As most of you who subscribe to my blog know, I have been on hiatus for some time now, trying to get some serious work done on my WIP and prepare for my upcoming move (in a totally unexpected direction!) A couple of months ago I was approached about doing an interview for an upcoming release, and I agreed to come out of hibernation. So, please help me to welcome Evangeline Jennings, Zoe Spencer, Madeline Harvey, and Tee Tyson, co-authors of CARS & GIRLS, the first release from Pankhearst.
EVANGELINE JENNINGS is the founding editor of Pankhearst. Her short stories have been published in the Short Stack and Derby Shorts collections curated by For Books Sake. If Evangeline was a song – and she’d really like to be – she’d be “Public Image” by PiL or possibly “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore. Born and raised in Liverpool, England, she now lives in Austin, Texas. The black sheep of her family, she comes from a long line of Californian beauty queens on her mother’s side. As she so often says, Northern Scum, Southern Belle.
Evangeline watches an awful lot of movies and TV. During the breaks, she cooks popcorn and writes stories about revenge.
Hi, Evangeline. Why don’t you start by telling us about Pankhearst.
Pankhearst is a collective of young emerging writers. Although we do all aspire to become JK Rowling, we also want to get our work out there and learn by doing. I see it as an independent record label, for books. That’s why our first book, Cars & Girls, is described as a ‘sampler’.
It took us a year to get our stuff together and make Cars & Girls happen but now we’re on a roll and we’ll release at least three more books this year. The next will be a collection of YA Noir short stories, and then we’ll publish a couple of follow-ons to Cars & Girls. More Songs About Cars & Girls will be more of the same. And our first ‘single’, Girls & Boys. will be an erotic bridge between Cars & Girls itself and a new standalone collaborative novel written by Maddy and Zoë that we’re currently calling The Vegas Thing.
When people say ‘why do you write’, I reply ‘I’m either creative, or a pathological liar. I haven’t decided yet’, just for shock value. Actually, I think (in part) that writing is almost like being schizophrenic, but without the personalities coming out verbally. Seriously, we ‘become’ the people we write, at least for a time. We have to feel what they feel, think what they think, know what they know… so how can we not ‘be’ them? Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts?
One of my favourite authors is Lawrence Block. He describes writing as Telling lies for fun and profit. That’s pretty much my approach to writing and life, although I’m still waiting to see any profit. As a semi-pro liar, I do channel my multiple personalities, no doubt. I don’t “become” the people I write, I’ve been them all along. Yes, I am pretty messed up. With the single exception of the male lead in a YA work in progress, my main characters are all elements of myself. And most of the others are people I either hate or want to sleep with.
Who’s your target audience? What aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?
This book, Cars & Girls, will appeal to a wide cross section of readers. But if anything, we’re targeting angry intelligent women, and the men who love them. I also think that what we’re offering the world could be defined as Real YA. So I’d love to see lots of teenagers with our book.
In more general terms, the people most likely to ‘get’ my writing first are those wonderfully intelligent and sexually desirable people who love Tarantino, punk rock, and John Hughes. Who understand that the world is a cold, dark, and overwhelmingly corrupt place that can only ever be illuminated by love, wit, and vengeance.
If I had to picture one ‘model reader’, she would be a slight, dark, sexually ambiguous girl with a fetching pixie cut and a complete collection of Bikini Kill, Hole, and Buzzcocks records. The Kill Bills, Amelie, and Breakfast At Tiffany’s would be her favourite movies. And she would have loved The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo infinitely more if they’d cut out all the boring shit.
Tell us, within your writing, what are you the most passionate about?
There are some social and political issues I feel very strongly about – child protection, especially, I think. It is so hard to talk about without sounding trite or self-righteous, or both. So I’ll keep it simple. Children are born to be loved, not abused, exploited, and ruined. This is a theme that underpins most of my writing.
Something every writer is asked to the point of exhaustion – where do you get your ideas?
They come from anywhere, take off in directions I can seldom predict, and more often than not end up with a deviously deviant twist. One of my stories for More Songs About Cars & Girls was entirely inspired by a pub lunch here in Austin. The muted TV was showing footage of a massive forest fire and the sound system was playing the Human League. The power of Phil Oakey compelled me to begin my forest fire story with the words “I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar …”
Can we see a little more?
Sure. It’s called Firebird. And the current draft starts like this:
OK. I’ll tell you.
I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar when I met Dorothy. I didn’t see myself as a waitress – I was working on my great unfinished novel – but then Dorothy didn’t think she was a lush.
“A dirty martini, if you please. Just wave the glass.”
“Wave the glass – in the general direction of Italy and France.” She pointed towards the East Coast. Her fingers were delicate, and she had a fine sense of direction.
She gave a quick half laugh. “Easy on the vermouth, honey, please.”
It was Noel Coward’s line, she told me later. I was a writer. She was a reader. No wonder we clicked right away. She told me a scurrilous story about a famous TV preacher and I comped her next martini and supersized it.
I needn’t have bothered. We were quiet, much like any other week-night, but my regular boozehounds lined up to buy my new friend drinks. No big surprise. We didn’t see many new faces in deepest Butt Fuck Egypt. We didn’t see many strangers at all. And Dorothy wasn’t merely strange, she was downright exotic. She looked like a French film star and drove a classic 1970s muscle car.
Her black and scarlet Firebird Trans Am was parked outside the door, and almost every new arrival asked about it. When they heard it belonged to the beautiful waif at the bar, they couldn’t help themselves.
Big John, for one, was fascinated by her.
ZOE SPENCER is a dancer on a cruise ship. She writes between shows and her non-stage duties. Zoë thinks umlauts are very important. When she was little, she always spelled her name Z-O-E-dots. Nowadays she spells it Z-o-<Alt>137.
As a former young adult, she prefers to write on Young Adult themes. Sadly her stories about cliques of sharp-tongued mean girls invariably take a nasty turn somewhere around Albuquerque and by the time she’s finished they’d make Caligula blush. And no young adult ever wants to read that kind of filth.
In the summer of 2011, Zoë won a competition called The Next Big Author which was sponsored by the publishers Bloomsbury, Random House, Orion, Little Brown and Hodder & Stoughton. Zoë didn’t notice until May 2012. True story.
What about you, Zoe, what are you working on now?
I’ve just finished writing my first erotica – or, as we call it at Team P, Noirotica. It’s the further misadventures of Emily, the star of my Cars & Girls story, 500. And now Maddy and I are planning out The Vegas Thing, a collab that will bring my Emily together with her character Etta in, you guessed it, Las Vegas. When they meet, it’ll be moider.
So you’re a planner. You outline the entire book before you feel comfortable enough to begin your draft?
Not at all. Usually I make it up as I go along, and then go back and fix the stuff that doesn’t work. But this book, we’re going to take it in turns to write chapters so we need a basic outline before we start.
OK. Who is the most supportive of you and your dream to be a writer?
Maddy. Madeline Harvey. She’s my BFF. We’ve known each other since we were eleven. I wouldn’t be involved in Pankhearst at all if it wasn’t for her.
Tell us more about Madeline?
In 500, I wrote about obsession, betrayal, and sex. Quite a lot of sex. Because my main character, Emily, enjoys it a great deal. Maddy claims I modeled Emily on her, but that’s obviously not true because Emily looks nothing like Kate Bush.
MADELINE HARVEY lives and works in London and always keeps her knees together when wearing a skirt. Her favourite word is nectarine and she enjoys using adverbs. Mightily. In her spare time she likes to stoke fires, buy vintage clothing, and read crime novels. Her favourite pastime is debunking the sugar and spice myth women are shrouded in.
Evangeline and Zoë have filled us in on ‘The Vegas Thing’, what are your thoughts on the project?
I’m over the moon about it, not only because I am working with my best mate in this whole crazy universe, but because we’ve created two characters we are absolutely in love with. Bluntly put, it’s going to be prodigious and poignant, which happen to be my second and third favourite words.
In your opinion, what are the biggest misconceptions new authors have about the publishing industry?
They have no idea how hard the whole thing is. Writing a book does not equal being published. It’s a long, toiling, meandering path full of rejection, rewrites, hair pulling, and sleepless nights spent cradling a bottle of English rosé, brooding over your manuscript, and noshing on a box of beignets until you’re covered in powdered sugar, drunk as a skunk and pretty sure the entire book is utter dung.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Please see the answer to the previous question. Only kidding. Though, I do enjoy my wine and confectionaries. I suppose the clichéd answer might be reading, which I spend a lot of time doing, but let’s dig a bit deeper. I love napping, watching old movies, perfecting the art of being single, and collecting Archie comics from a wonderful shop called Gosh in deepest, darkest Soho. I’m thoroughly invested in the struggle Archie faces. Who will he choose? Betty or Veronica?
TEE TYSON can type 111 words a minute and has written a mountain of fiction she’s done absolutely nothing with. These two facts may be cause and effect. Google maps has pinpointed Tyson’s whereabouts to be somewhere in rain-soaked British Columbia. She survives the brutal terrain of the Pacific North West by utilizing her impressive camouflage skills and treating every day as if it were the zombie apocalypse. When she’s not battling badgers and harvesting maple syrup, she can be found star gazing, eating apples, and walking her poorly trained dogs. Her dream is to move into the mountains where she will tend a garden, bake pies, and own a claw foot bathtub.
She has a five year plan.
Pen and paper or computer and Word? The bustle of Barnes and Noble or the quiet of your study? Alone or within a writing group? What is your most productive/inspiring setting?
Alone with the hounds, my laptop precariously perched on the arm of the sofa with a fluff-filled television program playing in the back. I am at my most productive when there is a slight distraction. I’ve never been one for writing with a group, mostly because this writing business is a solo journey. Even when part of collective, your work is yours. It is up to you to complete it.
And within your writing, what is it that keeps the fire burning?
Flawed and fabulous characters worthy of disrupting people’s days, distracting them from the world, and being responsible for many a sleepless nights. In all my writing, I strive to create protagonists and antagonists that blur the stereotypical lines and bend the rules. They don’t just keep the fire burning, they douse it with gasoline and turn it into a raging inferno. It gets hot in my brain at times, but I always ensure to keep properly hydrated.
Are there any characters right now currently trying to scorch your brain?
Two, actually. I am working on Cars & Girls 2 and the lady who is my main lead is called One-Eyed Jackie. She’s a little fire starter for sure. The second one is for another Pankhearst project called Heathers – I don’t want to go into detail because it might give too much away. Though, I must add, I am having a terrible time with my character Ramona for a Young Adult novel I am currently writing. The plot is coming lovely on it, but I haven’t got a good sense of who she is. Once I do, I will have to rewrite the whole beginning of the novel. It’s odd because usually characters are what drive me through the writing process, not the plot. Bit backwards, but I’m coping.
Everyone has their own dream. What’s yours… best seller, feature film adaption, fame, riches, Oprah, Pulitzer?
Honestly, I just want people to read my work. A paycheck would be nice, I won’t lie. And I want to dance with Ellen. That’s about it.
Thank you, ladies. I have to admit, I haven’t finished reading Cars & Girls yet, but I’ve enjoyed as much as I’ve had time to read. I wish you the very best of luck with this project and any future projects. Thank you for sharing with us here on Ink Drop Interviews!
Ink Drop Interviews are conducted by Kathy Reinhart, author of the award-winning
Lily White Lies
And the upcoming, Fight Like a Girl, due out later this year
Connect with Kathy