Tryst Interviews Kim Pritekel
Kim: I was born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado. My parents split when I was 5, and I have no relationship with my birth father now after a very rocky 30 + years. My mom, older sister, Tiffani and I are very close. All that said it was pretty tough for me because I was always a dreamer. ALWAYS. I began writing when I was 9 years old, but wasn't really supported by my family. A favorite saying was, "It's a good hobby, honey." I know that was because they were worried I'd be disappointed, but it still made it hard. I pretty much went underground with my writing for years. But now, my mom, sister and friends are incredibly supportive.
Mia: Have you gone back to see some of your peers and confronted them since you graduated?
Kim: I've not "confronted" them, but I did go back for my ten-year reunion. I'm an extremely different person now, very confident and really have a strong sense of self, so it was fun. Also, I had already managed a small degree of success in my career by that time, so admittedly it was great to rub it in
Mia: So, you were a 'closet' writer, but were you a closet lesbian? If so, when did you, or did you come out? How did your family react, your friends? Who was the most understanding and did you come to accept yourself as well? I mean, some people come out and still never feel comfortable with their 'new' identity.
Kim: I like to joke that I knew I was gay from the time I was a zygote. I had my first recognizable sexual crush when I was about 4 years old, and that was on Brooke Shields in the movie, The Blue Lagoon. Even still, we didn't have shows like Will & Grace, The L Word or Queer As Folk, so in truth, I had no idea it was even really possible to live freely and love women. I know that sounds strange, but I couldn't quite wrap my mind around how I felt, which was yet another way I was hugely isolated from my peers.
I used to think I was this nasty, horrible person because I loved to look at the girls I went to school with. Heck, most of my friendships started out because I had a crush on her first. Even still, I dated four different guys during high school, but I now know that I was trying desperately to feel "normal". What a joke that was; they barely even got to kiss me, let alone anything else.
It was funny, actually: I was kicked out of my house right after graduation from high school, and my mom called my father to tell him. She started the conversation with, "I need to talk to you about Kim." His response was, "She's gay, isn't she?" I always walked to the beat of my own drum, so I don't think many were shocked when I finally came out. But, what finally made that happen was when I fell in love with a girl during my freshman year in college. Sheila was everything to me, and certainly my first love and first heartbreak. But, when it happened - figuring it out - I was literally pushing a cart of books to shelve at the public library I worked at. I heard this little voice in my head say, "Kim, you're gay." I stopped pushing my cart, thought about it for a second or two then was like yeah, guess I am.
It wasn't a shock for me at all, nor did I struggle with it in any way. My step-dad at the time was kind of a jerk about it, but that didn't bother me. My dad's side of the family, unfortunately has some folks in it that are less-than-accepting, and because of that, I have very little to do with that side of the family. My mom however has always been wonderful about it. Yes, she had her times of wondering what she'd done wrong, was it because of my father, etc. But, eventually she came to realize that it is what it is, and life is about being happy and being true to yourself.
I was about 20 or 21 when I finally came out. It actually really brought my older sister and me together in a bond that even our mom can't understand, as my sister is a lesbian, too.
Kim: You know, I've been asked this many times, and I guess I just don't see myself as interesting enough for others to want to read about, but hey, if folks wanted to read it, sure, why not?
Mia: You said that you didn't know where you were going next with your writing; that you had more 'mainstream' stories in you. What kind of stories are you interested in exploring next?
Kim: That's tough to answer, as an idea for a story just literally hits me over the head. For instance, one time I was walking down the street and saw a city bus pass by. BOOM! I got an image of a scene in my head and ended up writing the entire story around that scene. Also, a lot of the stories I write revolve around my emotional state at the time, as I'm very much an emotion-based writer. If I haven't made you cry, I haven't done' my job. Yes, I realize that's a bit sadistic.
But, on a more specific vein, over the past couple of years my spirituality has grown in a very strange, profound way, and I feel compelled to share what I've learned, as well as explore it further through writing. I've already started that with my novel After Shadow, which is scheduled to be released in 2012. But, I'd also like to explore some non-fic in the spirituality realm. I have plans for a book called Disbelievers Who Believe, which will essentially chronicle what I've learned, where I've been spiritually, as well as offer help to others like myself, who are believers in the spiritual but not in religion.
Kim: Oh man, you just opened up a can of worms with this question! I love my fans, they are truly my family and have helped me in ways they'll never know about. But, anyway, to your question. There are several that stick out in my mind over the years. Probably one of the most profound was from a 57 year old straight man who had been married for more than 30 years, and for reasons he didn't disclose, he read my novel, FIRSTS. He said that from reading that book, he - who was an admitted bigot and very prejudiced towards gays - he realized that being gay wasn't about sickness or being a deviant, but simply about love and self-truth. He said that book changed his life and his outlook on everything in his life.
I was stunned and deeply touched by this. Another one that comes to mind - and made me cry - was a woman who had, again, read FIRST. A few years before she and her partner had been having some problems, and had gotten into a horrible fight one morning before work. Angry, her partner had stormed out of the house and was killed in a car accident on the way to work. This woman had blamed herself and was really struggling with letting it go and moving on. She read the book, and from how it spoke to her, she was able to let go and grieve properly, then move on.
One of the biggest things that I hear though, that makes me so sad, is women - and men - who are gay but did the "right" thing and got married and had a family. Now, sometimes many years after the fact, they've resigned themselves to their choices, but live vicariously through the work of gays and lesbians.
Mia: So I want to imagine a scenario with you: You've just gotten an offer on one of your scripts to be made into a movie. First of all would you take it? What kind of authorial exercise do you want to have over the making of the film so you're not unhappy with the results? For instance, let's pick a book: 1049 CLUB. What actors would play the part of Denny, Rachel, Michael, Dean?
Kim: Ohh, good question! I now work in the film industry, so luckily this scenario isn't too far off the mark. It could be a good thing or a bad thing that I do work in the industry and know how it works; good and bad. They say ignorance is bliss, but authors and screenwriters can easily be taken advantage of, so it's always good to either have knowledge, or be backed by someone who does.
Anyway, I'd want to have some say in directing and lead casting. It all has to be a good fit with the work. As for casting 1049 CLUB, hmm. I'd say for Dean, Sean Hayes. He would be so completely perfect for that role and would really do it justice. For Michael, I'd say my very dear friend and wonderful actor, Christian Boeving. When I wrote the novel I actually had his physicality in mind. Rachel, well, I'm a sucker for Renee O'Connor of Xena: Warrior Princess fame. She's a fantastic human being, as well as drop-dead gorgeous! Again, that character was very much written with her in mind. But, if that wasn't possible, I'd have to go with Renee Zellweger or Kate Winslet. As for Denny, hmm. That's a bit of a tough one. You know, I draw a blank.
Mia: You have two main women characters in most of your stories: One is usually a petite blonde with green eyes, the other is a tall brunette with blue eyes. I'm trying to visualize what these characters look like because, as is well known, everyone has their ideas of beauty. What actor or celebrity, model, most closely resembles these two characters?
Kim: This is funny. Okay, here's where that started: I began my online writing in fan fiction for the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess. Fan fiction is essentially taking an episode of the show, or simply the characters, and creating new stories about them. Well, I only did about four of those stories before I began doing my own thing with my own characters. However, there is a genre in the fan fiction realm called uber, which is where you write original work, but use the physical appearance of the character, actor, whatever. So, it started out as an uber thing, but then I just fell in love with the physicality. Actually, it's funny: I wrote FIRST long before I had even seen an episode of Xena, but that was the exact look of Beth and Emily: Beth - taller with dark hair and light blue eyes. Emily - shorter and petit with blonde hair and green eyes. Auspicious beginning perhaps? Either way, the two actresses that you're looking at here are Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor.
Kim: Well, first and foremost I am not a fan of organized religion. I don't agree with a lot of what is preached as well as I've run into far too many folks who'd rather preach hate and intolerance rather than love. I mean no offense to anyone by saying this, it's just been my personal experiences.
Anyway, so I was pretty much a borderline atheist up until spring of 2008. Now, in order to go forward, I have to go back and explain. My mother's parents were killed in a horrendous car accident in 1958, and my 5 year old mother, her younger brother and younger sister were the only survivors. All said, let's zoom up to when I was 4 years old. My mom had her mother's hope chest at that time, and it held the last earthly possessions of her parents, including her mother's violin, two Indian dolls, some other things, and a needlepoint, still stretched over its frame.
So, I'm standing there holding that needlepoint, which wasn't finished and was partially covered by a brownish, hard material. As I held it, I suddenly felt overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, pain, terror and profound loss. It scared me to death! I threw the needlepoint into the hope chest and ran upstairs in tears! It turns out that my grandmother had been working on that needlepoint when the accident happened, and the brownish substance was her dried blood. I realized years later that I had had an empathic moment, and had felt all that she felt when the accident happened. My mom also had a picture of her mother and the four kids - my mom's older sister, Carol Ann was killed in the accident, as well. The picture had been taken not long before the accident. Whenever I would see this framed picture, I would be struck by the strangest feeling of grief and loss. If I looked into my grandmother's eyes, I would literally break down.
For years I was really confused about this, and wondered if perhaps I had been reincarnated and was her, or something. Nope. Okay, so now to March of 2008. I was sleeping on a mattress on a basement bedroom floor in my best friend, Cindy's house. As I lay there, I could feel a presence in the room with me. (I have always been able to feel spirits around me, ever since I was a child, but pushed it down because it scared my mom and my step-dad used to make fun of me for it.) This presence wasn't evil or threatening, but it still freaked me out! What freaked me out even worse was when I heard a voice saying, "Kim, open your eyes. Open your eyes." Hell no I'm not opening my eyes!! This went on pretty much all night.
The next morning a friend of mine called me and I was in tears as I told her what had happened. Through talking to her, I was able to realize what had happened and who it was: my grandmother. She has been with me my entire life and is what I call my Spirit Guide. My gifts began to grow and truly develop then, and soon I was able to see her and hear her voice. I began to see spirits around me all the time, and not just sense them. Eventually, I was doing automatic writing and then finally psychic and medium readings. Funnily enough, that's how I made my living for a short period of time in 2008-2009.
Kim: I am one of the nuttiest, goofiest people you'll ever meet. I certainly have a very serious, intellectual side to me, I'm a deep thinker, but I really try not to take myself or life too seriously. I had to learn that the hard way. So, I guess I perceive myself as a nutty intellectual.
Mia: What are your best traits? What do you look for in others?
Kim: I think my best traits are by far my imagination and my intelligence. I rely on both greatly in not only my career but also in reading others. This is a hugely important aspect of what I do; by reading others and understanding the intricacies of human nature, I can create the characters that I do, as well as, make them human and bring them to life on the page.
Mia: Tell me about how you got the job at a men's prison and what it was like and what did you do there?
Kim: When I was 24, I was working at the Lamb Branch Library in Pueblo as well as working at an entertainment store called Hastings. I was actually hurting for money, as my hours at Hastings were being horribly cut. My mom called me one night and told me she'd seen the ad in the paper for a Library Technician II at Centennial Correctional Facility in Canon City, a tiny town about 45 minutes away from Pueblo. I knew in my gut that was where I was supposed to go.
So, I got my resume and everything together, sent it in and was called in for a panel interview. It was probably one of the most unnerving interviews I've ever had, as there was a panel of 5 that interviewed me. I did a kick butt job though, and within a three month process, I had the job.
I had to go through what was called The Academy for four weeks, which was all of the new Department of Corrections (DOC) hires, from officers to recreation to the library workers and nurses. We had to learn how the DOC operated, procedures, that kind of thing, and then - my favorite - we had a week of PPCT training, which is essentially pressure point training. At the time I was in kickboxing, so it was right up my alley!
Anyway, what I did was run the prison's library. I had four inmae clerks who did the day-to-day, while I supervised, hired, fired, ran reports, etc. I loved it, and the stories I have from those three years are endless. I saw a man murdered in front of me (his blood was on my boots) within the first month I was there. It was truly an amazing time. I was laid off in 2001 after 9/11, when Colorado hit a huge budget crisis for state employees. My job was squeezed out as Centennial Correctional Facility and Colorado State Penn joined as one facility.
Kim: The most daring thing I've ever done was to leave my day job to write for a living! Sometimes it's terrifying when you don't know if you'll survive financially, but it's been so worth it.
Kim: I've actually met my soul mate, and it was a soul altering experience. We met on a film set and it was love at first sight. Oh man, I've never experienced anything like it before. She is my opposite in many, many ways, but the balance between us is unbelievable. Unfortunately, this was not the time for us, as she's a married woman with a child, and her obligations had to take priority for her. Not the proudest of moments in my life, but I don't regret one minute with her, though it was one of the most painful moments in my life to lose her. But, I believe that what is meant to be will be, no matter what you may want or feel. If she and I are meant to be together again in this life, it'll happen. If we're not, it won't; plain and simple.
Mia: What advice would you give to young gay teens today about coping with their sexuality, their identity, and how to get beyond the anti-gay attitudes?
Kim: I think my biggest advice to them would be to understand that no matter who you are, what you do or where you come from, there's going to be something about you that someone - or lots of someones - doesn't like. We are all judged, and though easier said than done sometimes, you can't take that to heart, and you can't make THAT part of your identity, rather than your own feelings.
I was teased unmercifully for a whole ton of reasons when I was a kid, and though it was truly terrible at the time, I found an outlet for it through my writing. I advise the gay teens to do the same. Obviously not everyone is a writer but do art, play music, whatever. Find an outlet for your feelings without going inside, or without getting violent and filled with rage for something you can't change. I'm actually really grateful for all the teasing and judgment because it has made me unbelievably strong.
Biggest thing to add, especially as these kids are killing themselves over this: It will end. Give it one more day, and this time of your life will be far behind you. Don't give in and don't give up. Love yourself and believe in yourself.
Mia: You won the "Best Contemporary Lesbian Fiction award"; and, placed 2nd in Best Overall Fiction and Best Setting; as well as, 3rd in Best Characters for 1049 CLUB. First of all, Kim, congratulations! How were those awards decided and by whom or what panel of judges? Besides the prestige, recognition and honor that come with the awards, do they open up any more doors, opportunities for you?
Kim: First of all, thank you. I was pretty surprised, as I had no idea I’d been nominated for this. The way it works is this: 220 books were submitted (first time releases – in print or ebook – between September 2009 and August 2010). About 100 judges – from the US, Europe and Australia – were utilized, including actors, a TV host and some lesbian/gay Indy filmmakers, as well as fellow authors. Also, 51 different publishers were involved in this judging, so I was pretty stoked at the win, considering the odds, here.
Copyright © 2011 Kim Pritekel
Kim Pritekel was born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado and currently lives in Denver. She began writing at the age of 9 and published her first novel at 24. Her books include: FIRST, LESSONS, TWILIGHT, STORM and 1049 CLUB and are available at PD Publishing, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Premier Books and elsewhere. CONNECTION and AFTER SHADOW are due to release soon. Kim is also a screenwriter and director. She began her own production company Asp Films in 2006 and has written for Dean Productions and Flying Pig Productions, both out of Los Angeles. More of Kim's work can be read on her site: http://www.kimpritekel.com/ebooks