Many authors are no longer prepared to wait for their words and ideas to be discovered by agents and the traditional publishing machine.
Not only are a new group of writers charting their experiences of a fractured, increasingly surreal reality, but there are more and more of us wanting to read these stories that most publishing houses would probably consider too niche or wholly unsaleable anyway.
The last few years have seen the rise of the indie author; those no longer content to have their unique vision of life and literature turn yellow in the bottom of a desk drawer. The Bizarro and Post Bizarro movements are a clear example of this and one of its exponents is Tiffany Scandal.
1. Serious question to begin with. What is your current favourite T-shirt in your wardrobe?
It’s a black t-shirt with a black, white and red image of the boy from David Lynch’s short film The Grandmother. I saw it in the window of a thrift shop here in Portland and immediately ran in to buy it. The Grandmother is my favorite short film by Lynch, and the design is so creepy, no one ever wants to talk to me when I wear it.
2. Tiffany Scandal is clearly a great nom de plume and certainly sticks in the mind. How did it come about? Do you have any rejected ideas you can reveal? Or perhaps your true identity?
My best friend’s legal name is Erica Danger Ous. One night, we were having a real wild time over tea, and she joked that I should change my name to Tiffany Scandal Ous so that together we could be the Ous sisters. I’m sure the Scandal part came about because I’m not ashamed about my love for raunch, but another friend thinks the Scandal part came about because of how I usually never stay in a relationship for longer than two months. Regardless of the inspiration, the name stuck.
3. The UK audience might be less aware of the aesthetic you are coming out of (bizzaro/indie/suicide girl). How would you describe it to us Brits? Imagine explaining yourself to a bowler hatted man, stood in a phone box, wearing a Union Jack shirt and eating fish and chips.
It’s tough to answer this question and not feel like a piece of shit, but here it goes: I’m the woman most people would never want to take to meet their parents (unless they’re trying to prove that they could’ve turned out worse). I’m into really weird stuff. I drink and curse like a sailor. I’m covered in tattoos. I believe that all women are beautiful and that we should celebrate our bodies, however they are, and not be afraid of being naked. I’m loud-mouthed. I’m opinionated. I’ve read a lot of different kinds of books and that’s apparently as off-putting as it is arousing. I do what I want, when I want, and avoid getting arrested as much as possible.
4. Self-publishing/indie authors have begun to change the old publishing industry dynamics. The revolution is at hand! But do you think there have been other more subtle changes? Particularly amongst readers?
Readers are busy people. I’ve noticed that every author aspires to write a 100k book, but the average reader is more apt to pick up a book that has 30K words. That’s why you’re seeing a lot of novellas coming out. It’s easier to justify reading a book that can be read in the amount of time it takes to watch a movie, and that’s part of the reason why you’re seeing some outrageous numbers in these book challenges. I remember reading that one of my Facebook friends read 330 books in 2015, and here I am, lucky if I can even get through a book a month.
5. Balancing a day job against writing is always difficult. How is that for you right now? Have the successes of There Is No Happy Ending and Jigsaw Youth had an impact?
Oh, it’s busy. I have a full-time day job and I’m also the Managing Editor for King Shot Press. I still manage to get a fair amount of writing in, but it does involve making quite a bit of sacrifices. My social life is shit, my home looks like garbage, intimacy is basically managing to fall asleep in the same bed. My cats have taken to trying to conceal my laptop with their bodies whenever it’s not in use.
The successes of There’s No Happy Ending and Jigsaw Youth have mostly come in the form of opportunities. I’ve been invited to be a part of crazy awesome projects, have had the chance to share stages with idols, and have received hefty praise that always makes me feel a little awkward. My goal is to one day make a living from my writing, but my books have to reach a much larger audience. Most authors I know that are able to live off of royalties are pushing hundreds to thousands of books a month. I’m still at the point where I’m happy if I sold ten.
6. The world is becoming more fragmented, more insane therefore surrealism is the new realism (Skullcrack City by Jeremy Robert Johnson for instance). Do you agree with this assessment?
Drugs and technology have definitely opened a lot of doors.
7. A writer of fiction lives in fear. Each new day demands new ideas and s/he can never be sure whether s/he is going to come up with them or not. Is that familiar to you?
I think I experience frustration more than fear. I have a book I’m working on that I’ve promised to my editor months ago, and it’s mostly because of one scene. In my head, I can picture exactly what I want to happen — how I want it to feel, to affect the reader, and to have it be the most disappointing (but funny) action scene to have ever existed in literature. And every time I sit down to edit it, I get stuck. In all honesty, I’m about to scrap the scene and start over because if a chapter can’t move you, it sure as hell won’t move whoever bothers to read it.
8. It feels like indie publishing is really starting to gather momentum now. Do you agree? Is there some sort of ‘singularity’ coming and what do you see happening in the next 5 years?
I’ve heard people refer to this as the Golden Age of indie literature. While I’d have to agree that there are a lot of amazing and talented authors emerging left and right, I see that too many books are coming out and there too many fragile egos and too many blowouts on very public forums and too many bridges are getting burned. I hope that in five years, the scene can keep its momentum going. I want books to keep coming out that completely challenge every thought you’ve ever had about literature. Unheard voices screaming on paper and leaving you feeling like you’ve just been punched in the gut. I want this for the future, but who knows what’ll happen. I’ve never been good at predicting things.
9. You live in Portland. I think the perception of the city over here (thanks to things like Portlandia) is that it is an achingly hip place to be, perhaps even a little pretentious. What’s it like being a creative in such a place? (I briefly visited Portland about 15 years ago and was taken to the 24 hour Church of Elvis. Is it still around???)
I moved to Portland from Los Angeles nine years ago. I moved to Portland because it was cheap. Because it was cheap, I never really had to worry about how much money I was making, and as a result, I had a ton of time to work on creative projects. A lot of people here were in the same boat. And this city loves beer and strip clubs, so spending my early 20s here was kind of like hitting the jackpot of adult utopias to live in.
But Portlandia . . .
What is shown on those skits, I see everyday. And sometimes I wonder if it’s being done as a joke, but sadly, I have yet to see someone breakout in laughter while I’m processing whatever just happened. Every time I travel to another city, people ask if Portland is just like it’s shown on TV. And now, every summer feels a little more crowded than the last. Old buildings are being torn down to accommodate modern high rises. One victorian home turns into forty condos. The roads have exceeded capacity for traffic. And the cost of living is skyrocketing. When I go to a coffee shop or bar, I don’t see tattooed weirdos talking about their latest art project; it’s all khakis and sweater vests talking about their 401K, or golf, or whatever it is that people who have never been working class a day in their life talk about. Portland has been severely gentrified. But, you know, I’ve only been here for nine years. I’m sure to whoever has grown up here or has lived here longer, I could be one of the douchebags that’s “ruining the city.”
Oh, and the Church of Elvis is gone now. It’s been gutted and replaced by some artisan leather craft goods shop.
10. Is 2016 going to be a good year? What have you got planned?
Oh, man. If I can get my shit together, I should have two new books out. Jigsaw Youth will be released as an audiobook (courtesy of Talking Book). I’ll have a new chapbook in the Ladybox Vol 2 collection. And my goal is to have three new short stories published and to set up a cooperative for traveling writers in Athens, Greece.