I would literally have both documents open and go back and forth between them. I had a few timelines I was juggling, and they kind of started feeding on each other. I would think of something while writing Grip that would have been neat, and then go back to the past and make sure to include it in FLOW. The greatest challenges were negotiating the issues that would be potentially divisive. Most of those centered around race, like the conversation Grip and Bris have regarding the “n” word. The tensions between law enforcement and communities of color, specifically the scene where Grip is stopped DWB, driving while black. And the dinner scene where Grip’s mother and cousin express their objections to Grip being with a white woman. These are scenes I re-wrote, revised over and over. Literally five, six, seven times. My betas had to be tired of reading the same scenes again and again. I wanted to get it right. These issues could so easily have become divisive if not handled carefully, responsibly. I wanted to provoke people to think from another perspective, to consider things they hadn’t before. Someone walking away from this book angry or defensive would have been a fail for me. Readers walking away thinking, feeling challenged, even uncomfortable, but thinking was a win. And I was willing to rewrite as much as I had to for that to happen. It took me about 5 months to write Flow and Grip, but I started the music playlist and Pinterest board about 9 months before the book was done. I think and research and…dream a lot before I actually start typing.

3. What are you proud of (or love) about this novel?

I’m proud when so many readers in interracial relationships message me saying they feel like they saw themselves and their partners in a mainstream romance novel for the first time. That the challenges they’ve faced, the names they’ve been called – all of it – were authentically portrayed in Grip. I’m soooo proud of how Grip himself turned out. He is my first African-American hero, and I’m so often disappointed in how Black men are portrayed in movies, books, etc…I could have played it safe and made Grip basically a white character with dark skin, to be frank. That is what I see most of the time. But I wanted him to be authentic; to be connected to his community of origin; to reflect the brilliance, the kindness the giftedness I see in the men in my life every day. And I wanted readers from every walk of like, every background and ethnicity to swoon for this guy! And I’m really proud that they did, that they are. I’m also really proud of Bristol. I wanted her to be a revelation for readers who met her in the Soul series. They made assumptions about her; that she was cold, a bitch, and uncaring. It wasn’t their fault. That was all I showed them! LOL! But I wanted to painstakingly peel back the layers that hid who Bristol actually was and what she was capable of; the kind of love and sacrifice she was capable of. I’m proud when readers who weren’t sure about her now call her their girl crush! J

3 1/2. When readers finish reading this novel, what do you hope they walk away with?
Several things. I hope they walk away with a love of poetry, or at least an interest they may not have cultivated before. I’ve had so many readers tell me they ordered Pablo Neruda books after they read Grip. Neruda is Grip’s favorite poet, and he references him several times throughout both books. I love that because poetry is my first love, and it deeply influences my writing style. The possibly polemical issues I referenced before around race – whichever side readers may stand on, I want them empathizing or at least considering the perspective of someone else. Of someone on the other side of that issue. The thing I love about Grip and Bristol’s conversations was that they didn’t always agree with one another, but they heard each other out. They respected each other. And they wanted to understand, even if they still didn’t agree. I hope that models something for people when they find themselves politically or ideologically opposed to another person.

4. In a word how would you describe Bristol? Grip?
Gosh. ONE word? Um….I would describe Grip as…passionate. From how he expresses himself through poetry, to how he loves Bristol unwaveringly. He feels things deeply, as many creative do, and I love that he isn’t afraid to express the depth of those feelings. Bristol I would describe as fearless. She says that her love doesn’t have limits; has no ceiling or floor or boundaries. That is who she is, how she cares about people, and everything finds its roots there, even how hard she works. And nothing will harm the people she cares about if she can help it.

5. Favorite Neruda poem? Hughes poem? Any other poet recs?
Soooo many favorites. From Neruda maybe “Love Sonnet IX”, I” Do Not Love You”, “And Because Love Battles”? There are literally sooo many from Neruda. You can’t go wrong. I love Langston Hughes’ “Dream Deferred,” which is referenced in Grip. I love Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Emily Dickinson, especially “I Dwell In Possibility”, Robert Frost, Poe. The list goes on and on. J

6. Do you see a future for any of the secondary characters in future books?
I see more of Grip & Bristol. I’m working on Still (Grip #2) now, but won’t share a release date just yet. Readers ask me about stories for Jade, Jimmi, Luke, even Rhyson’s bodyguard. LOL! I don’t foresee writing full-length novels for any of these characters right now. Maybe bonus scenes or a novella at some point. I have two projects I’m really passionate about after I finish Still, so I’m not sure when I’ll come back to this world after I get Still done.  And to be clear for those who have not read, Grip is not a cliffhanger. Still is just the next chapter for these characters. The after following their happily ever after. It is extremely emotional in different ways than Grip, but with that same chemistry and emotional intensity. I can’t wait to finish it and share it with everyone who loved Grip and Bris. J

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions, Kennedy. We are very excited about all the projects you're working on.

For those new to Flow and Grip, read on:

FREE Prequel!

In 8 years, Marlon James will be one of the brightest rising stars in the music industry.
Bristol Gray will be his tough, no-nonsense manager.
But when they first meet, she's a college student finding her way in the world,
and he's an artist determined to make his way in it.
From completely different worlds,
all the things that should separate them only draw them closer.
It's a beautiful beginning, but where will the story end?

FLOW is the prequel chronicling the week of magical days and nights that will haunt Grip & Bristol for years to come.



***Make sure to read the prequel FLOW, which is included, before starting GRIP.

"The story reads like a movie . . powerful and intoxicating ... and sinfully sexy. GRIP has everything—dynamic characters, soulful plot, and a lesson at the end that change the way you look at life. One of my favorite reads this year. Maybe ever. 5 massive, gripping stars from me!" -- Adriana Locke, USA Today Bestselling Author

Resisting an irresistible force wears you down and turns you out.
I know.
I’ve been doing it for years.
I may not have a musical gift of my own, but I’ve got a nose for talent and an eye for the extraordinary.
And Marlon James – Grip to his fans – is nothing short of extraordinary.
Years ago, we strung together a few magical nights, but I keep those memories in a locked drawer and I’ve thrown away the key.
All that’s left is friendship and work.
He’s on the verge of unimaginable fame, all his dreams poised to come true.
I manage his career, but I can’t seem to manage my heart.
It’s wild, reckless, disobedient.
And it remembers all the things I want to forget.

About the Author:
Kennedy loves to write about herself in third person. She loves Diet Coke…though she’s always trying to quit. She adores her husband…who she’ll never quit. She loves her son, who is the most special boy on the planet. And she’s devoted to supporting and serving families living with Autism.
And she writes love stories!

Twitter: @Kennedyrwrites
Instagram:  @kennedyryan1

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