You may remember the last time Tiffany Scandal showed up here. If you don’t, go read her short story Trembling Hands right now. A lot has happened since then. Her first year as part of Eraserhead Press’ New Bizarro Author Series came to a close. She started working with the excellent Living Dead Magazine. And she wrote a new novel, called JIGSAW YOUTH, which will be released this March through the female-author press Lady Box Books.
Amid all this, she found the time to do an interview with me. Check it out.
LM: First, tell us about your upcoming release JIGSAW YOUTH.
TS: JIGSAW YOUTH is the story of a woman told in fragments. What makes her, what breaks her, and what helps her find the strength to keep going despite constantly being expected to fail. I had initially set out to write a fun, punk rock novel about young women who don’t give a fuck, but ended up with something stronger, heavier, more powerful.
LM: What was your process like writing it? How was it different from writing THERE’S NO HAPPY ENDING?
TS: Terrible. (kidding!) When I pitched the concept to Constance, I was confident that I would be able to whip up a workable draft in a couple of weeks. Man, I couldn’t have been more wrong about anything ever. Even though I had a decent outline and the entire book mapped out in my head, once those first two chapters were typed out, I had to take a break because I was so emotionally exhausted. Now, I’m not meaning to imply that I wrote another bleak book. I mean, parts of them are to a certain degree, but I wrote a book that could very well be someone’s story. Life isn’t always laughter and roses. Writing about the uglier parts of existence can really fuck you up. If I’m not feeling the heartache, anger, frustration, or happiness that my characters are feeling, chances are, whoever reads the book isn’t going to either.
There were moments where I felt the same exhaustion with THERE’S NO HAPPY ENDING, but I had also managed, I think, to majorly desensitize myself because of all the research I had done on plagues and rotting processes. So by the time I got to the emotionally heavy hitting spots, I was already like, “killing off a likeable character? Ha. Whatever. I just spent two hours studying photographs of people infected with the bubonic plague.”
LM: How did you decide on Lady Box for a market?
TS: Oh, man. I don’t even know where to start.
First off, Constance Ann Fitzgerald is super ace. I’ve been a huge fan of hers since reading Trashland A Go-Go and meeting her at a Bizarro Con a few years back. It’s been nice to talk with someone who shares so many interests.
Now, two Bizarro Cons ago, she invited me to contribute to a project she wanted to put together. She was collecting chapbooks/zines from strong-voiced women and putting them together for a limited edition box set. The original Ladybox. The invitation was very flattering, and it was a total honor to have some of my work alongside powerhouses like Violet LeVoit, Rios de la Luz, Laura Lee Bahr, Spike Marlowe, Rae Alexandra, and, of course, Constance. It was a fun project, and Constance did such an amazing job spearheading the whole thing. So that was my glimpse into what it would be like working with her.
Because Ladybox was so well received, it became apparent that this project needed to go beyond a limited edition box set. Ladybox needed to be a press. A venue for female-identified writers to have their work be part of a catalogue that includes some of the fiercest voices in contemporary literature. And who better to run this than Constance herself. Thus, Ladybox Books was born.
Now this is where I might get super long-winded.
Before Ladybox Books was officially announced, there was a lot of bad press making the rounds about indie lit not being female-friendly. Allegations about rape and abuse and coercion. People who were told that they could be published if they _______. It was awful. And there’s also a massive disparity between pitches subbed by men and women. Having had conversations with people who publish books, I’d hear numbers like one to every twenty, and that’s just in the small press world. Ladybox Books will hopefully bridge and band-aid a lot of that. I see it as a movement that will help give female-identified writers a voice and venue to be heard. It’s not for women, it’s BY women. And shit like this gets me excited. So it seemed natural to want to be a part of this
LM: Do you have a favorite passage from JIGSAW YOUTH that you would like to share here?
TS: Here’s a short excerpt from the first chapter:
We went to three different strip clubs. Throughout the night, Hope seemed more and more distant. She drank so much she could barely stand. The cigarette breaks with her friend got longer. I felt foolish, and I chose to ignore it.
We were there with a group of friends. Each time Hope and Los Angeles got up, the others would shoot me a glance. I don’t know if they actually looked sad, or if I just saw them that way. I looked away at the stage. Fake blonde. Fake tits. Fake face. The dancer flirted with the audience. I imagined her smiling that same forced smile, perfect teeth, carving “I hate everything” into my skull.
When they came back, Hope and Los Angeles were giggling and holding hands. I tried to focus on another conversation in the group. They sat, leaning into each other. Los Angeles whispered in her ear. Cold blue eyes locking on mine. Los Angeles mouthed the word “ugly.” Then they stopped whispering, and she told Hope I was fat and unattractive, and that she needed to ditch the zero. I was watching them, now. Hope finally looked at me and laughed, resting her head on Los Angeles’ shoulder. Hand on her thigh. Hope cracked a shit-faced smile.
I imagined carving “I hate everything” into their skulls. Like a mantra or a curse.
The woman on stage stopped dancing. She stared at me, through me, past me. I became deaf to the sound. Everyone stopped talking, as if frozen in place. Shades of red, smoke filling the room. I walked to the stage and reached into my pocket and held out a ten-dollar bill for the lady. She crouched and took it, knees cracking. Face inches from mine. She had heavy bags of disappointment under her eyes that looked like they lived several hard lives. Lines of her face obscured by the lights of the club. I told her she was pretty. She touched my cheek and mouthed Thank You.
When I turned around, I saw Hope kissing Los Angeles. Everyone in our group just watching them blankly. I turned to the neon red EXIT sign and walked under it, hands in my pockets, not looking back.
LM: From all the pieces I’ve read from you, I can see you have a very diverse skill set. What are some of your influences?
TS: Oh, all over the place. RL Stine is the author that really got me reading when I was very young and served as my gateway into horror fiction. By junior high, I was reading the likes of Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, HP Lovecraft, and Richard Matheson. In college, I really got into magical surrealism and feminist literature. My favorite authors to go back to these days are Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Sylvia Plath, Amy Hempel, Michelle Tea, Roberto Bolano, Thomas Pynchon. And lately, I find myself reading a lot of Violet Levoit, Brain Allen Carr, Sam Pink, Brian K. Vaughn, Jeremy Robert Johnson, and Cody Goodfellow. I’m also super obsessed with practically everything that Juliet Escoria is putting out.
LM: Where can we find some of your short stories?
TS: The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction issue eight, Strange Sex 2 Anthology, Wishful Thinking Anthology. This may be expanding in the very near future. I’ve also had non-fiction published in The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction, BizarroCentral.com, Living Dead Magazine. There’s also stuff posted on blogs. Like (cough) yours (cough).
LM: You recently finished up your year as part of the New Bizarro Author Series. What was that experience like?
TS: Great. I learned a lot through this experience. The main thing being that selling books is fucking hard. I remember thinking that selling a few hundred copies could be a piece of cake. If I could get thousands of strangers to vote for a photoset on Suicide Girls, surely, I could get a few hundred to buy a $10 book. Nope! Hahaha. My first month, I sold almost a third of my projected sales for the year. If I had a couple more months like that, I would be set. But then that drop off happened, and it got progressively harder to hit double-digit sales. Never gave up on trying though.
The Bizarro community has been the warmest group of creative persons I’ve ever encountered. And I feel so fortunate that not just my NBAS brothers and sisters were tremendous support systems, but also other authors, editors, and publishers. I came in as a fan and have never felt so welcomed by a community in my life. I would highly recommend/encourage any new author to try it out.
LM: Last year I went to World Horror Con and Bizarro Con and saw a lot of the same crew. Some of that was likely due to the fact that both were based in Portland, but I also think there’s a lot of crossover between both communities. Do you agree?
TS: Absolutely. I feel, in general, that a lot of bizarro fans are also horror fans. And when you’ve got authors like John Skipp, Robert Devereaux, Brian Keene, and Shane McKenzie (just to name a few) who regularly attend, and sometimes teach workshops at, Bizarro Con, the crossover seems almost seamless. I attended my first World Horror Con because of some of the people I met through Bizarro Con.
LM: What’s a fun fact about yourself that you think readers would like to know.
TS: Believe it or not, I actually used to be a social worker. For seven years, I provided counseling and case management services to at-risk youth/young adults. I’ve worked in residential facilities, drop-in centers, therapeutic schools. I’ve seen my fair amount of horror with these jobs. I was almost stabbed with a syringe; I’ve physically broken up fights, witnessed hostage situations and had to negotiate for people’s safety, and basically had local law enforcement on speed dial. I was also a certified drug and alcohol counselor, and worked with people who were actively struggling with addiction. The job was intense, but I loved it. Had a supervisor not stumbled across my Suicide Girls profile and deemed my involvement with that site inappropriate for the agency, I’d probably still be a social worker and not a writer. So I guess her browsing at naked ladies on the internet was kind of a blessing. Because I fucking love to write.
Thanks for the interview, Tiffany!
Readers, find out more at http://tiffanyscandalsucks.com/