It’s Day 22 of #Fahrenbruary. How did that happen? This month long celebration of all things Fahrenheit Press and Fahrenheit 13 thunders on and today I bring you a Q&A with the ‘Punk Princess Of Noir’ herself Saira Viola.
Saira is a poet, song lyricist, playwright and novelist who’s first two books “Jukebox” and “Crack Apple & Pop” are published by Fahrenheit 13. You can find my reviews of each down there:
Both books are fast paced, gritty, dark and blackly humorous slices of noir that feature a vast and eclectic mix of characters set in the underworld of London. They are both excellent and well worth checking out.
Saira is currently beavering away on her third novel set in LA.
So, on to the Q&A.
Enjoy TBBB. X
TBBB: How did you come up with your ideas for your characters in Crack, Apple & Pop, and Jukebox? I mean, in CA&P there are so many do you keep little biographies of each one just to keep track?
SV: I think of characters that can lead the story. I also like characters with a natural kind of humor. Typically dark humor and that can form the foundation of a possible character. Sometimes characters come to me through dream sequences and my subconscious mind. Keeping track of a gallery of misfits is tricky but yes bios of each character can be useful.
TBBB: Are any of them based on anyone you know, and do they know?
SV: Yes on occasion, the characters are based on people I’ve met vicariously through third parties. Two people who feature in Jukebox immediately recognized themselves and basked in their notoriety. But some of the characters in Crack Apple & Pop who identified themselves in the novel weren’t amused.
TBBB: If you could be any character from either of your books or short stories which would it be and why ?
SV: It would have to be Presley Bangs the punked out LA rock journo in my new novel. Because she gets to hang out with a rabble of rock stars makes an actual living writing about music and wears leather and denim to work.
TBBB: How much of your writing is based on your real life experiences?
SV: Is this the real life is this just fantasy? The magic of the human imagination is that you can create artificial worlds that mimic reality. But often raw truth surpasses our imagination. Reality can be thrilling. A lawless fertile imagination however, can give life to imaginary ideas. I use some real life experience and build from there.
TBBB: How long have you wanted to be a writer? What was it that finally spurred you on to do it?
SV: I was always scratching out lines and verses and have been doing that since I was about 5 years old. There wasn’t a defining moment when I said I will write but the collapse of a former life gave me a reason to keep going. I remember I was in LA with a punk rock band. After raiding the mini bar at Chateau Marmont and after snacking on Twinkies and Oreos for over two hours I had a dream about Jim Morrison, Sam Cooke, and a mermaid named Fizzbit. Jim Morrison had gold dusted hair and was running barefoot in a rainbow coloured field. Sam was serenading ethereal, wet-skinned Fizzbit on a stretch of beach rock, while she was smoothing her flame coloured curls with a magic, tortoiseshell comb that fluted random lines of Bowie songs. They were speaking in tongues and sitting perched on huge lotus leaves in a circle. When I woke up, I dashed off several verses. That’s when I started writing regularly.
TBBB: You also write pretty hard hitting and thought provoking poetry, and created your own unique style called “sonic scatterscript”. Could you explain what that is and how important poetry, both your own and as an art form, is to you?
SV: Sonic Scatterscript is basically a literary idea I came up with as a poet that points to a focus on sound and rhythm. Best described with an example: “She was a wiggle and giggle chick with a slut bomb bounce.” The sentence has a very obvious rhythm. It starts out with dactyls, like a waltz: one two three, one two three. Then it ends on three stressed beats, rat tat tat, for percussive emphasis. Initially it feels like a hot cutie waltzing down the street, her hips swaying from side to side, and then it ends with a Cha Cha Cha. The rhythm mimics every dip of her hips, every swivel of the character. I also use assonance and consonance to tighten up the phrase, make the groove stick in your mind like a melody. Even more than diction, rhythm and melody give the line a “street” feel in tune with contemporary forms of speech like slang, rap, hip hop, punk poetry. I am as focused on the music of the language as I am on its meaning. Poetry is the bluebird riding the right hip of my faded Levis 501’s on a Spring breeze. Poetry allows me ultimate freedom to express thoughts and ideas. I start with a beat and the writing develops from that. Many of my literary influences have been poets including Heathcote Williams Octavio Paz and Linton Kwesi Johnson.
TBBB: What do Fahrenheit Press and Fahrenheit 13 mean to you?
SV: FH Press and FH13 are striking out in a different way. Just like I play with genre in my novels FH Press and FH13 are bold and brave enough to take risks and break with established conventions in publishing.
TBBB: What does your writing day involve? Do you have any routines or writing superstitions? Those things that you just have to do.
SV: Scribbling down as much as possible, I practice the two Ws writing: Wherever, whenever I can. I have written whole chapters in hospital waiting rooms or waiting in queues.
TBBB: Are you a plotter?
SV: Usually, the plot comes from the characters for me. The characters generally guide me I sketch out lines and paragraphs but I don’t know for sure what might happen until I get to the end as the characters are carrying me through the story. Sometimes though things happen that are beyond the control or intention of the characters, internal or external forces that of course can change the plot.
TBBB: So far your books have been standalones, but do you plan ahead several novels in advance or plan book by book?
SV: It’s very much book by book for me.
TBBB: Do you have any further plans for T and his gang from CAaP?
SV: Possibly. T and the gang are sunning their egos on a Yucatan breeze so there’s every possibility that they could return for some more anarchic hi jinx. And of course the movie is in development .
TBBB: Where do you get your ideas from?
SV: The stream of life, and subconscious thought.
TBBB: Both the covers for Jukebox and Crack, Apple & Pop are very striking and really stand out amongst all of the dreary identikit covers of blokes/women standing in a darkened location with their backs to us (even though I have no idea what the CA&P one is even supposed to be. Seriously, I’ve turned the book upside down, looked at it in the mirror, squinted… but it still looks like a bloke with a lime for a head). How important is a good book cover to you, if at all?
SV: It’s actually a reworked interpretation of Le fils de l’homme, a 1964 painting by the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte. A striking book cover, is a huge draw and will always generate a buzz. In a visual world there’s a lot of emphasis on the look and feel of a book. FHP and FH13 really appreciate the tantalizing allure of the humble dust jacket. They use top drawer designers who appreciate the text of the novel, and don’t just design covers to be different, they really groove the text too which is why they create such a stir with their cover .
TBBB: What’s your favourite shade of white?
SV: Black Noir.
TBBB: Have you any pets?
SV: I have an imaginary pet iguana called Cedric.
TBBB: What was your favourite tv show growing up? Did you have any heroes you wanted to be?
SV: Never watched much TV so I had to invent my own shows. But my brother made me watch Enter the Dragon on a loop. I wanted to be Bruce Lee or some kind of Shaolin warrior or Ninja.
TBBB: As you know, this is the Beardy Book Blogger, so, if you were to grow a beard, what style and colour would it be?
SV: Have to be a chin strap goatee thing manscaped and a petrol blue colour.
TBBB: What was your favourite childhood toy?
SV: Paddington Bear. He was a refugee, and he bought people together. He had a sign around his neck: “Please Look After This Bear”. When I was older I discovered Michael Bond had been influenced by the sight of children evacuees on train stations in London fleeing from war. I still love Paddington Bear.
TBBB: If you could have any superpower what would it be and how would you use it? Would you be a superhero or a supervillain?
SV: I’d be the Debt Busting Fairie and free everyone from long term debt. I’d make sure all their credit scores were perfect so they could really live life and stop existing as debt zombies.
My biggest thanks to Saira for taking the time to answer my questions.
You can buy both of her books directly from Fahrenheit Press at the links below.
Crack Apple & Pop: http://www.fahrenheit-press.com/books_crack_apple_and_pop.html