Blogspot: How “Dick” Inspired a Karin Kallmaker Lesbian Romance

Karin KallmakerWinner of three Lambda Literary Awards with nine shortlist nods, winner of six GCLS Goldie Awards with another six shortlist nods, the Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award and 2011 Trailblazer Award, winner of the Alice B Reader’s Medal, as well as numerous lesbian readers’ awards this year the wonderful Love by the Numbers is nominated as a Lammy Finalist for Lesbian Romance.

So I sent Karin our 6 questions…

Presented with six questions I couldn’t just answer them in order. Yes, my mother once or twice referred to me as “a pill.” I took inspiration where I found it, just as I do for my books. I worked on an oil refinery for six months and wrote Car Pool. My adoration of Pride and Prejudice led to Just Like That. Barbara Stanwyck and Sidney Greenstreet mashed up into Making Up for Lost Time.

But I think the most unusual inspiration comes from a name that isn’t associated with lesbian fiction and will have most readers baring their teeth: Dick Cheney. That’s right, Dick Cheney inspired one of my books.

Substitute for LoveTo be more precise, Dick Cheney inspired the character of Reyna Putnam, and that led to the book Substitute for Love. The flashpoint occurred during a debate when he was a candidate for U.S. Vice President in 1999. The question was about gay rights. It was widely suspected at the time that his daughter, Mary Cheney, was a lesbian. The Republican party and his own voting history opposed all forms of rights for gays. Yet his answer nimbly danced around the issue in such a way as to leave the impression that he never opposed gay rights and Republicans weren’t Big Meanies to gays, no, it never happened.

As I listened to his words I wondered what it would feel like to be his lesbian daughter. To know that in all his political life he had never expended one ounce of energy to help you marry the woman you loved. To hear him lie about his convictions. To know that your happiness would always be second to his ambition. To know that you would be expected in just a few minutes to smile and say how proud you were of him. Wouldn’t she be angry?

Why would a lesbian daughter with complete financial independence—a massive trust fund—support this kind of man? At what point does a grown woman look at her father and realize that he evaded military service but can send hundreds of thousands of other people’s children to war to protect his own fortunes? What coercion must exist for her not to just tolerate, but enthusiastically support a political agenda that chokes her own soul?

I don’t know the answers for Mary Cheney. But I found the answers for Reyna Putnam. In spite of its dark origins in the oppression of a daughter’s spirit by her father’s dark political ambitions, it also ended up being, I think, one of my most hopeful and triumphant stories. Love wins, good women and men win. It was a book that held several more surprises, including the solution that let Reyna out of her trap—I didn’t see it coming until the words were typed on the screen.

Lambda Literary FInalistThose are the magic moments of writing, surprising myself. I have half a hope that if I can achieve that, then I’ll manage it for the reader. Which is admitting, in the end, that surprising and delighting the reader is its own inspiration. Awards and accolades are affirming, but connecting with a reader, my ideas becoming words that fall to the page and then rise to her eyes and become a swell of emotion and ideas in her mind, well, there is simply nothing better.

Many thanks to Karin for this insight into the sorts of things that spark her creativity. You can find her bio and books on the Karin Kallmaker Author Page