There’s a lot of talk in the crime fiction community these days about “other voices.” Basically, that means hearing from people whose stories don’t necessarily follow the usual template – and it can focus more on our differences (race, gender, sexuality, religions, culture, whatever…). But Dharma Kelleher explains, there is more to each of us than any single factor. And a good story always takes us into another’s life. Here to tell us more – Dharma!
How does a book start for you?
Sometimes I start with a title or a very broad idea.
With my latest novel, A BROKEN WOMAN, I was inspired by a line from Hannah Gadsby’s show Nannette. She said, “There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”
That idea really resonated with me. And it really fit with where I wanted to take this Jinx Ballou Bounty Hunter book, because in the previous novel, Jinx ends up pretty broken. Her whole world has collapsed. So I wanted to create sort of a redemption story, an opportunity for her to figure out how to put the pieces of her life back together and to be stronger than who she was before.
Who in your latest book has surprised you most – and why?
I would have to say my protagonist, Jinx Ballou. She’s a bounty hunter who almost always brings her fugitive back into custody. She doesn’t normally care whether her fugitive is guilty of the crime they’ve been charged with or not. Her job is to bring them back in. But in A BROKEN WOMAN, she is forced to reassess her approach.
When and/or where is your latest book set and is there a story behind that setting?
My books always take place in modern times and almost always somewhere in Arizona, which is where I’ve lived for half my life.
Most of A BROKEN WOMAN is set in the urban desert sprawl of Phoenix. But a significant part of the story is set further north in Cortes County, a fictional county in Arizona’s high desert. This is where my Shea Stevens outlaw biker series takes place. And Shea and her women’s biker gang have a major role in this story. I like Cortes County because it has so many environments. Rugged mountains, rolling hills, ponderosa forests, ghost towns, and a college town. It’s a fun sandbox to play in.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing the third book in the Shea Stevens Outlaw Biker series, currently titled WOMEN WITH WINGS. Shea and her women’s motorcycle club are asked to protect a woman from a powerful politician determined not to let a certain secret get out. Meanwhile, the motorcycle club is dealing with an old enemy that could turn Cortes County into a bloody battlefield.
Which question didn’t I ask you that I should have?
Why did you choose to make Jinx Ballou transgender?
For a number of reasons. For starters, I’m transgender, having transition more than a quarter century ago. Most books with a trans main character are either coming out stories, transition stories, romances, or erotica. But there is so much more to life as a transgender person than coming out, transitioning, falling in love, and having sex.
I’ve always been a fan of crime fiction and I wanted to write a series where the main character is trans like me, but where the focus of the story isn’t about her being trans. It’s just one of the many things that makes her unique. The focus of the stories are about her work as a bounty hunter, told from a trans perspective.
And readers don’t need to be transgender in order to enjoy the story any more than one has to be an eleven-year-old boy in England to enjoy Harry Potter. That’s the magic of story. We get to experience new things and new ways of looking at the world.
Dharma Kelleher writes gritty crime fiction with a feminist kick and is one of the only openly transgender voices in the genre. She is the author of the Jinx Ballou Bounty Hunter series and the Shea Stevens Outlaw Biker series. Her work has also appeared in anthologies and on Shotgun Honey. She also hosts The Gritty Gritty Podcast, highlighting #OwnVoices in crime fiction.She is a former journalist and a member of Sisters in Crime, the International Thriller Writers, and the Alliance of Independent Authors. She lives in Arizona with her wife and three feline overlords. Learn more about Dharma and her work at https://dharmakelleher.com.