Friday, October 12, 2012

Apropos of Nothing: Kitty Sutton Answers 5 Questions

She was born Kathleen Yvonne Kelley. Sounds Irish does it not? Irish, in part, however the other half is Cherokee. She grew up along the Little Blue River in an old part of Kansas City in a family that was well known as musicians and performers on the Kansas City scene. She had a varied and difficult childhood. Her mother, being newly divorced and only making $1.50 per hour, placed both of her boys and Kitty in Catholic Children's homes. The boys went to Pius X Home for Boys and Kitty to St. Joseph Home for Girls. They were essentially orphanages, but the arrangement was supposed to be temporary. Kitty ended up being at the girl's home, going home to her mother on the weekends, until she was five when one of the nuns lost her temper and threw Kitty out of a second-story window. After trying to conceal the deed by putting Kitty in a room in the attic without any medical attention and in a coma, Kitty defied the odds and woke up, forcing the nuns to call a pediatrician. They chose one who would come in the middle of the night. Little did they know the pediatrician they called was the one Kitty's mother had used for her regular care. The good doctor immediately fetched the mother to bring her daughter home.

However, life still did not go well for the girl. Over the years, her mother became increasingly mentally ill and subjected Kitty to emotional torture that would have twisted a weaker personality.  Her love of art, music and dance helped to sustain her, and, though she knew only a little about Him, she had faith in God. She also found solace in her creativity. Finally, at sixteen, Kitty escaped and ran immediately to authorities – who refused to believe her. Since the girl refused to be taken back home, they decided to put her in a situation that would make her want to go home.  So, without her have committed so much as a curse word, she was put into Juvenile Detention.  When the case workers came back to see if she had changed her mind, they were surprised that she would rather stay in jail, with some very rough, criminally inclined young women, than go back home to the emotional torture she had endured for so long.

This gave them pause, so they decided to do a little more investigating. A few days later, they returned and asked, “Kathleen, did you know your mother is crazy?” This is what she had been telling them all along. So, before her senior year of high school at Southeast High in Kansas City began, she was placed in foster care. She was placed in various homes, all with horrible results because some people thought you took in a teenager in foster care so that they could be the maid and babysitter.

Finally, they found a home for her during the Thanksgiving holiday where she remained until she set off for college with a scholarship in music and dance at UMKC. There, she met here husband of forty-one years. Kitty began to write early in her marriage. While raising their three children, she had no opportunity to use her God-given talents until they moved to the Missouri Ozarks near Branson in 1992. After being asked to sing at an open-mic night, she was given a job on the spot as an entertainer. One thing led to another and within two years, Kathleen Sutton became Kitty Kelley (used as a stage name) with her own Branson show. Finding this success in her life did wonders for her self-esteem. She produced three albums and appeared on numerous network television shows. In Denmark one of her songs, “Grandpa's Fiddle,” placed at number eight on the pop/country charts the same week that Garth Brooks’ “American Bar Association” placed at fourteen. Her show continued with good success until 2004, when illness caught up with her.  That fall from the two-story window so long ago became a source of extreme pain, and Kitty had to close her six-days-a-week show. 

She picked up the writing she had practiced as a form of therapy and began again in earnest.  This time, though, she decided to focus on an aspect of her Native American heritage that, after much research, was obvious had been sadly lacking in the historical record. She set about to right that wrong by writing in the genre of Native American Historical fiction and produced her first novel, Wheezer and the Painted Frog, under her married name, Kitty Sutton. She had planned to publish the work by herself, but was unsure of how to accomplish such a technical feat. She often posted in a group on Facebook called Book Junkies. She quickly made friends, one of whom is the author of this blog. Upon hearing about Kitty's book, Susan felt her own publisher might be interested in this unique subject. One thing led to another and a request was made to Kitty for the manuscript.

Now Kitty is very happily writing daily. The second in the Mysteries from the Trail of Tears series, Wheezer and the Shy Coyote, was recently released. Her publisher is Inknbeans Press and Kitty could not be happier about it.

Talk about responsibility. 
All those years of raising my family, I yearned to sing and perform. I accepted a few invitations to sing at several Kansas City nightclubs, but came away with a feeling of disgust for the lifestyle.  I had no desire to sing to a bunch of people who would not remember the next day where they had been the night before. So I put all I could into raising my family – trying not to repeat the terrible mistakes made by the adults I knew as a child. I studied the Bible and became one of Jehovah's Witnesses and with this new knowledge, I was able to keep my marriage and family together.

I learned early on that my nature did not fit in the corporate environs, so I began my own business.  I was able to use my creative skills in many different endeavors which supplied a good bit of our income. Once my children were raised, I had no qualms about pursuing my lifelong dream – with excellent and satisfying results.

Complete this sentence: "My favorite time of the day is…"
My favorite time of the day is around 2 A.M., when all are in bed and I can have the time to create at my leisure. I do my best work in the middle of the night. Sometimes, I go out into my garden and pull weeds with the help of a flashlight or I go down to the chicken pen and give them a late night (or early morning) treat.

What would be the most difficult news for you to accept about someone in your family?
It would be the news of losing my wonderful husband and partner in art. I would miss him terribly and there is no human on this earth that I trust more than he. We are as in love with each other as we were all those years ago when I was a troubled young woman who needed love and reassurance. There would be no replacing him.

Tell about a "special" gift that you received when you were a child.
Yes, I was given something special, but it was not something I could hold or set on a table and look at. But it was as important to my life as anything I can think of. After coming home from being thrown out of that window and the long hospital stay that it involved, I was able to attend a family reunion. Back in the 1950s, family reunions were much more prevalent than today. My grandfather, who owned Stinson's Music Store at 40th and Troost in Kansas City was, of course, a well-known musician as well. Most of his children were known around town as some of the best jazz musicians of their era. Anyway, I knew nothing about that – I was only six at the time. My grandfather played the violin, but I had never heard him play it. On this occasion, the entire family had brought their instruments to have a good jam session. I don't know how my grandfather  knew that I loved to dance, but he wanted to warm up his fiddle and he told me to dance to the tune he would play. While he played and I whirled around letting my six-year-old body do whatever it felt like doing to keep the beat, I discovered that this was something I loved. When the song was over and all the family, at the time about 200 of them, clapped their pleasure of my performance, I will never forget the feeling of empowerment I felt at the moment. I did not know what it was called then, but that feeling followed me my entire life. That is why I wrote “Grandpa's Fiddle,” which gained some acclaim in Europe. When I close my eyes, I can still hear his fiddle, blazing away while I turned and swerved, tapping my little feet to the beat and receiving a gift that I have cherished. In truth, I believe that it was that empowering moment that kept me from losing my mind during all those helpless years under my mother's mental illness. That was a great gift.

Say something about spontaneity.
Spontaneity is my middle name actually, to a fault. I have a hard time sticking with the grind because I get inspired and then go rushing off to experiment with my new ideas. That includes everything in my life. I must say, it has contributed to a very interesting life, but it has caused many a problem as well. That is the life of an artist, whether it is writing or visual art, when the call of creativity yells loud and clear, we must obey. For me, if I ignore it, I get depressed. It took me years to figure that out. Now I just give in to my creative spontaneity and then do my best to take care of the mundane in between the inspirations.

Actually, Kitty, I think we met on Twitter first! I loved your first book, and I look forward to reading the second in the series. I'm glad that I was able to assist you, even in such a small way. Best of luck to you in all of your endeavors!

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