Kristiana Reed Interview / her second book / Flowers on the Wall

Recently I had the great fortune to interview one of my all-time favorite modern poets Kristiana Reed and here, alongside her interview, is a short of her reading one of her poems from her second collection of poetry, Flowers on the Wall. This collection came out yesterday and can be purchased here.

Candice: You have a background in Classics and you write a lot of very high-quality poetry that pays homage to your learning. Do you feel that helps you as a writer? And if so, how?

Kristiana: Thank you. The fact my degree is in Classics has afforded me a knowledge of mythology, of empire, of how history repeats itself, of the beginnings of poetry in the oral tradition, and of some of our earliest poets (Sappho, Theognis and Hesiod). Consequently, I find myself alluding to the past, our legacy and ideas which perhaps enrich the poetry I write. I think I’m very influenced by Homer’s descriptions of nature, Ovid’s darkness in Metamorphosis and Virgil’s idyllic landscapes in his Eclogues and The Georgics. This said, the study of Classics is very Westernised and Eurocentric and is therefore limited in this sense; I would love to learn more about the ancient empires in the East such as the Abyssinian and Persian empires and explore the literary tradition which was born there.

Candice: What inspired you to write poetry over say, prose or some other art form? Was there a specific genesis or was it almost an outpouring that became something more formal?

Kristiana: I still write lots of prose but I am more confident with poetry. I have a love for the brevity in poetic storytelling and I am insecure in regards to prose and the development of plot, characters and action. Poetry was my way to write about my Nanny’s (Grandmother’s) garden (which I still refer to as a fairy garden) and my way to express moments of fear, indecision and love as a teenager. I was told I was good at writing poetry from a young age so I guess I stuck with it and I remember my A-Level English Literature teacher telling me even my essay writing was poetic. It was never a conscious decision but I’m happy with my choice.

Candice: Who influences you as a writer/poet and why? This can include any type of artist or non-artist – explain what about their output influences you.

Kristiana: Again, I have no specifics here as such. I am an avid reader and I absorb storytelling. I remember images or phrases for years so sometimes these become a starting point for me when writing. Musicians are an influence – I have vivid memories of sitting cross-legged in my bedroom, aged twelve, reading the lyric book inside the CD case for Avril Lavigne and Evanescence. Even now, I often judge a song based on lyrics because for me they are just like poetry. Lyrical poetry was poetry set to a lyre; nothing much has changed apart from whether we pair our words with music or not.

Kristiana Reed reads one of her incredible poems “Tattoos for the Living” from her collection Flowers on the Wall

Candice: Your work is very pastoral in some respects, something I deeply appreciate as modern poets often stay in the navel-gazing pews and you are unafraid to really stretch outward into any genre. But your appreciation of the pastoral stays with me because you really know how to bring to life your surroundings. Do you feel where you live has influenced how you write?

Kristiana: I have always got lost in my surroundings and this stems from childhood. Already I have mentioned my Nanny’s garden which was a constant and burgeoning with blooms (I could easily watch the seasons from my slide on the lawn). My favourite memories are often associated with places and so I felt such freedom when I moved to where I live now which is an area between the town and country. There is a wheat-field at the end of my garden, woods a short walk away and the quay. To me, the natural world is magical. I always thought I was magical in these places and I guess I still hope to harness this feeling of hope, space and joy. I would also argue the cycle of nature is the best metaphor for life.

Candice: I noticed how prodigious you have been since Covid 19 and your wonderful movement of writing a poem in response to a poem that inspired you – almost daily. Do you find moods change your writing or are you able to work through any mood and produce solid work despite how you feel? Was it always this way? Is discipline in writing something you learn or something you are born with?

Kristiana: As a teacher, from the moment lockdown occurred in the UK, I was secure in my job. This meant I could work from home safely and found I had more time in my day. No longer standing in a classroom for 4 – 5 hours a day, I began to write more often and then the ‘on Reading’ prompts were created. The process of sourcing these poems and then sharing my responses with people and reading their pieces has been wonderful. I’ve had to teach myself the discipline of writing every day or every few days and I am aware that come September, this discipline will give way to full-time teaching again. So, in short, discipline is taught. I do not believe any one is born disciplined. In regards to different moods, I’ll often try to harness it where I can and let it fuel the work. If not, I’ll cheat and post a poem from my first collection and unashamedly plug it that way…

Candice: Do you see a future for poetry once we get over our immediate love affair with online memes? What does poetry bring to 2020 and going forward that prose does not?

Kristiana: I think the argument ‘online poetry is nothing but memes’ has been raging for so long I’m not sure it is even valid anymore… It is a very cynical view of a community which thrives. Through my use of social media platforms, I have met talented, fascinating and brilliant people. I’ve had the pleasure of reading collections I would never have discovered if I had stuck exclusively to my local bookshop. I think we are too quick to belittle online communities for what they are, communities.

Mainstream media will tell you the boom has come from Kaur’s Instagram poetry and for some reason we should be ashamed of this. In fact, whether you agree with the accounts boasting thousands of followers for two-line statements, who are we to judge what is art for some people? The fact an audience exists suggests people enjoy it and I’m not prepared to sit on a high horse and extoll what we should and shouldn’t be seeing from poetry. Poetry is an artform and thus subjective. It is a different entity to prose and so again, I do not think it will be anything more than prose will. I often read several books at one time – novels, poetry collections and non-fiction. All genres have their merits and reasons for why we should get lost in them. Life is far too short to get caught up being critical about how others consume art.

“I have learned so much about editing, designing and formatting through the process of creating and releasing two collections. It means I am perhaps prouder of them because I know how much of myself I have put into them beyond the written words.”

Candice: Bravo. well said. I completely agree with you! How has teaching influenced your writing if at all and what would you eventually like to do with your writing if you had the chance?

Kristiana: Directly, some of my poems are inspired by interactions in the classroom and what I endeavour to achieve as an educator. Teaching English also exposes me to a lot of poetry from the poets we may consider the ‘greats’ which has helped me construct the ‘On Reading’ prompts each month since June. Eventually, I’d love to have a series of collections which very much chart the passing of time and how I will no doubt change and, hopefully, publish the novel I’ve had in the works for almost two years now…

Candice: What is the most important thing you have been told about your writing that stayed with you and helped engender your next step in being a writer of poetry?

Kristiana: Nothing necessarily springs to mind here… when I wrote poetry as a teenager I shared it with very few people. The moment I realised I wanted to be a writer of poetry and to share my work with others was in the early hours of a morning in 2016. I couldn’t sleep so I wrote. Then suddenly I had an urge to let what I wrote out into the aether, if you will. Thus, my blog My Screaming Twenties was born. I wanted to document my twenties (kicking and screaming). And actually, I’m glad it was an inner voice which drove me to take this step because I haven’t regretted it once.

Candice: How does building a community of writers versus FVR and other mediums, help you personally as a writer and what are your goals in doing so?

Kristiana: Taking over FVR from the wonderful Nicholas Gagnier has been so incredibly rewarding and that certainly translates into building up a community around myself. I know we often look at creating a platform and audience in the frame of ‘How can I market myself?’ when FVR and spending the last few months working hard to establish and maintain the platforms I have, has taught me the value of genuine connections with like-minded people. Sharing the work of others not only makes you feel good but it draws connections between yourself and others. I’ve found through putting the work of others forward, I’ve benefitted in a way which feels organic and true. In regards to this community, I may or may not be considering an FVR anthology on the suggestion of a regular contributor.

Candice: What inspires you the most in this life and why? Do you find more in darker emotions or lighter or is there some other force that lights your pen?

Kristiana: Inspiration definitely tumbles, falls and surges like waves. Sometimes darker emotions fuel my words and sometimes it’s a love for my partner or simply the slow movement of the Earth. It truly varies. I very much tap into myself as a source whenever I sit down to write. I think this is why I struggle with set metre and form. My work is more often than not an outpouring of a feeling or a moment or memory and thus I write freely rather than write to a pre-defined structure. I suppose in this sense I lack a certain discipline. Poetry is something I seek in order to not feel tied down.

Candice: I agree and feel similarly about meter and form for exactly the same reason(s) although I think it’s good to understand how to do it, then you have a choice, much like Picasso did when he decided to do less realistic (cubist) work, he knew all the forms and chose what worked for him. Would you consider Flowers on the Wall similar to your first collection, Between the Trees, or would you consider it a departure? Why?

Kristiana: The treatment of nature in Flowers on the Wall definitely echoes pieces in Between the Trees. Certain images reappear like a wheat field, meadows, the sky and the ocean. Yet, I would consider Flowers on the Wall a departure too. Between the Trees was the documentation of a journey from depression to acceptance. Although, I still very much experience bouts of depression and healing, Flowers on the Wall is what I would consider a poetry collection. This collection says more about me as a poet rather than a person. It has a maturity I was only just beginning to grasp with Between the Trees.

Candice: Both of your collections are self-published, can you describe this experience and share any advice you might have with those who are considering the self-publishing route?

Kristiana: Self-publishing can feel like quite a lonely journey. Unless you have the pennies to spare, you’re often your own formatter, cover designer, editor, agent, and, of course, publisher. Not forgetting the marketing which follows. But, this also means it can be incredibly rewarding. I have learned so much about editing, designing and formatting through the process of creating and releasing two collections. It means I am perhaps prouder of them because I know how much of myself I have put into them beyond the written words. My advice would be to research every element of the process, speak to as many people as you can who have experience, map out exactly what you wish to achieve and steps one and two should help you achieve this. Stay open-minded and be realistic; you will be constrained by how well you are able to do something so plans will change.

Flowers on the wall – is available NOW via Amazon. (click link) Kristianas first book Between the Trees is for sale on Amazon now.

For the foreword written by Candice Daquin for this gorgeous book please go to Kristiana’s brilliant page on WordPress My Screaming Twenties

https://linktr.ee/KristianaReed

My Screaming Twenties

SMITTEN Poets Interview: Talia Rizzo

Talia Rizzo is a lesbian poet studying creative writing at the University of Denver. Her work focuses on her experiences as a queer woman, the complexities of family separation, and the power of images. Talia’s work can also be found in Levee Magazine, Foothills, and Prometheus Dreaming. When she’s not writing, Talia can be spotted among the Colorado mountains, taking in the sun with the wildflowers or skiing until her legs are sore.

1.How does poetry and identifying as lesbian/bi come together for you? 

I don’t want to say my poetry would be nothing without my experiences as a lesbian, but I’m going to say it. In some way, when I read old poems from five or six years ago and when I read the collection I am working on now while living in Spain for a few short months, I see different reflections of one another. Sexuality is everywhere and for that reason, each of my poems has some type of image that can be traced back to a specific experience, thought, memory, fear of being a lesbian in the United States. When I began writing poetry, it became a catalyst for me to understanding my identity and my past relationships with women and how they have felt in relation to the men I have been with. It gave me a chance to create, to sit and think for hours over cups of coffee about the intensity, the vivid colors I felt when I was with women, even if it was just their leg grazing mine under the table. Over time, my poetry has shifted and taken on different forms, some I don’t even understand yet, but one thing has remained the same—my life as a lesbian is at the core of all my work; it is the way my world is shaped, the lens on which everything is always seen.

2. Whom are your favorite lesbian writers and why?

Alicia Mountain and Pamela Sneed. They are my two biggest icons in every way and I aspire to be half the writers they are. They have each, in their own very different rights, mastered the art of image, of storytelling. If the man drinking a beer at the table beside me reached into my backpack, all he would find is their two very different and sensational stories—Sweet Dreamsby Sneed and High Ground Coward by Mountain. Mountain’s collection of poetry has come to me in every moment of need, over and over again, and still each time I am able to get something new from it, something I didn’t see before. Sneed taught me things beyond myself and gave me the chance to reflect on and be thankful for all the privilege I have been given in my life. Their images are relentless in the best way, so specific and subjective to each individual woman, yet so universal to the community.

7. What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work along side other women who love women? 

It is absolutely thrilling. I am so excited to see all of their work. In countless ways, all lesbians, all bisexual women, all queer people are connected through a similar experience of identity, while simultaneously having so many individual differences. Love is both an individual and collective experience, especially when it comes to being a lesbian. I remember being eighteen in a restaurant with an old girlfriend and having to move tables because of a couple older, heterosexual couples next to us talking very loudly about how disgusting they found us. All we were doing was holding hands. I remember the way it felt when the waiters carried our plates full of food across the restaurant to a new table and every head turned to watch us get up and move. I remember my girlfriend’s eyes filling with tears and the excessive apologies of the employees. In some ways that night, a love I had never experienced before presented itself, as well as an experience I know is universal. As a community, we have been spit on, degraded, beaten, and killed for our sexual preference. While simultaneously, finding other people, other women, who love us, who accept us, who become a part of us. Being featured in SMITTEN alongside so many women from all over the world is an absolute honor for me, as all these words and stories bring us together—even when we are miles and miles apart.

SMITTEN is due out any day now. Please consider supporting this project by purchasing a book when it comes on sale. Even one purchase helps support the endeavors and hard work of these 120 authors and highlights the value of LGBTQ subjects. SMITTEN will be available via all good book stores please check the Facebook SMITTEN page for up to date information. 

Poets of SMITTEN Speak: Melissa Fadul

Melissa Fadul lives in New York with her wife, dog and two rabbits. She teaches English Literature and Advanced Placement Psychology.  She loves animals, poetry, and film and photography and baseball and screenwriting. Melissa is currently writing her second poetry manuscript and a screenplay.  Melissa hopes that someday she can work with her favorite actresses: Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz, Cate Blanchett and Mariska Hargitay.

Is the Die Really Cast?

I was a sophomore and part of GLU (the gay and lesbian union as it was called then) getting my undergraduate degree in New York and two years younger than twenty-one-year-old Matthew Shepard, when barbed wire pierced his wrists as he was pinned to a fence on a chilly October evening. After his assailants, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson thumped his skull, dented it, they stole his shoes and wallet before running him over in a pick-up truck— leaving him for dead in Wyoming dark.

He was found by a young boy riding his bicycle the next morning, eighteen hours later. From a distance, he thought Matthew was a scarecrow. As the boy rode closer, he saw a man—a man whose face was marred and sopped in blood—except where tears skidded down his cheeks.

Twenty-one years later, I still repeat to myself, that could have been me. I could have been murdered for being a lesbian. In Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History, Cathy Caruth states, “Freud describes a pattern of suffering that is inexplicably persistent in the lives of certain individuals. Perplexed by the terrifyingly literal nightmares of battlefield survivors and the repetitive reenactments of people who have experienced painful events, Freud wonders at the peculiar and sometimes uncanny way in which catastrophic events seem to repeat themselves for those who have passed through them” (1).Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(23).png

Bearing this in mind, it’s high time that America give credence to the power of vulnerability. However, how and why should we do this when Webster, Random House and any other dictionary defines vulnerable as weakness? The only way to look and accept ourselves as civil beings is to admit without metaphor or interpretation what it means to be human—which means we must muster the courage to reconcile our exiled musings of private vulnerabilities. It means redefining the fast food, bizarre definition of the word, vulnerable.

Thus, my reason for contributing to Smitten. I’m not naïve enough to think that by writing this essay (which seems more like a manifesto) that most will be influenced to come-of-age and pass through some rite-of-passage. One must experience to comprehends the acute power kindness and empathy possess when one
is courageous enough to be vulnerable. Momentarily, there was a bit of ambivalence to submit to Smitten—a reluctance born of unfounded anxiety—coupled with my semi-introverted nature that drew up useless excuses: I’m too intense, no one will like these pieces, they’re too graphic, etc.

However, I remembered my purpose—my students who I write for—the ones who can’t speak for themselves because of their own political hinderances—youth who can’t conjure the duende within—nor know how to use the ordinary world as a catalyst and objective correlative that stands at a distance in order to bear witness.

Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(24).pngI recalled my vulnerability-my greatest strength which includes the courage to believe that people do desire to listen to strangers’ stories—to really feel something especially when tragedy is on the frontlines of the tongue. This evergreen notion is a pattern I’ve noticed made most explicably apparent through the vehicle of trauma and disaster. According to Nicole Cooley, “to think about how disaster produces speech, writing, and testimony and disaster is reproduced through language. I’m not talking about disaster as metaphor in poetry but about a poetry that arises in direct response to a disaster, a poetry of disaster” Cooley, Nicole. “Poetry and Disaster” American Poet, Volume 39 Fall Nov. 2010, pp. 3-5.

My submission to Smitten has tried serve as witnesses for the LGBTQ community and its allies. These pieces are designed to be umbilicals which help guide those who need it through the uprising of Stonewall and the shooting in Orlando’s gay club, Pulse. There’s almost half a century of time between these two events with Matthew Shepard’s murder in between—not to mention countless other hate crimes that are recognized by law enforcement and the LGBTQ community.Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(25).png

Ideally, in a utopia these tragedies should antagonize peace. They haven’t—nor will the next one. Nevertheless, the autonomy and my hope lie with the idea that it will create nonviolent conversation. My primary point was to create a Socratic discussion in which all voices are heard and inquiry based on all beliefs are supported.

According to her breakthrough non-fiction work, Catalysis, Dr. Alice Maher states, human understanding needs a language all its own, an Emotional Literacy that synthesizes insights from multiple disciplines. It must be codified and taught, using theory literature, thought experiments and daily exercises, until it exists on a par with other major subjects in a K-12- PHD curriculum. Emotional Literacy needs to be taught and practiced until our species becomes fluent, until the best are recognized and supported in their rise to leadership. (Maher 15).

One way to understand how Emotional Literacy works is by understanding how to ask someone a question even if one party is fuming because their subjective isn’t synonymous with the other party’s. It seems obvious—still I don’t know if as a species we know how to speak to one another in a way where there’s room for empathy, which always deems itself essential in order to reach the duende state of vulnerability.Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(26).png

For example, if a discussion between two people begins on a calm and a bit of trust is created between those two individuals, when one person feels like he, she or they can be vulnerable that step will be taken. However, if the other person’s approach and angle into the discussion is volatile and branded apathetic, the option of sympathy or empathy dissipates quickly. If that occurs, the true meaning of that dialogue could be lost—Thus, truth and vulnerability aren’t reached. Maher goes on to add, “be curious, invite the person to talk about his/her childhood and share your own similar-but-different experiences.

Remember that your beliefs come from a personal center too and are probably equally distorted as a result. Be curious about your own distortions and try not to be too triggered by theirs. In order to succeed with Maher’s recipe for serenity, we must be willing to view our own distortions—that means being vulnerable. Can you bear it?Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(27).png

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

Poets of SMITTEN Speak: Carol Jewell

Carol H. Jewell is a musician, teacher, librarian, and poet living in Upstate New York with her wife, Becky, and their seven cats. She reads constantly, being insatiably curious.

How does poetry and identifying as lesbian/bi come together for you?

I think my age may have a part in this. I didn’t come out until I was 39, having had relationships with straight men before that, even marrying one of them and having a daughter with him. I just turned 60, and I am at a point in my life where I really don’t care that much about what people think of me or my work. People will think what they think, and it’s really none of my business. However, if they speak or write publically, in a negative way, about my sexuality or my writing, then we’re probably going to have a conversation. Whether it remains private or public depends on how negative their feelings are. After all, shouldn’t I share their shitty opinions with others?

Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(3).pngWhom are your favorite lesbian writers and why?

Well, you know, we can never be absolutely certain about “who” is “what.”  And people aren’t out in different areas of their lives. AND, a person can be “out” in many ways. I can share that I am a lesbian with a grown daughter who gifted me with a fabulous grandson. I can let you know that I have both visible and invisible disabilities. I can tell you how I vote. Things like that. So, I can tell you which lesbian writers I like, but not necessarily why. Also, the list can change on a daily basis. This list is not inclusive: Alice Walker, Wanda Sykes, Ellen DeGeneres, Alison Bechdel, Lillian Hellman, Mary Renault, Jeanette Winterson, Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Bishop, Frances Power Cobbe, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Melissa Etheridge, Louise Fitzhugh, Janis Ian, Cheryl Wheeler, Geri Jewell (no relation, that I know of), Rachael Z. Ikins, Judy Kamilhor, Nancy Klepsch, Shannon Shoemaker, Adrienne Rich, May Sarton, Marilyn Hacker, Emily Dickinson, Sean Heather McGraw, Allison Paster-Torres,  and Jessie Serfilippi.

Do you think there is enough representation of lesbian poetry and writing in general and if no, what do you think is the reason?

Should we, as lesbians who are also poets (and vice versa) be required to give that information to editors, say, somewhere in our cover letters? Is it necessary? I don’t think it’s necessarily necessary. If the work that I am submitting has any lesbian tropes, then it might behoove me to announce that.

How does being a poet inform your views on expressing emotions through writing?

If writing poetry does not reflect someone’s emotions, why bother?

What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work along side other women who love women?

Well, first, I’m glad to have my work out there, so to speak. Having my work along side other women who love women allows me to get ideas from those women, and also network with them.

Did you ever want to be a voice for the lesbian/bi community? If so, why?

I didn’t set out to be a “voice,” but, as I work on at a University, I’ve found it helpful to be out to faculty, staff, and students.

Why is love a worthier subject than erotica to write on?

Because love is bigger than erotica. I used to say that gay or lesbian relationships are not about sex, but about love. Of course, sex—in whatever form that takes—can be a big part of relationships, but not THE most important part. Being a lesbian is more than whom I share my BED with…it’s whom I share my LIFE with. People who are disabled may not have sex the way another person does, but if what they do IS sex for them, that’s great! I just think that there are many layers to love, and not so many to sex. To me, love is more interesting.

Have you ever been SMITTEN and if so, do you feel it’s possible to summarize those feelings in poetry?

My wife and I have been a couple since 1999. Later, we had a commitment ceremony and then got married, after it became legal in New York. I was smitten with her from our first contact, and love her more every day. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s true.

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

 

 

Reblog: Interviewing the talented Tony Single

Reblogged from; https://crumblecult.com/2017/05/21/comfy-confabs-tony-single/

Hullo, Dear Reader. Guess what? I got talked into being the second interviewee for my brand new, ongoing feature, Comfy Confabs. The interviewer being the interviewed?! How on Cthulhu’s sweet, barren earth did that happen? Well, I’ll tell you how… It’s all the fault of one Candice Daquin, and if you don’t know who she is then you really need to edjumacate yourself at The Feathered Sleep. Okay, go. Go now! Go and have your eyes opened and your mind exploded. I’m serious! I’ll be here when you get back.

Right, got all that? Good. So, anyways, I approached Candice to be the focus of this second interview, but instead of a yes I got an offer to be interviewed by her instead. “You’ll be more interesting!” she said. “But I’m a career hack!” I protested. She was having none of it, so I folded rather more easily than a deck chair at a conflict resolution symposium…

All joking aside, I am rather pleased with the outcome. Not only have I shared dialogue with a writer of Candice’s calibre, but the resulting Q&A even makes it seem like I’m not a total and utter narcissistic halfwit—pretentious maybe, and a bit of a tool, but still…

CANDICE: Were you always an artist? Did you used to do something before that? If so, when did you decide to devote yourself more toward your art and networking your work for others to see?

TONY: I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon, so I feel like I’ve never not been an artist. I was even creating comic strips all the way through my school years, so by the time I was accepted into art college the idea of trying to be a professional cartoonist felt like the next logical step to me. However, my life since then has consisted of being equal parts job seeker, house husband, and struggling artist.

CANDICE: What do you recall as your original inspiration when you began to draw more for others to appreciate? What message if any did you want to convey the most?

TONY: I don’t really recall much to be honest. I do remember Charles Schulz’s Peanuts strip featuring quite prominently in my childhood. I adored its many characters (and still do), and very much aspired to do something in the same vein. As for messages, I don’t think I had any in mind at that age—only an idea that I wished to live out a creative life.

CANDICE: Do you consciously impart messages in your work or do you think they are interpreted by the viewer?

TONY: I believe it’s a bit of both. The older I get, the more I find what I want to say, and so I’ll layer this into whatever I create. However, no one likes to be preached at, so I’ll try to find an indirect way to impart that meaning, a way that gives the reader credit for having their own mind and take on things. Of course, whatever I put out there does often get interpreted in ways that I cannot possibly anticipate, but this is no bad thing. All it means is that people aren’t being passive, that they’re actively engaging with my work, and that makes me happy.

CANDICE: Does your hearing-loss factor in the choices you make artistically?

TONY: Such an interesting question. No one has ever asked me this before! If my hearing-loss is any factor at all then it would have to be in the way I try to write dialogue. I am constantly striving to make my characters sound as naturalistic as possible (not easy to do within the silence of the page). I want their stresses, intonations, and turns of phrase to mimic what I will often hear in everyday conversations.

CANDICE: When did you begin to combine your ability as a writer/poet with your art? Do you feel more confident in one genre than another?

TONY: As a cartoonist, I’ve always combined my writing with my art. I do find it difficult to draw a standalone image as it often feels like there’s no story present. I tend to be more comfortable working with a sequence of images; it’s a less static approach that’s conducive to driving narrative or some overall message. If there’s one thing I like more than writing or drawing alone, it’s putting those two things together to tell a story.

CANDICE: If you had endless options, what would you choose to do with your art? Would you like to be a comic-artist, a graphic-novelist? Or something else?

TONY: When I was young, my goal was to write and draw a famous comic strip, just like my hero Charles Schulz. That changed. What I’m doing now with Crumble Cult actually plays to my strengths as a cartoonist, and far more so than the newspaper format ever would have. It’s emotionally fulfilling in a way that a gag strip could never be for me. Still, as a creative, I can’t say that I’ve ‘arrived’. My next big challenge is to write and draw my first graphic novel, and I want to do this in Ukraine. I have no idea how I can make this happen, but I sure aim to.

CANDICE: If you weren’t you and you didn’t know you, and you saw your art what would you think of the person behind it?

TONY: God. Again with the interesting questions! I find this difficult to answer as I’m often wondering what people make of me anyway (could someone tell me?). I’m constantly striving to get personal with my comics, to bare my all, and yet I use them to hide myself at the same time. It’s weird, I know. I guess I just like to confound people’s expectations.

CANDICE: Whom are your biggest influences both historically and in more recent times and why?

TONY: There’s the aforementioned Mr. Schulz. His Peanuts strip has always appealed to my whimsical and melancholic natures, as have the works of Tove Jansson. I grew up reading her Moomintroll books, and they were fanciful but in an extraordinarily mundane, grounded way. Then there was the Osamu Tezuka comics that possessed a certain kineticism which I very much admired. And they had a rather pleasing pulp fiction sensibility too; for me, Adolf and Astroboy will always be his definitive works. Oh, and Rumiko Takahashi’s Maison Ikkoku was another influence. That story was romantic, down-to-earth, very very funny, and humane. I’m also seeing an abundance of that last quality in Love and Rockets by the Hernandez Bros. That’s a more recent influence I suppose, but no way in hell will I ever reach those giddy heights of masterful storytelling. Not with my own paltry efforts. Still, I love what I do, so I can try.

CANDICE: You mentioned wanting to do a graphic novel (so glad you said that, this interviewer always felt this was your destiny, jus sayin’!) but also ‘in Ukraine’ meaning you want to write / draw it in Ukraine or in Ukrainian? Can you elaborate on this and explain to the readers where this momentum began and why? (I think I know!)

TONY: I think you do too! I once asked my writing partner Tetiana Aleksina about her home country, and she challenged me to simply go there and pay her a visit. Her feeling was that it would be better for me to experience Ukraine firsthand rather than simply hear about it from afar. That’s when I had the idea to turn this potential trip into a story that I could tell in the graphic novel format, and so I’ve been obsessed with the idea ever since. Plus, it would just be a cool thing to hang out with someone that I love and admire very much! I plan to make it happen. Again, I don’t know how, but I will.

CANDICE: What influence has your writing collaborator Tetiana Aleksina had on your work and how do you feel she has influenced your direction?

TONY: I was floundering creatively before Tati came along, and that’s the truth. I don’t know where I’d be today if it weren’t for her timely intervention. The width and breadth of her imagination is the one thing that shone through when I first encountered her blog, and so I very quickly became a fan. And as I got to know Tati through our collaborations thereafter, I came to realise she was someone I very much wanted to work with on a permanent basis. With much trepidation, I asked her if I could, and luckily for me she said yes! And in all the time since, I’ve come to see just how meticulous Tati is with her endeavours. Everything counts for her; nothing gets wasted. Things are worth doing properly or not at all. Not many bloggers seem to have this perfectionist drive, and so I’ve really come to value her professional approach and attention to detail. I’m forced to lift my game—to strive for my absolute best—and this clearly is no bad thing. As a result, we now have many projects in the pipeline, and aim to make them all come to fruition.

CANDICE: If you could fast-forward ten years where would you like to be in terms of creative output and accomplishment?

TONY: I would like my wife and I to be living abroad, and for me to be working alongside Tati in person. That’s the dream. We want to bring out more books, to complete our first novel, and maybe even tackle a graphic novel together too. The sky’s the limit. We just have to be foolish enough to reach for it!

CANDICE: What subjects most influence your perspective as an artist and why?

TONY: Religion and mental health are two huge subjects in my life, so they tend to crop up in my work a lot. After suffocating in a Baptist church environment for nearly twenty years, I realised that I needed to get out and truly be myself for once. I’d also given up on the idea of a loving god by this point, and was feeling tremendous guilt about that—I felt like a heretic and a failure as a human being. There were also lingering questions from my youth regarding my sexuality and self-identity that were still not going away, that could not be adequately addressed the longer I stayed in such an emotionally and intellectually toxic subculture. I felt stained and stunted. I needed to escape. Add ongoing anxiety and depression to the mix, and you can see why I write and draw the things I do. I have to.

CANDICE: What role do you think you play as an artist in terms of being a ‘truth’ bearer to subjects most close to your heart and what subjects would you include? (Example; This interviewer holds mental-health and gender close to her heart and incorporates them into her work often.)

TONY: The more I follow my current path, the more I find what I want to explore in terms of themes. Of course, there’s the aforementioned religious and mental health issues, but I’m now branching out into other areas such as sexual identity and gender politics, and finding that there’s quite a bit of crossover. Actually, it’s shocking to note just how much church and society have framed my thinking in general, and in ways that are less than helpful, that quite frankly fly in the face of reality. Back in my church days I tried to cleave to some pretty dangerous ideas dressed up as piousness and a sacrificial love for mankind, but really… I was only robbing myself of the ability to empathise with others while at the same time deliberately taking leave of my senses. One particular issue seemed to crop up again and again amongst my peers: homosexuality. God and his ‘chosen ones’ were disturbingly obsessed with that, and sought to box it up as something which was ‘aberrant’ and ‘evil’. This kind of bigotry always troubled me as I’d always believed that homosexuals were as normal as anyone, but I never had the guts to challenge it head on. At the time, I was more invested in gaining total acceptance from my fellow Christians than in pursuing a form of ethical honesty. So, yes, I now incorporate such concerns and themes into my works as often as possible. It’s kind of my duty, and I have a lot to atone for.

CANDICE: Thank you for your time answering these questions. As long as I have had the fortune to know you as an artist, I have found you to be a continual inspiration, but I also know you personally to be very modest and unaware of the impact you have upon others. Do you think this came about from your life thus far? Have you felt working in this creative community and especially with your creative partner Tati, that you have begun to shed your modesty and become fully the creative person you wanted to be? Do you see this as a process of transformation? I say this because in the last year I see a shift in the courage of your work delving deeper into issues and subjects that matter to you with more willingness to ‘go there’ than say, before.

TONY: Oh, Candice, you’ve always been very kind to me. I wish I truly was modest. The reality is that I possess a massive ego, and it offends me. Seriously, I must have an overinflated sense of self to be trying to tear that down on a constant basis! If I was truly humble, I wouldn’t even be thinking about myself in the first place. As for the impact I have on others, I’m always worried that it will be a bad one, so I find I overcompensate and try not to have an impact at all. I know—messed up or what? I always suspect that I’m not being totally honest with myself, which is why I write and draw. I just want to get closer to the truth of me—whatever that may be—so the creative process is very much an act of attempted transformation. It’s taken me a long time to ‘go there’, to work up the courage (or foolishness?) to tackle issues and subjects that I personally still find very painful. I also hope I don’t end up fashioning a narrative for my life that isn’t honest, or a narrative that paints me as some blameless, long-suffering saint. A narrative that fools even me. How do you stay true to something like that? I’ve no idea.

Please visit Tony at;https://crumblecult.com/2017/05/21/comfy-confabs-tony-single/  and please leave comments on his site♡