Gritty crime fiction writer, Dharma Kelleher joins us to talk about her experience as a transgender author and the recent controversy around the book deal for the fictional biography of transgender doctor, Dr. James Barry. We discuss the importance of sensitivity readers and how/when an author should employ them in their writing process. Dharma also sheds some light on marketing a title that was deemed “unmarketable”.
- Dharma started writing since the early 80’s but more recently came back into it because of NaNoWriMo! She has since been published both traditionally and self-published.
- Dharma was told by her then publisher that they weren’t sure on how to best market her books, ultimately leading her into the self-publishing path. She tells us about the importance of recognizing when a partnership isn’t the best fit for both the author and the publisher.
- We get some feedback from Dharma on Damon’s episode on the KWL podcast, and how his thoughts resonated with her. She tells us about being labelled solely as a trans author instead of a crime fiction author; and how building her own branding brought up the struggle between these identities that many authors face when self-promoting. Dharma talks about her and her characters’ experiences shaping their lives despite being transgender.
- We get a glimpse into assigning voices to cisgender authors for transgender stories, as per the case of Dr. James Barry’s biography where the cisgender authors continuously refer to Dr. Barry by the wrong name and pronouns, along with disregarding the doctor’s experience as transgender. Dharma talks about trans erasure and how authenticity lacks in a lot of stories written by the wrong voices.
- We talk about the research process and the responsibility of authors to their audiences in representing experiences with respect. Authentic representation is very important, whether writing about a homicide detective or a transgender man, as this helps to fight harmful stereotypes and makes for a better story and 3-dimensional characters.
- Dharma gives us some thoughts on the benefits of joining writers’ groups and seeking sensitivity readers in order to achieve a more authentic representation within a story.
- We get some insights into Dharma’s techniques for promoting and marketing her books, including some super insightful advice on adjusting your book’s positioning online to meet the current demand (one of the many perks of self-publishing!).
“As a transgender, pansexual woman, I longed to read stories about people like me. But with few exceptions, all I found were coming out stories, romance, and erotica. But there is so much more to being queer than coming out, falling in love, and having sex.
I write raw crime stories about queer characters living in a world of intolerance, greed, and violence, often hidden beneath a veneer of civility and privilege.
Also in the spirit of Sara Paretsky and Stieg Larsson, I take an unapologetic progressive slant with my fiction. Pro-feminist, pro-LGBTQIA+, pro-people of color.”