13 Kit Brennan

Kit Brennan is a nationally produced and award-winning Canadian playwright, born in Vancouver and based in Quebecwhip smart 2 and Ontario, whose plays include Spring Planting, Hunger Striking, and Tiger's Heart, winner of the Canadian National Playwriting Competition. She now teaches playwriting and storytelling at Concordia University in Montreal. In early 2013 Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards was published, Kit's first novel and the first in the Whip Smart series - historical adventure and romance based on the true life and times of Lola Montez (or Eliza Gilbert), an Irish actress who reinvented herself as a Spanish dancer and went on to adventures and romantic entanglements with the leading lights of the day, including at least one head of state. The second in the series, Whip Smart: Lola Montez and the Poisoned Nom de Plume has just been released. Here Kit discusses both books.

1) What is your name? What is your quest?

My name is Kit Brennan, and my quest is to make myself laugh. This is more difficult than it might seem, because I can't tell a joke verbally to save my life (I always mess up the punch line), but on paper it's possible, and this is fun.

2) Okay, tell me about your book(s).

Whip Smart: Lola Montez and the Poisoned Nom de Plume is the second book in Whip Smart: The Lola Montez Series. (The first is Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards.) They are 19th century adventure novels with a saucy, sexy and often blusteringly wrong-headed heroine named Eliza Gilbert, who reinvents herself from wayward Irish divorcee to voluptuous pseudo-Spanish dancer. Along the way, she gets into all sorts of dire trouble. In the first book, there is lust and love in Madrid with a swash-buckling General Diego de Leon, dangerous spy games with theatrical impresario Juan de Grimaldi, hanging out with young Spanish royalty - and before too long, Eliza (now known as Lola Montez) finds herself the target of a most terrifying secret cult: the Society of the Exterminating Angel. Book 2 finds Lola living and dancing in Paris, about to meet the love of her life - and about to face the biggest threat she could possibly imagine.

An important thing to know about the books is that they are based on the real-life Lola Montez, and that most of the background information is historically accurate. They are NOT biographies, however. They are more mystery/thrillers with a dollop of comedy (because of Lola herself). Even though Lola Montez's real life provided lots of adventure, I give her even more. She was a spinner of tall tales about herself her whole life - I like to think she'd approve!

3) What was the most difficult bit to write?

The climax of the books are harrowing to write. I dream about them long beforehand, and afterwards as well.whip smart 1

4) What surprised you about writing it?

I'm a playwright, and what has surprised me most is how free I feel, writing fiction - once I established Lola's essential voice. It's the most fun I've had as a writer, ever!

5) First line(s):

WS1: "Tell us in your own words."
WS2: Teeth chattering, arms clasping my body for warmth, I gazed out the window at snow and more snow.

6) What's the next project?

Next project is book 3. The title for that is Whip Smart: Lola Montez Starts a Revolution. It takes place in Bavaria, at the court of King Ludwig I, during the years just prior to (and during) the 1848 Revolutions of Europe.

7) Your three main characters are trapped in a barn during the zombie apocalypse. What's the outcome?

I'd like to hope that Lola and Diego can sustain themselves on the bad guy's brains... but I dread to think of that possibility and what it might do to them... Fuckity fuck.

8) Your book's been made into a movie. What's playing over the opening credits?

Thunderingly galloping hooves as Lola rides her horse along a beautiful beach at break-neck pace. Someone is after her - is it with murderous intent? or lustful intent? (or is she after them?)

I didn't think there was much of a possibility of finding this on Youtube, so I asked Kit if she'd supply a song title. For Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards, we get Kate Bush, 'Running Up That Hill', a fine choice! And for Whip Smart: Lola Montez and the Poisoned Nom de Plume, keeping it Kate, it's 'The Red Shoes'. Very apt.

9) When and where is the book available?

Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards (Astor + Blue Editions) is available in paperback, ebook and audio book. Lola Montez and the Poisoned Nom de Plume is available as of Nov 19 as an audio book (Audible.com), and by Christmas as ebook and paperback.

My two cents: I'd been a fan of Kit Brennan's plays for years - they are beautiful, challenging and at times emotionally devastating theatrical experiences. So I was gobsmacked to discover the Lola Montez series: romance and swashbuckling adventure, sex and intrigue, all based on the true story of a larger than life heroine. The series is great fun - reading these novels delivers the same kind of headlong, narrative rush I remember from books I'd read as a kid, but with a distinctly adult sensibility. And what a relief to find a modern novel that presents sex as something enjoyable, even affectionate! If you're looking for cliff-hanging thrills and romance, the Whip Smart series delivers the goods with intelligence and style. 

Now here's that opening to Book 1:

And Book 2:

Get your copy of Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World here

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In the U.S.A.

In Canada...or try here. Or go independent.

"...astonishingly good....a juicy coming-of-age story...also an important read." The Globe and Mail

"...poignant...heart-wrenching. This stunning debut will surely appeal to both teenage readers and adults." Quill & Quire, starred review

"Witty, devastating, with a melancholy humour..." Sunday Business Post

"...page-turning, top drawer stuff..." BGE Book Club

"...warm, witty, heartfelt and utterly engaging..." The Irish News

"A stunning debut. I loved it." The Irish Examiner