Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Interview

I'm always interested when I see that a blogger is being interviewed - both for the types of questions that are asked and the answers to those questions. The thing is, though, that most of those interviews are actually just questionnaires. There isn't any real interaction between the question asker and the person that's answering, the questions aren't usually tailored to that specific person, and let's be honest - it seems to be the same gig over and over.

So, I asked someone to help me put a spin on the blog interview process. Rather than just emailing me a list of standard questions, I asked that he email only one and wait for my answer before deciding what to ask next. I also chose someone that I thought would ask unique and difficult questions...and he didn't disappoint. Some were so hard to answer that I might have even stamped my foot once or twice.

My interviewer is Mr. London Street - a fantastic writer and a good friend. His contributions are in bold.


I'm always struck by the idea of boundaries; how some bloggers will tell you about everything and anything (especially their sex lives) whether you want them to or not whereas other bloggers barely talk about anything above the mundane. What, if any, are your no-go areas?

Wow. Starting off with a bang, aren't we?

Obviously I don't care much for boundaries where blogging is concerned. This is the age of "too much information" and I enjoy participating in it. Being honest, over sharing, ignoring boundaries others wouldn't dare - it’s an addictive, heady feeling. I think part of the reason I feel that way is that I had a real problem being honest when I was younger.

My old issues aside - There are always going to be people that dislike what I have to say and I will always be crossing someone's boundaries. Fact is, I like being shocking...and as far as the topic of sex is concerned, its full steam ahead.

If I have any no-go areas, I haven't yet run across them. Maybe one day, if I'm ever married or in a serious committed relationship, that will change. Then again, maybe they'll be boundary pushers too and shrug as I type away about their bedroom preferences, et al.

How important do you think the social element of blogging is? Do you mainly see it as a medium to write and get your writing read by other people, and how much of it is about other people's writing and getting to know them?

I've enjoyed reading the blogs of the friends I've made and I've enjoyed getting to know them, but yes, this is largely a medium to write and have my writing read.

I think of blogland as being split into three sections - 1) bloggers that blog, 2) writers that blog, and 3) readers that do neither. It is much easier for me to connect with writers that blog because, like me, they tend to be more selfish and understand when I say things like "I just spent an entire day reading my own archives". We take this blogging gig far more seriously than others and we're always trying to improve, because we want more. This isn't just a hobby - it’s a stepping stone. Or rather, we hope it is.

I think the social element of blogging is very important, which is funny because obviously I would rather write than socialize. People respond more to bloggers that reach out and connect with their audience outside of the comment section. However, regardless of how much I enjoy my blogroll, I don't add new blogs to my reader often and I will always prefer to write rather than read. It is, as they say, "all about me".

That sounded terribly bitchy, didn't it? A third of you won't think so.

I'm impressed to see such an honest answer. Some bloggers can get away with that and get really huge without ever replying to a single comment or giving a single award; the rest of us have to toil away knowing we'll never find it that easy. Whose success do you envy?

Yes, that's true. And speaking of awards, I wish there were more out there without all the bloody stipulations. I don't participate as much as I used to and that's mainly because all of them require the same thing - Answer these 7 questions and tag 7 people! I love receiving them because it means I'm liked, and lord knows I love talking about myself, but you can only answer the same question so many times. There are a few out there that come with no strings attached, that are simply there to acknowledge a great bit of writing, but there ought to be more. (Hint, hint.) I'd make one myself, but I'm not nearly popular enough to pull it off.

Whose success do I envy? Anyone that's been able to use blogging to propel them into the writing arena of their choice. I generally stay away from the "famous" blogger's sites though because I've never found one that didn't irritate me. They're so full of ads and propaganda. Where's the damn writing? I'll probably never be one of them because I refuse to ever put an ad on my blog...turning it into, basically, a stat counter with pretty pictures and a few paltry sentences.

You know what I envy more than success? Talent.

Okay. We might come back to that in a while. In a meantime, imagine that eventually they make the movie of your life. I'm not going to ask you who'd play you, that's far too boring and obvious a question. Instead, I want you to describe to me the opening scene, which has no dialogue at all. What does it show you doing? What does it look like? And what's the song playing to kick off the soundtrack?

The first scene starts with a completely black screen. There are faint murmurs, a cough. With a loud pop a spotlight comes on and wavers a moment before highlighting a lone figure on a stage.

The figure squints, her round face pale, teeth clenched in a grimace that intentionally fails to be a smile. Beads of sweat appear above the thin red line of her upper lip and she blows the bangs of her frizzy, white blonde hair up with a single quick puff of air before clenching her teeth again. A black and gold spandex outfit hugs her too large frame and the sequins around the elastic cuffs squeeze notable indentations into the exposed flesh on her thighs and arms.

Another pop fills the silence, then the hiss of an old sound system coming to life. Just as the first strains of Crystal Water's song "100% Pure Love" begin, and the girl's wide hips reluctantly start to swish back and forth, a loud laugh echoes across the space.

The girl gallops and scuffles through her routine, her steps pounding along just a bit off from the beat. As she breathlessly hits her finishing stance she raises her jazz hands high overhead and let's her middle fingers detach from the rest, flicking toward the politely applauding crowd.

Brilliant. I want to watch what happens next now. What do you think would surprise people who read your writing most, were they to meet you in person?

I suppose that all depends. I've never asked my readers what, if any, preconceived notions they have about me. They could be surprised to know that I have a loud, obnoxious laugh or that my feet are enormous and I trip over them constantly. Little things that aren't really of any consequence.

But probably they'd be more surprised by how awkward I am. I'm far more comfortable with writing than I am speaking. I'm not an unintelligent woman and I believe that, for a person of my age and limited education, I have quite an extensive vocabulary. However, I suppose in person that could be misconstrued - partially because of my southern accent and shortening of most words in the English language, and partially because of my undeniable urge to use swear words in every other sentence.

I make friends relatively well, but I'm always very nervous when I meet a new person. Sometimes I stumble over my words and ramble a bit in the beginning. It takes me awhile to get settled.

Since I haven't yet had an opportunity to meet another blogger, who has gotten to know me already through my writing, I don't know if it will be the same. I'm hoping that it will be less awkward than meeting a relative stranger. You'll have to let me know how I do.

I wonder whether that's true of a lot of bloggers. I suspect there's often an element of constructing a persona which more closely reflects who we'd like to be, like Second Life avatars. What's your biggest disappointment in writing so far? And which of your posts are you most disappointed that people didn't love? Be honest, we've all got at least one.

I think maybe my biggest disappointment is that I can't seem to make it all come together. I write blog post after blog post, but when I've tried to sit down and think of, or write, something on a larger scale I become overwhelmed and I panic.

It happens with some of my longer posts - I get paranoid about how lengthy they become and I end up essentially cutting my story off at the knees and sewing the pieces back together, minus a few inches. Conclusions are something I often struggle with anyway, because I get so caught up in writing the meat of a story that I forget what the main ingredient was supposed to be. I may have had a point to make in the beginning, but let me start concentrating on the little details and it all falls to shit.

A more specific and recent disappointment, one that's really been eating me, is a post I attempted to write and never finished. It's about my mother. I have two pages of material and it just isn't right - it's too hard. There are so many layers to our relationship and I'm afraid I can never peel them all back sufficiently enough to make people see the whole picture. And having them only see part of the picture is out of the question. So, it sits mocking me in my documents folder and I've almost started to hate it.

Which of my posts am I most disappointed people didn't love? That's hard. I think I've been pretty lucky because the posts I'm proud of have gotten a decent amount of praise. I don't get many "that was total shit" comments and on the occasion that I have, my readers rally like a mob of villagers with torches. It's awesome.

But there is one that is a secret favorite of mine; one I wish everyone would have oohed and ahhed over more (though I never would have admitted it before).

I wrote it in about 20 minutes or less. It's full of run-on sentences and things that would normally drive me (and a lot of writers) crazy, but I love it. It's a lot like how I am with my friends - random, eccentric, always trying to make people laugh even when the joke is on me. And, at the risk of crawling even further up my own ass, it kind of reminds me of a Vince Vaughn monologue. It's this one: “Does it feel hot in here to you? Must be me. Do do CHHH!” Great title, right?

One thing I'm really struck by about your blog is that it doesn't say a lot about where you live. Tell me a bit about your home town, what you like and don't like about it. If someone visited you for 24 hours where would you take them, what would you show them and what would you do?

What can I say about small town America that hasn't been said before? Everyone knows your name, your medical history, and how much you deposit in your bank account every other Friday evening. It's a living, breathing Norman Rockwell painting. I alternately love and hate it.

I'm the sort of person that craves culture and new experiences yet, because of where I live, rarely have the opportunity to go after them. I often feel smothered by my lack of options. There aren't any fantastic art museums or ancient ruins. There aren't any chic boutiques or glamorous restaurants. If you want to go to a movie, go bowling, do much of anything really...you have to go into the city almost an hour away.

However, there are almost just as many days when I can't imagine living anywhere else. It is a very beautiful place.

The town itself is tiny; there's only one stoplight. Main Street is lined on one side with old buildings - some painted, some left to their original brick, and one renegade furniture store paneled with dark wood. They are all smashed together, some with roofs shaped as you'd see them in an old western. The drugstore still has its original sign and you can still buy an ice cream cone inside from the old fashioned counter.

On the other side of the street there's a small gas station, a Laundromat, and row of shops. The shop on the end would be almost invisible if its far wall that meets the end of the sidewalk wasn't covered in an enormous mural of rolling green hills, sheep, and a cartoon man in lederhosen. It’s a German restaurant that's almost never open, run by an eccentric German woman that chain smokes and shows everyone pictures of her passel of German Shepherds. She wears bright red lipstick and complains loudly, and in a thick accent, about the lack of appreciation for German cuisine. She only takes reservations when she feels like it and there's never a menu - you eat what she fixes or you don't eat at all.

The town square is immediately past the restaurant and contains a small parking lot and a very large old clock. Directly behind the clock is a white gazebo surrounded by grass and flowers - it's where the old ladies sit during every parade, whispering behind their fans and watching their husbands nearby. On one side of the square are a hardware store and a steakhouse made to look like a stable, but with two stained glass windows on either side of the bright red doors. On the other side the buildings, a salon and an antique store, are fronted in huge glass panes; a derelict looking dry cleaners seems stuck on as an afterthought, when in fact it's been there forever.

If you continue down Main Street things spread out a bit. You'd run into two banks, a crumbling brick apartment building, the old elementary school that now serves as a police station, a few churches, a baseball field, and "the walking track" where the high school kids park on Friday and Saturday nights. With nothing else to do but eat and shop, walking around a pavement oval and sitting on tailgates in the adjacent parking lot is what passes for entertainment.

My house is about 15 to 20 minutes outside of town - 10 when I'm feeling reckless. Houses, trees, churches, and a lone country gas station are about all there is to see between point A and point B, but it's a lovely drive none the less. As I've said before, I live by the lake so I feel I'm lucky there. I've never been much on nature, but watching the sun set over the water still has the ability to make my throat feel tight.

So, obviously, 24 hours would be plenty of time to show someone everything there is to see. I'd take them on a boat ride and show them the marina, maybe browse through the antique store and have dinner at the pizza parlor. Then, if they were really lucky, I'd take them to an authentic country party...outside...at a barn. We'd play beer pong, discuss the merits of light vs. dark beer, and argue over who likes Johnny Cash the most.

Have you ever travelled outside the States? If not, where's on your wish list?

Yes, I took a two week trip to Spain when I was in high school. It wasn't a school sponsored trip, but rather a tour group open to anyone that wanted to go and put together by our Spanish teacher every other year. We toured the whole country, hitting a lot of the major cities, and took a day trip to Morocco. It was the most fantastic thing I've ever done.

I had a wish list of destinations before I went to Spain, but it's since multiplied. Ireland, England, France, Peru, Australia, Switzerland, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. I want to see and experience them all...and I will.

What's the appeal of Switzerland? I'm genuinely interested in how people outside Europe might see it, because believe me, in England it's known for chocolate, neutrality, Nazi gold and euthanasia clinics. Are you a big Sound Of Music fan or something?

Yes I am. I adore the Sound of Music. What of it?

I suppose the majority of the appeal is in the scenery. And of course the fact that it isn't here. Besides, I love chocolate.

But...euthanasia clinics for what, exactly?

Well, euthanasia clinics are for euthanasia (what do you mean "for what?" honestly). It's not legal in England so people fly off to Switzerland to die with dignity in a special clinic. Or they just go somewhere like Croydon for a weekend and find that the will to live soon ups and leaves.

Here's a question for you. Why didn't you have an abortion? Was it a difficult or an easy decision to have your daughter?

I worked for a vet's office for two years so when I hear euthanasia, I automatically think about animals. I've never heard of a euthanasia clinic for people - that's what I meant.

I had an abortion when I was 17 so when I got pregnant again a year later, I was afraid to tell my mother that "oops, I know we spent all that money fixing my life once already, but we're going to have to do it again".

I never wanted to have children and when I found out I was pregnant again, by someone that had told me that was impossible (yes, I was naive), I immediately planned to have another abortion without telling my family. He said he would help me with the money for the procedure, and then promptly disappeared.

Then I did what I do best and procrastinated. I ignored what was going on with my body because I was too terrified to do anything else. So the decision to have her was more like indecision turned inevitable action. I put it off so long that I had no other option.

It was my decision to keep her, not have her, that was the difficult part. I seriously considered adoption for awhile, but ultimately my family swayed my vote. My mother wanted me to keep her and she promised to help me raise her. And she has.

When she was born (I never thought it through before the fact...not really) I realized that nothing would ever be the same, that my life would never be easy again. But she's been, and will always be, worth every single sacrifice.

Which things about your writing would you least like your mother to read? What about, one day, your daughter?

Well, funny you should mention that. Sometimes, when I haven't quite finished a post, I'll print them out to read over and edit later. Recently my mother came across two of them. The first was “Love is blind, friendship tries not to notice” and she said, "You really are a good writer. You get that from your mother." The second, "Safe Words (Alternate title: No pain, no gain)", was met with considerably less enthusiasm. "You really shouldn't leave these lying around where anyone could read them. Disgusting!"

Truthfully, if I didn't live with her, she could read my blog all she likes. But since I currently do its best if she doesn't. We fight often enough already and if I were to mention her, unfavorably or not, it would just spark another argument. She became aware that I was writing a blog at the beginning of this year, though she isn't privy to the address of course, and has said many times since, "You'd better not be putting shit about me on there!" She's very sensitive.

Though it would make me a tad uncomfortable for her to know so much about my sex life, which I write about quite frequently, I could get over it.

As for my daughter...I'm not ashamed of anything I write. When she's old enough, she's more than welcome to read all of my archives. I've been systematically printing them out and putting them in a binder so maybe one day she'll read them all and say, "God, my mother was embarrassing...but funny." Who knows, maybe they'll go a long way in helping with her inevitable therapy sessions.

What's your favourite item of clothing that you've ever owned? Tell me what it looked like and, more importantly, what it meant to you.

I was never a very stylish person. My school years were riddled with embarrassing clothing choices; I honestly can't believe anyone would be seen speaking to me. Being a large girl didn't help either - for some reason the people that make plus size clothing for girls and women seem to think you shouldn't dress mutton as lamb, and they chose the most horrendous cuts and patterns. Between my mother's love of all things frilly, my own misguided choices, and the (as my Papa used to say) seamstresses at the local tent and awning store...I developed an unhealthy hate for clothing in general.

But over the past few years I've gotten a lot better. I've become more adept at picking items that flatter me and I think it's safe to say that I've finally formed my own sort of style.

Rather than just one item of clothing, I have a favorite outfit. It's so simple, but it gave me a confidence I hadn't felt before. Three (or was it four?) years ago I bought a pair of tight, dark blue jean capris that you could cuff if you wanted; unrolled they reached about mid-calf and I preferred them that way. I'd had them for awhile before I went on vacation to Oklahoma to visit my dad. While I was there I went shopping with my stepsister and stepbrother, looking for an outfit to go out clubbing. I ended up picking out a plain white V-neck t-shirt, a plain black button up vest, a black trilby hat, and a pair of red and black Kenneth Cole strappy high heels.

When I went out that that night, I knew I was hot. I danced on a stage, something that would usually take a large amount of alcohol for me to even consider, and I walked around in those shoes like I owned the place. I've played at that sort of thing before, but that was the first time I actually felt that sort of confidence. In the past it was "fake it till you drink enough". And even though by the time the sun came up I was hobbling (and sneaking) barefoot from a cab to the front door, bruised and looking a lot worse for wear, that night and that outfit were the start of a beautiful relationship between me, myself, and I. I still have bad days, like every other woman, but most people are surprised when they realize just how healthy my ego really is.

The sad part is I only got to wear the outfit that launched my vanity once more. A few months after its second debut, it was packed in an overnight bag and left in my (accidentally) unlocked car downtown while I went out drinking with my best friend. When we stumbled out of the bar a few hours later, we realized that someone had taken the bag full of clothes. I still have the shoes, as I was wearing them at the time, and my hat which I'd left at home, but the rest was gone. Now every time I'm downtown I stare at the bums that wander by, wondering if they're the ones that took my clothes...and if they're wearing my underwear.

One last question: what question were you most dreading that I'd ask?

I wouldn't really say I was dreading a specific question, but I hoped you wouldn't ask any that I would have to decline to answer.

I wanted to be completely candid for this interview and that wouldn't have worked well had you asked me something that would betray someone's confidence (someone that reads this, obviously) or like, oh, "how many people have you slept with". Because there's no way in hell I'd answer that publicly. (So, back to your first question, apparently there is a no-go.) Unless, of course, I'd stand to make a large sum of money from sharing such information. It happens, you know - just look at Chelsea Handler.


Didactic Pirate said...

As someone that started reading your stuff about, what -- six months ago? Maybe a little less -- I really enjoyed this. I do feel like I've gotten to know you through your writing; at least, the aspects of yourself that youv'e chosen to share here. And this interview helped illuminate you a bit more.

And, for the record: your honesty and no-holds-barred approach is what I love about your blog. I have a few aspects of my own life that I don't blog about, so I appreciate the fact that you don't hang any Do Not Cross tape over any aspects of yours.

Just Plain Tired said...

The second question you answered had a lot of the same thoughts I do about blogging.

hiphophippie.com said...

Wow, that was really freaking cool. Loved hearing this different perspective!

theTsaritsa said...

I like the way you went about this interview. It's an interesting technique.

Rusty Hoe said...

Great interview and much better than the traditional "what is your favourite colour" tripe.

I've often wondered what it would be like to meet some of my favourite bloggers. I must admit there are only really a handful I would actually want to meet and have a glass of something fermented. I toss up in my head whether the picture I have in my head would match, if I'd be unexpectedly impressed, bitterly disappointed, or perhaps more importantly, if they'd think I was a complete dick. Blogging allows honesty you'd never have in your real life relationships and also the ability to create a life/persona on your own terms. For me your honesty, humour, and cracking writing ability are what make your blog (and this interview).

For what it's worth you're one of the few I'd actually consider having a bevvy with. If I could get past my whole "will she like me/think I'm a stalker" nerves. :)

JUST ME said...

I ramble when I first meet people too - and I'm pretty sure my voice gets so high it sounds like I just sucked up some major helium.

It's annoying.

csmith2884 said...

Well I am part of that #3 for now anyhow. My life is to busy for anyone to not know I was blogging and sharing is not a trait loved in my family. But if I do get there, it will be inspired by people like you that don't have writing boundaries, and let the chips fly. Another great post and a no sell-out blogger award from me.


Penny Dreadful said...

Great post, much more interesting than the usual dull Q&A. Good choice of interviewer.

Interesting stance on ads - not that I disagree, but I'm certainly not averse to the idea myself, as I'd love to eventually make money from something I put time and effort into. On the other hands, my blog isn't really 'proper' writing in the way yours is. And yeah, some of the bigger blogs are full of shite, but then that is true of some of the awful columns you read in published newspapers too!

Btw, I also did a dance to 100% Pure Love when I was in high school. I was the most ungainly member of our jazz group, and always got put at the back, the shame!

Judearoo said...

This is wonderful. Best interview I've read in ages, well done both of you.

I'm with MLS on the Switzerland thing. It really is rather dull. I've lots more points but I kept forgetting them as I read on to another interesting bit. May have to come back and reread.

Oh and if you DO get to Ireland, be sure and give me a shout.

Sara said...

I really feel like I learned a lot about you from this interview. That was a great idea!

BugginWord said...

Can we run away to Morocco together?

Anonymous said...

Excellent concept for an interview. Lotta work to pull it off via emails too I'd think. It was great getting to know you this way.

I do have just one comment on the light beer vs. dark beer issue. Give me two pints of Guinness and about an hour and I can pee you two Coors lights.

Wasn't The Sound of Music in Austria? And Stowe Vermont?

Anonymous said...

Went back and read that stream of consciousness post. Gotta say - it was pretty awesome.

Anonymous said...


Kimmie said...

This is the first post of yours I've read. I loved it! I like the way you went about the interview. I think my favorite is the opening scene in your "movie". I, too, would like to see how the rest plays out!

Kudos, for a blog well done! ^.^

Hackenflash said...

Yep, I like the way you write.

rubbish said...

Two things you should know about Switzerland:
Everyone has a gun, it's compulsory.
Speeding fines are pro rata to your earnings and some people have been fined over £500,000 for breaking the speed laws.

Mr London Street said...

I thoroughly enjoyed doing this interview and even at the time I remember thinking that the answers in this contain writing that is up there with your very best. The description of the opening scene of your movie, the way you paint your hometown, your honesty about why you write, why you blog and where your boundaries are (or, as it turns out, aren't).

Oh, and to answer your question: "What can I say about small town America that hasn't been said before?" Well, possibly nothing, but who could say it quite the way you do? Nobody, and that's what makes your stuff so special.

Jane said...

An opportunity to read an interview involving two of the best writers
who blog - great!

William said...

fantastic interview, and you and Mr. London Street's banter about euthanasia clinics was pretty good stuff. ( Now i really want to travel to Switzerland)