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"There's a hole if you're not around": Kelly Farmer on her feel-good holiday novel

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Kelly Farmer — Photo courtesy of the author
Kelly Farmer — Photo courtesy of the author

Kelly Farmer knows to be careful what to wish for! After completing her Out on the Ice series set in the world of women's ice hockey, she decided to write a more festive environment.

"We live in our worlds for months and months at a time, and I just wanted to live in a happy world," she said. "I got to the point where I just wanted to write something light and fluffy, where nothing bad happens, like a Hallmark movie [in which], even though there's conflict and drama, you know nothing bad will happen. You know the family Christmas ornament store isn't going to close."

Her latest book, It's a Fabulous Life, is set in a town that takes Christmas a little too seriously. "I based [Lanford Falls] on the typical small towns in Hallmark or Lifetime or any of the made-for-TV-[movies]," she admitted. Writing a story set in such a small place was a fun getaway for Farmer, but as the months went on, she found it difficult to stay jolly.

To keep herself in the holiday spirit, Farmer listened to Christmas music all year long — even in the 90-degree August heat! "I would listen to different types of Christmas music, so at least I shook it up a little," she said. There were the classics like 'Rudolph' and 'White Christmas,' and then I would do classical Christmas, or jazzy Christmas to shake it up. I did that as much as I could tolerate, but eventually it was like, 'No, I can't! No more!'"

Image courtesy of Alcove Press  

A Queer retelling
What kept Farmer motivated was the heart at the center of her book. It's a Fabulous Life is a modern, Queer retelling of the classic film It's a Wonderful Life.

"I've been a fan of the movie since high school, and it's always been in the back of my head that it would be fun to do a retelling," she said. "I loved the idea of what the world would be like if you had never been born. That was something I wanted to write about. Day to day, we all think, 'Oh, no one would miss me if I was gone,' or 'I'm not making a big enough difference in the world,' or 'Anyone could do my job.' The usual things like that. It's just really important to show that every single person matters and that we all touch so many lives that we're often not even aware of."

Validating everyday life was especially important as anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment rose in the United States. "In making the town extremely Queer friendly, especially as a small town, that was just so important, writing a place where all are welcome," Farmer said.

It's a Fabulous Life replaces the classic tale's angels with drag queens because, as Farmer said, "Who better to help you improve your life than a fabulous drag queen?"

"One of the things that was important for writing It's a Fabulous Life is that the drag queen angels are living humans, they're not dead people or angels," she added. "The angels needed to be alive, especially with how the world is now. There are some people out there who are trying to take away Trans rights and far worse things than that, so I definitely wanted the drag queens to be alive."

When she first started writing, Farmer couldn't imagine how controversial it would become. "When I drafted it a few years ago, there were a few things in the book that were not controversial whatsoever, so it just blew my mind that by the time the book came out, that drag queen story hour and public performances were all of a sudden hot-button issues for some people."

Now, more than ever, Farmer hopes LGBTQ+ readers can find joy and a festive escape in the pages of It's a Fabulous Life. She also hopes they can leave the story with the affirmation that their lives matter.

"You matter and your life matters very very much. Period. If you're going through a tough time, you stick around. You should be here," she said. "There is a line in the movie... 'Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many lives. When he isn't around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?' That line, in particular, has stuck with me for many years. It's gotten me through some tough times even. Just remember that there's a hole if you're not around."

The holiday season can be especially difficult for members of the Queer community who may not live in such an accepting place as Lanford Falls. Farmer hopes anyone looking for a place to belong this year can find it in It's a Fabulous Life.

"You're making a difference whether you know it or not. In particular, for the Queer community, the holiday season can be very tough for a lot of people, so I wanted to show a world where you are loved exactly for who you are. You are beautiful and awesome," she said.