Who are you?
My name is Tiffany Scandal. I write things. I sometimes take pictures of things. And when the mood hits, I let people take pictures of me. Oh, and I sometimes paint, but nothing super amazing.
What was the first book you remember reading and enjoying?
While I had fun reading whatever I could get my hands on, it wasn’t until I discovered RL Stine that I became addicted to reading. The horror covers in the scholastic readers pamphlets always caught my eye, and that’s how I became familiar with RL Stine. Goosebumps was fun, but because I was such an avid reader, I was looking for a little more. So I discovered the Fear Street series and read the shit out those. I remember being in the fourth grade and having a weekly allowance of whatever three books I wanted. And sometimes, I would end up reading all three in one day. By the time I was in the sixth grade, I had teachers loaning me novels because I was already reading at a college level and our school library was kind of a joke.
What do you do with your days?
I have a full-time day job as a bartender/barista at a health food joint in Portland, Oregon. When I get home, I usually plug into my computer to hammer out whatever words are almost due, tackle my to-do list for King Shot Press (where I’m the managing editor), and try to keep up with social media stuff. I’m usually at my desk until I’m too tired to work, then I go to bed, and repeat the whole cycle all over again.
What’s the skinny on King Shot Press?
At King Shot Press our mission is a simple one: be a home for books that feature themes of anti-authoritarianism, racial egalitarianism, feminism, class struggle, secularity, etc. often associated with, but not exclusive to, the Radical Left.
These are stories that use inventive structure, language or surrealism to subvert or reinvigorate the crime fiction genre. Work that attacks from all angles, fueled by curiosity and resistance to societal norms, which may extend to the characters, situations and locales portrayed, namely groups or places typically left absent from genre fiction.
The press is spearheaded by Michael Kazepis. Because he and I work really well together, he brought me on board to help out with a lot of nitty gritty behind the scenes stuff. We just released two new titles, Marigold by Troy James Weaver and Noctuidae by the World Fantasy Award winner Scott Nicolay.
What does your work space look like?
I try to keep it clean. I have trouble working if I’m surrounded by too much of a mess. I usually keep a few oddball knickknacks around to distract myself when my brain needs a break.
This is my writing desk:
This is my photo editing/design desk:
You have a desk for writing and a separate desk for editing? How does that help you get through the work?
Yeah, sort of. My “editing” desk is mostly for photo editing and graphic design. The desktop computer on that desk has a much larger screen, so it’s easier to do that type of work there. The desks are separated by my office chair, so I can easily spin around to work at either desk depending on the work I need to get done. Having an office area makes me feel like I’m doing just fine at being an adult.
Tell me a little more about your writing process.
If I’m writing something new, or stuck somewhere, I usually take a really long shower or soak in the bathtub. Something about hot water really helps clear up my thoughts. If it’s something new, I might jot down the idea, but not elaborate too much because, honestly, I’m really bad at taking notes and outlining things on paper. If the idea is good enough, it keeps brewing in my skull until eventually I can’t handle it and have to write it all out. I did this recently, while having a work/coffee date with a friend, and I hammered out four thousand words during our meeting. It felt really fucking good.
But I also have to add that writing everyday helps a lot. Even if what I write ends up being scrapped by the end of the week, the process helps make writing while I’m super inspired so much easier. And, if I get too stuck on something, and it’s not fixed by a shower or bath, I scrap it because I hate forcing pieces to fit. I’ve rewritten entire chapters and short stories if they’ve left me uninspired.
Who or what are you reading right now?
A lot of things. I’m actually really proud of myself for tackling so much of my TBR stack. Currently, I am reading Clarice Lispector’s Complete Stories, Juliet Escoria’s Witch Hunt, and Brian Keene’s Where We Live And Die. I recently finished Justin Grimbol’s Drinking Until Morning, Andersen Prunty’s Creep House, and CV Hunt’s Ritualistic Human Sacrifice.
Why do you think you write?
Because I need to. I have too many thoughts, and getting them out is sometimes the only thing that helps me feel sane.
What was the impetus for writing Jigsaw Youth?
Constance Ann Fitzgerald, the head editor at Ladybox Books, had invited everyone who contributed to the first box set collection to pitch book ideas. I knew I wanted to write something for Ladybox Books, but had trouble narrowing down my ideas. I finally gave her a real vague pitch for a coming of age tribute to the riot grrrl movement. Constance was all about it, gave me a deadline, and within three months, I had a solid draft for the book.
Did you find it was emotionally difficult to write?
Parts were. I wrote the first draft to the chapter “Your Scent” in a coffee shop. I didn’t realize that I was crying until an older woman came up to me, gently put her hand on my shoulder, and said, “I hope whatever you’re writing brings you peace.” By the time I was done writing that chapter, I felt like I had been hit by a bus. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. And there were a few chapters in Jigsaw Youth that had similar effects on me. So I’d be finding myself taking a week or two away from working on the book just so that I could recover.
What was the biggest challenge?
I’m too empathetic and I exorcised some demons with this book. Everything I write, I feel, and I feel it heavily. The emotionally taxing chapters crippled me for weeks and I couldn’t get any other work done. I fell behind on some things, but I recognized that I needed to be taking care of me.
You just finished the recording for the audiobook of Jigsaw Youth for Talking Book. How was it? Have you ever done anything like that?
I did! It was a lot of fun. I’ve never done anything like it before, so I had to learn some new skills. But I had a such a blast.
What were some of the hurdles with this project?
The microphone is really sensitive, so I had to move the whole studio into my closet just to make sure I wasn’t accidentally recording a snoring cat in the background. Once we figured out how far I needed to be from the microphone, everything was a piece of cake. I had a good team backing me up.
That’s nice of your to say. Do you feel you sort of “relived” the book by recording it?
Not as much as I thought. I was a little nervous when I got to the Red Light Dancer chapter. The first time I read that live to an audience, I started crying toward the end. It was completely unexpected. So, of course, I was nervous about crying during the recording. Jeez, I’ve talked a lot about crying. I swear, I don’t do it as often as this interview suggests.
What sort of advice would you give to future authors in the way of self-narration?
Create a comfortable environment, drink lots of water, and end your nights with a nice cup of tea. I also removed a lot of stress by committing to record each chapter separately.
I mentioned to you before that your voice is amazing and you should be doing this for a living. Am I crazy? Will you consider doing more voice-over in the future?
Hahaha. Thank you. Prior to being approached for this project, I’ve had a few acquaintances tell me that I should get into radio. It’s not anything I’ve ever considered, but I had a lot fun recording the audio for Jigsaw Youth. I would love to do more voice over work.
I’m hungry. What’s in your fridge, Ms. Scandal?
A whole lot of nothing. Haha. We’re getting ready to go out of town, so we intentionally haven’t bought much of anything because we don’t it to go bad while we’re gone. But right now, we have some coconut milk, brie, kale, bread, chipotle veganaise, a variety of hot sauces and mustards, almond butter, jam. There’s a giant pot that I’m pretty sure has leftover pasta from a few weeks ago. I should probably take care of that.
And what do you eat for breakfast?
Black coffee. Unless I have a day off from the day-job, then I have black coffee and whiskey. Or a bloody mary.
How about Nightmares?
Oh, boy. All sorts of things. I actually used to get really bad night terrors as a kid. Like, wake up screaming bloody murder in the middle of the night type of night terrors. Because it happened so often, I taught myself to lucid dream because that was the only way I could think of to make these dreams bearable, to find a way to take some control. The worst dreams usually involve running away from something trying to hurt me, or running away and realizing someone I love is being left behind and for the life in me, I can’t get them to come with me. So in dreams like that, when I get tired of running/fighting, I just turn around and try to make friends with whatever is terrorizing me.
I think my subconscious likes to terrorize me though. Because shortly after I got really good at lucid dreaming, I started experiencing sleep paralysis. Not all the time, but so far, it’s the only thing that makes me wake up in a cold sweat anymore. Usually in those instances, it seems like I’ve woken up wherever I’m sleeping, and someone else is there that shouldn’t be, and I can’t move as I hear them step closer to where I am.
What’re you working on next?
I just finished a chapbook for the second installment of the Ladybox Box Set. I’m wrapping up edits on my third book (which is super late), and I’ve started writing my fourth book. The ‘fourth’ book is slated for a fall release. Giving me a firm deadline is a great way to keep me on task.
Did you have someone that helped you become a writer? A mentor or teacher?
I’ve always loved to write, but I’ve definitely learned a lot from other people. I have an ex who writes for a popular show on Adult Swim, and his main advice was to always write with love. If you don’t love your characters, world, whatever, your work is just insincere garbage. I also learned a lot technical stuff from Kevin Shamel, who was my first assigned editor through Eraserhead Press. Carlton Mellick III has given me some of the most useful tips for marathoning through work. And of course, Michael Kazepis always pushes me to be a better writer. He knows how I think, so whenever I get stuck, I can usually brainstorm with him and untangle the mess I created. And I’ve done the same for him.
If you could get drunk with one writer who would it be?
Only one? Shit. Ummm. How about Marlon James? He’s fucking brilliant and I would love to throw back a few drinks and shoot the shit. We’d find some dive in a part of a city that resists gentrification. It’d be a lot of fun.
Interview by K Hartrum