Friday, July 29, 2022

Brian D. Kennedy Interview - A Little Bit Country

Photo Content from Brian D. Kennedy

Brian D. Kennedy was born and raised in Minnesota, and now lives in New York City with his husband and their miniature Schnauzer. When not writing, he can be found working at an LGBTQ non-profit. His slightly unhealthy obsessions include: seeing as many Broadway shows as possible, buying weird trinkets off eBay, and all things Dolly Parton. A Little Bit Country is his debut novel.


When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. One summer, instead of selling lemonade, I wrote stories and sold them for a quarter. It wasn’t until my 30s, though, that I started to pursue traditional publication more seriously. That’s also when I read my first young adult novel. I instantly fell in love with how “voicey” the writing could be, and there was no turning back from there.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Hearing from people who have read my book. Writing is a solitary profession. You can spend years working on a story, never knowing if anyone other than your writing group or close family and friends are going to read it. And while it is a little scary to suddenly have your work out there for anyone to critique, hearing that someone really connected with your story and your characters is a feeling that I would imagine never gets old.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
My Wi-Fi connection, without a doubt. Email, social media, an online quiz that tells me which Muppet I’d be—all of those seem a lot more fun than working on my book. Sometimes I have to move my phone away from my desk, or go write outside with my laptop, in order to be productive.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
For me personally, storytelling is how I process things. My writing is never autobiographical, but my characters often grapple with a lot of the same emotions and thoughts I’ve had. Storytelling is also how we form connections. Books, TV shows, movies, plays…when we see ourselves in those characters, we relate our own experiences to theirs. And sometimes, it can lead us to understand something better about ourselves.

Can you tell us when you started A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY, how that came about?
I sat down to write the first draft of my book at the beginning of 2019! (I’m a slow writer, but the process of being traditionally published also takes a long time—usually around 18 months, if not longer.) My love of Dolly Parton was my inspiration. I had always wanted to go to Dollywood (her theme park in Pigeon Forge, TN), and I knew that it’d be a great setting for a story that encapsulated my love of country music.

  • 1. I wrote original song lyrics for the book. (Which wasn’t easy!)
  • 2. In the middle of drafting my story, I took my first trip to Dollywood for inspiration.
  • 3. My favorite ride at Dollywood is Blazing Fury, a rollercoaster that’s over 40 years
    old and has the vibe of Disney’s “It’s a Small World,” but all the animatronic people
    are running from a fire. My favorite food there is the cinnamon bread they serve at
    the grist mill.
  • 4. At the beginning of the book, Luke works in a rubber hose factory. This was
    inspired by the summer after my first year of college when I also worked in a
    rubber hose factory.
  • 5. Because I wrote song lyrics, and Emmett wants to be a country music superstar, people often ask me if I can sing. The answer is a hard NO.
  • 6. The original title was “Wanda World.” My literary agent is the one who (smartly)
    came up with “A Little Bit Country.”
  • 7. When my agent called to tell me that we had sold “A Little Bit Country,” I missed
    her call because I was going to the bathroom.
  • 8. Although this book is my love letter to Dolly Parton and old-school female country
    singers, I did put a few Easter eggs in for some male singers. Wanda Jean’s security
    guards are named “Nelson” and “Cyrus” (after Willie Nelson and Billy Ray Cyrus.)
    And there’s a brief mention on “Doolittle’s Steakhouse,” which is in homage to
    Loretta Lynn’s husband.
  • 9. When I saw a sketch of the cover for the first time, I was so happy with it that I
    immediately started to cry.
  • 10. No, I have not sent Dolly Parton a copy of my book. First of all, she is a very
    busy lady! Second, if she did somehow get a copy, I’m not sure I could handle
    knowing that she’s even HELD my book in her hands.
What is the first job you have had?
Bagging groceries. Though I really wanted to be a cashier.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
Do I have to get up yet?

What is your most memorable travel experience?
In college I got to spend a month in London. I was a theater major, and we saw 30 plays in 28 days. My second answer is Iceland. It’s very isolated, and the landscape makes you feel like you’re driving around on another planet.

What's your most missed memory?
One specific childhood memory that I miss is walking into an air-conditioned library on a hot summer day and getting to spend a few hours exploring the shelves and reading books.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
True love with a guarantee of a heartbreak. It’s bittersweet, but I’d rather have a full range of emotion than little to no emotions at all.

When you looked in the mirror first thing this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
Why is my hair like that?

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
Worrying that I won’t fall asleep. (And then falling asleep 30 seconds later.)

If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?
I like the Victorian era, and I’m tempted to say Oscar Wilde, because I admire his plays and he seemed like someone who knew how to have a good time. However, being queer was not easy at that point in history, and I know that Oscar Wilde in particular had a rather tragic ending to his life.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
If we’re going for comedy, maybe my brief stint as a food runner at an upscale restaurant in NYC that was struggling to stay open. It’d have to include a scene where the celebrity chef threw a full plate of food to the ground in front of everyone after he gave me the wrong table number for a VIP order.

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?
Copy and paste “Vintage Doll Head Tissue Box Cover With Hair” into Google. I saw this at a friend’s house and loved it so much it was hard not to steal it.

Emmett Maguire wants to be country music’s biggest gay superstar – a far reach when you’re seventeen and living in Illinois. But for now, he’s happy to do the next best thing: Stay with his aunt in Jackson Hollow, Tennessee, for the summer and perform at the amusement park owned by his idol, country legend Wanda Jean Stubbs.

Luke Barnes hates country music. As the grandson of Verna Rose, the disgraced singer who had a famous falling out with Wanda Jean, Luke knows how much pain country music has brought his family. But when his mom’s medical bills start piling up, he takes a job at the last place he wants: a restaurant at Wanda World.

Neither boy is looking for romance, but sparks fly when they meet – and soon they’re inseparable. Until a long-lost secret about Verna and Wanda comes to light, threatening to unravel everything.

Will Emmett and Luke be able get past the truths they discover…or will their relationship go down in history as just another Sad Country Love Song?

You can purchase A Little Bit Country at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you BRIAN D. KENNEDY for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of A Little Bit Country by Brian D. Kennedy.

1 comment: