22 February 2013

Introducing Kelly DeBie

By Icy Sedgwick

Kelly DeBie and I are both newcomers to the PeevishPenman blog so what better way to introduce ourselves that to interview each other? Kelly will be interviewing me next week...

Icy: If you could invite any literary character out for coffee, who would it be and why?

Kelly: Frederic Henry from A Farewell to Arms. The book, the setting, the characters in this novel have always intrigued me. Aside from Shakespeare, this was the first book that really spoke to my soul, and Frederic is such a conflicted and tragic character. He could use a cup of coffee and a friend, I think.

Icy: Did you make a conscious decision to be a writer, or did it just happen?

Kelly: I have always loved to write, though I struggled as a student when I was told what to write. I didn't like being required to write things I wasn't interested in, and developed a mental block about certain styles, namely fiction. About four years ago, I started writing a memoir, primarily because I was struggling with how different my life had become from what I'd envisioned. My husband was diagnosed with cancer while I was in law school, and it changed just about everything for me. I started the blog shortly thereafter, which began as a way to chronicle the events in our family. The blog has evolved away from that, and I write less and less about my family for a few reasons. One, I'm tapping into topics I am interested in. Two, I struggle with people knowing too much about my children. Three, sometimes the stories aren't mine to tell. As my writing has evolved, I've started writing three other books and have recently begun writing fiction at the urging of Molly Field.

Icy: Where do you stand on the literary fiction vs genre fiction opposition?

Kelly: I don't honestly think there is a hard and fast line of distinction between the two. It's more of a continuum, and where any piece falls is a subjective determination. Personally, I've been dissatisfied with some of the so-called great works of literary fiction, and drawn in by genre pieces. Much like with the blogging world, where I resist categorization as a mommy blogger, I would resist being called a chick-lit writer. We are writers, and if we write fiction, we write fiction.

Icy: How would you sum up your writing in three words?

Kelly: Intriguing, timely, real.

Icy: Would you consider yourself as a writer who has a message she wants to share, or do you just want to entertain?

Kelly: For me, that all depends on the day. Sometimes I write purely for entertainment. More often, though, I am writing for a reason. I share my life experiences in the hope that someone out there needs to read what I'm writing. I share current events and legal cases because they are important, and far too often people take what the media reports as face value. There are times that I write strictly for therapeutic reasons.

Icy: Has motherhood affected your writing at all?

Kelly: Yes. I didn't begin writing daily until my fourth child was born, and I started doing it to work through my personal issues. Being the mother of four kids forces me to budget my time, forces me to be authentic, forces me to be even more considerate of others with what I write. It forces me to hold back, to temper my emotions, to censor myself when writing about real life. That tempering is also what has pushed me to experiment more with the world of fiction, where I can protect the real people in my life.

Icy: You're also a photographer. How do you find the differences between such a visual medium, and writing?

Kelly: Photography is often simpler than writing for me, yet they both have their challenges. I tend to have more confidence with photography, but have to force myself to make time for it. A well captured image can convey something a million words cannot. Conversely, words can tell us more than what we see at times. They can push us to look further, to examine deeper, to go beyond the superficial. One of the books I am working on is a photographic essay piece on motherhood.

Icy: We always like to share good writing advice, but what has been the worst piece of writing advice you were ever given?

Kelly: The absolute worst piece of advice I've ever received was from someone who tried to limit my work. She wanted me to abandon the fiction writing because it somehow posed a threat to her, which I obviously did not do. As writers, as creators, as artists, my belief is that we should be encouraging each other. We should be helping each other push limits, try new genres, test the boundaries of our creativity. Any perceived threat of competition is just that, perceived. I prefer to work with those who encourage and foster growth, not suppress it out of fear.

Icy: Self publishing - yes or no?

Kelly: I have to say that I have been almost uniformly disappointed with self-published works, primarily from an editorial standpoint. Traditional publishing takes longer, involves rejection and jumping through a lot of hoops, but I think the end result is better quality. When I get to the point where I have something close to finished, I will be pursuing the traditional route.

Icy: What do you want people to know about you?

Kelly: I am real. I am authentic. I don't have ulterior motives. I've been accused of being melodramatic in the past by those who didn't have a full understanding of what the reality in my life is. I don't write about everything, but everything I write is real. I've said many times before that I truly have no need to make anything up. My life is stranger than fiction.

Kelly, thanks for your time!


  1. Kelly, I'm glad you've joined the cast and crew of PPM. I think the feeling that life is stranger than fiction resonates with me. That, your personal tragedy, need for privacy and experiences of having been discouraged, too.

    I tend to approach the literary/genre divide as a librarian. Where I am I going to put your book so the right people will find it? I personally decided that I wanted to write for and market to the science fiction audience, but the work draws on many elements and traditions. Anyway, this has inspired me. I'm going to write a post about it.

    Welcome aboard!

  2. Kelly! Awesome interview! Yeah, those bastards who try to limit your work can go try to push someone else around. I'm so glad you're here!

    I agree with you regarding the Lit/fiction discussion. But I also don't see the bad side of writing commercial fiction in a literary way (she said without any irony or self-reflection / assessment of her own work which has been compared to James Joyce and then strangely Dan Brown...).

    I can't wait to see you gear up with a Carrie prompt. This is FUN! :)