[Note from Frolic: We are excited to have author Kelsey Kingsley guest post on the site today. Take it away, Kelsey!]
My journey as an author of romance began at a strange starting point: I didn’t want to be one.
Why? Well, because, like a lot of people in this world, I had this preconceived notion that romance consists of nothing more than bursting bodices, puffy pantaloons, and Fabio-laden covers littering the shelves at the local drugstore. And while I see absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a love story starring the hunky and heroic bread thief and his raunchy, rebelling duchess, it wasn’t my thing.
No, my thing was always typically something a little darker and spookier, closer to the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Jack Ketchum. So, that’s where I began—writing horror stories.
But that was short-lived. It didn’t take me too long to realize that I was missing a crucial element necessary to becoming the next best-selling horror novelist: I wasn’t scary. Like, at all. Like, I couldn’t even scare myself (which isn’t a difficult thing to do). In fact, not only was I so not scary, but all of my stories seemed to veer toward happiness and love. So, eventually, I had decided to go with the flow, and began to research accordingly.
During my studies, I quickly learned that romance went so far beyond Fabio and the Bodice Rippers. From the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella to Outlander by Diana Gabaldon to the Accidentally Yours series by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff, I studied hard, enjoyed harder, and wrote and self-published a few books that I continue to be proud of to this day.
However, the next part of my journey began when I read Midnight Blue by LJ Shen, a book that will forever go down in history as my first devoured rock star romance. I was so moved and so inspired by this story, that I began to write my first rock star romance called Daisies & Devin, an ode to my love for music, poetry, and Edgar Allan Poe. It was also my first “difficult” book, where I delved into a lesser acknowledged side of drug addiction, the side that’s hidden and maintained a little better. And believe me, it wasn’t easy for me to write, but it was also crucial and cathartic, and from that story, I learned something about myself. With Daisies & Devin I realized, I can write my love stories, I can keep writing the witty dialogue that makes me laugh and the poetic prose that sweeps me away, but I can also make a difference. I can use the voice I’ve been given, delivered through the written word, and shine a light on issues that maybe aren’t talked about enough, or should be talked about more.
It was then that I knew I wanted to write about a disease that has made an enormous impact on my life, and that disease is Ulcerative Colitis.
You see, my mother has been living with the disease since around the time I was born, so the discussion of guts and their functions has always been a routine part of my life, as well as an awareness for the other debilitating symptoms of an inflammatory bowel disease. It wasn’t until I was older though, when my sister was diagnosed as well, that I realized the topic was nearly taboo in nature. Because apparently, nobody likes to hear about or acknowledge what comes along with having such a disease, so in turn, people living with IBD are almost forced to suffer alone. And in a world where we are taught acceptance, how is that right or fair?
Yet, it was for that same reason I was scared to write the story. I kept asking myself, who wants to read a love story about a guy dealing with a friggin’ bowel disease? How is that romantic? How can I make that remotely sexy? The social stigmas had stood in my way, and for months, they kept me from writing. So, I held the story in and moved on to other challenging, but far less stigmatized, subject matters.
Then, I read Possession by A.M. Johnson, a contemporary romance with a main character dealing with Schizoaffective Disorder. Before reading this book, I never would’ve imagined someone could write such a poignant, beautiful, romantic story centering so much around a mental illness most people would classify as ugly, but A.M. Johnson did it and she did it with grace. I read My Life as a Country Album by LJ Evans, a heartbreakingly beautiful, coming-of-age, love story with a main character living with Type 1 Diabetes. Not only was I moved to tears reading this book, but I left feeling educated as well. Then, there was Making Faces by Amy Harmon, in which one of the important side characters is dealing with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The entire book is profound, beautiful, and smart, but this particular part of the story floored me. Shamefully, I had never even heard of Duchenne muscular dystrophy before reading this book, but you can bet I know about it now.
While reading these books, it occurred to me that everybody deserves a love story, including those living with illnesses and disabilities, even the ones nobody talks about. So, with the courage I found in the words of those talented women, I wrote Forget the Stars, a love story about a guy suffering from Ulcerative Colitis and the social stigmas that come along with it. And with any luck, maybe it can help a little to break some of them. Because nobody should ever feel like they are undeserving of love, and nobody should ever feel embarrassed for something they can’t help.
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About the Author:
Kelsey Kingsley writes what readers call “realistic romance.” She lives in New York with her family and a cat named Ethel. She loves tattoos, music, makeup, and Frasier reruns.
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Forget the Stars by Kelsey Kingsley, out now!
Guitarist Chad Wilcox’s life isn’t going according to plan.
At thirty, he never thought he’d still be unmarried and living with his parents. And with the added stress of his poor health, he’s convinced the only thing within his control is the success he’s found as a rock star.
After reconnecting with his childhood best friend, Chad sets into motion a new plan to regain control over his happiness, and things start looking up. But when he finds himself diagnosed with a potentially debilitating chronic illness, he begins to wonder…
Is this as good as it’s going to get? Or is it at all possible for a guy like him to get everything he’s ever wished for?