One of the literary projects I’m most excited about for in 2015 is Ladybox Books. A branch of Broken River Books focusing on women, Ladybox was born out of an idea to bring women together for a box full of chapbooks. Now that it’s here, I can say it’s something I’d been expecting for a long time. Say what you will about how far we’ve come, but women are still unrepresented in indie lit (among other places), and finally having a place that will offer us nothing but superb books by women free of genre constrictions is an incredibly sweet thing. Now that Ladybox’s editor, bizarro author and sushi/taco lover Constance Ann Fitzgerald, has announced their first two titles, Jigsaw Youth by Tiffany Scandal and The Pulse between Dimensions and the Desert by Rios de la Luz, I thought it was a perfect time to ask them some weird questions. Constance got us started.
GI: Tell us about how Ladybox came about. Also, how freaking excited are you?
CAF: I’M SO EXCITED! (Cue The Pointer Sisters) Ladybox (the boxed set of chapbooks) happened because I wanted to gather all the talented women I know into one place. That would have been a much bigger set/broader project, so I settled for six, plus myself. I asked each of these women to participate and create something for me. Whatever they wanted. I had recently purchased The Riot Grrrl Collection and was completely in love with the hand made messages, art, stories, etc. I wanted that back. Fortunately these women felt the same way.
J. David Osborne of Broken River Books contacted me while I was compiling the box set and offered me the opportunity to launch a press publishing women whose work I believe in. I was completely floored. I didn’t expect that at all. The opportunity was too good to pass up. So here we are! Ladybox Books will be releasing two novels in March! All I wanted to do was make a cool box set. Who’da thunk it?
GI: What are you looking for in a manuscript? Also, is it safe to tell authors that, with two superb novels on the table, you would choose to publish the one written by the author who bought/sent you tacos?
CAF: Sadly, neither of these ladies bought me tacos, which really makes me question our relationship(s). Tiffany took me to an awesome burrito place while I was visiting Portland for the World Horror Convention, though. I think that counts? Anyway, as far as manuscripts go, I’m looking for really honest writing. Raw, lean, gut-punch kind of prose. I’ve had trouble hanging a genre label on it because it’s really an aesthetic that you pick up as you’re reading. At best I’ve been throwing out the term “fictionalized non-fiction.” Tell me a story. See how it goes.
GI: How hard do you have to bleed and scream when changing your writer/editor hats?
CAF: So far, not very. Things have been pretty laid back. It’s been more conversational than red pens and vetoes. “I like this idea, I like this image. That’s okay, but I like this too.” It’s still pretty early, though. I could be bleeding and screaming within the next few months. It would be totally worth it. It’s important to me that the authors love the books we’re putting out together just as much as I do.
GI: If I let my hair down, can I send you something? This is too awesome not to ask…
CAF: As much as I dig what you do, unfortunately, no. While Ladybox Books does not require female genitalia to submit, it DOES require that you identify as female. Not just have long hair, however shiny it may be.
GI: I’ve been telling folks that women took over my reading in 2014 and I couldn’t be happier. Can you tell everyone I’m right and that women are finally taking over? What role will you play in the revolution? Who shall be spared?
CAF: I hope you’re right! There are so many amazing female artists/writers/creators out there and it’s about time that we all took notice and showed them the support they deserve. My role in this is to help give these women a place to bring their work, feel comfortable doing so, and show it off to the world as best we possibly can with the help of the community we’re building together. I couldn’t be happier to do so. No one will be spared. And we’ll all be better for it.
The next lady to answer some weird questions was Rios de la Luz, whose first book I’ve been demanding since watching her read at Noir at the Bar Oklahoma early this year.
GI: We’ve talked about the need for more POC and women in fiction and here comes Ladybox, swinging into action. What will you be doing with them and how excited are you?
RdlL: I am working on a collection called The Pulse between Dimensions and the Desert. Only gifs can capture my feelings for this project:
GI: Tu escribes en ambos idiomas. Are you ready for a backlash? Wanna borrow one of my knives?
RdlL: One of my favorite Junot Diaz quotes is “Motherfuckers will read a book that is 1/3 elvish, but put two sentences in Spanish and they think we’re taking over.” When I incorporate my first language, I do it because it adds a rhythm that I could not get out of the English language. If anyone has a problem with that, just know, I have the power to duplicate myself and use tiny chainsaws as weapons at my discretion.
GI: If you could recommend otra Latina para Ladybox, who would it be?
RdlL: I would recommend Vanessa Mártir. I read one of her blog posts a few months back that had me ugly crying because it was so brutal and honest. She writes for Huffington Post now and I hope more and more of the planet will be able to read her work. I would also recommend one of my favorite Xicana activists, Cassandra Alicia, because she is one of the realest people I have ever met.
GI: Can you tell us a bit about your book and why everyone should get it as soon as it’s out?
RdlL: The Pulse between Dimensions and the Desert is a mixture of stories from the perspectives of raw women, inquiring teenage minds and children still enchanted by the environments around them. I incorporate magical surrealism and sci-fi as elements of the stories I tell. Por ejemplo, I wrote one story about an abuela who builds a time machine. I love writing about the components of identity and feeling lost on this speck of a planet. I love writing from the perspectives of Xicana women while laughing and crying with them. I put my little heart into this book. You should get this book on your own volition. I cannot force you to buy it, but if you do buy it know that you are feeding an adorable senior dog.
GI: What’s it like working with Constance? Did you buy her tacos?
RdlL: Working with Constance is magical. Constance has a fuck ton of heart and passion. She is very understanding and supportive. She wants to make sure that we are 100% happy with the books we create. 80% of working for Ladybox Books is puppy photo exchanges. The other 20% is actual writing. In all seriousness, I owe Constance over 200 tacos at this point. I know this is fucking cheesy, but working with Constance and Tiffany is like working with family. They both fucking rock.
Next up was Tiffany Scandal, a fellow New Bizarro Author Series veteran and the author of There’s No Happy Ending.
GI: Your NBAS year just came to a close and you already have something to announce. How important was constant hustle for you and what else are you cooking?
TS: When you’re creating a name for yourself and working toward a life you want, you have to hustle. All of the time.
This life is tiring, but I love it. I believe in it. I have a day job that I report to, and when my shift is over, I come home and clock in my hours writing, editing, and designing. Any semblance of a social life consists of meeting up with other writers and artists, talking about projects and planning more work. It’s become the cliché of eating, sleeping, breathing work. But as I said, I love it.
It’s a tremendous honor to be able to announce a second book so soon after my one-year anniversary as a published author. When Ladybox Books was announced, I knew I wanted to submit something. Constance Ann Fitzgerald is a total badass and I honestly believe this will be the literary version of the riot grrrl revolution. Starting out with two Latina writers for the first batch of releases, Fitzgerald has already succeeded where previous movements have failed – having the voices of women of color at the forefront. It’s a tremendous fucking honor to be a part of this.
As far as other works go, I have a guest spot in Michael Kazepis’s forthcoming novel Nothing Crown (Broken River Books, March 2015). I also have some pitches up my sleeve for books I hope I get the opportunity to write soon. And, you know, maybe some other things I can’t talk about just yet. * wink *
GI: Your first book was bizarro; what are you doing for Ladybox? Are you keeping it weird?
TS: My book through Ladybox is titled Jigsaw Youth. It’s the story of a woman told in non-linear fragments. Even though this is not a bizarro book, the weird is unavoidable. You can take the writer out of bizarro, but you can’t take the bizarro out of the writer. This book contains a lot of surreal elements as the narration is fueled by the memories of a highly imaginative woman who was forced to grow up fast just to survive in a hard world. It’s funny, fierce, but packs a massive punch to gut sometimes. There were some chapters that were really hard for me to write, emotionally. I’d sit down to write for a few hours, and 2K in, I could feel my life force just being drained. But the book has naked ladies, adventures, and a whole lot of punk rock. Tia, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry, but there’s a lot of sex and swear words in this book too.
GI: Your back ink has traveled the world. Have you thought about getting your next book tattooed somewhere to see if that helps with promo?
TS: Dang, I don’t even have a tattoo for my first book. I have names of characters I used to write about when I was a kid tattooed on me, and for some reason those are the tattoos I get asked about the most. And I always feel like such a douche when I talk about them because it turns into this whole conversation of, “oh, so you’re a writer in Portland? Tell me about your dreams, influences, and how often you cry yourself to sleep at night.” I love literary tattoos, but getting one based on your own work just kind of feels like voting for yourself as prom queen. Now, if someone else got a tattoo based on something I wrote, then I know I’ll have fucking made it. This isn’t about money it’s about affecting people. And if you affect someone so much that they pay someone to permanently scar them, then you, my friend, are king.
GI: Besides writing, you work with pretty ladies. If I decided to send Constance something, would you help me with my hair?
TS: Gabino, I don’t know shit about hair. But for you, I will try. Just don’t be mad if you end up with a beehive hairdo decorated with pink plastic bows.
GI: Give me eleven words that describe Ladybox and how you feel about it.
TS: Eleven words is not enough to describe the revolution that’s coming.