For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
A sampling of the words and phrases used to describe my novel: “psychotropic,” “overheated,” “malevolent,” “dangerous,” “decaying, rotting,” “enormous and insane and magic,” “hallucinatory deluge,” “the year’s most horrifying novel,” “nightmarish insanity,” “if Francesca Lia Block started doing Meth,” etc. I blush, even though it makes me feel like a psycho; and I’m not—I’m normal! I love what Shelley Jackson wrote: “visionary, pervy, unhinged.” But as others have said, if you strip all that away, what you have is a basic coming-of-age story. I like that it operates on more than one level.
What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will permanently change our readers' lives for the better?
Oh Jeez, I was going to write a bunch of things down but then I noticed it said “for the better,” so now I have to reformulate my list.
Some early Alice Cooper, like the first song on Billion Dollar Babies
Cod Liver Oil
Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning
Eduardo Galeano’s Mirrors
Lynda Barry’s What It Is
The paintings of Suzan Woodruff
Skip Spence, Oar
Sumi ink drawings of Roland Flexner
“Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield”
The Drop Edge of Yonder by Rudolph Wurlitzer
TV Jones, “Eskimo Pies”
Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all (or novel) would you sprint to the store to buy (along with a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius so that the checkout clerk doesn’t look at you screwy)?
I’m still waiting for the Vanity memoir, as it was promised five or six years ago. Not sure what happened there. I am a fan of those Prince side-project bands and girl groups—there was Vanity 6 first, then Vanity got replaced with Apollonia for Apollonia 6 (the lineup that’s in Purple Rain). But there was also the Family, the Time, and Wendy and Lisa on the periphery. Vanity had serious health issues after so many years of hard drugs; she bottomed out around the time she broke up with Nikki Sixx, blew out her kidneys and made a hospital-bed commitment to Jesus, which involved turning her back on the whole Vanity persona. She became a preacher and I went and saw her one time at a Pomona megachurch.
Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
I wasn’t starving, but I was hidden away in a basement in Alhambra, working as a Library Technician for a psychology library. I couldn’t see the sun. I ate at Subway and Pick Up Stix multiple times a week (that’s where I first developed a complete visceral aversion to the Windexy-yeasty smell of Subway). So I guess you could say in my soul I was starving, weakened and shaky like low blood sugar, but more existentially zapped. You know how the early Muppets had that barely contained neurotic dread, simmering just under the surface? It was bumming me out. I had put down my novel for nearly a year and a half during this time. Then one day I panicked and quickly lined up three writer’s retreat-type situations, took out a loan, quit my job and that was the beginning of getting back on track.
What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
I guess approaching with an open mind, because I had an open mind when I wrote the book. I wanted to accept any and all possibilities for what could happen, and stylistically, throw caution to the wind and go out on a limb and all the other hackneyed sayings that could apply here.
Have you ever written anything that you'd like to take back?
No. I’m very careful about the words I write. Actually, even if there was something I’d like to take back I probably wouldn’t write it here because that would undermine my desire to take it back!