Your Muse and Your Marketplace: The Self-Interview

Next-Generation-Indie-Book-Finalist-AwardThe first time I heard about self-interviews was during my high school obsession with The Doors. I read somewhere that Jim Morrison wrote self-interviews. Soon after, I began doing one in my personal journal every few months as a way to check in with myself. In college, I had the brilliant idea (all ideas seem brilliant in college) to write a self-interview for a Composition and Style class. I called it “Ode to Barbara Walters.” Yes, in that interview, I asked myself what kind of tree I’d be. The teacher gave me a C minus because, even though she got a kick out of reading it, my self-interview had nothing to do with her assignment. It’s been a while, perhaps since that Comp and Style assignment, that I’ve done a self-interview, but I thought it would be a fun way to reflect back as the one year anniversary of the publication of A Boy Like Me approaches.

JW: Describe your mental state one year ago when A Boy Like Me was released.

jw: (laughs) Exactly one year ago I was in a panic because we’d had a bunch of copies printed of A Boy Like Me for reviewers, release parties, and readings. There was this mysterious word that appeared in an early page of those copies. A word that didn’t belong. It wasn’t in the manuscript. At the time I thought it was the worst mistake in the world, which of course, wasn’t true.

It’s just that you spend weeks proofreading so nothing like that happens. And I was proofing the book last summer while exhibiting at Comic-Con International: San Diego for the very first time. I’d rush back to my hotel room at night, after the con, to proof A Boy Like Me. One night while there, I’m in the hotel room proofreading the book and my girlfriend calls me from Boston to tell me about the Veruca Salt reunion concert she just saw — their first Boston show in over a decade. It was a show that we’d planned to see together. While telling me about the concert, she said, “And they played this song they’ve never played live before.” I interrupted and said, “Aurora.” She said, “Yes, that’s the song.” And I burst into tears.

Veruca Salt is one of my all-time favorite bands, a huge inspiration to me. I’d just missed their first tour in over a decade, a tour and reunion that no one thought would ever happen. It was one of those moments where you question everything that you’re doing — the writing, the promoting, the work — because it feels like you’re missing out on things that really matter to you, whether it’s a rare concert or wedding or friend’s birthday party. Then to do all that proofing and get copies back with a mysterious word, all I could think at the time was, why?

JW: Was the mystery of the added word ever solved?

jw: No, but all of those copies were replaced with corrected ones for free so in the end we had double the amount of copies to send out to reviewers and more to sell at the launch parties, readings, and conventions.

JennieWithVerucaSalt

Jennie with Veruca Salt, Paradise Lounge, Boston, July 2015 (L to R: Steve Lack, Nina Gordon, Jennie Wood, Louise Post, Jim Shapiro)

JW: And you got to see Veruca Salt perform live this summer.

jw: I got to see them twice this summer! They played in San Diego during Comic-Con and in Boston while I was in town. So happy endings all around.

JW: While exhibiting Flutter at comic conventions around the country, you also have copies of A Boy Like Me. How has that book been received at conventions?

jw: Amazing. It sells really well. I’ve gotten great feedback from it. At the last convention someone bought a copy on a Saturday and came back the following day to tell me how much they loved it. People at comic conventions are avid readers with such a wide variety of interests. I’ve had some amazing discussions about the book, and about everything that’s going on in pop culture regarding LGBTQ issues.

JW: This year, transgender-related issues and stories have dominated national news and discussions, thanks in part to Caitlyn Jenner. Do you think it would have been better if you’d waited to publish A Boy Like Me? Held out for a traditional publisher instead of going with a small press?

jw: Absolutely not. The book came out when it was the best time for me, for my progression as a writer. I’d spent years on it and I wasn’t going to shove it in a drawer. I was ready to share it with the world then and there. And 215 Ink wanted to publish it at that moment, the moment when I was ready.

I also needed to publish it last year so that I could focus on finishing and publishing Flutter, Volume Two this year.

As far as what’s trending, it’s fantastic that there’s finally more focus on the “T” in LGBTQ. It’s been a long time coming. It’s so needed. Caitlyn Jenner’s brave announcement and journey has cast a much-needed spotlight on transgender individuals, on the issues they face, on the fact that most don’t have the money or resources that she has. But there’s still so much work that needs to be done, so much information that needs to be shared and conveyed. We need more books, stories, movies, and television shows that convey that information responsibly. We needed those stories last year. We needed them ten years ago. We’ll need them in five years when it’s no longer the hot topic.

People need to see themselves in print and on screen. They need stories they can relate to, and the transgender community has long been deprived of those stories. It’s part of our responsibility as writers to provide those stories, provide those three-dimensional characters. The moment that we start obsessing about the right time market-wise to put out a book, we’re doing the work, the writing for the wrong reasons. Focus on the story. Get it right. Your marketplace will come.

JW: Speaking of writing, what’s up next for you?

jw: Flutter, Volume Two: Don’t Let Me Die Nervous comes out Sept. 25, 2015. And that’s been an amazing experience this year, getting that book ready for print. On Volume One, I just worked with artist Jeff McComsey. He did all the art, colors, and letters. For Volume Two, we expanded to a team of four, adding Chris Goodwin as our colorist and Jeff McClelland as our letterer. I’m so happy with how the book turned out and so inspired by these three amazing artists.

Also, this fall, I have a story inspired by the music of Amy Winehouse that will be in 27, A Comic Anthology, published by Red Stylo Media. I’m excited to be a part of this collection of original stories by writers and artists inspired by musicians who died at the age of 27.

Beyond that I’m working on finishing my second novel and something brand new inspired by Veruca Salt’s latest album, Ghost Notes.

JW: Would you say that music is your number one muse?

jw: Definitely. And not just the music itself, but fellow musicians. It’s not just Veruca Salt’s music that inspires me, but the way they collaborate, the way they promote their work and the work of others, the positive stance they take on everything. They are the perfect blend of personal and professional, proud and humble. I’m inspired by the way they do everything, not just the music.

They’ve been an inspiration for a long time and even after they’d broken up as a band. In fact, Nina Gordon was an inspiration for Tara in A Boy Like Me. I moved recently and came across all my old notes for that novel. In those notes were a bunch of images for each character. I had some images of Gordon that I used as a muse for Tara in that book.

JW: Final question — it’s one year later and how are you feeling compared to this time last year?

jw: (laughs) In many ways exactly the same — I’m getting a book ready to be published this month. However, having done this twice before, it’s not as nerve-wrecking. It does get easier. I know what to expect now, what to anticipate in terms of delays or problems. There’s a confidence that comes with having done it before. The accidents and mistakes will work out — for the better in many cases.

So I’m more at ease this year. And, looking back, I’m very happy with how it all turned out, the publication of A Boy Like Me. I learned firsthand that if you follow your muse, your marketplace will find you.

4 comments

  1. Lisa Birk

    2 books published, another forthcoming *and* 2 Veruca Salt concerts? Gooooo, Jennie!! Loved your forthright description of the angst accompanying the thrill of first book publication. A million years ago, the local paper in Madison, WI had an interview of Lorrie Moore. The interviewer asked her how it was to publish her first book and go on a book tour. Moore’s answer was something along the lines of just as the book hit the stands, her boyfriend broke up with her and the latter was all she could think about. However, on the other side of the bookshelf, my son *still* pulls Flutter down, reads your inscription to him and savors that this book (which he’s not allowed to read until he is older), was written by someone he has met and talked to!

  2. Pat Sollner

    Jennie, your essay is so clear, so wry, so wise. When you asked yourself if you’d brought the book out too early, before Caitlin, you said it was the right time in your progression as a writer, which i thought was right – on, but then you said you’d spent years on it and you weren’t going to shove it in a drawer. It was then I cried. That decision to go on and on and on is one of the major decisions we make as a writer.

    The rest of the essay was good too.

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