Andrew Byrds: So you began GLAB as a means of trying something new and seeing where it could take you. There’s strangeness in even the most normal of things, things that are commonplace like sex and attraction. I had this thought the other night about how fucking weird it is to be, like, absolutely anything. What drew you in initially with writing GLAB, besides trying for a more grounded novel?
Autumn Christian: I had this idea a couple years ago about an X-men esque facility where human mutants were kept, and there was one man who had the power to pull people out of depression and become the best versions of themselves, and this was powerful enough to lock him away. But, the concept itself wasn’t super exciting and mutants have been done a thousand times. At some point I decided to make the man a young woman, and make the vehicle of the power sexually transmitted. It became less of a grueling treatise on the human condition, and more an actual thing someone would want to read.
Also, Lana Del Rey’s “Fucked My Way to The Top,” and Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac played a part.
AB: Are you the kinda person who finds a lot of inspiration through music, like either lyrically or sonically? The appeal towards Americana is definitely noted from Lana in your book, she’s kinda fascinating because she seems designed to be hated but there’s something immensely empowering about her albums, especially BORN TO DIE.
AC: I list Katie Jane Garside (of Riot Grrl fame) and dubstep as sources of inspiration because part of my style was adopted by wanting to create prose that gives the same affect that some of my favorite music does. Did I accomplish that? Probably not, because music bypasses a lot of cognition that is impossible to do so with writing. I read once that a study was conducted that showed people listening to a symphonic piece of music experienced the same emotions at the same points – which would indicate that music is some kind of almost universal emotional code, whereas writing is a lot messier.
I’m a huge fan of Lana Del Rey – ever since Videogames was released. Even then people wanted to hate her, despite never listening to the music. I had a friend who said she was mad at me because I showed her the Born to Die video and she was unable to hate it. Lana Del Rey’s music has also matured a lot since 2012 or so. She’s really captured a particular, warm mood and I think the brilliance is in its simplicity.
AB: You said GLAB started off as a short story. at what moment did you realize “fuck, this is gonna be a bigger thing”?
AC: Christoph Paul from CLASH BOOKS got a hold of the short story (Which was already 14k words) and said that he saw it was potentially a novella, and offered me a contract for it. So I wrote the novella, gave GLAB room to breathe, and he said actually, it was beginning to look like a novel. About three drafts later, it was 260 pages.
AB: I come from a theatre background, so this is vining its way through: Tennessee Williams said something about how his life was a “mad pilgrimage of the flesh”. What do you think of that phrase? Not just in relation to GLAB or your writing, but all the shit you’ve been through so far?
AC: It took me an entire day to answer that question, and I think that’s probably an answer in itself.
I’ve never read Tennessee Williams but if we’re defining a pilgrimage is a journey in search of spiritual significance, it would seem we’re all dropped onto the earth with a (mostly) full set of working sensory tools and a thick cerebral cortex and not much else to guide us. It is maddening to me that we’ve all been experiencing the same four revelations or so for thousands of years (Possibly millions if we count our ancestors, homo erectus. etc.) and have no way to truly share them with each other.
I’ve also become obsessed lately with this idea that the self is an illusion – that the right and left hemispheres and other parts of the brain aren’t actually a cohesive whole, but only appear to be so. For months I can go on a kind of auto-pilot, without really checking in why I am doing these things I keep doing, and it bothers me that what I thought was carefully planned out motions are really just some kind of blind physics. It makes total sense because it’d be incredibly expensive, resource wise, to have to logically and without any prior routine come to a conclusion of what to do every-time we have breakfast or go to work, so we resort to habits and background noise and convince ourselves some higher order is making these decisions. I’ve heard before that the “self” is the one that observes the cognitive processes of the self. So last night I put on some binaural beats and meditated, and immediately burst into tears as I dove down into the place I had been avoiding all week. Mad pilgrimage indeed. There and back again, and never quite finding the source.
It just seems so incredibly difficult just to exist sometimes, you know?
AB: Your outlook on the self reminds me of Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus, at least in the sense that routines are what keeps most people in this mindset that they have some kinda control over their lives. Do this, do that, do it every day until you settle into ash and everything is groovy. The moment you take a step outside of your usual pleasure path, then it all clicks into place: an individualistic action reminding you it’s possible to exist within your own conditions, not someone elses, and it drives people fuckin mad. I think a lot about suicide for that reason. Some people off themselves because their lives aren’t going according to a plan, not necessarily their plans, but a societal/atavistic plan. How to fix that? You create meaning in EVERYTHING, which is both beneficial and a determent. If everything has meaning, then everything from your emotional journey with a partner to a gutted soda can in a storm drain can make existence a kind of art. Existing is pretty hard…
Do you find yourself becoming more fascinated by these ideas the more you write?
AC: I remember going through an existential crisis almost every day in my early twenties. I probably “gave up” writing every single week, only to be back at it a few hours later. It doesn’t seem so complicated anymore. Now I think it’s obvious the meaning is to survive, and in the best way possible. It only seems complicated because we’re viewing it through the lens of being human. If one were to observe a herd of cattle, or mallards, or any other species – their “meaning” would become excruciatingly obvious. It can get tricky when we ask ourselves, ‘How do I contribute to the betterment of the species’? But regardless of what you choose to do, you’re accomplishing your design. Even the worst people on earth serve as examples of what not to do, and how to prevent it.
Of course I don’t think that makes “existing” any easier. Every single motion is complicated mathematical computations. I think there’s an absurdity to clinging to being a writer as an identity. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think, “So this is the form you decided to go with this time around?” Being a writer is important, but in the way being a farmer or a barista is important.
AB: Here’s a breather question, do you like coffee?
*one hour later Autumn sends me this picture without any words*
AB: So…is that a yes? How long do those even last you?
AC: I drink like one of those a day. I also really like Redbull, but this is cheaper.
AB: Is that a habit, routine, or affirmation? Also do you recycle those bottles or use them to make, like, a caffeinated fort?
AC: I try to build happiness not just via goals, but through subroutines. Coffee is something I can look forward to daily, to remind myself I’m still a human worthy of small pleasures. You should try to build a life that when running without too much interference, can give you small injections of joy.
TL;DR: COFFEE GOOD.
(Also yes, I recycle! But I like the fort idea.)
AB: Now back to the hard-hitting stuff here, going right for the guts. I read GLAB not only as a fan of weird fiction, but also as someone who views reading and writing as affirmation/sporadic meditation. To complement that, I always read it, as I read most books, through the brainplate of someone who has been trying to reclaim beauty in this life. GLAB hits closer to home being I went through a traumatic relationship that left me void of anything hedonistic, viewing bodies as wounds, and sex as something nightmarish and almost alien. Of course the years have gone by since then and I’m learning to unfuck that part of my brain to see that sex can be something beautiful, sex can be absolutely nothing. I bring this up because in GLAB, Bev has this superhuman ability to fix people through sex. Is sex more about the reclamation of the body, or of the mind?
AC: Sex is an inescapable reality of being human and even those who avoid it have had their lives defined by the (absence of) sex. I think most people have some kind of sexual hang-up and I envy Beverly’s ability to find resolute enjoyment and the romanticism within her encounters. I think finding self-actualization in sex requires a healthy mindscape – and being willing to be able to be open and aware. It has little to do with how hot the person is or how technically good they are.
AB: Do you find yourself putting a little but of yourself in your own characters, or do you strive to maintain a clear cut of persona between fiction and truth?
AC: Beverly Sykes is really nothing like me – she’s confident, sex-positive, shameless, and goes relentlessly after what she wants. Still, she had to come from somewhere inside of me, so I have little bits and pieces of those traits scattered inside my ether. Or at least, the awareness of them.
When I write fiction though, my goal isn’t usually to write something personal to my own interior. I like exploring different characters and viewpoints, and creating stories I could never live.
AB: Have you ever given poetry a shot? They seem to be two different worlds, and everyone I’ve talked to is either a staunch fiction writer or a poet, never both.
AC: As far as I can remember I’ve only ever had one poem published, in Killpoet. I think this was back from like 2008.
Even my bio on the site says I can’t write poetry. It’s been a few years since I actually sat down and wrote a poem. I got a complex because I had someone tell me I couldn’t write poetry and like to be fair, I spend way more time on my prose. Poetry is its own beast, with its own rules.
AB: Were there any challenges or epiphanies you had about writing while working on GLAB?
AC: Challenge: To write unflinchingly about sex.
Epiphany: I am not just a horror writer.
AB: Who would you want to direct a GLAB movie?
AC: I’d be absolutely thrilled if anyone wanted to direct it but if we’re going to shoot for the moon let’s go with Park Chan-wook. He could definitely bring the intensity and beauty.
AB: You happened to choose one of my fav directors. I remember discovering South Korean cinema around the time I was in high school and binging all of the VENGEANCE trilogy one night. Did you happen to bring in any cinematic influences when it came to writing GLAB?
AC: Definitely Nymphomaniac and the movie Kids. I watched Kids as research because I wanted to authentically write teenagers. (Although I think ‘Kids’ definitely shows the darker, more narcissistic side of being young than GLAB does.)
Other then that, I’m not a huge cinephile. I spent most of my youth reading and playing video games, and sometimes find it really difficult to sit still for two hours to watch a movie. People are always astonished by the movies that I haven’t seen and berate me because I haven’t seen their favorite movie. But I never get onto people for not having read Jean Genet or Nabokov or Clarice Lispector or any of my other favorites.
AB: How has the creation and forthcoming publishing of GLAB incited your current creative output? Are you working on anything?
AC: Girl Like a Bomb made me realize that I want to take my writing into a more character-driven way. Although I’ve written mostly in the horror genre, it’s really people that I find interesting. The trappings of the genre can become extraneous and tasteless if not used correctly, and I realized I didn’t have to box myself into that for my “brand.” My brand isn’t spooky dream sequences and terrible parents. It’s whatever the fuck I want it to be, and my writing has to evolve as my essence evolves, or it becomes stale.
I just finished a novel with John Skipp, and I’m currently working on what I can only describe as a novel that’s a cross between Melissa Broder’s The Pisces, A Scanner Darkly, and Altered Carbon.
AB: Anyone you wanna @ before we call this an interivew?
AC: @CLASHbooks. Just buy everything they ever published. You’ll thank me later.
Autumn Christian is a fiction writer from Texas who currently lives in California. She is the author of several books, including “Girl Like a Bomb”, “The Crooked God Machine, and “We are Wormwood.” She has written for several video-games, including Battle Nations and State of Decay 2. When not writing, she is usually practicing her side kicks and running with dogs, or posting strange and existential Instagram selfies.