Guest Post: Kennedy Ryan connects the Barbie movie and Long Shot

Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan. Image Courtesy of Bloom Books.
Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan. Image Courtesy of Bloom Books. /

Being a romance author is not an easy job especially if you’re Kennedy Ryan. If you’re a Kennedy Ryan reader, you know why I’m saying that.

Kennedy Ryan knows how to rip your heart out on one page and then help sew it back together on the following page. There is something about the way she writes and tells stories that just captivated your heart and soul.

She’s such a rare talent and someone whose books I’ve read and enjoyed. That’s why I was so honored to be able to feature her guest post on Culturess. I’m pinching myself as I type that because the queen actually wrote a guest post talking about the re-release of Long Shot.

Since it’s Kennedy Ryan, she managed to tie everything together with the current zeitgeist and honestly, it made me love her even more so I’ll stop talking and we can get into her incredible words.

Kennedy Ryan dazzles in this amazing guest post for Culturess.

Let me start off by thanking Kennedy Ryan for writing this up and Bloom Books for setting everything up for this to happen. It feels like a dream come true and I really do adore what Kennedy has written. That’s nothing new but let’s get into her stunning guest essay.

Kennedy Ryan
Kennedy Ryan Headshot. Image Courtesy of Bloom Books. /

"I haven’t seen Barbie yet.I know!I’m one of the four or five who haven’t donned my pink ensemble and taken the cinematic pilgrimage to Barbieland. The movie is shattering records as fast as it’s setting them. Biggest opening of 2023. Highest grossing film directed by a woman. As I’m writing, it is one weekend shy of the billion dollar mark. It’s a phenomenon that has sparked a barrage of criticism and critical acclaim. Whether you love the film or don’t, Greta Gerwig is an undeniable force as a writer and director. But we knew that already, right? She scored an Oscar nom for her directing debut Lady Bird and writing nomination two years later for Little Women. Even with those achievements, I don’t think anyone (not even her!) anticipated Barbie would be this stratospherically successful.I recently listened to a podcast in which she discussed the challenge of making something people dismiss as “basic” with many preconceived notions attached, into something extraordinary enough to capture our collective cultural imagination. The interviewer said Gerwig “Trojan horsed” many pointed messages about feminism, misogyny, and what it means to be a woman. She smuggled those messages in on a sea of pink taffeta, through a metric ton of human wigs (Margot Robbie alone wore 48 throughout the movie) and a cloud of spray tan wafting across candy-colored set pieces our Barbie doll dreamhouses are made of.I know nothing about being an award-winning, groundbreaking director, but as a romance writer, I do know a thing or two about having your work dismissed and reduced to something basic that’s not to be taken seriously. In addition to being the most commercially lucrative genre, romance is also the genre of guaranteed joy and relentless hope. Our commitment to women being celebrated, loved and having their desires and agency centered with a happily ever after every time misleads many to believe these books are predictable, formulaic and all the same. There’s something to be said for a winning formula and accessibility. Many readers want that ease. All these stories end happily, but how these women grow and thrive is the unique, ever-evolving point.The thing I hear most from readers about my books is that they aren’t just romance, but are more than romance. That smacks a little of “I’m not like other girls,” but I know what they mean. My stories never define the heroine only in the context of romantic love with her partner, but again, encompassing her fully dimensional journey of self-actualization, and yes, her happily ever after. Pairing the spice and swoon with all the ways women are powerful, my books tend to be equal parts romance and women’s fiction.Maybe the most fitting example is my Hoops series. It’s set in the NBA, and there’s actual basketball. I know some authors kind of write around the sports, which is totally fine, but I love basketball, and sprinkled in enough to satisfy sports fans and not so much that non-sportsball folks would read with glazed eyes. I enjoy centering women’s desires and ambitions in a setting traditionally dominated by men and fueled by testosterone.Long Shot, a survivor’s story with a guaranteed happily ever after set in the NBA, unpacks the patriarchal systems that esteem paternal right over the safety of women and their children. I wrote it over the course of two years. I started, but kept running into my own biases about women who “stay” in those situations. How could I write Iris’ story with any understanding and compassion if I was judging her like so many looking from the outside in?So I went in.I closed my laptop and took months to have conversations with survivors, shelter staff and social workers. It was heartbreaking and eye opening and deconstructed so many preconceived notions I held about women in abusive situations. It also illuminated the role of financial and reproductive abuse, in addition to the physical and verbal. What it did most of all? Convinced me that no one deserved a triumphant ending more than these women. Long Shot’s heroine Iris needed a partner who would be patient while she healed; who would handle her with unerring tenderness and respect. After Iris begins her healing journey, this is one of my favorite passages contrasting her previous relationship with the one she eventually finds with August West.I remember a magical night under the stars, under a streetlight on the eve of greatness. A night filled with laughter and confidences, pregnant with promise. And I see him so clearly, my prince, asking for a kiss.And I do.I kiss him like the world might end tonight because I’ll never take this for granted. Not his kindness, when I’ve known cruelty all too well. Not his tenderness, when I’ve been handled roughly in the past. Not his love, when I’ve been possessed and owned and mistreated.He thaws me with his kiss, my prince, and I melt into him. We’re chest to chest, with August’s number crushed between us . . .we kiss until I’m dizzy and our breaths tangle in a cloud of bliss. Ours is a love that reimagines—that peels back the sky at high noon searching for the stars, collecting them like shells in a bucket. We bathe in stardust, drink from the Milky Way, and dance on the moon. We pierce the firmament, peer into infinity, and tread on time and space. There is no before. There is no after. Now gives birth to forever. This moment may die, but this love never will. Time is not a line. It’s a circle, and we, August and Iris, we stand at the center.Trauma-informed fiction—narratives that delve deeply into traumatic events, usually in dialogue with people who have lived those experiences and guided by substantial research—is inherently complex. Trauma-responsive fiction, which lays a track for healing in the narrative, can also be deeply cathartic. The lasting effects of some difficult circumstances may not ever go away completely, but the guaranteed happily ever after offers hope when women see characters like them being loved wildly and unconditionally. As a writer, doing it well requires both care and craft.Long Shot was originally released a few years ago, and it is still possibly the most impactful book I’ve ever written. It is difficult and angsty and messy. . .but it is also healing and swoony and empowering, brimming with defiant hope. Every intention that drove me to write Iris’ story then still lies pressed between the pages as it goes out broader into the world through Bloom Books’ new print edition on August 8.I read a piece speculating that the success of Barbie might very well be because it does something most movies never do: specifically targets women; caters to them without condescending. I like to think my stories, and more broadly our genre, do the same. Cater to women without condescending. Gerwig is known for thoughtful films exploring women’s complex interiority. On the surface Barbie may seem like a sharp departure, but if you read between all the pink lines, she’s still at it. You only have to listen to America Ferrera’s now-famous monologue from Barbie to know Gerwig, even in the beachy spectacle, never loses her way. Her message remains one of women’s agency and their personhood and their all-around badassery, just delivered in a way that is truly accessible, reaching a broad audience and still having deep impact.In Romancelandia, we may know a little something about that."

Simply put: Kennedy Ryan continues to amaze me and I don’t know how you couldn’t pick up one of her books after reading that. Of course, that’s where you’re in luck as Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan is releasing today with the rest of the Hoops series following close behind.

The film world will never be the same after the release of Barbie and the same can be said about Kennedy Ryan when it comes to Romancelandia.

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