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  • Kristen Kehoe

It's Nice to Meet You...Not Really.

As of late, the world has been filled with one atrocious act after another. Is this new? Unfortunately, no, it's not.

Deadly shootings, war, rape, murder...these are a part of the world we have always known, and however much we want them to be different, however much our facebook posts and tweets and memes strive for a larger purpose of peace, maybe even just joy, the reality is that people will always benefit or find gain from the pain and vulnerability of other people.

Currently, I am receiving emails of two kinds: some commending me on my last novel, thanking me for giving a voice to those who have experienced the pain and hurt of my heroine, Nala, and the other side, emails from people ranting at me for using something like rape as a "plot device" and glamorizing it. I don't often respond to criticism because I am not very good at being criticized. It's a fact. As tough as I am, as much as I love to drop an F bomb and laugh at my own shortcomings and weaknesses, there is a very real part of me that cannot handle my dream being obliterated through someone else's words. My only defense is to ignore, to not engage, to never read reviews that are negative, not because I don't respect opinions, but because I know I can't change them.

This time, however, I have a response.

To those of you asking me why I am a part of the rape culture, why I would, as you have put it, glamorize rape and its part in this world, I have a finger for you. It's in the middle. I write romance, yes, and you've made it abundantly clear you don't find value in that genre because it's "unrealistic garbage," so let me be clear about my feelings, the ones you've disregarded while ranting at me: Romance is not a fantasy. It is a reality. Pain is not just a plot device. Again, it's a reality. Are you still with me? Am I confusing you? I know, I haven't degraded your character as you did mine when you called me "basic and uneducated," but that's because I don't know you. Imagine, a person not cutting another down when they don't know them beyond an ugly word and hateful email. Do I want to say bad things about you? Absolutely. My mind is RIFE with bad things about you. But instead, I'll only address the things I do know.

1. Calling me basic because I write about love is not clever, nor is it validated. It's ridiculous, and ignorant. You read romance. How else would you know what my novels are about? Unless you wrote me an email based solely on the synopsis of my book and someone else's opinions, and if that's the case, you're not even basic, you're lazy.

2. Calling romance unrealistic is trite, and it's false. How do I know? I live a romance. I live a life with a husband and daughter and job and emotions where things are amazing, and then things hurt. I live a life of passion and need and desire, and fun and laughter and companionship. You don't know that, because you don't know me. Let me introduce myself. My name is Kristen Kehoe. I am 32. I am married. I fell in love with my husband quite quickly, but like all people, we had our own shit to deal with, and there was nothing basic or trite about our story. We loved, we hurt, we broke up, we moved on, and we finally--finally--found each other again, and realized that happily ever after exists. I have one child. She is amazing. I have also had to say goodbye to two unborn children, children I loved and named and never got to meet because LIFE is a fickle bitch (sound familiar?) and she can't let every dream become a reality. Basic enough for you? Guess what? My marriage survived that heartache, and we're still romantic. Still surprise each other. Still have sex. And it's pretty fucking fantastic.

3. Calling rape a plot device is a reflection on you, not me. You insinuated I glamorized this, and in fairness, your reading of it might have made it feel that way. Again, I can't win over everyone as an author, but I can address some things. Had you bothered to ask, I could have addressed these to you personally, and I would have listened to your story, maybe apologized that my own story didn't come across the right way. But you didn't. You sent an email, a blocked one at that, and you attacked me and my character. Shame on you. I did not trivialize or glamorize rape. Nala was not a character who was put into a poor position where she was magically saved--though recent ugliness in the news has also shown us that while bad shit happens, some people step up and stop it, some people step up to a man behind a dumpster and make him let the girl go. Did she escape horror and loss of dignity and pain? No, but someone tried their best to keep things from getting worse. That's not basic, or trite, or fictional. It's goddamn heroic. My character didn't have that--like many rape victims, she suffered it all, and then she had years of trying to piece herself back together. Telling me that no rape victim would enjoy sex the way she did 5 years later? You don't know that. Maybe that's your experience, and if it is, dear lord, I am so sorry for you. But unlike you insinuated, I did research, I did interview victims, I did take the time to "get it right," and the woman who edited this? Who read it and cried and thanked me and helped me make it shine? She's a rape victim--one who did connect and find strength in this character. One who valued you her for the strength she showed.

Still think I'm basic?

Let's start over. Allow me to introduce myself so you can understand where I'm coming from.

My name is Kristen Kehoe. I have an undergraduate degree, and am currently finishing my SECOND masters (surprised? Because, you know, all romance authors are "bored moms with nothing else to do"). I am a mother (never bored, btw), a wife, a teacher, a sister, a friend, and a daughter. I write real life romance, and believe in characters who get a second chance, who face adversity, and get their own happy ending, just the way I got mine.

It's really fucking nice to meet you.

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